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STEM and the U.S. Manufacturing Conundrum

The Conundrum

In my most recent blog “U.S. manufacturing: is it sustainable?“, I referenced an article about how U.S. manufacturing has been leading the economy out of the depths of the Great Recession.  The authors put forward a thesis with supporting data that suggest Americans believe the manufacturing industry is the basis for wealth creation and is fundamental to a sustained and successful U.S. economy.

The rub is that only 30% of Americans said they have or would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

Why such a discrepancy? An answer to this question is not simple. However, I do believe we must seek that answer and address the gap, if the U.S. is to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Being an engineer myself--a manufacturing and controls engineer no less--I know the first and most essential step to a solution is making sure we’ve defined the problem well.

A 2009 survey by the American Society for Quality, as reported on manufacturing.net, helps to shine a light on our problem.

According to the survey, the top three reasons why kids aren’t interested in engineering:

  • Kids don’t know much about engineering (44 percent).
  • Kids prefer a more exciting career than engineering (30 percent).
  • They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21 percent) to be good at it. This is despite the fact that the largest number of kids ranked math (22 percent) and science (17 percent) as their favorite subjects.

Survey findings on the adult side:

  • Only 20 percent of parents have encouraged or will encourage their child(ren) to consider an engineering career.
  • The vast majority of parents (97 percent) believe that knowledge of math and science will help their children have a successful career.

So, while American children and adults both feel that math and science are important (even enjoyable), there is an ironic disconnect (cognitive dissociation?) between recognizing the importance and committing to pursue a career in engineering and manufacturing.

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The Resilient Society: The Next Phase of Public Sector Reform

Public sector decision makers are under enormous pressure to deliver results in difficult and uncertain times. In late 2010 and early 2011, the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 senior public sector executives from around the world—at the city, regional, and national levels. Responses from these officials were remarkably consistent regarding the key challenges they face in a world undergoing significant economic, political, environmental, and social transitions.

Some of these public leaders expressed concerns about their organizations’ capacity to respond to new policy and service demands, budget reductions, and the need to engage new technology platforms for innovation and service delivery. Other challenges related to the public sector’s ability to help cities, regions, and countries navigate the current uncertain and volatile environment.   Read More »

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Creating More Sustainable and Innovative Cities, Regions, and Nations

Post by Gordon Feller, Director, Urban Innovations, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group

Perhaps more than ever before, public sector leaders are concerned about their organizations’ ability to respond to new policy and service demands, budget reductions, and the need to engage new technology platforms for innovation and service delivery.

This scenario is further complicated by today’s uncertain and volatile socioeconomic environment, and by the growing imperative to make sense of the complex interplays that link natural ecosystems with the infrastructures that move our energy, people, goods, waste, and water.

Resilence has become priority No. 1 for the public sector—both in terms of coping with unexpected shocks (economic, natural, environmental), and in having the agility and capacity to anticipate and address the risks and opportunities that accompany big transitions and socioeconomic changes.

These challenges and opportunities are major themes at this week’s Meeting of the Minds 2011 conference in Boulder, CO (September 22-23). Presented by Toyota, with global co-sponsorship by Philips, Deutsche Bank, and Cisco, Meeting of the Minds allows participants from the public, NGO, and private sectors to engage in lively discussions on how to “connect the dots” across key sectors: mobility, building systems, energy and water resources, and finance.

More than 200 leaders from a dozen countries will explore a rich variety of smart design, planning, policy, and technology innovations that enable cities, regions, and nations to respond to increasingly difficult challenges.

As a global sponsor of Meeting of the Minds 2011, Cisco and its global consultancy, the Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), have helped shape the conference agenda and will present recent thought leadership on topics including “The Resilient Society,” Urban Innovation, Connected Vehicles, and Work-Life Innovation.

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Are Sunny Days Possible in the Cloud?

Yes, but only if there is Trust…

Do you remember not too long ago hopping into your car, driving, across town (when gas was $1- something) to your local retail store and searching the computer department to purchase a cereal box that contained between 2- 8 3.5” (or are you “wise” enough to remember 5.25” floppy) disks?  The disk contained software that would entertain us, make us more productive and educate.  If you don’t remember that, how about going to the record store and perusing the aisles for hours reading the CD boxes that were twice as big as the CD.

Well those days seem long past; and inserting a disk in anything these days….well, seems a bit ancient.

Cloud

We’re now spoiled with the conveniences of iTunes, Salesforce.com, Facebook, Youtube, Yahoo Mail, etc..  In addition, we’re all too familiar with the seemingly millions of applications that run on a myriad of mobile appliances.  None of these programs run on our PC’s hard drive.  They’re browser based applications that are essentially utility services which we share with thousands of users.

So, I began to ponder the question, “What’s the big deal about the Cloud in Manufacturing and Enterprise?”  Read More »

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Machine Builder Business Models, Sustainability and Innovation

So my wife and I recently took a two week vacation to Alaska – without computers or anything but camera’s and our ever important smartphones. I didn’t realize that Marie Hattar, our Segment VP was going to write a blog about the importance of vacations and productivity – see that here. Imagine that, I overachieved via a vacation!

At any rate, back to the vacation – we left on Sunday so Saturday was reserved for clothes washing and packing. Great plan until the motor on the washing machine froze. We ended up Saturday night finishing the wash at her father’s house. Then after the trip (that was fabulous by the way. Everyone needs to take a cruise through the Inside Passage!) we ended up having the repair service visit to confirm the motor was shot (new motor cost more than the washer was worth, so conclusion: buy a new one) and using his washer/dryer for another week. That meant bundling up two plus weeks of wash, carrying it to his house, doing the wash for a few hours, etc.

I was reminded of the challenges a manufacturing company would have due to an unexpected machine breakdown. You have to isolate the problem, get appropriate repairs, possibly upgrade the machine, possibly line up alternate manufacturing capability, etc. I’ve blogged before about the needs for continuing MRO schedules and the importance of properly servicing your manufacturing machines and lines. But how do you prepare for a critical machine that suddenly breaks? Can you rapidly sub out the work? Can you quickly get the machine replaced? What if the newer machine doesn’t fit in the line directly? Read More »

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