Tag Archives: Productivity

Updates from GE

CEO Transition: How Jeff Immelt Reinvented GE
By Dorothy Pomerantz & Matthew Van Dusen – It started with a simple conversation in 2009. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt was at the company’s Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna, New York, chatting with scientists about embedding sensors in jet engines. When jet engines run, they don’t only power planes — they generate trillions of bytes of data that can provide an enormously valuable window into their inner workings. The insights could allow GE to optimize the machines’ operations and even lead to better engines in the future. But what was the company doing with that data?

Soon after that fateful conversation, Immelt set GE on a path to becoming a new kind of enterprise: a digital industrial company that could unlock productivity from connected machines.

The company Immelt is handing over to his successor, John Flannery, is greatly changed from the one he inherited. Immelt transformed the company by spinning off its real estate, financial services and media divisions, including its stake in NBCUniversal, for tens of billions of dollars.

The moves stabilized GE after the 2008 financial crisis. Immelt then strengthened the core of GE by focusing on power infrastructure, buying the energy assets of the leading power company Alstom in 2015 and merging GE Oil & Gas with Baker Hughes in 2016 to create the world’s largest energy services business. “His enduring legacy is the portfolio transformation,” John Rice says.

Under Immelt, GE also took stands on issues that were important to customers. The company’s Ecomagination initiative helped moved the environment to the top of the corporate agenda. more> https://goo.gl/kdzfHM

Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant?

By Adair Turner – As we get richer, measured productivity may inevitably slow, and measured GDP per capita may tell us ever less about trends in human welfare.

Our standard mental model of productivity growth reflects the transition from agriculture to industry. We start with 100 farmers producing 100 units of food: technological progress enables 50 to produce the same amount, and the other 50 to move to factories that produce washing machines or cars or whatever. Overall productivity doubles, and can double again, as both agriculture and manufacturing become still more productive, with some workers then shifting to restaurants or health-care services. We assume an endlessly repeatable process.

Or suppose that 25 of the surplus farmers become criminals, and the other 25 police. Then the benefit to human welfare is nil, even though measured productivity rises if public services are valued, as per standard convention, at input cost.

The growth of “zero-sum” activities may, however, be even more important. Look around the economy, and it’s striking how much high-talent manpower is devoted to activities that cannot possibly increase human welfare, but entail competition for the available economic pie. Such activities have become ubiquitous: legal services, policing, and prisons; cybercrime and the army of experts defending organizations against it; financial regulators trying to stop mis-selling and the growing ranks of compliance officers employed in response; the huge resources devoted to US election campaigns; real-estate services that facilitate the exchange of already-existing assets; and much financial trading.

Much design, branding, and advertising activity is also essentially zero-sum. more> https://goo.gl/qpxGRb

The New Normal: Radical Inequality, Suffocating Debt, and Growing Job Uncertainty

By Servaas Storm – The U.S. economy is suffering from two interrelated diseases: the secular stagnation of its potential growth, and the polarization of jobs and incomes. The two disorders have a common root in the demand shortfall, originating from the ‘unbalanced’ growth between technologically ‘dynamic’ and ‘stagnant’ sectors, which—crucially—is bringing down potential growth.

The key mechanism is just this: rising real wages, as during the period 1948-1972, provide an incentive for firms to invest in labor-saving machinery and productivity growth will surge as a result; but when labor is cheap, as during most of the period 1972-2015, businesses have little incentive to invest in the modernization of their capital stock and productivity growth falters as a consequence.

Financial globalization, in addition, enabled the rich to have their cake (profits) and eat it (by channeling them to offshore tax havens or into derivative financial instruments). In this way, trade and financial globalization have been essential building blocks of the dual economy. more> https://goo.gl/5EFndw

Connecting People to Prosperity in the Exponential Age

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez – “Our assumptions about how economies function no longer seem to hold true entirely because of exponential technology.”

This claim came from entrepreneur and Singularity University faculty member, Amin Toufani.

In what he calls exponential economics or “exonomics,” Toufani breaks the tech-driven changes happening in the modern economy into seven pillars: people, property, production, price, power, policy, and prosperity.

Toufani pointed out that exonomics’ ultimate goal is to connect people and prosperity.

“Technology is empowering all of us, and people seem to be doing what companies used to do and companies seem to be doing what governments used to do,” Toufani said.

The democratizing effect of information technology is enabling small teams to have an outsized impact. He showed a graph of collaboration app Slack’s user growth, and it’s practically a vertical line. A few years old, Slack reaches millions of users, many of whom pay for the service, and was recently valued upwards of $9 billion.

The kicker? Slack was created by a team of 12 software developers. And it’s far from the only such example. more> https://goo.gl/wpBRPz

Will robots make job training (and workers) obsolete?

By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.

Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.

Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.

Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more> https://goo.gl/pveH2W

Understanding The Digital Revolution And What It Means

By Henning Meyer – The digital revolution, used here as shorthand for broader technological change, is one of today’s most hotly debated topics in politics, economics and business.

We are undoubtedly faced with large-scale disruptions in many areas that require adjustments.

To analyse exposure to the digital revolution and potential policy solutions you need to start breaking it down into manageable dimensions. Three areas in particular warrant special attention: What are the forces shaping the application of new technologies? What does the digital revolution mean for the future of work? And what kind of policies could help to address these issues?

There is a general lack of structured analysis of the ways in which technological progress translates into real life. This is an important shortcoming as it leads to a distorted view of real-time developments. Here we try to structure this process and identify five filters that in effect moderate technology’s impact.

First, an ethical filter. This filter restricts research itself as it sets a permission framework for what can be done.

Second, a social filter. Social resistance against technological change is not new and it is likely to be more intense in areas where there is a perceived threat to people’s jobs.

Third, a corporate governance filter.

Fourth, a legal filter also moderates what is possible and what is applied in the real world.

Last but not least a productivity filter. This filter means in principle that the application of new technology does not have a dramatic effect on productivity because either the productivity bottleneck lies elsewhere or diminishing marginal returns mean that there is little real improvement in products or services. more> https://goo.gl/nZdclG

Updates from GE

By Yari M. Bovalino & Tomas Kellner – Frank Herzog was still in elementary school in the historic Bavarian city of Bamberg when he fell in love — with metals. So ardent was his passion that he later quit high school to pursue it. “I was young when I realized that I loved the material,” he says.

More than three decades later, Herzog’s fascination with shiny objects continues. He is the founder and CEO of Concept Laser, a pioneering maker of 3D printing machines, including the world’s largest industrial printer for metals. His machines can print delicate jewelry and dental implants as well as massive engine blocks for trucks.

Last fall, GE acquired a majority stake in Herzog’s company, and Concept Laser is now part of GE Additive, a new GE business dedicated to supplying 3D printers, materials and engineering consulting services.

Herzog, 45, grew up in a state that’s obsessed with engineering. Mechanical engineers alone account for 17 percent of Bavaria’s workforce. more> https://goo.gl/uS55hn

The Difference Between Real And Pretend Strengths

BOOK REVIEW

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, Author: George Bradt.

By George Bradt – Real strengths are made up of talent, knowledge and skills. It’s not enough to study a subject. Expertise is born of practice.

Real strengths enable people to do what they need to do. Pretend strengths may be intriguing at first, but end up disappointing.

Too many people think they should be able to sell because they’ve worked with salespeople before, either as buyers themselves, providing support to sales, or making products or services that others sell. They can’t sell. Selling requires talent, knowledge and skills born of practice.

Too many people think they can teach because they’ve been students.

Frontier Communications bought AT&T’s wire line services in Connecticut. They were excited because the transaction was going to: “be accretive” and “improve Frontier’s dividend payout” while customers “will have the same products and services that they currently enjoy”. (From their press release.)

Wasn’t true. The day of the transfer, my voicemail service got “disabled”. And it stayed disabled for 11 days. Each of the four times I called Frontier I was informed that they would “open a ticket”. I didn’t want a ticket. I wanted voicemail.

Frontier’s not a real phone company. It just plays one on TV. more> https://goo.gl/pH2m1L

Murphy’s Law is totally misunderstood and is in fact a call to excellence

By Corinne Purtill – You have likely at some point heard the saying known as Murphy’s Law: Everything that can go wrong will.

Murphy’s Law originated at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, the same place where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. Around that time, a team of Edwards engineers was working on Project MX981, a mission to determine the amount of force a human body could sustain in a crash.

In the late 1940s, the team received a visit from an Air Force captain and reliability engineer named Edward A. Murphy, Jr. The details of the story vary. The best and most comprehensive history of Murphy’s Law comes from documentarian Nick T. Spark, who interviewed the surviving witnesses more than 50 years after the fact. more> https://goo.gl/CwNE5e

Updates from GE

Leaner Than Lean: How Digitalization Transforms Manufacturing
By Randy Stearns – If you want to see the future of manufacturing, follow the Tama River about 45 kilometers upstream from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the GE Healthcare facility in Hino, Japan. Inside this outwardly conventional, low-rise suburban business complex is emerging the blueprint for the future of manufacturing, tweak by painstaking tweak.

The Hino factory makes both parts for large medical scanners and small, precision equipment. Compared with similar facilities, its production lines are exceptionally efficient — fast, with less waste, errors and unplanned downtime — thanks in part to the successful integration of advanced digital information technology with operational systems. GE calls this convergence of hardware and software on the shop floor the brilliant factory.

The Hino plant is where the Industrial Internet meets Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement pioneered by Toyota after World War II that undergirds Lean methods for eliminating waste in manufacturing. more> https://goo.gl/euCTYE