Current Issue

Mike Buetow

I once heard the actor Tom Hanks – probably the first time he’s been referenced in these pages – describe a brain game he plays with friends. The challenge, he explained, is to define a concept in as few words as possible. The example he offered was “time,” which he characterized as “progress.”

Now, it’s easy to find physical and historical examples that disprove Mr. Hanks’ conceptualization.

More than a few readers probably studied physics in high school or college. Einstein’s relativity theory of time, of course, states that time changes depending on your frame of reference, and that the faster you travel the slower time moves.

And the ecologist and author Jared Diamond argues that there’s evidence some populations such as Austronesians began to use metal tools – an obvious improvement over rocks and bare hands – only to later shed them.

Much, much earlier, the Greek philosopher Aristotle surmised that change is distinct from time because change occurs at different rates, whereas time does not.

Where these ideas converge, however, is around the notion that progress means change.

To continue reading, please log in or register using the link in the upper right corner of the page.

Read more: Making Progress

Mike Buetow

Years ago, ahead of a US election, I used this space to pen an open letter to the new president. I wrote that the race for office was heated and intense, but the winner should put aside any ill feelings and work toward the betterment of all Americans.

The column was timed to hit readers’ desks in November, just after the election results were announced. Magazine deadlines being what they were, of course, I wrote it in early October – more than four weeks prior to election day. In short, I submitted it to the printer having no clue who was actually going to win.

More than a few readers didn’t catch that little nuance, and they filled my inbox with screeds both positive and negative about the outcome, projecting their own biases on my musings and utterly missing the point I was trying to make about leadership.

Since then, I’ve stayed away – far away – from anything that even hints of politics, sensing it’s too charged a subject to use even as a metaphor for a larger point.

So, when an industry friend whom I respect more than he will ever know suggested I write an editorial about electronics companies requiring vaccination, and, in his words, “come out swinging in favor of it,” my first reaction was indifference.

To continue reading, please log in or register using the link in the upper right corner of the page.


Mike Buetow

If the market is big enough, sooner or later Google will join it.

That much was laid bare in late June when the search giant cum OEM announced its latest venture, Visual Inspection AI, a new “purpose-built solution” designed to help businesses, including manufacturers, reduce defects and cut operational costs.

Now before you start doubting Google’s temerity to dive into technology that cuts across almost every industry imaginable, remember we’ve been here before.

While the company today still counts on its hugely successful targeted search marketing program for the bulk of its revenue and profits, several other businesses it has launched have made serious inroads in their respective markets. These include broadband; telecommunications; autonomous vehicles; and human health gambits (marketed under the Verily Life Sciences name). Acquisitions brought it Nest Labs, the maker of smart thermostats. Less front and center, but just as integral, are Google’s vast data centers, also known as server farms, which power its reach into just about every precipice known to man.

To continue reading, please log in or register using the link in the upper right corner of the page.


Mike Buetow

Why does Siemens want a content company?

In an era where new packages are coming online quickly, and the number of parts available is staggering – major original component manufacturers can have more than 100,000 items on their line card – human management of all this takes supernatural powers.

And that begins to explain why Siemens is paying $700 million (what?!?) for Supplyframe and its platform for component data, sourcing, and trends.

Indeed, the real value Supplyframe brings is not just access to spec sheets and parametric data, but real-time data trends. What’s available? What’s ramping in demand? And for how long? Supplyframe says it can aggregate use patterns across its 10 million-engineer-strong database to determine answers to these and related questions. It can also drill down by sector and geography to ascertain which components are ramping or stagnating in demand. There’s obvious value in that. That scale is impressive.

Now, one could argue that even real-time data are reactive, whereas what the supply chain needs is predictive, as in forward-looking. No word as to the degree Supplyframe customers have been bowed by the intense and building pressure on component inventories over the past nine months. We’d like to know.

To continue reading, please log in or register using the link in the upper right corner of the page.


Page 8 of 155