Are you a good plumber? Then you may be OK as a professional!

Recently, I had a leak in the hot water tank in our house. Fortunately the hot water tank in my house is located on the basement floor. So, the damage was only modest. As one would in a situation like this I called the plumber. The company I contract with is a one man operation. he was away on vacation. But, he had arranged one of his fellow plumbers – another one man operation – to follow up on the calls. The back up plumber came to my house, checked my hot water tank, followed up with my primary contact, got all the paper work, figured out that the tank can be replaced on warranty. He had used the camera in his phone – mobile diagnostic tool – to take pictures and document the details to communicate with the manufacturer. When he informed me of all this it was time for me to travel. He said  not to worry. He offered me a suggestion to turn off the water, while I was away and scheduled the hot water tank replacement work, as soon as I returned. No sooner had I returned the plumber was at my home with the replacement tank, which he had arranged to secure while I was on travel.  He did all the work a plumber does – drain the system, disconnect pipes, connect where needed, solder the and seal the joints as needed, refill and test the system. He could have left right away after that. Instead he asked me to put the system to full duty cycle for nearly thirty minutes. Much to his surprise one of the solder joints, which he had not touched started leaking! As you might know a leaking solder joint can not be fixed with out starting all over again, draining the water in the system. The plumber went through the steps diligently and ensured that I had a fully functioning system – a system that met all my requirements as a user.

You might think that is what the plumber is supposed to do. But the plumber is also rated and the rating is uploaded on to a on-line data base like the Angie’s list. Only those with good ratings get calls from the tech savvy social media dominated population.

What does this have to do with you as a professional? How often do you take on an assignment where the problem is clear, well defined and the user needs clarified up front? Do you then systematically and methodically follow up on all aspects of your work and rely on all your core capabilities: your knowledge, information work and physical labor? Do you check and re-check your work so that the person who relies on your work – like the home owner reliant on the plumber – is fully satisfied with your solution. Do you operate as a single owner company whose livelihood and success are entirely of his own making? Do you have people as back ups in your work that you can rely on, when you have to be away? Do you subject yourself for constant scrutiny and review so that you have a constant pulse on user satisfaction of your work? If you do all of these you will be a successful professional, no matter where you work – may be it is a small start up, a medium sized company or a large enterprise.

We call these collection of skills as Transformational Skills. For more details Contact us.

Where is the real “Skill gap” ?

In his recent opinion page, Mr. Paul Krugman writes the following in the NYT:  Most people would surely agree that stagnant wages, and more broadly the shrinking number of jobs that can support middle-class status, are big problems for this country. But the general attitude to the decline in good jobs is fatalistic. Isn’t it just supply and demand? Haven’t labor-saving technology and global competition made it impossible to pay decent wages to workers unless they have a lot of education? ….  And the evidence that technology is pushing down wages is a lot less clear than all the harrumphing about a “skills gap” might suggest.

In the above referenced citation on “Technology”,  Mr. Mike Kanczal writes: When we think of the economic malaise of the past 30 years, we should probably think of it as a combination of technology, globalization, sociology, and public policy.

In all of the discussion, the word “Technology” is used with out a clear common understanding. If you are a Mechanical Engineer, your knowledge in applied mechanics, materials science and physics are not counted as “technology” in the above discussion by these eminent scholars. Same goes for Electrical Engineers, Chemical Engineers, Civil Engineers, Chemists and Biologists and their knowledge or know-how. Even a Robotics expert and his/her knowledge of mechanical design, path planning and fixturing are not counted in the above “technology” reference.

Instead, what is counted as “Technology” is the automation in the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of information of any kind and in any place and for any reason. This is the automation of human centered capability in any and all aspects of our life. Instead of calling this as “Technology” we should call it as “Information work”. People, described as labor can be engaged in four sets of work:

  1. Finance – make money off money
  2. Professional Work – create and deliver a stream of new solutions each and every day (like a carpenter who makes and sells furniture, a plumber who fixes the leaking pipe and get paid for it, a cardiologist who fixes broken hearts (literally), etc.)
  3. Information Work
  4. Physical Work

The “Skill gap” mentioned above – which is seen as the major impediment against good paying jobs truly involve the following:

  • Recognizing that the work has indeed stratified into these four impermeable layers and only one of the four is available as a source of good wages (unless you are born with a silver spoon)
  • Recognizing that the Physical work and Information Work – which employed a large majority of the labor force with or with out higher education – will both be automated and what is left will only lead to low paying – “service” – jobs. Number of these jobs may grow, but their wages will hover around the minimum wage.
  • Only a narrow window of “Professional” work exists where there will be decent wages and opportunities to nudge into the middle class.
  • Finance – making money off the money – work is for a select few and these are the affluent 1%. If you can make it there great. Or if you are lucky to be born with a silver spoon, then you can count your blessings!
  • But, the better bet for the large cross section of the people may be to acquire skills that deliberately place them in the “Professional Work” category.
  • Such professional skills are not merely higher “Academic” education or Industry specific trade skills.
  • Instead the true skill gap is the blend of Academic, industrial specific skills together with System Thinking and Transformational Skills.

For details Contact us.

STEM Professionals: Here is some music to your ears?

Irrespective of the political spectrum one belongs to, the recent announcement of global energy policies  by USA, China, Russia and other countries, must be the music for the ears of all STEM Professionals.

The recent announcement from the White House on the new energy policy is noted as follows: Obama’s Strategy on Climate Change, Part of Global Deal, Is Revealed

The White House on Tuesday introduced President Obama’s blueprint for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by nearly a third over the next decade…. Mr. Obama’s new blueprint brings together several domestic initiatives that were already in the works, including freezing construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing the fuel economy of vehicles and plugging methane leaks from oil and gas production. It is meant to describe how the United States will lead by example and meet its pledge for cutting emissions.

There are four key areas of focus described in this policy:

  • Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies
  • Make solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.
  • Energy efficiency in our vehicles and homes
  • Developing Clean Fuels

Each is an ambitious goal in itself. For example: New Clean energy standards for cars require automakers to raise the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Irrespective of the political spectrum one belongs to, the above must be the music for the ears of all STEM Professionals. Over the past three decades with a relentless emphasis on cost cutting, standardization, automation and off shoring and out sourcing, there has been little if any emphasis on development of NEW SOLUTIONS that exploit the physical phenomena of nature. Of course exceptions to this generalization do exist particularly in the areas of IT, biology, genetics, etc. But, there are plenty of Mechanical and Electrical engineers, Physicists and Chemists and many other professionals in the STEM professional community, than there are computer scientists, biologists and geneticists. These professionals cannot be gainfully engaged unless there are big challenges posed in front of them. Government funded projects always follow the mission set by National policies. Recall the spurt in space technology after the call by the President Kennedy to “land on the moon”? Private sector, despite their professed desire for risk taking, will always place their bets on “safe” opportunities for cost reduction – milking the same old cow – rather than push new pastures and there are plenty of old cows to milk for decades to come. This leaves all the STEM professionals waiting in the wing for their opportunities, while they see steady erosion in their standard of living. Chances are, the new policies and the mandates on the industry will also spur more demand to find better ways to burn coal, make solar energy more competitive, make the homes more energy efficient, and cars that can indeed generate 50+ MPG on an average. All of these will require serious and sustained new solutions developed and perfected by STEM professionals.

Of course there is also an onus on the STEM professionals as well. They cannot simply wait in line and be told what they should do every step of the way. These are the traditional task oriented technical professionals. Instead, they need to become system thinkers and solution providers with a constant emphasis to Discover, Develop, Deploy and Exploit a stream of new solutions. We call on all STEM professionals at every level – from technicians to engineers to managers to senior managers – for this End to End Innovation. Contact us.

When will we see the writing on the wall? What should we do then?


Yesterday, I heard the talk show “On point” hosted by Tom Ashbrook. The topic was: Why our kids are not winning today?  The guest at this talk show was Prof. Robert D. Putnam His new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream In Crisis.” (Simon & Schuster), suggests that the crisis for the children in USA today is indeed severe and it is not a blue or red issue, but a “purple problem”.

On looking at the blame game between both the Democrats and the Republicans on the growing income gap and its toll on our children, the host made the following passionate plea: “How appalling, how galling this picture is to me! I grew up in a down in the income ladder family. I was a white kid in a strong community with good schools at a time when you could rise and the society was structured to help me to rise and I did. What a marvelous thing that is! To imagine being down there with all the rungs stripped away, looking at a kind of hopeless surrounding that you describe the kids are seeing, just makes me crazy. That is not what this country is supposed to be”

Professor Putnam responded “We need to think of all these kids as OUR kids. For my parents “our” kids did not mean my sister and me, but all the kids in the community. In the past 30 or 40 years, the meaning of the term our kids has shriveled…… If we don’t invest in poor kids, all our kids and their future are at stake

Throughout the discussion reference was made to three decades of growing income gap and disparity between the rich and the poor. But nobody seems to ask, “Why three decades?”, “Why not before?” or “What is unique to this time frame of three decades”?

To suggest that some how every one in the country and the communities we live have now become mean spirited and selfish, seems to miss the point. When there is a growing scarcity for economic opportunities, instincts of self-preservation could also be the fall out. But, with a broader view – system thinking that focusses on the broader picture instead of the dots or pixels in it – we can see the issues are more fundamental and less superficial than that.

What is consistently missing in such scholarly discussions here and elsewhere is a simple, but fundamental fact of life: It is undeniable fact that evolution in IT (and Digital Technology in a broader context) has diminished the role and need for human skills from a large body of workers, generally belonging to the middle class in the USA. This has been growing from the early 70s and is in full swing since 1980s (for the past three decades). This implies that we need a few – very few well educated and skilled professionals, who will be paid well and rewarded nicely and their children will be well cared for. This was indeed reflected in a scenario described by one of the callers: “I am a stay at home mom. My parents are first generation immigrants with only 3rd and 4th grade education, who worked in the factories. I have got a degree in Bio Technology and we have a very good life. Our children are well cared for”. This mom and their family succeeded in the same time period – past three decades, when so many other families and their children are suffering and failing. What really happened?

The work in the 21st century is divided between (a) Finance – make money off money, (b) Professional work which requires knowledge (through higher education, when possible) and its use, (c) Information work (which can be increasingly automated using IT) and (d) Physical work (which can be increasingly automated using robots, CNC and drones).  The distinctions between these four categories of work is now far more discrete and their boundaries are less permeable. Add to that the ability to off shore all these kinds of work (b, c and d) as required, against thanks to DT enabled capabilities. This leaves a very small slice of work – professional work to deliver knowledge driven solutions – that can be carried out by a few with unique set of skills, which we call as SYSTEM THINKING AND TRANSFORMATIONAL SKILLS. These few jobs pay good wages within the shores of this country. All the rest (including those who work on Finance) will be driven to low skill, minimum wage jobs. Therein lies the secret of the growing wage disparity. Unless we recognize this new reality and then develop policies that incorporates this new reality, we shall continue to have growing wage disparity and an increasing number of children driven to poverty and its ravages. We call this as the Binary Economy.

One can only hope such evolved thinking and policy making will happen sooner than later. In the meantime, what can you do? If you are from the poor or middle class family, you need to learn the few ropes still available to you and pull yourself out of the forces of the Binary Economy and its downward spiral. If you are lucky enough to attend a college don’t just learn what you are taught. The same issues faced by families are also faced by companies and their survival in the USA. Every one of them can benefit from System Thinking and Transformational Skills as part of their knowledge portfolio. For more details Contact Us.

Global Manufacturing trends and technology – Management Inteview

View point 1

Shekat Jitkar, Publisher and chief Editor of Efficient Manufacturing magazine interviewed eight global experts on trends in manufacturing.

The interview is published in their Kompendium 2014. Following is a summary :

Dr Wilfried AulburManaging Partner for Roland Berger Strategy Consultants Pvt Ltd. Establish the right capabilities and Culture.* Shift to Asia:  China is the #1 machine building country worldwide and performance and quality requirements in Asia are getting closer to European levels.

* Game change in the mid-end: The mid-end performance segment is growing the fastest and this is the new global battlefield for emerging and developed market players.

* Go Green: Energy efficiency is increasingly important in key markets such as Europe and Japan. Substantial energy savings can be achieved for selected applications, while for others it is mostly a marketing issue

Dr K (Subbu) SubramanianPresident, STIMS Institute Inc, USA. System Thinking and Transformational Skills required.* Data, analysis and process intelligence aided by Big Data and analytics

* Sensors and Smart devices everywhere;  Innovation in manufacturing processes; Programmable automation (the generic name for CNC, robots, flying robots, AGV and drones);

* Products and  their manufacturing to increase the quality of life at all levels?

* No more learning curve (price -vs- volume is a flat line and not a curve)?

* If low labor cost only means low skilled labor for physical labour tasks or well defined information tasks, then such low cost labour is no longer a competitive advantage?

* Product (Source of revenue), Physical Processes (that enable the products) and USE (Application process of the customer) are the only three unique core capabilities of any manufacturing company.

Michael BremerPresident, Cumberland Group – Chicago;

VP of Manufacturing Excellence Awards process for the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME)

Eliminate Waste, but create new Value.* People, people, people! — Ability to find and develop talent. People will be attracted to organizations that treat them with respect and develop their skills and capabilities. Elite organizations create an environment where associates are encouraged to give that little bit of extra effort = passion and engagement

* Rapid prototyping (faster lead times)

* Use of sensors to track manufactured product, provide feedback for early maintenance, and develop closer relationships with customers

* Safety of intellectual property and cyber security – ability to more easily identify fake products

* Ability to more deeply understand customer requirements and total cost of the supply chain

* More collaborative practices across the supply chain where companies partner together to pursue joint growth opportunities.

Dr P N RaoProfessor, Department of Technology, University of Northern Iowa, USA. Utilize the Opportunities available.* Developments in robotics

* Digital Everywhere: Information thread that integrates design, planning, manufacturing and product support through all stages will greatly improve the possibility to achieve first pass success.  This will combine innovative automation, various sensors and control systems, communications across all segments, including the global supply chain. This would mean advanced manufacturing enterprises, intelligent machines, advanced analysis techniques, and cyber security systems in view of the information exchange across the internet with globalization.

* Additive manufacturing (3D printing)

* Integrated systems that will have sensors to monitor the manufacturing process continuously and then adapt the process to achieve the best possible performance by a combination of software and hardware tools.

* Sustainable manufacturing that deals with product design for sustainability, sustainable

manufacturing processes, and sustainable manufacturing systems, while also trying to maximize resource efficiency

Sanjeev BaitmangalkarPrincipal Consultant (Strategy & Lean Manufacturing), Stratmann Consulting. Go Lean …..* The growing number of embedded sensors, collecting information about the world, and the rise of social networks that store the data people share, will generate immense quantities of information.

* Many businesses of the future will use analytics to mass customize and differentiate themselves.

* Business intelligence, which enables organizations to gather quantifiable data on each area of the organization and analyses it in a way that yields information they can act on — helping them enhance decision making, improve performance, mitigate risk and sometimes even create new business models — is growing in importance.

* Small, comfortable, low cost, fuel efficient cars will drive product development.

Suresh Lulla

Founder and MD, Qimpro Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

Quality will not be negotiable.

* Leadership, Strategy and Customer focus* Work force and its quality; cycle time reduction; double the profit without capital through better quality practices; left brain for quality improvement and right brain for process innovation; cross-country bench markeing.

* Low labor cost in developing nations is not sustainable;

* Three bottom lines: Planet, people and profit!

* Three core capabilities needed: Understand customer needs; ability to translate that into product design and ability to outsource where required!

Raghavendra Rao V.P. & Global Mfg. Leader, Frost & Sullivan Invest in design capability.* Rapid prototyping, 3 D printing, real time data and analysis

* Manufacturing “hub” for toll manufacturing to “Design to manufacturing” alliance between partners across developed and emerging economies.

* Cost/ economics; IT Integrated Mfg.; Lean supply chain; Mature, eithical and stable partners; Green manufacturing.

Dr. Jeffrey Liker Prof. of Ind. And Opertions Engineering, U. of Michigan, President, Liker Lean Advisors Invest in core competencies.* Excellence in Execution

*Serious focus on investing in people and culture

* Culture that is humble and open to new knowledge and new sources of learning may have a competitive advantage in the future.

Year End Review – 2014 and Greetings for the New Year

Happy New Year!

2014 has been a great year of accomplishments for the STIMS Institute. During the third year of this young company, we have made great strides in a number of areas. Our clients / collaborators now include:

  • Educational institutions (IIT – Chennai, SNHU, MIT, TCE – Madurai)
  • Industrial clients (in India, NA, China, Colombia)
  • Industry Organizations (IMTMA, MassMEP)
  • Industry Sectors (Machine Tools, Auto parts manufacturing, Energy services, Engineering Services)
  • Fellow consulting services
  • Industry Publications.

We thank each and every one of our collaborators for the opportunity to work with them. It is through such collaboration that we can build an eco-system that sustains the development and growth for all. We look forward to your continued support and further opportunities to expand the universe of System Thinkers with Transformational Skills. Please find below a summary of STIMS Institute activities in the year 2014 as we look ahead to the coming New Year.

With best wishes and warm greetings to each of you and every one in your families for a healthy, happy New Year!


Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute

Year in Review – 2014

STIMS Institute was founded based on a single identified need:

When computers (in a broader context the DT – Digital Technology) can do everything that a human can do (pick and place, read, write, analyze, decide, direct and control), then humans – professional workers and their companies – have to find ways to be more useful to be relevant and hence be economically viable!

This need, which we have identified as the crisis of the “middle” of any kind – middle class, mid-tier products and services, etc. is an outcome of the “Binary Economy” fostered by DT and this will continue to progress for decades to come. Now, eminent leaders are beginning to speak about the same crisis. For details please see:

Unlike those who identify the problem and the impending concerns, we at STIMS Institute also offer a vision for the future:

System Thinking and Transformational Skills as the core for any education and their use as the basis for sustainable jobs and careers and ultimately their collective use as the driving strategy in all aspects of any company, to develop and implement a stream of New Solutions, relentlessly.

We are now implementing this vision through:

  • Workshops, On-line training and one-to- one mentoring,
  • In-house mentorship programs and projects in our client companies,
  • New models for “Concept to Commercialization” and their incentive programs,
  • Science based manufacturing process solutions and diagnostic tools for them, and
  • Inter-company and Inter – industry collaboration programs.

We have also attempted to disseminate much of this work, through our website. For details, please see:


Vision of 21st Century Manufacturing:

Message on Manufacturing day: Need for emphasis on “Process Science” :

High Wage jobs – the engine for middle class growth:

With Economic growth, high wage jobs are not a given for all:


Diagnostic Tools for Manufacturing Processes:

Future of manufacturing and Core capability development:

Emotional Intelligence as a business philosophy for collaboration and End to End to Innovation:


Sector Specific Education:

Higher education – Not just more of the same!:

Education and Work Force Development: PE Score:

REVIEWSon our recent Book on Transformational Skills:


STIMS Institute offers its vision of 21st Century Manufacturing.

CEO Dialogue 2I

In a recent CEO Forum organized by MGTL, Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President STIMS Institute Inc., offered his vision of the 21st Century Manufacturing and outlined the need for requisite work force skills to meet the emerging needs. This forum was held at Pune, India on Nov. 21, 2014. For a complete presentation, please see: Manufacturing in the 21st Century

Few excerpts:

  • “Manufacturing” is a collection of (a) physical processes enabled by a host of (b) information processes and aided by a collection of (c) pick and place and transfer processes, which at the moment are a combination of physical events and information events.
  • Core capability for any manufacturing:  repetitive use of physical processes, to achieve or USE the “Product” at the required quantity, place and time to meet the end user needs.
  • Manufacturers have two options: (a) Steady improvement in the processes already deployed; The result is a constant reduction in the explicit knowledge and skill required with respect to the Physical Processes used. Over time, they have become the black boxes surrounded by a myriad of service processes, which are generic and practiced in all companies and industries. (b) Introduction of a stream of new solutions resulting in New Products, New Processes and New Applications/ USE. These new solutions are the result of intense knowledge of the physical processes unique to the manufacturing company.
  • Breakthrough – step change – solutions will be expected as a routine output of manufacturing professionals of the future. But, in order to sustain such improvements the process has to be managed as a whole – as a system. Constant tweaking or small changes in the system which disturbs the equilibrium of the process cannot be tolerated, if maximum impact is the desired outcome. This will require manufacturing professionals who are simultaneously good at process science as well as process economics, with expertise to integrate knowledge from all available sources.
  • We find two parallel chains operating across all manufacturing companies (i.e.) Supply Chain which deals with the information processes that interconnect the various tiers of manufacturers and Functional Value Chain, where the physical processes and their exploitation play a silent but foundational role across the manufacturers.
  •  Since the products are enables by processes and the USE is also a process in a manner of speaking, we are left with “Process and its knowledge and the capability to manipulate any process” may be the primary core capability or skill set of future manufacturing professionals! The role of human labor and their employment in large numbers is not a critical need in this description of manufacturing. It is important for policy makers to make note of this subtle but significant point.
  • Work force skills required for 21st century manufacturing:

Manufacturing Processes

Traditional Sources of Knowledge

New Knowledge Required

 Traditional Worker Skills

 New Worker Skills Required

   Physical Processes Engineers and shop floor workers with technical training, trade skills and academic education. ·  Process Science·  Diagnostics·  Data and   Analysis·  Sector specific know-how Engineers with years of experience located close to the shop floor operations ·       System Thinkers and Solution Providers Reliant on Process Science·       Reliant on sensors, signals and their use.
 Information Processes Collection of tasks that evolved through the years ·       IT·       Data Base·       Big data·       Analytics White Collar Workers with standard plug and play IT solutions ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Customized IT solutions
  Pick and Place / Transfer Processes Industrial work force through many years of training and hands on experience. ·       CNC, Robotics and AGV·       Drones ·       Blue collar workers·       Standard work and tasks·       Physical effort and de-skilled operations. ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Comfortable in virtual control environment