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Thank You Steve Jobs

The world lost an incredible man on Wednesday. With Steve Jobs’ passing, everyone is reflecting on the impact he had. His life, his vision, his passion and his creations touched everyone, everywhere. As President Obama said in a statement, “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.

This is a good time to reflect on how Steve’s work has impacted our work here at Cisco.  Steve spearheaded innovation in so many ways – and his success largely resulted from his strong focus on user experience. Clearly, he wanted to create amazing, innovative products, but at the end of the day his goal was to make them easy-to-use so that everyone would feel like they could take part.  From elementary school students to grandparents and everyone in-between, the world is now connecting, learning and embracing technology more.  He has fundamentally changed the way that products are designed and has taught us by example about what it means to put the consumer first.

As we work every day, we must pay homage to the man that paved the way for new media and communication experiences for the masses. We all have something we can learn from him.  Thank you Steve.

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How Service Providers Enable the Connected Life

More than ever, access to local telecommunications network infrastructure has become an important part of the way many of us live, work, play and learn — throughout our daily routines. Some of us take it for granted – we expect that the network will simply be there, when and where we need it.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Without fail, it’s assumed to be omnipresent in our lives. By and large, that objective is purposefully reached, around the world. Truly, that’s an amazing accomplishment.

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Efficient Giving

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that US manufacturing productivity’s average annual rate of growth (AARG) from 2007 to 2010 is 2.0%. In addition, the report cited that from Jan 1972 to August 2010, the number of people employed in US manufacturing jobs fell from 17,500,000 to 11,500,000 while manufacturing value rose 270%.

Upon reading these statistics, I began to reflect on how technology has radically changed every facet of how we live, work, and connect with each other. I began to ponder, if we could measure and plot our country’s “compassion curve” against the Information Age (circa 1975 – present) would it reflect the same growth and efficiency gains that have been realized by our manufacturing sector? Could we conclude that our society has become increasingly more insensitive and greedy, or more compassionate and giving? Read More »

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John Deere avoids cost with Cisco Wireless Architecture

Maybe you’ve seen the recent article in RFID Journal: John Deere Planter Factory Gains Efficiency.

John Deere, working with integration and technology partners Prime Technologies (now Kubica) and AeroScout, used the existing Cisco Wi-Fi networking nodes that it had already installed throughout the facility to avoid the expense of installing RFID readers for a new manufacturing solution.

John Deere MaxEmergeXP

Here’s the story: John Deere’s  Seeding Group factory in Moline, Ill. was seeking an automated solution to improve on its manual work in process manufacturing system.  It wanted to increase efficiency in the way it replenished welding material as well as improve the way it carried out processes at its assembly stations at the plant. The factory in question assembles John Deere’s  row-crop planter machines – the MaxEmerge XP range –  that are used by farmers to deposit a variety of seed in soils and seedbeds.

The new system uses a wireless back-haul to a Cisco infrastructure that enables the SAP, reporting and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems to communicate live.  It’s intended to improve material replenishment and reduce delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas.  It allows the equipment manufacturer’s kitting staff to boost material replenishment speed, and allows assembly workers to prepare for specific equipment as it approaches their assembly stations. The RFID Journal Story goes into excellent detail on the wip process and the process improvement, but I did want to reiterate some of the key business metrics:

“Our goal was to improve Takt time *,” says Shay O’Neal, John Deere Seeding Group’s project manager, who expects the reduction to increase from what he estimates may be about 5 percent improvement in Takt time thus far. He reckons there has been a 40 percent reduction in cycle time because of the improvement in replenishment. He has also seen a decrease in overtime work undertaken by kitting staff at the welding station. “I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the system met our needs,” O’Neal said in the RFID Journal article.

  • John Deere has seen a 40 percent increase in efficiency in welding due to improvements in material replenishment and fewer delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas.
  • On the assembly line, the system provides a view into the work in process (WIP), which thus far has reduced the cycle time (Takt) it takes to assemble a single product by about 5 percent.
  • Since existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes read the RFID tag of each seeder as it passes from one assembly station to another, indicating where it has been and what its next assembly location will be, John Deere avoided the expense of installing RFID readers.

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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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