Monday, February 28, 2011

Ford - Flexible Manufacturing

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Abid Ghuman in Pakistan at NUST ( During our conversation, it became clear that he was the key mind behind Ford's "Simplified Flexible Manufacturing". Though not adopted in the USA till the pain of economic downturn, now it is becoming the reason for Ford's success.

This article highlights the complexities of large corporations here. The loser of course first is the consumer, then the customer and finally the company. USA Today treats the subject in more recent terms here.

See Dr. Ghuman's patents on manufacturing and tooling here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A New Way For Analytics

A good friend, executive at a large analytics company, asked me how I would articulate the next product in the space. Here is my attempt:

New markets require new analytics products that begin in a new fashion.

A generic and current example would be: We can dissect the consumer population into demographics (have schema), and run campaigns on them (poor distributions, hitting same consumer with many, at times conflicting messages).

New approach... Let's define the demographic we seek, and develop the application around understanding it.

For example, there is no analytics application that comprehends the Muslim Consumer in-depth. The new application has to be incremental in learning, i.e. it never stops learning; it has to comprehend the unseen, i.e. it is schema free, hence, leading to intuitive outcomes; it has to be real-time i.e. no more running the models for days to get an answer; it has to be built upon existing infrastructure i.e. it does not throw away the clients current spending on IT; it has to provide the unification of statistics and semantics i.e. no arm twisting to "try" to make "sense".

There is no such application in the market currently. Such a proposition is where insights into products for families living below $2/day can come from. This is where the analytics engine begins to develop a “memory” of the entity, may it be a consumer or a automotive.

This is NOT aspirational, this IS the “Near Tomorrow” (Copyright 2011 The RBR Group).

The execution requires for example for CPG/FMCG: (1) Understanding a client's goal for new market entry, (2) developing the ideal consumer (no, not digging within the existing, looking back at the past data, it was yesterday), (3) searching for the ideal consumer, (4) begin to consume all data on the closest matches in the method defined above, i.e. schema free, incremental, with statistic and semantic unification.

This delivers the consumer’s unstated needs, where the value is the highest for a product that fulfills it. Example, the consumer had no clue they wanted an iPhone. Keypads, smaller and smaller were fine too!

For the 21st century, analytics is the when predictive goes to forecasting to deterministic.

For a thought provoking look at engine technology that delivers the above, see Saffron Technology.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Most Innovative?!?!

MIT's Technology Review has declared 2011's 50 most innovative companies., see them all here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How green was my Valley!

As the president of TIE Carolinas, an entrepreneurial non-profit, I engage with business men and women from across the world. A trend is clear and omniscient - the world at large, specifically Asia and Africa, have a populace that is aspirationaly committed to improving their lot... from the mother living in the Mumbai ghetto whose girls are working as data entry clerks to the Asian billionaires building the 21st century multi-nationals. I do not find it true of business men and women in the USA, where I have found the entrepreneur unable to "dream" for the past three years... dreams, which are essential to risk taking. Are things improving... they will and can though in a new paradigm yet to emerge.

Thanks to Financial Times for an excellent analysis of the reality of technology driven leadership and entrepreneurism in the the USA... Mr. Richard Waters writes in "A dip in the valley" - "Early stage investors appear to be losing interest in the painstaking work needed to sustain America's lead in the advanced industries that can generate many future jobs."

An example showcasing a macro trend in full swing (though it impacts micro economics as well) is: "When Massachusetts came up with $58m of incentives in 2008 to encourage Evergreen Solar to build a plant, it looked like the US state had found a new lease of life for a disused military base. Until last week, that is. Evergreen is shutting the facility with the loss of 800 jobs. The future location of Evergreen’s wafer making: a plant in Wuhan, China."

[Click to enlarge the graphic in the right.]

Again I am reminded of Gordon Moore's (Intel co-founder) lament that chasing returns has left a gap in invention in the USA. More strongly worded though is: "The belief that American individuality and creativity somehow assure future leadership is “a clear exposition of the arrogance of empire”, warns Michael Moritz, one of the Valley’s leading start-up financiers. Freed of “the debilitating effects of affluence”, he adds, “the need to succeed is far greater in the emerging economies”."

The article discusses US's inability to turn out enough engineers, decreasing share of its world R&D spending, sense of decline in the US, some of the existing invention's business being lost to Asia (ex: LED), etc. The article documents Mr. Moritz statement,"A company that loses its ability to develop its own manufacturing is on the road to oblivion."

And of course, such a conversation cannot end without evaluating current and desired policy - One area being talent, growing it, acquiring it and maintaining it: "Sophie Vandebroek, a Belgian engineer who moved to the US in the mid-1980s to train, says that at the time it was “the place to be – this was where the hot research was happening”. Ms Vandebroek stayed and eventually became chief technology officer at Xerox – in spite of the low status accorded to engineers in the US: “It’s kind of at the bottom of the professions.” Now, she and others warn, US immigration rules that make it harder for foreign students to stay, along with the availability of good jobs at home, are causing the country to leach much-needed foreign workers."

The second, the conduction of business: "If it is not to become left behind in businesses such as [solar, energy storage, green tech], the industry’s leaders say, it is time for a policy rethink. “Simply put, the US needs to decide it is ‘open for business’ and willing to compete in the global marketplace for factories and jobs,” says Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel. “Costs are higher here, not driven by labour rates but rather by lack of incentives or tax credits that are available to US corporations in most other countries.” Without education reform, there will be a “critical engineering skills gap [that] will ultimately translate into fewer jobs and inventions in this country”."

The article concludes with the Valley still has a spark, "But for the country at large, it would not pay to take that much for granted."

See the complete article here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Showcasing India

Very nice creative campaign highlighting Indian tourism by theIdeaWorks, see here.

eGFI - An Excellent Place for Young Engineers

I serve on the Board of Advisors for School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at University of Oklahoma. My engagement with university education has been in large part due to my tremendous unhappiness with the engineers I was trying to hire at P&G and my friend, mentor and colleague Dr. Farrokh Mistree since 2006.

This has led me deeper into engaging in engineering education, one result being co-developing "Product Innovation: Designing Open Engineering Systems" with Dr. Dirk Schaefer, Dr. Mistree and Dr. Jitesh Panchal, and teaching it.

Yet, what about engineering education through K-12, guidance and learning about the possibilites for the high school students. A good place is eGFI, see here:

"eGFI is proudly brought to you by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). We are committed to promoting and enhancing efforts to improve K-12 STEM and engineering education."

I found the sight to be delightful, easy, engaging and most importantly... intuitive.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Unique (first mover) Vs. Distinctive (competitive)

In all my commercialization efforts, from shampoo bottles to molecules to wireless antennas to software, I always look at whether there is an opportunity to have the first mover advantage, in some cases it is merely marketing based perception.

Apple has charged its app publishers 30% for AppStore (article here). Google is countering with 10% cut. Apple made 20% more by entering the market first and delivering a consumer value and winning them while earning from the customer and enabling the customer to reach the consumer.

Just to emphasize what this means, Apple earned 30% of $250MM AppStore sales in December 2010 only. Unique (or first mover) advantage $50MM!!

Please see the very nice work done by GigaOM folks here in detailing the number of AppStore users and their application buying behavior and data.

I have taken the liberty to publish their information graphic below. The comments to the article are insightful as well.

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

China Update

Via good friend Mr. Tony Tsai, CEO – BHG Retail Innovation Institute and EVP Operations – The BJ Hualian Hypermarket Co.:

"China reduces holdings of US Treasury bonds two months in a row; Japan may become the "biggest creditor" of the US: The US Department of the Treasury said on Feb. 15 that China reduced its holdings of US Treasury bonds two months in a row in Nov. and Dec. last year to less than $900b. Even though China is still the biggest holder of US Treasury bonds, the gap with Japan has narrowed to less than $8b."

"State Council publishes policies encouraging development of software and integrated circuit industries: The State Council publishes a series of policies encouraging the development of software and integrated circuit industries. The State Council reiterates that the software industry and integrated circuit industry are the state's strategic emerging industries and they are an important basis for the national economy and social informationization."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Intelligent Microgrid - Innovation Center for the Smartgrid

From the Vancouver Sun here, ""We keep talking about smart grid as if it's one set of technologies," Hassan Farhangi, director of BCIT's group for advanced information technology, said in an interview... "That's not the case. It's a collection of ideas that could have different variations and different characteristics based on where you implement them.""

"In order to be successful, "you need to bring together expertise in a wide variety of disciplines. You need individuals with backgrounds in information technology, telecom systems, power systems, business systems, consumer behavior, social sciences - and all of these need to work together," said Hassan Farhangi, director of BCIT's group for advanced information technology."

Very nice! The folks at Intelligent Microgrid here are building an "Innovation Center" as we termed them at Procter & Gamble... An immersive and experiential environment to not ask but to collaboratively co-create, test, try, observe, refine and transform.

"BCIT is designing and building a scaled down version of the Intelligent Grid - the Intelligent Microgrid. This will enable utility providers, technology providers, and researchers to work together to test and improve architectures, protocols, configurations, and models. This will in turn enable the evolution of the Intelligent Grid and chart a path from the lab to the field for innovative and cost-efficient technologies and solutions for British Columbia's Intelligent Microgrid."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Very Large Scale Visualization (VLSI)

At P&G I had the opportunity to work on VLSI, to comprehend massive statistical data. Just recently I discovered information on my early VLSI related efforts, back in 1995/6, at Delta's Operations Control Center (OCC). I did not think I could talk about it, though now of course there is a youtube video! Enjoy!

Friday, February 11, 2011

China & IP

From John Gapper's blog on China and IP

"[In China] a pattern is developing. One company cedes its intellectual property to a Chinese SOE and then all of them are then squeezed to the margins of China's domestic market, and face a new competitor. None of this is accidental, or a case of over-eager SOEs crossing the line. China wants to transform from being the factory of the world to an advanced economy and is using its market power to take a short-cut by "digesting" others' intellectual property. One State Council report called for the "absorption, assimilation and re-innovation of imported technologies.""

West's Decline & Mr. Gordon Brown's Insights on Recovery

It is always helpful to know what the leaders of nations are thinking during crisis, which may be driven by economics, climate, etc. What is even more interesting is to see the realization of the "what" into the "how", which usually is a bit farther away from the desired.

In his article "How the west can reverse a decade of decline" in the Financial Times here, Mr. Gordon Brown highlights an obvious fact - "Within a decade a richer Asia will be home to a middle-class revolution equivalent to the consumer power of two Americas, becoming the main driver of world growth... This shift can be the most effective exit strategy from the crisis, and help to rebalance the world economy – but only if Europe and America re-equip, and are able to export their superior innovations and global brand name goods to Asia’s new billion-strong middle class. Yet delivering these value-added, technology-driven, custom-built products and services will only be possible with high levels of investment."

Here is a fallacy - Western innovation is not superior, and if it is, for example, internal combustion engine, it is being leapfrogged as China is focusing on electrical vehicles and in a decades time frame will be delivering commoditized electric vehicles and/or their components to the world.

Mr. Brown though highlights a key consideration and this is where his "what" is right on, though the "how" to manage it is already looking like as he predicts - "The descent into trade and currency wars, bans on cross border takeovers, and excessive restrictions on skilled workers are also counterproductive, risking access to the world’s biggest new markets just at the time they could benefit us most. History will judge these newly fashionable orthodoxies as wrong as the false certainties of the 1930s."

Here is an example of how reacting to fear due to lack of knowledge, just like GM not adopting the electric vehicle option, gets popularized, and Mr. Brown's statement above may come to be:

As a senior South Asian diplomat friend of mine says, "But what to do??!!" :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Economist reviews Dambisa Moyo's "How the West was Lost"

The Economist provides good insights into new literature through its reviews of books.  Though, it has been a while, since I read such a blasting of a book in recent months.   The review "How the reader was lost" here of "How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices Ahead" by Dambisa Moyo is worth reading as it corrects popularized misconceptions that tend to turn into perceived reality.

"Here are two predictions about the world economy. First, the West’s malaise and the rise of emerging economies will yield a mountain of books. Second, few of these are likely to be as bad as “How the West Was Lost”."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Innovation & Entrepreneurism in the West

I serve as the President of TIE Carolinas, see details on TIE here. Innovation and entrepreneurism, whether in-market, through corporations, within non-profits or government driven remains important to our membership.

Good entrepreneurs are known for one quality above all... they act on their belief. John Gapper's blog in the Financial Times "Educate or Import the New Entrepreneurs" here is a good read to highlight the current pitfalls that are only deepening for the aspirational mind who wants to create in the West.

Here is an interesting insight from the article:

"“The great American investment in the wellsprings of science and technology was justified to the public by the cold war,” says Bill Janeway, a managing director of Warburg Pincus, the private equity firm. Mr Janeway would like the US to try again on the basis that the private sector, left to itself, will not invest in such fundamental technologies."

Mr. Gordon Moore (Intel Co-Founder) was awarded the lifetime achievement award by The Marconi Society in 2006. He voiced his concern then that corporate R&D is moving away from the kind of fundamental research that wins Nobel Prizes and toward a narrow focus on business goals. "That's great for the company," he said, "but somebody has to fill the gap."

The article puts forth the key to success in the 21st century:

"The biggest innovation challenge for the US in relation to Asia is not financial but human. China enrols 15 per cent of the world’s university students and 40 per cent of new degrees there are in science and engineering, compared with only 15 per cent in the US. Meanwhile, 68 per cent of US engineering doctorates are now awarded to non-US citizens."

The reality is, it will not be like it was in the 20th century for us in the West. We have to invent a new now to turn it into a successful innovation for the future.

Teaching Sales for an Innovation's Success?

From a letter in Financial Times of Feb 3rd 2011:

"During my own executive MBA at Imperial College Business School (2008-10) there was the six-month IED (innovation, entrepreneurship and design) module – the idea behind it was to take a product or service from “just” an idea to the business plan stage. Interestingly (especially as Imperial College is in the FT top 10 for “entrepreneurship”) there was not one lesson on sales. I suggested to the course director that students should pick a product or service and during one weekend go out on the streets of London and sell as much as possible – the students would keep the money they made and the highest grades would be awarded to those who made the most money. I am yet to receive a reply."

See the article referenced here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011