ROI

Peter Bigelow

How much of your budget goes to protect you from the companies that are supposed to be protecting you?

Over the past several years I have heard, learned, discussed and agonized over cybersecurity more than I would have ever imagined in my wildest dreams a decade ago. And I have invested a massive amount of money in cyber and all other types of security during this time to be safe (hopefully). When I moan and groan about the staggering cost, cultural change to our operating environment, and considerable training all employees must undergo to relearn basic computer tasks, the response I hear – usually from vendors or some other third-party – is “that’s the cost of being in business these days.”

Yes, being in business has underlying fixed costs that may change but never decline. These days some of those costs are to harden IT infrastructure and put in place systems, equipment and procedures to primarily safeguard data, and sometimes maybe even employees. Several years ago, attempting to explain as simply as possible to employees the need to prepare for cyber attacks, I drew a comparison to the pirate attacks of lore. At the time, piracy was commonplace on the coast of Somalia. Some hacker, I suggested, from a nation/state was ready to kidnap a Captain Phillips, take his ship and plunder its cargo. Indeed, I know of companies held ransom for Bitcoin losing control and access to all their IT infrastructure and basically being unable to operate systems or even shopfloor equipment.

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Read more: IT Piracy

Peter Bigelow

Communications interfaces rely on handshakes, but software and simplicity no longer go hand-in-hand.

“Plug-and-play” seems a simple, efficient concept, a beautiful merger of elegant design and high technology. What happened to it?

I forget exactly when I first heard the term plug-and-play, but it was sometime back in the late 1980s. As I recall, consumer electronics had something to do with it – perhaps a VCR player that connected to a TV. Or possibly it was tied to early personal computers, where the various accessories could be mixed and matched, so any brand of monitor, printer or keyboard could be added interchangeably to the system. Wherever the phrase came from, the meaning was universal: You could replace one part of a system with a new or different component, and the system would operate without a hitch.

In business the term seemed to morph in two directions. In administrative office environments, the term was associated with updates or upgrades to software. Transitioning spreadsheet software such as Lotus 1-2-3 to, say, Quattro Pro was seamless, thanks to the elegant design of similar operating commands. Just upload the new software onto your computer and begin using it. Meanwhile, on the manufacturing floor, a new piece of capital equipment could be dropped into the process flow and hooked up, and it fit seamlessly with the existing machines. Voila! New replaced old. Simple, easy, painless.

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Read more: Where Does Plug-and-Play Fit into Industry 4.0?

Peter Bigelow

Solving the age-old dilemma between design and manufacturing.

Developing a new product or process – or even aggressively refining them – is a juggle of “wants” and “needs.” As manufacturers in an industry that constantly pushes the envelopes of performance, real estate, and – yes! – cost, our industry is precisely where the rubber meets the road in reconciling needs and wants.

Manufacturing is a curious profession that often relies on older equipment, processes and employee skills to produce cutting-edge “new” products. The catalyst is, of course, people: people who design and people who take those designs and make functioning product. As smart, talented, dedicated and thoughtful as these people may be, however, they often fail to communicate the needs vs. the wants.

Indeed, it can be hard to know what’s on the other side of the hill.

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Read more: When What You Want Isn’t What You Need

Peter Bigelow

Dealing with the emotional toll of the pandemic.

Stagnation is a devastating condition for any business. No enterprise chooses to be stagnant, and rarely does anyone within notice when inertia begins. Still, the effect can launch a downward spiral that can cripple companies, even in the most dynamic industries.

Stagnation has many causes, which can take a long time to do damage. Most common are simple things, such as when a company slows or stops development of new products or capabilities, or when it takes existing customers for granted while not working to develop new ones. Most common is when management stops investing in needed equipment or workers to make the bottom line look better, quarter after quarter. Each of these decisions are made, consciously or not, by management. And while the intentions may have been good, over time they become the root cause of stagnation and can bring a vibrant company to its knees.

Yet stagnation can occur despite management’s best efforts to maintain a focused, engaged and vibrant business. Sometimes external events create an environment that must be dealt with. In the meantime, corporate progress falls by the wayside. Covid-19 is just such an event.

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Read more: Is Covid Stagnating Your Workplace? Here’s What to Do

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