In our almost 60 years of business, our team here at Madison Company and our many distributors across the United States have always been focused on customer collaboration, especially because many of our customer problems require a customized solution. During these years, we have developed many tools to support ‘the customer experience,’ even before that term was coined by professional marketers. Tools such as a website designed to help customers find information or purchase products, easy accessibility to our outstanding customer service team via phone, fax or email, or in-person visits from our outside sales folks have helped guide customers along their journey towards a viable sensing solution that saves time, money and aggravation.
Now we are witnessing the introduction of a new style of communication – the collaboration bot! Imagine that while chatting with a co-worker about an important project you need to know who within your company speaks French; the WhoBot can answer that question within your chat stream! Need to schedule a meeting with four co-workers? Assign that task to Zoom.ai or Meekan and save everyone time. If you just received confirmation that you are going to that conference or expo next month, use the Hipmunk or Kayak bots to check flights and reserve hotels for you, and then check with Mica – your hipster advisor bot – on what to do in this new city. This is just a small sampling of the 600 bots that are listed today with the Microsoft Bot Framework directory.
Of course, the most well-known bot is the ‘chat’ bot – that little screen that drops down and allows you to chat in real-time with a product expert. What are your thoughts on this type of collaboration? Do you think we at Madison should introduce a ‘chat’ bot on our website? Do you use collaboration bots or other types of apps to boost productivity? Please comment below and let us know what empowers your workplace!
Yes, it's true! Madison Company can design, manufacture and ship a custom switch or sensor in just six business days.
Our latest Application Bulletin illustrates the simple steps we take with our clients to have their switch or sensor quickly and affordably made to order. As a national leader providing sensing solutions since 1959, our product knowledge and engineering expertise allow Madison to promptly meet the needs of a wide range of applications. Here is an outline of the simple six-day process:
Day 1: Definition: Our client communicates their unique requirements to our technical sales staff.
Day 2: Quote: Madison provides pricing to establish budget and ROI.
Day 3: Discussion: Following quote approval, Madison’s engineers design a switch/sensor that satisfies the client’s application specifications.
Day 4: Design: Madison provides Proof of Concept to the client.
Day 5: Creation Upon client approval, the custom switch or sensor is manufactured.
Day 6: Delivery: Madison ships the final sensor solution to the client!
An illustration of this process can be downloaded as a PDF. In addition to the hundreds of standard switches and sensors ready to ship at MadisonCo.com, it’s important that our clients also understand the custom sensing solutions that are available quickly and at a competitive price point.
Last week our friends over at Material Handling & Logistics News released a very handy guide aptly named "How to Survive Supply Chain Complexity" that should be on everyone's reading list. Having been a critical supplier to many companies during our 58 years in business, we would encourage special attention to the "supplier collaboration" section. Our support team team is constantly in search of ways to have greater transparency with our OEM and manufacturing clients, to increase the collaboration and improve the solutions Madison provides from one year to the next. Not only does the article describe four primary sources of Supply Chain complexity, they also describe seven solutions for managing Supply Chain complexity. Here are a few key takeaways:
1. Companies feel that good partners helped them address complexity by enhancing product and process innovation.
2. Transparent collaboration between a company and its partners opens up opportunities to reduce the processing exceptions that introduce complexity.
3. If suppliers better understood the role their output created, they’d be better positioned both to help deliver the best possible product and to do it in a manner that smoothed the flow and reduced complexity along the way.
Be sure to take a few minutes this week to learn these important survival tactics for our modern times!
Less than one week after we published a brand new case study (on Steam Cogeneration), our hardworking team at Madison Company is pleased to announce even more resources for our most valued clients and customers. We just released a new Application Overview targeted towards manufacturers of concrete, cement and aggregate. This single page PDF - complete with a great photo of the application - defines the problem our customer had and the sensing solution provided by Madison Company. Look for more of these Application Overviews in the future, and if you have a suggestion for one, please do not hesitate to contact us online or by phone: 203-488-4477.
After nearly sixty years in business, we have seen our share of evidence of what water and steam can do to mission critical sensors and switches. As part of a new on-going series of case studies, each focusing on unique customer sectors, we are pleased to present our Steam Cogeneration & Water Level Sensing case study. With this being our very first case study, we look forward to feedback from our clients and customers to ensure this type of research and content is helpful going forward. Further, if you have suggestions for Case Study topics in the future, please let us know by using our Contact form here.
We have spent a lot time and space covering the Internet of Things (IoT) within the Madison Company blog and, from what we've heard, many of our most consistent readers are also self-proclaimed "tinkerers". So in an effort to keep our readers abreast of the latest developments with miniature computers and smart sensors that could dramatically empower those experimenting with IoT in their factory or on their floor, we would like to introduce you to the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W. While the original Pi Zero was introduced nearly 18 months back, the new "W" stands for "wireless" representing both wi-fi and bluetooth functionality! As you might imagine, this new "W" changes IoT possibilities dramatically, especially given the low price point, since adding wireless LAN and bluetooth functionality to the original Pi computer sometimes cost as much or more than the computer itself. How excited are you about this new wirless development and will it spur any new innovations with your company?
It's a strange new world. The computer you bought six years ago still does 92% of the things that a brand new computer does. That new smartphone that came out six weeks ago looks and acts a lot like the one you bought three years ago. We've clearly reached a saturation point where migrating from one device to the next is less about new bells and whistles to become more about future functionality; what will that new device DO that I can't already do today?
This recent report from European Communications, targeted to OEMs in the tech industry, say the next frontier is all about artificial intelligence - AI. We will quickly move beyond the simple in-home artificial personalities like Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri to advanced software systems that can assist, predict, recommend and even make automated decisions. While an initial response might be to patch current technology with apps, a better tactic to improve user experience is a "AI-first" approach, not unlike the mobile-first strategy being adopted five years ago. This new approach requires integration of machine learning, neural networks and artificial intelligence while providing a user experience that features relevant content personalized to individual interests.
The future is bright for those aware of and implementing the tactics needed to create a true AI platform.
While we tend to dedicate most of our weekly MadisonCo blog posts to the various advantages technology brings to manufacturers, this week we discovered a great article about the "human" aspect of success for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Last week Digabit posted this story, Innovate to Improve OEM-Dealer Relations, Not Disrupt Them! Their story starts with a Harvard Business Review commentary from two decades ago, called "Make Your Dealers Your Partners" and positions Dealers as the cornerstone of the success of Caterpillar, according to their CEO, Donald Fites. Then they present in the common opinions of today's management consultants, business pundits and technology salespeople with a few scenarios about the futue of B2B sales that, according to the author, are really much more advantageous for B2C sales of equipment and parts, in a more commoditized fashion. The compelling point of this article is that, depsite the many advances in technology during the past 20 years, the bottomline benefit and value for OEMs still remains with their dealer networks. This quote was a stand-out for our team:
"Rather than being archaic artifacts, dealers provide assurance for buyers who spend millions on equipment. Does anyone want to buy a $1,000 part for a $500,000 machine from an anonymous website? I don’t. That type of sale still requires a level of trust and accountability that you won’t get from slick websites or one-click processes."
Enjoy the article and we look forward to serving all of our OEM clients personally, as we have since 1959!
Exactly one week ago we witnessed the kick-off to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that has unveiled to the world, for over 50 years, the latest in technology, home electronics and new gadgets. This year the devices getting the greatest media attention seemed to be virtual and augmented reality glasses and goggles, as well as fold-out, multi-screen laptops. One common theme, frequently repeated for business and industial device use, was "virtual collaboration". According to VR and AR device manufacturers, our near future will evolve beyond basic emails, instant messaging, confernece calls and Skype sessions. Very soon you'll be able to don a head mounted display, connect with two or more other experts in any global location, and have them see what you see to virtually collaborate, brain storm and make sound business decisions. While all of this, on the surface, sounds like a brave new world, this seems like an ideal time to revisit this powerful year-old article from Harvard Business Review titled Collaboration Overload. Spending just a few minutes with this study you'll soon discover that only 3-5% of employees truly add value to collaborations and, frequently, what begins as a virtuous cycle and quickly turns to a vicious one. Those who are frequently the most helpful during collaborations become bottlenecks in the future as organizations wait for their valued opinions to be expressed before any progress is made. So as we see more powerful "virtual collaboration" tools in our future, we hope this important study helps you maintain a results reality and doesn't contribute to the burnout, disengagement and turnover that is becoming routine within a seemingly endless stream of meetings, debates, discussions and decisions.
At the start of a fresh new year, the manufacturing industry seems poised for some positive results and profitable reporting. Our friends over at Magnatag have put together a very brief report on the 4 Insights That Will Transform Manufacturing in 2017 that should make our readers and customers very happy. Some "Insights" may not be a surprise to frequent readers of our blog, like Smart Manufacturing powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), but most are genuniely fresh scenarios that will help raise your awareness and maybe even your profits!
As we all look forward to a new year, The IEEE Institute provides clear forecasting of technologies that we will likely see on many factory floors and maybe even in your company. This recent article, How Augmented Reality Will Change the Way We Work, focuses on two specific products that fall within the "helmets & headsets" device category. While many of us are well aware of Microsoft's advancement with the Hololens, a lesser-known contender in your workspace is the DAQRI Smart Helmet (DSH). There are some really compelling case scenarios described that include thermal cameras (within the DSH) and the power of virtual collaboration that the more affordable Hololens is already making advancements on. A very worthwhile read as you contemplate a new year to come!
If companies could wave a magic wand and receive all the products and services they needed, at the lowest possible prices without a worry about quality control, damaged goods, contract negotiations, logistical delays, inventory control and more, there would be no need to have a procurement process. But despite many great technological improvements to how we find, acquire and purchase goods and services from outside sources over the years, procurement remains a challenge for even the most mature manufacturing companies. So imagine the obstacles that start-up face when developing a new procurement process! Luckily, this week's post from Supply Chain Digital can help those just starting to see the tip of that procurement iceberg. The article details five steps that every company, not just manufacturers, should considering when developing their own process and also provides a handy link to better understanding "e-procurement" and the software options available today. A very beneficial read, especially for those without a sound procurement process already in place!
Early in 2016 we spent a lot of time, and blog space, focused on the subject of "Additive Manufacturing", also known as 3D printing. Feedback from our customers and readers was that 3D printing didn't have much impact on "true" manufacturers and that legitmate uses by our actual clients might still be three-to-five years down the road. With naysayers still echoing in our heads, we believe this brief article from MakePartsFast.com helps paint a more immediate reality for 3D printing by citing significant investments that are being made by some of the biggest manufacutring names within the United States. Be sure to note the $60 million "3D Printing Metal Powder Plant" recently opened by Alcoa just about 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Also take a look at the long list of 3D vendors that GE is either partnering with or acquiring as they plan to grow their additive manufacturing business to $1 billion by 2020. These are big investments with some significant returns being projected by companies that everyone in manufacturing knows and respects. As 2016 comes to a close, be sure to dedicate some attention and resources to monitoring the additive manufacturing trend in the new year. You can bet that we will!
We wish to start by thanking our long-standing partners at ThomasNet for making us aware of this MIT article, posted today on SupplyChainMIT.com, regarding innovation within Supply Chain teams. The post is essentially an executive summary of a study conducted in January with 112 master's students taking part in a supply chain simulation. Their study is unique in that unique teams were created and all were handed a failing company scenarior that required innovation in order to turn the company profitable. Ultimately, there were five strongest predictors of improved performance within the supply chain, but the stand-out requirment was having a good knowledge of the functional challenges other team members faced. The post is based upon an article written by Dr. Roberto Perez-Franco, founder and director of the MIT Supply Chain Strategy Lab is highly recommended for those attempting to innovate within their own teams.
Earlier this month we posted The Five Ways IoT will Reshape Manufacturing on our blog and received some good messages and social comments. Today we discovered a very helpful and somewhat complimentary article, with a powerful video accompaniment, called 10 Industries the Internet of Things Will Change Forever. Not surprisingly, at the top of this list is Manufacturing. Beyond the brief article, we recommend spending three minutes with the well-produced video as well which seems to focus on the "Industrial" Internet of Things and the value it may have the future. Ultimately, it would probably be a challenge to identify an industry that will not be changed forever as a result of the IoT revolution, but clearly we see this trend report as important for all of our clients to consider as a new year dawns.
As a sensor manufacturer for nearly 60 years, it's not hard for our team at Madison Company to foresee a future where smart sensors help make our world and workplace better. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been predicted for many years and is only now starting to deliver true benefits to business and consumers. Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently published this very quick guide, called Data Assembly Required, that defines these five ways IoT will reshape the manufacturing industry:
1 - Predictive Maintenance: Imagine a future where your factory machines remind you when they need to be routinely seriviced or when something is not operating within an acceptable range.
2 - Easier Supply Chain Maintenance: Imagine a future where logistics for raw materials are precise and lends manufacturers greater control over inventory.
3 - Remote Accessibility: Imagine a future where dashboards can tell you where things are in remote warehouses or with other vendors without a need to have real "boots on the ground".
4 - Increased Safety: Imagine a future where sensors can convey dangerous situations prior to humans being exposed to potential safety hazards.
5 - Overall Greater Efficiency: All four items above plus other ancillary benefits create a future manufacturing facility that produces more efficiently while saving time, money and the well-being of the staff.
Be sure to read this quick post completely and follow the embeded link that defines how $70 billion will be invested globably by manufacturers by the year 2020!
During the next few weeks you are likely to hear or read about a new poll or electoral survey every day leading up to election day on Tuesday, November 8th. One particular poll of employees of manufacturers was released recently showing the importance of trade to this segment of voters. The poll, released by Friends of Manufacturing, reveals a dead heat between the top two candidates, but delves deeper with regard to views and votes on past presidential elections as well. Less surprising is the fact that approximately 85% of manufacturing employees say a candidate's position on trade is either "Very Important" or "Somewhat Important" to how they will vote in the 2016 presidential election. Candidates would benefit from defining innovative trade policies that help sustain and grow millions of manufacturing jobs within the United States.
When was the last time your employer provided a performance analysis?
If your company is like the average American company, you probably get a performance review or appraisal annually. But how beneficial is it for you and your employer? The October 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review cover story is dedicated to Building a Workforce for the Future and released this important article, The Performance Management Revolution. The authors, Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis, spell out the potential problems with annual reviews in the workplace and the effect these sessions have with holding employees accountable for past behaviors by very likely compromising current performance and failing to groom future talent. The article provides a historic account of how this process, originally developed for the military in World War I, became an ingrained process of American businesses and the many subsequent changes in performance management that call into question the real benefits of this process. Even those not involved with the human resources aspect of their business will appreciate this post if for no other reason than to understand the importance of Talent Management and the struggle to maintain employee accountability while fostering employee development.
Being a leader in US manufacturing of switches and sensors since 1959, and working with so many manufacturers on a daily basis, it is easy for us to forget the important role the manufacturing plays with the American economy and how it empowers our lives with rewarding careers and incredible products. Thankfully once per year we dedicate a day, called Manufacturing Day, to remember, recognize and celebrate manufacturing with special events held across our great country. This celebration and the nearly 1,000 events to be held on October 7th this year, is co-produced the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) which is part of the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. This collaborative organization released a powerful manufacturing infographic recently to help tell the full story of the industry in a concise yet compelling manner. Will your manufacturing company be sponsoring a MFD Day event or celebrating in any special way? If so, drop us a note or send us a Tweet, we would love to hear about it!
No one will mistake Paul Studebaker, Chief Editor at Control Global, as an early adopter. His story last weekabout the benefits that apps can bring to automation processes and equipment reliability is humorous and surprising. About 90% of the post talks about either his aversion to changing technology or his attempts to make his commutes more enjoyable by leveraging the power of a real time traffic monitoring app called Waze. Tossed into the story, almost as an afterthought near the end was a mention of the new Fluke condition monitoring system (3500 FC) that works natively with the new "Connect" app from Fluke, a company which manufactures, distributes and provides service for electronic test tools and software.
Studebaker's commentary underscores the fact that whether people embrace the technology or not, smart sensors, wireless/cellular networks and mobile applications are increasingly becoming more efficient, reliable and innovative.
The monitoring of wellheads for oil companies is neither an easy or simple task. Yet Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) recently deployed a series of remote monitoring sensors to 357 wellheads to improve upon their existing data gathering methods. This new real-time sensor surveillance update, measuring wellhead pressure and temperature, delivered four immediate benefits to the company:
1. Enabled faster and lower cost first production.
2. Reduced operating, maintenance and compliance costs.
3. Improved optimal production and maximized yield.
4. Improved the health, safety and environmental (HSE) compliance concerns.
These improvements didn't happen overnight or without a significant planning and preparation from KOC. Be sure to read the in-depth overview on the Control Global website for more details!
Those of you involved with product management as a career, hobby or lifelong passion are likely familiar with Nir Eyal and his best-selling book, Hooked. If you're a fan like we are here at Madison Company, then you'll want to spend 10 minutes reading his post this week on Medium called Die Dashboards Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software. His case for the three advantages of conversational user interfaces (CUI) have over traditional software are powerful. More impressive are his dialog examples (see image below) and how easily they can be applied to a variety of real life business scenarios. It is anticipated that automated CUIs will develop a powerful capacity to ask the right questions over the next three to five years. As the leader of IBM for more than forty years, Thomas J. Watson, once said, "The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle to finding the answer". When applications and algorithms develop the intelligence to ask "right" questions, based upon data analysis and smart sensor signals happening behind the scenes, will we be mentally prepared for the dialog?
Towards the end of June, when we were posting articles about Embodied Cognition and Intelligent Personal Assistants, Apple was announcing at their World Wide Developers Conference a strategy to open both Siri and the Accelerate framework for Basic Neural Network Subroutines (BNNS). As detailed in the post from Cult of Mac a few weeks ago, neural networks are "vast artificial brains used for exploring the relationship between input and output, where relationships are complex or unclear". The newly available BNNS API from Apple defines it as "a collection of functions that you use to implement and run neural networks, using previously obtained training data." While Apple may be a bit behind in the artificial intelligence race compared to Google, Microsoft or Amazon, these recent decisions combined with Apple's immense network of developers will only help move things along more quickly for everyone looking to make technology more intelligent!
At this time, midway through 2016, we believe the vast majority of our readers have worked with some kind of automated mobile intelligence, whether it's Siri on your iPhone, Cortana on Windows or Google Now on Android. We will not attempt to argue which system is most advanced, since there are ample arguments for and against already out there. But we were intrigued by a recent article in Forbes by Meta S. Brown about the future of Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA). The authoroutlines some of the short comings of our current technologies in attempting to decipher human language while painting a picture of the future where IPAs will be smart enough to ask clarifying questions and have the ability to interpret our answers. Plus, more contextually aware digital assistants wouldn't remind you of a haircut appointment while you’re actually sitting in the barber shop. We believe that IPAs and similar embodied cognition systems (as we touched on earlier in June) will be very powerful in engineering and manufacturing sectors where content and context are vastly more controllable factors, enhanced by smart sensors (IoT), than what Siri and Cortana are up against in the "real" world.
While we've touched on virtual and augmented reality trends previously on our blog, a recent workshop at the IEEE VR conference this year caught our attention and seemed relevant to our readers. The concept of Immersive Analytics leverages the advancements of VR headsets and increasingly higher resolution screens and projectors combined with smart sensors provide superior support for analytical reasoning, information visualization and real-world analytics tasks by immersing users within visual data to aid in decision making. But going beyond the new frontiers of visual data immersion, keynote presenter Chris North, explained new principles of embodied cognition that allow intelligence analysts to use physical body movements and their surrounding visual environment to amplify distributed cognition.
Very exciting advances for those in scientific disciplines such as engineering, physics, chemistry and biology!
Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, is an emerging manufacturing trend that continues to grow exponentially each year and offers more competition - and confusion - for those attempting to source filament materials for their manufacturing requirements. Engineering.com posts up this week to tell us about an important new tool to help pick the right materials for your 3D printer. A startup, named 3D Matter has released a new software application billed as a "materials optimization tool", called OptiMatter, now available for "free" access. The free version is essentially a demo encouraging users to purchase a more robust plan, starting at $29 per month but with a flexible option beind planned at $3 per month for a single search. Ultimately, if you have concerns about the strength and durability of your 3D printed products, this new tool could prove to be invaluable in helping you meet your material sourcing challenges!
As a company manufacturing sensors for nearly 60 years, it's easy for all of us at Madison Company to get excited that sensors are such a hot worlwide trend these days. And for all the hype and media coverage about the future of the Internet of Things, a not-so distant future where smart sensors will connect 30 billion devices, it's very important that we maintain perspective and not be overwhelmed by these advancements.
One single page chart, courtesy of IDC, that caught our attention recently via a post on Twitter by Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, shows an entire sensor industry that can easily be classified into a dozen different types. Maintaining a sense of these sensor basics will bring the uncertainty about our the future into more reasonable perspective and help move us all from our current sense of IoT awe to thinking more about purpose and function.
During your next meeting take a look at your peers and the technologies that both accompany and adorn them. While some may bring a laptop, others will bring tablets and almost everyone will have their smart phone (with volume down of course). Beyond that you might also notice fitness trackers, bluetooth earpieces and maybe even a smart watch or two. Odds are there are probably more connected devices in your boardroom than actual people. The trend is only going to continue as sensors get smarter and the Internet of Things allows for easier communication among all our devices.
But have we reached a point where our devices get more attention than our peers?
A new article from CIO, called Wearables Etiquette in the Workplace, provides some very helpful guidance on the where's, when's and why's regarding prioritizing our attention in the modern world. If you find yourself frequently distracted by beeps, buzzes and digital fireworks, you should read this refresher on how personal attention builds trust and trust builds strong working relationships and great business partnerships.
While it's easy to get caught up in all the incredible possibillities that enormous streams of data will bring when millions of devices and smart sensors are communicating, there is at least one very obvious downside. Maintaining data, either locally or using cloud services requires power. Lots and lots of power. EDN Network published an informative article this week on energy efficiency required for cloud data centers as IoT grows zettabytes of data exponentiallly over the coming years. The core concept explained and explored within the article is the idea of software defined power.
Another IoT data related concern not covered within this well writen article is the issue of redundant and back-up power solutions for all those cloud services. Stay tuned for a discussion on that issue in a future post!
Our long-time partner, ThomasNet recently asked their Digital Marketing Associate Zack Smith to digest a comprehensive research report from Frost & Sullivan on behalf of the manufacturing industry. Zack did a great job at reviewing the "Top 50 Emerging Technologies" study in order to extract the six most relevant trends for today's manufacturers. Part one of two was posted early in April and ready for your review, with three trends defined and supported with a few great examples and explainer videos.
While people who regularly follow the Madison Co. blog and our social media channels will probably be familiar with these technologies, the examples are great reinforcement for powerful ideas that will likely impact the future of the manufacturing industry.
Be sure to read one of the best management related articles we've seen recently, published earlier today byZachary First at Harvard Business Review. Technology Changes, Good Management Doesn't clearly outlines the clash between exponentially increasing advances in technology - Gordon Moore’s pronouncement that the silicon chip’s power would double every 18 months - and the realities of managing humans and their limitations, as described by world-renowned business author Peter Drucker: "We are not going to breed a new race of supermen. We will have to run our organizations with people as they are." Despite our human desire to keep pace with massive technological changes, and to make today’s team exponentially more productive than last year’s team, this article raises challenging questions about community, morality and the meaning of modern life in the context of technology in the workplace.
Since these vital questions so frequently get overshadowed by the bright, shining light of today's latest advances, this article is not to be missed.