Siemens – Productivity Increases Via a New App

 

Companies are taking advantage of their new ability to track their workers

When Siemens, a big German industrial conglomerate, rebuilt its offices in the Swiss town of Zug, it did not skimp on the project’s green credentials. Water from nearby Lake Zug is piped in and fed through pumps to heat or cool the offices. None of the materials used in the building came from more than 800km away. Rain that falls on its grass-covered roof is used to flush the toilets.

It did not skimp on technology, either, for the buildings were designed partly as a showcase for the firm’s new “Smart Infrastructure” division. High-tech buildings are one of the most common uses of the sensors and distributed computing that make up the iotgsma Intelligence, a research firm, forecasts that industrial uses of the iot will overtake consumer ones by 2023, with smart corporate buildings leading the way.

Some of the smarts in the Siemens building are there for the workers. An app called Comfy, made by an American firm called Building Robotics that Siemens bought for an undisclosed sum last year, allows workers to adjust temperature and light levels in their offices with their phones. Over time, the system will learn the preferences of individual workers, and automatically warm or cool their offices. The app can also be used to find unoccupied desks, browse the cafeteria’s lunch menu, book meeting rooms and flag up any maintenance that might need doing, such as replacing a broken monitor.

Feeling the heat

Other features are designed for managers. The building is studded with hundreds of sensors made by another American company, called Enlighted, which Siemens also bought in 2018. The sensors are integrated with the building’s light fixtures, which supply power, and come with a low-resolution infrared camera, a Bluetooth networking beacon and sensors to measure energy consumption, air temperature and light levels. Individual sensors can collaborate with their fellows to establish a wireless network.

Such sensors have all sorts of uses, enthuses Christoph Leitgeb, the building’s designer. They can keep track of daylight levels, ramping up the artificial lights on gloomy days and cutting back on sunny ones. The result, reckons Enlighted, can be a 38% saving in energy consumption. Building Robotics claims that better lighting can boost employees’ productivity by 23%. The infrared cameras can be used to track employees—or at least, the heat given off from their bodies.

That information can be converted into a heat map of the building, showing popular areas and less-travelled ones, helping managers make the best use of space. Occupancy data can be fed to the heating systems, allowing energy savings when the building is sparsely populated. “It allows us to quantify things that used to be intangible,” says Mr Leitgeb.

For now, data gathered by sensors in the Siemens building are anonymous. The cameras see heat blooms, meaning they can record only numbers and general circulation within a building. But more personal tracking is possible, says Mr Leitgeb, via the sensors’ Bluetooth beacons, which could track smartphones or building passes. So far Siemens is not making use of that capability—although discussions with its workers “are ongoing”.

One Florida mega-church uses the system to monitor attendance

The firm has big ambitions. “Our goal is to have thousands of buildings like this,” says Peter Löffler, head of innovation at Siemens Smart Infrastructure. There are possibilities beyond simple passive tracking, he says. When people are tracked and inventory is kept up to date by beacons on all of a building’s equipment, a “digital twin” of the building—essentially a high-fidelity computer model—can tell occupants where to find anything they need. For a busy hospital that could be a godsend.

Another option is to track customers rather than workers. Xovis, a Swiss firm, offers a tracking technology based on computer vision that can tell the difference between men and women; this information can be used to see how they move around a shop differently. It can also be used to measure waiting times at airports. One Florida mega-church uses the system to monitor attendance. blip Systems, a Danish firm, offers a similar service using data gleaned from shoppers’ smartphones. Markets and Markets, a research firm, reckons the global demand for such “in-store analytics” is growing by 23% a year and will be worth $3.2bn by 2023.

Tracking need not be confined to buildings. Insurance firms have been enthusiastic adopters of the surveillance capabilities offered by connected gadgets. Many insurers have offered discounts to drivers willing to install a black box that collects data from their car on acceleration, cornering, braking and the like, and relays it back for analysis. These days, such additional hardware is increasingly unnecessary. Modern cars are stuffed with sensors capable of measuring everything from engine revs to cornering speeds. Ovum, a consultancy, reckons that 80-90% of new cars sold in the rich world now come with sim cards fitted as standard, allowing them to stream those data across the mobile-phone network.

The next step beyond monitoring drivers is trying to change their behaviour. Aviva, a big British insurer, offers a smartphone app called Aviva Drive that uses gps to track customers in their cars. Besides offering lower premiums to careful drivers, the app rewards them with cutesy badges (“Fuel Friendly”, perhaps, or “Corner Master”) modelled on the “achievements” common in video games, before rating their driving out of ten. Another possibility, says Jon Hocking, who covers insurance for Morgan Stanley, a bank, might be real-time price adjustment. “It’s fair enough to pay for collision insurance while you’re driving,” he says. “But maybe your premium should be lower when you’re parked up on your drive at home.”

It is not just car insurance. Customers of Ping An, a Chinese insurer that is the world’s biggest, can use the firm’s facial-recognition software when registering accounts. One of the data-points extracted from a face is a person’s body-fat percentage, which is fed into the algorithm that calculates their life-insurance premiums. In 2018 John Hancock Financial, an American firm, said in future it would sell only health-insurance policies that can make use of data gathered from smartphones or wearable devices such as Fitbits, which track how much exercise policyholders are taking. Beam, an American dental-insurance firm, supplies policy-holders with internet-connected smart toothbrushes. Diligent brushers can save 15% on the cost of their premiums.

Creeping me out

The limits of public tolerance for such nudging and nannying are not yet clear. “There’s definitely a crossover point where this goes from helpful to creepy,” says Mr Hocking. Morgan Stanley has done surveys asking people what level of price reduction they would require to share their data. He says respondents in Asia were most willing to trade data for a price cut. Westerners were less keen, and Germans the most wary of all.

But grumpy customers will have to contend with the structural imperatives of the insurance business. Companies that collect more data will be better able to categorise customers as low- or high-risk, says Mr Hocking. In the absence of regulators to stop them, firms employing the latest technology will be able to cream off the lowest-risk business for themselves, leaving their slower rivals to compete for the less profitable clients who remain. That offers a powerful incentive for snooping, no matter how intrusive customers may find it.

https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2019/09/12/companies-are-taking-advantage-of-their-new-ability-to-track-their-workers

E-Commerce Platform Shopify Buys Warehouse-Robot Startup

If you are an online retail company, shipment delivery speed is utmost important parameter to stay in the business. Amazon.com Inc. cannibalized the market with its innovative ways to improve delivery speed and it has become now sort of expectations for customers to get the goods in couple of days. Online retailers are doing everything they can to stay in competition with Amazon.com Inc. In June this year, Shopify Inc., an E-commerce technology company, started offering their customers an access to a network of dedicated fulfillment centers to store and ship goods for online orders. The increased network of delivery centers was aimed to keep inventory across distributed network within reach of major population. This move helped retailers to compete with retail giant Amazon on the basis of delivery speed.

Shopify announced on 9/9/2019 that it is buying warehouse robot-maker company 6 River Systems, Inc. for approximately $450 million. This strategic decision will further strengthen Shopify’s commitment to optimize its warehouse operations. These robots are also called as collaborative robots because they work alongside human staffers, while human staffers work on activities which cannot be automated by robots.

These robots boost productivity, throughput, and reduce operations time as they can slash number of steps workers take to fulfill an order. It is believed that the collaborative robots are more efficient and cheaper than the conventional automation systems such as conveyor belts. This is just an example of how technological innovation is helping drive operational excellence.

Sources:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/e-commerce-platform-shopify-buys-warehouse-robot-startup-11568069287

https://www.wsj.com/articles/PR-CO-20190909-908888

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-robot-can-be-a-warehouse-workers-best-friend-1501752600?mod=article_inline

 

 

Apple unveils the new I-Phone 11

Congratulations I-Phone lovers!! Apple is only a few hours from unveiling it’s newest gadget. The newly invented I-Phone 11. Although there are many phone options, Apple has continued to raise the bar for excellence each year. According to BGR journalist, Chris Smith, this device isn’t a total secret. The new gadget has new multi-lens camera modules, and will come in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities. A great selling point is the added storage capacity that these phones can accomodate, along with the solid quality of owning an Apple product. As far as specs are involved, the phones will feature triple 12-megapixel rear cameras, along with reverse wireless charging. Even though your “Old” I-phone 8 may still seem new, Apple is definitely keeping the trend of cutting edge technology, and quality based innovation at the top of the charts for decades to come. You can read the full article at the link below.

 

The iPhone 11’s pricing and storage capacities might’ve just leaked, and there’s a huge surprise

 

 

Intermountain Health System saves $1.2 million by implementing VAR

Intermountain Health System realized that of the 10% of babies that needed resuscitation many of them were needing to be transferred to a higher level of care via helicopter transport due to their rural location.  Because the system does not see babies needing resuscitation very often their healthcare providers skills in resuscitation were sub par.  After discovering a breakthrough in technology, Video Assisted Resuscitation, to offer to their providers they were able to decrease the odds of a newborn needing to be transferred by 29.7%.  Transfer costs were up to $18,000 per helicopter transfer and saving 67 babies from transfer equated to a cost savings of $1.2 million dollars and the expense for the equipment was only the cost of about one transfer.  This breakthrough technology is not a one size fits all solution for neonatal care as it is focused on helping rural and community hospitals that rarely have to use neonatal resuscitation skills to deliver care.  However this technology can be implemented to save small neonatal programs, create a collaborative culture in providers which in turn decreases the competition between programs throughout the country.

Check out more information about the three questions to ask if and when considering implementing this new technology…

https://www.advisory.com/research/market-innovation-center/the-growth-channel/2019/09/intermountain-neonatal

 

 

Whatever happened to Six Sigma?

This article discusses the decline of Six Sigma, specifically at General Electric (GE).

Six Sigma is a system/philosophy of eliminating defects developed by W. Edwards Deming and others.  The statical model uses the standard deviation (sigma) of a normal distribution curve to dictate the “acceptable” amount of defects per million.  Most companies operate between 3 or 4 sigma (93% and 99.3% defect-free), but Six Sigma strives to improve all processes to reduce defects to statistical zero (99.99966%).  The benefit to the company is the cost savings and profitability.

In 1995 former GE CEO, Jack Welch, instituted Six Sigma throughout every process and division of the company.  Six Sigma training was mandatory and the company invested over $1 billion in that training. Bonuses and promotions were directly tied to Six Sigma conversation, and employees who were not willing to convert were let go.  In the early 2000’s GE became the world’s most valuable company, beating out Microsoft.

GE was considered the poster child of Six Sigma and management consultants started to spread the Six Sigma methodology.  Six Sigma quickly became a business fad and in 2004 Google searches for Six Sigma peaked.  LinkedIn data agrees, with over 630 million profiles listing Six Sigma in their skills section.

However, the Six Sigma fad soon began to fade, and today can be hard to find.  The article lists several reasons for this decline:

  • Six Sigma was ideal for reducing waste, however it did not allow for flexibility.  As Silicon Valley’s motto of “move fast and break things” took on popularity, Six Sigma began to fade to be replaced by systems such as Agile.
  • Six Sigma became “too popular” and many people were selling or claiming Six Sigma certifications without any real training.
  • Six Sigma was too effective.  The company would make the changes necessary and see their profitability increase from the reduced waste in the first few years. But at a point there are no more improvements to be made.
  • Six Sigma is not very well defined.  Its goal is to “reduce defects” but that can mean something different to each individual person and company.

https://qz.com/work/1635960/whatever-happened-to-six-sigma/

Honeywell helps Mexican petrochemical company incorporate intelligent wearables to enhance training and safety

Honeywell implements intelligent wearable technology to improve productivity for their field workers at Braskem Idesa facility in Mexico. The wearable technology allows the workers to access the necessary information required in real-time to perform their day-to-day duties. The consolidated data gathered and the availability of information allows the organization to train their employees faster and enables them to follow best standards. It also helps reduce costs as Experts are not required to visit on-site to train field workers since they can communicate through their wearable device.

Article Link(s):

Lettuce-Farming Robots Might Grow Your Next Salad

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-04-26/lettuce-farming-robots-might-grow-your-next-salad?srnd=businessweek-v2

The article discussed the innovation of utilizing robots to man greenhouses in California. Major companies like John Deere and Iron Ox, a new startup are using artificial intelligence to produce product more effectively to adhere to demand. Iron Ox is one of the new companies that uses robots to harvest, care for and plant produce

Simulator technologies are used to test the processes used to grow the produce. The robots have the ability to care for the plants and monitor their growth alleviating the manpower needed to do the same job.

The innovative technology also uses cameras that allow the system to pinpoint the plants that are in need of care and the location of the particular plant that needs attention.

How Microsoft learned from the path to redesign its future: Lean Systems

Software companies receive the biggest hit once the technologies are evolving. Microsoft is a 44-year-old software company and much needed evolution was need for Microsoft to stay competitive. Technology industry is moving very fast.

 

Instead of having product developed in separate teams secretly earlier, Microsoft is changing its approach to have a more collaborative approach. Changing the eco-system of their products to be interlinked with each other. Bosses used to compete with each other in Microsoft that who creates the most popular product in Microsoft.

 

Lean systems focus on:

“minimize waste in all forms

continually improve processes and systems

maintain respect for all workers”

 

Microsoft old approach was to write every single line of code, but it been changing. As per the article

“Increasingly, the company has been happy to fail fast and test things to speed up development times: that’s meant more rapid prototyping, learning to lean on open-source communities, and shifting the core of its software business”

 

Basically, these days in software industry, everybody wants to use open source instead of writing their own software. Mostly because open source software has been perfected by open source community. Writing your own software mean you bring it bugs which otherwise would’ve been perfected by the open source community.

 

https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/29/18515776/microsoft-design-open-fluent-prototypes-history

 

Toyota Adds New Lexus Crossover Production at Canadian Plant

Toyota has added a new Lexus Crossover production at their Canadian Plant, marking the first time the vehicle will be produced outside of Japan. They will be producing gasoline and hybrid versions of the Lexus NX Crossover beginning in 2020 in Cambridge, Ontario.

This announcement marked a bright spot for Ontario’s auto industry, as they are forecasted to lose about 4,500 jobs due to the end of the General Motor’s plant in Oshawa and cutting hours at Fiat’s plant in Windsor. While Toyota Canada stated like to invest C$1.4 billion into a new production platform, it is unclear whether new jobs will be added to the plant.

According to the Canadian government, Toyota is currently the largest auto manufacturer in Canada between their Lexus RX SUV and Corolla plant and Cambridge and their RAV4 factory in Woodstock. Combined, these facilities of more than 500,000 vehicles a year.

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-29/toyota-adds-new-lexus-crossover-production-at-canadian-plant

Xinova Seeks Breakthroughs in Malaria Supply Chain in Northern Nigeria

Image result for malaria supply chain

The major theme I keep seeing throughout this course is how interdisciplinary the field of Operations and Supply Chain Management is, and the ability to use and translate a lot of the principles of Operations and Supply Chain Management across any industry. I chose an article that was relevant to a field I have no familiarity with – global public health.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), while still concerned about its “bottom line,” is really in the business of saving lives, reducing poverty, strengthening democratic governance, and helping people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance. There are endless implications that innovations in Supply Chain Management can have on global public health issues.

One particular USAID initiative that seeks to advance the organization towards those goals is the Global Health Supply Chain Program (GHSC-PSM), a project chartered to reduce the burden of malaria in keeping with the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and USAID’s maternal and child health and infectious disease goals. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Nigeria, accounting for 18-percent of all deaths. Functional and efficient malaria supply chains ensure that the global community can respond to changing on-the-ground health needs and evolving care guidelines. Being able to collect, interpret, and disseminate this data to the right systems is critical in assuring that the right products are available in the right places at an affordable cost. The earlier efforts around this issue were aimed at collection and analysis of this data, whereas this recent effort Is aimed at improving the speed and accuracy of supply chain data flows. This is just one of the several operations issue holding back large-scale improvements in diagnosing and treating Nigerians with malaria. Medical drug facilities such as clinics and pharmacies maintain separate databases to manage quantities and locations of supplies. New technology will make it easier to exchange data and keep systems up-to-date and increase the ability to reach those in need.

A major milestone for this initiative was highlighted a recent major partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Xinova (a global tech innovation network) to fund a project that will help identify breakthrough approaches to improve the timeliness, quality and visibility of data for the malaria supply chain in Northern Nigeria.

The interesting aspect about this partnership is that it’s not necessarily a product of solution Xinova is directly delivering. The partnership is about creating a more innovative approach to how better solutions emerge – through collaboration across the best data innovators in the industry. The partnership is in hopes of leveraging the members in Xinova’s network who may already have technologies that could fill the void in the Nigeria malaria supply chain.

The main idea behind the partnership is that there might be some existing technologies people in Xinova’s network that could essentially be modified and repurposed to operate within the cultural, political, and socio-economic constraints in Nigeria. Xinova’s network is global, spanning across four continents. It’s essentially a think-tank, aimed at assessing and developing ideas for addressing major challenges in global health and other fields.

Link to original articles:

https://xconomy.com/seattle/2019/04/25/gates-foundation-xinova-tie-up-aimed-at-using-data-to-fight-malaria/

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/xinova-seeks-breakthroughs-in-malaria-supply-chain-in-northern-nigeria-1028140085

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More about the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project and its focus on delivering transformative supply chain solutions (from https://www.ghsupplychain.org/global-health-area/malaria):

  • GHSC-PSM partners with locals to provide new approaches to strategic planning, logistics, data visibility and analytics, and capacity building, along with technical leadership to strengthen the global supply, demand, financing, and introduction of existing and future malaria commodities.
  • GHSC-PSM purchases and delivers health commodities, strengthens national supply chain systems, and provides global supply chain leadership to ensure lifesaving health supplies reach those in need, when they need them. By working closely with country partners and suppliers worldwide, the project aims to promote wellbeing and help countries on their journey to self-reliance
  • The project supports five health areas: HIV/AIDS, malaria, voluntary family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH), maternal and child health, and emerging public health threats such as Zika and Ebola, and hinges on three key objectives
  • The project supports local partners to forecast and quantify their needs in all health areas, and to strengthen their logistics management and distribution systems, including warehousing, transport, and distribution systems.