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2012 Predictions: These I Like

It took me awhile to go through all the random Top 10 of 2011 lists for various topics, so now I’m ready to look ahead to 2012’s preponderance of pundit predictions. Or maybe I’m just fashionably late. I’ve tripped over a few reports here and there – some quite possibly developed by caffeinated squirrels on a treadmill.

Not me, but she looks like she's predicting something...

On the technology front, I found one more interesting than others. Instead of putting a small group of experts in a room and not letting them out until they agree on a list, Baseline Magazine annually surveys business and technology managers at companies with 100+ employees to ask about their organizations’ investments, plans, and strategies. Across several hundred respondents, patterns evolve.

Whoever these people are, coming from the desk I use, I like the way they (and their companies) think. Following – their predictions and my two cents (maybe three or four).

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Social Tools at Work

Apparently “outside the box” topped a list of the worst offenders in corporate jargon for 2011. I expected that social would make the list until I realized that people are still struggling to apply it to business. It has yet to become a corporate jargon offender, let alone one of the worst.

Still, we have social media, social networks, social business, social advertising, social cats, social dogs, social goldfish. OK, perhaps I exaggerate. A little. It’s like Y2K all over again when we tacked an e- to the front of everything from mail and business on through the rest of the dictionary to say, “Look, it’s online now!”

Working for technology companies, I’ve often had the advantage (or disadvantage) of working with new tools as they came into being. Now, some of the so-called social media tools I started using in my personal time have become valuable business tools: Instant messaging is a good example.

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Trends in Web Conferencing

Cisco Vice President of WebEx Product Management, Raj Gossain, shares insight into industry trends in web conference and the next phase of web conferencing for Cisco.

Leading into our collaborative workspace announcement, we are conducting a series of interviews with members of our Read More »

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The New Age of Conference Calls—You’ll Actually Want to Tune In

In her BNET column, “168 Hours,” Laura Vanderkam recently shared “22 Things to Do During That Boring Conference Call.” While I applaud Vanderkam’s suggestions to write love letters and thank-you notes, read poetry, and do other things that arguably make the world a better place, I also agree with her that if people need conference call distractions to pass the time, perhaps they should instead think of ways to make the calls more worthwhile.

So how do you make a conference call productive? Host it over telepresence. The face-to-face connection commands people’s attention—you can’t hide from the person staring at you across the virtual table! With telepresence, participants can read each other’s nuanced body language and engage in lively, natural dialogue without the common audio call hazard of talking over one another. Just by paring down the confusion of faceless communication, telepresence calls can take regular 60-minute conferences down to 45 or 50 minutes. Add up those savings over the course of the week, and you’ve earned back several hours of quality time. 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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