Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

CONNECT’S MIP Awards range from Pure Fun to Life-Saving

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

On December 1st, the winners of the 2016 CONNECT Most Innovative New Product Awards were announced at the 29th annual dinner event held at the Hyatt Regency Aventine in La Jolla.

CONNECT is a premier innovation company accelerator in San Diego that helps start up entrepreneurial teams become great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors by providing access to the people, capital, and technology resources they need to succeed. CONNECT has assisted in the formation and development of more than 3,000 companies since 1985. Lead sponsors for the event were Cubic Corporation, and JP Morgan Chase & Company.  Tom West, San Diego Executive Director & Regional Manager of JP Morgan Chase, presented CEO Greg McKee with a check for $200,000 to support CONNECT.

CONNECT CEO Greg McKee said in part, “This event gives us an occasion to celebrate what we do best in San Diego ? innovate. From genomics to robotics, Bluetech to biotech, and data analytics to medical devices the breadth of our innovation economy is staggering. In fact, it’s a quarter of our GDP. You, as innovators, matter. And, I would bet, that many of the products we see here tonight will have an equally profound impact. For over thirty years CONNECT has been, and continues to be, an organization driven by discovery, innovation, economic empowerment, and the opportunity to change the world. But, changing the world isn’t always about a single sweeping gesture or one grand moment, it’s hard work, it’s a blend of small insights and little steps forward, it’s about sharing discoveries and thriving on others’ inspiration.”

There were a record 111 entrants this year across the ten categories listed below. To be eligible, the product must have been first introduced after January 1, 2014, never been selected as a MIP finalist, and generated revenue from sales (except for free mobile apps and companies submitting for the Life Science Products – Clinical Stage category). Each semi-finalist demonstrated their products in front of an expert judging panel in early October, from which 30 were selected as finalists. The winners and other finalists were:

Bluetech:  Water Pigeon – a fast, simple, secure way to deliver automated metering infrastructure (AMI) capability without replacing existing water meters or building wireless networks. Water Pigeon is a graduate of CONNECT’s Springboard program and a resident of EvoNexus.

After winning the award, CEO/CoFounder Clay Melugin said, “The MIP award from Connect is an outstanding honor to win. With so many great startup companies in San Diego in all categories, being recognized for Innovation delivers a boost to our team as we continue to push forward on goals that improve the world. Innovation is clearly not dead in the US and we want the world to see how innovation emboldens a supportive city like San Diego.

The outreach from others after the award has been amazing. It is very inspiring when people take time to understand our mission and offer to help us continue the journey both as investors and people who simple want to help. This only happens in a vibrant technology community like San Diego where startups encourage and help each other move forward towards success.”

Other Finalists:

Diver6a life-saving diver tracking system used to wireless supervise divers position and monitor their vital information provides services and technology for government and industry with extensive experience and capabilities supporting complex scientific and maritime operations.

Planck Aerosystemsits flagship drone brings high performance, autonomous unmanned aerial systems to moving vessels previously only possible from manned helicopters.

Cleantech, Sustainability, and Energy:  Camston Wrather LLC – recovers gold, precious metals, and polymers from electronic waste using proprietary patents and green chemistry.

Other Finalists:

  • Measurabl – an all-in-one commercial real estate energy and sustainability management software.
  • SDG&E – a regulated public utility that invented the Renewable Meter Adapter (RMA) as an alternative for private solar rooftop customers to avoid costly panel upgrades.

Defense, Transportation, and Cybersecurity:  Cubic Corporationdesigns, integrates and operates systems, products and services that increase situational awareness for customers in the transportation and defense industries.

Mike Twyman, President of Cubic Mission Solutions, said, “Cubic is honored to receive the Most Innovative Product (MIP) award from CONNECT in the Defense, Transportation and Cybersecurity category for our inflatable satellite communication system. Cubic GATR’s industry-leading inflatable satellite antenna is changing the satellite communications industry and receiving innovation awards, such as the MIP from CONNECT, validates the push for innovation at Cubic. We look forward to continuing our support of CONNECT and fostering innovation in San Diego region.

Other Finalists:

  • B&B Technologies LP – developer of the DAMPS advanced magnetic suspension/propulsion shock mitigation technology R&D for the military, medical and professional/commercial markets.
  • Space Microthe Micro-STAR-200M is a space qualified sensor observing start and delivering precision pointing information to its host spacecraft.

Information Communications Technologies: Aira develops remote assistive technology and services that bring greater mobility and independence to blind and low-vision people in daily living by connecting them to a network of certified remote agents via the blind user’s wearable smart device.

The impact of winning the CONNECT Most Innovative Product (MIP) Award certainly marks an important milestone at Aira, including our place as a recognized technological innovator in the San Diego region” said CEO Suman Kanuganti. “We believe that San Diego, because of its supportive and engaging technological environment, is truly the best community for startups like Aira, and we thank CONNECT for the work they do to grow the region, and of our peers who continue to inspire and challenge us to be more competitive, smarter, and committed to thrive and succeed here in San Diego. Equally important, Aira’s winning of the MIP Award allows further light to be shed on the often-forgotten challenges that people with vision loss face on a daily basis in functioning in a sighted world, and how the power of technology and innovation can play a major role in alleviating these challenges.”

Other Finalists:

  • Creative Electron – the TruView Cube is an innovative x-ray machine used to count the number of semiconductors without the need to open protective cases.
  • Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. – The SnapdragonTM 820 processor represents a rare feet in the engineering and design of semiconductors, in which every major IP block in the system is a new and custom design.

Life Science Diagnostics and Research Tools:  Echo Laboratories Inc. – developed the Revolve, a new hybrid microscope that easily transforms between upright and inverted configurations, merging the capabilities of two instruments into one. Echo Laboratories graduated from CONNECT’s Springboard program two years ago.

CEO/Founder Eugene Cho said, “Winning the event was a big achievement for us. Just two years ago we were at the same event, sitting in the audience as Springboard graduates. It was incredible validation to our team of how far we’ve come since then.”

Other Finalists:

  • DermTech – a non-invasive gene expression platform that works with samples collected using DermTech’s Adhesive Skin Biopsy Kit to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
  • NanoCellect Biomedical– the WOLF Cell Sorter is the new benchmark for access and performance to make flow cytometry and cell sorting technology more affordable and accessible for life science researchers to perform cellular analysis, develop molecular diagnostics, and improve personalized medicine.

Medical Devices:  Onciomed, Inc.the Gastric Vest System™ (GVS) is a revolutionary, minimally invasive implantable device to treat obesity and diabetes.

Other Finalists:

  • Innovative Trauma Care – created the ITClamp Hemorrhage Control System which is designed to address massive hemorrhage – a leading cause of death in traumatic injury – by controlling critical bleeding in seconds.
  • 11Health – a connected medical device company, where all patented devices use Bluetooth® wireless technology to send secure real-time data to mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets and watches.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Biologic Therapies:  ACADIA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – NUPLAZID is the first FDA-approved treatment for hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease psychosis.

Bob Mischler, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development said, “We’re honored that NUPLAZID was chosen as the winner of the Pharmaceutical Drugs and Biologic Therapies category. Even more importantly, we are gratified that this innovative treatment offers renewed hope to patients with Parkinson’s disease psychosis, a debilitating condition that affects around 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease, and the loved ones who care for them.”

Other Finalists:

  • Ardea Biosciences– Zurampic is the first new oral medication for treatment of gout approved by the FDA in 60 years.
  • GlyConMedics LLC – Pre-biotic (OZ101) tables advance the treatment for type 2 diabetes by providing an affordable and effective long-term ADD-ON treatment to existing SU therapies to improve glucose control, educe hypoglycemia and weight gain.

Robotics and Unmanned Vehicles:  Clever Pet – a connected game console that intelligently trains and engages dogs using their normal daily food automatically, whether their humans are home or not. CleverPet is a resident of EvoNexus.

We were honored to receive CONNECT’s Most Innovative Product award in our category,” commented Co-founder Leo Trottier. “We could not have built CleverPet without the support of the San Diego community and organizations like Connect. We see this award as validating a business and idea that when we started felt at best a pipe dream.”

Other Finalists:

  • NXT Robotics – provides service robots to support increased security monitoring and alerting requirements.
  • Robolink – aims to make STEM education accessible, engaging and fun for children and hobbyists by producing robotics educations kits and providing educational lessons that teach core principles of engineering and programming.

Software, Digital Media, and Mobile Apps:  Guru – an app that features beacon-enabled technology that interacts with smartphones to create digital experiences for museums, aquariums and zoos. Guru is also a CONNECT Springboard graduate and a resident of EvoNexus.

Hilary Srole, Project Manager said, Entrepreneurship is hard, so receiving recognition like this from CONNECT is awesome. Winning gave us a great sense of validation. Not only for us, but for the San Diego Museum of Art for taking a chance with us. It really feels good to show that their faith in us wasn’t misplaced. This whole process has been rewarding. Springboard’s mentorship has helped us avoid some of the pitfalls commonly associated with start-ups and has helped us to move in the right direction faster.”

Other Finalists:

  • Nanome, Inc. – developed the world’s first immersive and scientifically accurate molecular modeling tool in Virtual Reality.
  • South Doctors, Inc. – the leading platform that connects patients from around the world with the best doctors and facilities in Mexico.

Sport and Active Lifestyle Technologies:  Bixpy LLCthe world’s first portable and modular personal water propulsion device that runs on lithium batteries for snorkelers and scuba divers, with attachments available to motorize kayaks and standup paddle boards.

Founder/CEO Houman Nikmanesh, said, “We were absolutely humbled by our selection as a finalist for the MIP Awards by Connect. We were among some brilliant people, amazing products, and innovative ideas. So when we won, we were absolutely beyond ourselves. It has taken us more than two years to develop the Bixpy Jets and we have worked tirelessly on a project that at times seemed like a pipe dream. Winning such a prestigious award validates our vision and paves the way forward for us. We’re proud and attribute much of our success in our product development to being in San Diego. Aside from being the perfect hub for an outdoor lifestyle company, the San Diego startup and innovation community has been instrumental to our drive and success.

Other Finalists:

  • ElliptiGO Inc.the world’s first elliptical bicycle, combining the best of running, cycling, and the Elliptical trainer for a fun and effective way to exercise outdoors.
  • FlyDivethe X-BOARD connects to a personal watercraft for hydro jet propulsion, empowering riders to hover and fly above the water. It is the most advanced hydro flight system designed and engineered to support both beginners and professional riders.

It was a very exciting night for me because I had been one of Bixpy’s mentors in the CONNECT Springboard program this year. Bixpy graduated in July, and in only four short months, they conducted a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, were selected as a finalist, and won this prestigious award.

CONNECT has a built an unbeatable roster of over 500 highly-qualified individuals to serve as Springboard Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Mentors who volunteer their time as mentors to help entrepreneurs develop successful companies. I look forward to mentoring more companies in the future.

 

Cincinnati’s Cintrifuse Connects Entrepreneurs, Big Companies and Tech Funds

Monday, December 12th, 2016

During my visit to Cincinnati earlier this month, I had to pleasure of meeting key people from Cintrifuse and a few of the regional accelerators. The website says Cintrifuse is “Where Dreamers, Disruptors and Doers Connect” because “the world needs innovation. Entrepreneurs, BigCos and Tech Funds need each other. An active network ensures they can connect. And at the heart of that network is Cintrifuse.”

At Cintrifuse, I met with Wendy Lea, who has been CEO since 2014, and Eric Weissmann, Director of Marketing. Ms. Lea is “an accomplished Silicon Valley executive with deep experience in marketing, sales, and customer experience.” Ms. Lea serves on several boards, including Corporate Visions (San Francisco) and Xyleme (Boulder) as well as still being the executive chair of Get Satisfaction (San Francisco.)

Ms. Lea said, “Cintrifuse was born to answer this question: What will it take to create a thriving startup ecosystem in Cincinnati? Cintrifuse is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that exists to build a sustainable tech-based economy for the Greater Cincinnati region. Our purpose is to advocate for entrepreneurs leading high-growth tech startups– attracting, inspiring, and supporting them on their journey. The goal of Cintrifuse is to lower starting costs of business, especially businesses with the potential for high growth and that are disruptive technology. The Cincinnati Business Committee wanted to see how they could be relevant and formed Cintrifuse in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and EY. They wanted their kids to be able to come back to Cincinnati. The Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund is at $57 million and invests in VC firms outside of the region with the understanding they (VCs) create a regional engagement plan. There’s no stipulation that they invest in Cincinnati startups, but just be involved in the ecosystem. This includes reviewing deals, participating in events, and meeting our Limited Partners (LPs) most of whom they would love to meet with anyway – Procter & Gamble, Kroger, the University of Cincinnati, etc.”

She said, “We own and manage a 38,000 sq. ft. building in the economic area known as “Over the Rhine.” We got the building mortgage free, but put $17 million into improving the building. We opened in 2012. We provide services to 285 members companies – advisory services (such as mentoring and office hours), connections to talent, funding, and customers, as well as operating co-working space in downtown Cincinnati. We are part accelerator, part incubator, and part co-working space to move a company to the next ‘Lily pad’.

Ms. Lea added, ” The ‘headroom’ at Cintrifuse is wide. There is a strong appetite for new technology, new ideas, and disruption. Cintrifuse is a census taker – 300 startups are on our database across industries. We have brought is $160 million into the region for their startups, and we give them lots of exposure to VCs. One of our success stories is Everything But the House, which started in Cincinnati. They just raised $41 million, and Cintrifuse made the introduction to their investors.”

She explained, “Cincinnati has more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else outside of San Francisco Bay area, so we created a Customer Connections program to share information between large companies and small companies. Our Customer connections program is taking 15 startups to Israel to present “innovation briefs.”

She would like to see Cintrifuse expand all over the world similar to TechStars in Boulder, CO with which she was involved when she lived in Boulder. She said, “Tech Star is the largest global network in the world with 28 centers, and their graduates have created 800 companies. Cintrifuse hosted their   reunion of graduates called FounderCon in the fall of 2016.”

The next day, I met Jordan Vogel, now V. P. of Talent Initiatives with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, who worked for Cintrifuse for three years as director of the entrepreneurial ecosystem., He gave me more background information on Cintrifuse, saying, “It was created by Cincinnati Business Committee, composed of the top 30 CEOs in region and  the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, composed of about 100 CEOs of somewhat smaller companies. When Chiquita left, the leaders became concerned and asked “What does the future look like? What should it be? They decided they needed to promote the next P&Gs of the world. Entrepreneurship was the key. They commissioned McKinsey & Company to conduct a comprehensive study on what would make the Greater Cincinnati region more attractive to startup entrepreneurs and outside investment. The study revealed the region’s strengths and gaps. Cintrifuse was formed to leverage the strengths and fill in the gaps. There are four universities in the region, but there was no path to commercializing technologies being developed”.

He added, “Funding was needed, so they created a fund of funds. They raised $78 of which $57 million went into a syndicate fund. To be part of the syndicate, Venture Capitalists had to commit to take a look at startups and be committed to engage with two to four trips per year to the region to meet with entrepreneurs. The purpose was to create a food chain.”

According to its StartupCincy Resources page, “Cincinnati lays claim to one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems between the coasts.” Home to The Brandery, one of the nation’s Top 10 accelerators; HCDC, the #1 incubator in the State of Ohio; CincyTech, one of the Midwest’s leading seed-stage investors; Queen City Angels, a private, seed-stage venture capital investor ranked #2 in the nation; four universities committed to innovation; and now the country’s only faith-based accelerator – there is a ton of innovation activity in this town!”

The Cintrifuse webpage lists the following accelerators as collaborative partners:

  • ArtWorks CO.STARTERS (formerly SpringBoard) “is a nine-week business development program that helps aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs examine assumptions and turn business ideas into action.”
  • Bad Girl Ventures “is an educational and micro-finance organization dedicated to inspiring and supporting women entrepreneurs in all the key elements of their business.”
  • The Brandery “is a seed stage startup accelerator ranked as one of the top programs in the United States. It runs a 4-month program in Cincinnati, Ohio, focused on turning your great idea into a successful brand driven startup.”
  • First Batch ”It is a five-month accelerator that is the first business accelerator in the nation to focus on scaling physical product companies using local manufacturing. Cincinnati’s long history as a center for consumer products, branding, and manufacturing make it THE place for growing a business creating and selling tangible goods.”
  • MORTAR was started by three minority community members in the downtown area called “Over the Rhine.” “It is called ‘Mortar’ because people are the mortar between the bricks of the buildings and the founders believe that the neighborhood’s residents have the potential to create booming enterprises – just footsteps from their homes.”
  • Minority Business Accelerator – “its mission is to help accelerate the development of sizable minority business enterprises and to strengthen and expand the regional minority entrepreneurial community. It works with companies under $1 million in revenue to connect them with large companies who want to diversify their supply chain.”
  • Ocean is a faith-based “accelerator for startup growth by focusing on the purpose that drives founders…and their companies.”
  • UpTech “is designed to attract and accelerate entrepreneurs who have the next big idea to make the world a better place. Its mission is to create an informatics industry in Northern Kentucky. It is especially well suited to support entrepreneurs who benefit from our partnership with the NKU College of Informatics.”

It lists the following incubators in the Cincinnati region, which also collaborate with Cintrifuse:

  • bioLOGIC is a life sciences incubator.
  • Hamilton Mill “is a Southwestern Ohio small business incubator for green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. Conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the original pioneer town of Hamilton, OH.”
  • Hamilton County Development Center (HCDC) “is a nationally recognized startup incubator in Southwest Ohio that helps entrepreneurs launch successful innovative businesses. It just spun off an accelerator called Pipeline for water product development.”
  • The Northern Kentucky ezone (NKY ezone) – “It works collaboratively with several organizations that provide funding assistance to fast-growth, high-tech companies. Its team will work with you in assembling the necessary information, plans, and presentations to apply for these opportunities.”

Over dinner at Cintrifuse, I met with the heads of three of the accelerators, Matt Anthony and John Spencer with First Batch and JB Woodruff with Uptech. Two entrepreneurs also joined us for dinner, Konrad Billetz, CEO of Frameri, and Paul Powers, CEO of Zoozler LLC and Physna LLC. Frameri makes the world’s first interchangeable prescription frame and lens system. Mr. Billetz was previously part of the Brandery four month accelerator program in 2013. He said, “We got $20,000 as part of the program, and then we did an Indiegogo crowdfunding and got about $100K to get into full production. We were on Shark Tank in 2015, but we turned down the deal we were offered. We found a lens manufacturer in Dallas, TX, but still do some production in-house.

Mr. Powers said, “Physna is a member of Cintrifuse. I started Physna in December 2015, and we are developing software that will lead the revolution in 3D printing. I am also the CEO of Zoozler LLC that is about two years old. Zoozler is a tech development company (including websites, apps, digital marketing and media) and has an initiative for local startups requiring help in tech development.”

I connected with Matt Anthony by phone after I returned from my trip to find out more about First Batch. Mr. Anthony said, “I founded the accelerator in 2013 to overcome the gap between a well made early prototype and being able to make the first batch of product at manufacturing scale. Over the next four years we grew the program to educate and connect entrepreneurs to overcome the additional hurdles to scale, including legal, marketing, distribution, and more. We’re unique nationally in that we’ve focused on utilizing the strength of our local manufacturers, which tied with the heritage in physical consumer products and branding make for a perfect set of resources to grow new physical product companies. We operate out of a 10,000 sq. ft. maker space on the 4th floor of a former brewery, located in the “Over the Rhine” area. The program itself is five months of rigorous learning from regional experts, product testing, development, one-on-one mentorship, and $10,000 in funding to get into actual production. Companies must all come in with a working prototype and an understanding of their business to really get the most of the five short months. Some of our companies have been making their product for years and are looking to expand their production beyond themselves. The goal of the program is to get the companies into the first stage of production and actually selling products in order to set them up for future growth and funding.”

For example, one of their companies, Textile House, used the funding to make a couple hundred garments for their fall fashion line. They already raised an additional round of funding through a Kiva micro loan to bring their spring line to market in early 2017.

 

He added, “We started out with two companies in 2013, four in 2014, five in 2015, and six this year. We started this year in June and our 2016 class just culminated in a Demo Day on November 9th. We try to check in with graduates to continue to ensure growth, and about half of the companies each year choose to stay on as members of the maker space.”

When I asked him to describe how their program works, he said, “After an open application, our companies are selected through a series of interviews that end in a final juried selection. Once the program starts our cohort meets as a group twice a week, and one-on-one at least once, often with speakers, manufacturer visits, branding support, and other individual consultation sprinkled in between. We start the week on Monday mornings reviewing business concepts and readings, ranging from learning more about the types of entrepreneurial personalities via E-Myth, and later how to start prototyping and quickly testing product ideas via Lean Startup and marketing channels via Traction. We are primarily funded through grants and donations of time and materials, and don’t currently take an equity position in our companies. We look to help grow companies by connecting to resources down the line from ECDI, Queen City Angels, Cintrifuse, even other accelerators.”

With so many accelerators and incubator programs to nurture startup companies, Cincinnati is off to a good start to achieve its goal of re-industrializing the Cincinnati region. Other cities in the United States that were formerly major industrial centers would do well to follow the example of Cincinnati in setting a goal of re-industrializing their city to create more higher paying jobs and restore prosperity.

 

Cutting Edge Technologies Power Cincinnati Industries – Part 2

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

T, sensDuring the second day of my visit to Cincinnati, Ohio November 1st – 4th, I had the pleasure of meeting with Tony Canonaco, CEO, and Tom Rosenberg, Director of Marketing, at Balluff’s North American headquarters based in Florence, Kentucky.

Mr. Canonaco said, “With over 50 years of sensor experience, Balluff is a leading global sensor specialist with its own line of connectivity products for every area of factory automation. Our global headquarters is based in Germany, and our North American headquarters was established in Florence, KY in the early 1980s. Our products include  a wide variety of sensors, mechanical limit switches, rotary and linear measurement transducers, machine vision and RFID systems, and distributed modular I/O network solutions.  Our products are involved in making the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) work.”

As we toured the plant, I saw their sensors being used right on their own production and packaging lines, as well as for inventory control of finished goods. With IIoT’s promise of total visibility, we saw a great example right on their plant floor. IO-Link technology, an advanced point-to-point connection technology, was integrated into all their automated systems providing operators and management a continuous view of the process. With faster response to workload variations, Balluff now has a much leaner operation. Lean examples were also evident in their single-piece flow work cells. Products were produced in a surprisingly small footprint with high efficiency.

Mr. Canonaco said, “Many of our internal transitions towards Lean began during the recession in 2009. It was during this time, we realized that in order to better compete in the future, we needed to eliminate all types of waste and raise the level of productivity of the company. In addition to the change in their own mindset, we accelerated our New Product releases that focused on Automation and Sensing Solutions to help our customers shrink the size of their control panels, reduce their engineering time, and speed up troubleshooting on their machines. We started our journey to become “Leaner” and our customers were provided with new products to help them realize performance and productivity machine enhancements as a result of the recession. Nearly a decade later, this path has proven to be a win-win for us and our customers.”

An additional customer-focused effect of their Lean journey is with one of their most watched metrics inside of Balluff ? On Time and In-Full Delivery to the customer promise date. They consistently plan to achieve greater than 97%.

When I asked if they had a problem of finding people to hire with the right skills, he responded, “Finding people with the right skills and the right mindset is always a challenge and makes all of the difference. We require production associates for manufacturing as well as engineers who work in technical sales, marketing, support, and operations. We are involved with local work force development efforts to help ourselves as well as surrounding manufacturing neighbors. Balluff is an active supporter of National Manufacturing Day to highlight the attractiveness of manufacturing as a career choice. This has proven to be very popular with local middle and high schools. We utilize co-op students from select universities and have started our own Technical Sales Training program for recent college graduates that focus on how to best help manufacturers apply automation in innovative ways.”

We have our own accredited laboratory and a quality management system certified according to ISO 9001:2015 to form a secure foundation for optimized added value for its customers.

Our products increase performance, quality and productivity around the world every day. They satisfy prerequisites for meeting demands for greater performance and cost reductions on the global market. We deliver state-of-the-art solutions no matter how stringent the requirements may be.”

Our last plant visit was to TSS Technologies, located in West Chester, Ohio where we met with CEO, Marc Drapp, followed by a tour of the facility. TSS Technologies provides complex electro-mechanical assemblies and turnkey contract manufacturing solutions to the aerospace, life sciences, energy, semiconductor, solar, sports, consumer, automotive, as well as food and beverage sectors. TSS also builds automation equipment for themselves and other companies.

Mr. Drapp said, “TSS Technologies has been in business for over 65 years and is family owned and operated. We have a machining facility totaling 110,000 square feet and an assembly facility totaling 210,000 square feet. We have approximately 225 employees. We are ISO 9001:2008 and 13485:2003 Certified, as well as AS9100C Certified and won the GE Healthcare Excellence award.”

As we toured the plant, we saw examples of many of the above products being assembled or being staged for assembly for a couple new products coming online. Contrary to most contract manufacturers, Mr. Drapp likes to get involved with early stage companies to help them get into batch production and ramp up to full production. We saw a complete “bakery” producing shelf-stable pretzels that is an example of working with a start-up company to ramp up into full production within his facility. We each gratefully accepted two packaged pretzels and shared one when we returned to the conference room.

When I asked Mr. Drapp how the Great Recession had affected them and what they did to recover, he said, “The recession was tough on our company, especially our machine shop. We lost a lot of contract machining work to our customers that brought the work back inside their plants. On the other hand, it really allowed for us to right size our operation and allow for us to be more nimble in the coming years.

We capitalized on the tough times by reorganizing our structure and tightening our manufacturing processes. This allowed us to become more lean and efficient. Ultimately allowing us to come out of the recession quicker and better able to respond to customer needs.

The recession really allowed for us to take a look at TSS and what we wanted to be. It allowed us to focus on the right customers for our business. It also allowed us to focus on the right areas for growth. From a lean perspective, we have always practiced lean manufacturing. The recession didn’t really change that.”

From these stories, we can see that cutting-edge technologies and unique capabilities have been the key to these three companies surviving the Great Recession and now thriving. The rebuilding of manufacturing in the Cincinnati region is being  helped by the innovative technologies being developed at the University of Cincinnati and the other three regional universities and colleges. The collaboration of public and private entities and far-sighted leaders will enable Cincinnati to achieve their vision of re-industrialzing Cincinnati to create jobs and prosperity.

Cutting Edge Technologies Power Cincinnati Industries – Part 1

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

During the first day of my visit to Cincinnati, Ohio November 1st – 4th, I had the pleasure of meeting with key personnel from the Intelligent Maintenance System Center (IMS) at the University of Cincinnati:  Dr. Hossein Davari – IMS Center Post-Doctoral Fellow, Patrick Brown – IMS Center Program Director, Chao Jin – IMS Center Graduate Researcher, and Michael Lyons – IMS Center Program Coordinator.

Prior to my visit I had been provided with background information on how the University of Cincinnati evolved into what it is today:  “The Ohio Mechanics Institute (OMI), parent name of the College of Applied Science, was founded in 1828 as a private educational institution and the first school west of the Alleghenies dedicated to technical education.” This struck me because this was about the same time as the Lowell Machine Shop in Lowell, MA first started producing interchangeable parts for firearms sold to the Springfield Armory. I did not realize that Cincinnati was industrialized so early in the Industrial Revolution period.

“OMI operated exclusively as an evening college until 1901 when day courses on a pre-college level were added. In 1919 the day courses were revised into collegiate programs…In 1958 the college designated separate names for its day and evening operations, the day school became the Ohio College of Applied Science (OCAS) and the evening school was named the Ohio Mechanics Institute Evening College (OMIEC). The college merged with the University of Cincinnati in 1969 and offered programs in the engineering technologies and related areas with the aim of preparing individuals for careers as engineering technologists, engineering technicians, and managers in industry. The college began offering bachelor’s degrees in the early 70s. The name of the college was changed in 1978 to the OMI College of Applied Science and was shortened to the College of Applied Science in 2000.

In 2009, the UC Board of Trustees approved the creation of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS)… [to integrate] two predecessor colleges —The College of Engineering and The College of Applied Science… During the late 50s…advanced studies in engineering and research became the focus…to strengthen the college’s focus on graduate education. A joint project with the Engineer’s Council for Professional Development (ECPD), and local industry provided opportunities for young professional engineers to pursue graduate degrees without leaving their jobs. Both colleges and the City of Cincinnati have shared long and productive partnerships…through cooperative education assignments, research funding and graduate placement…”

Dr. Davari told me that the “IMS Center is a leading NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) that consists of the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan and Missouri University of Science & Technology.”

He said, “The Center has over twelve years of experience in developing and delivering Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) solutions for a wide-range of applications. The IMS Center’s mission is to enable products and systems to achieve and sustain near-zero breakdown performance, and transform maintenance data to useful information for improved productivity and asset life-cycle utilization. Since its inception in 2001, the Center has conducted over 100 successful industry and NSF supported projects, and has attracted over 80 members from all across the globe. The IMS Center was recently identified as the most economically impactful I/UCRC in NSF’s recent study titled Measuring the Economic Impacts of the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program: A Feasibility Study. According to this study, the Center delivered its members $846.7 million in combined benefits over the last ten years.”

Dr. Davari explained the work of their Masters in Science and PhD students, “Graduate students in the IMS Center focus on developing innovative technologies and tools for health assessment, degradation monitoring and prognostics of machinery. Graduate students work both towards conducting fundamental research along with developing specific tools to address the needs of the industry. Graduate students get the opportunity to work closely with industry members ranging from manufacturing to energy and transportation applications. With a unique set of skills and experience in the field of Prognostics and Health Management (PHM), they continue to develop innovative tools and technologies and bring value to both industry and academia. The IMS Center researchers have also won the PHM Society Data Challenge five times since 2008. It is an annual competition organized by the PHM society and is open to researchers in academia and industry worldwide.”

Dr. Davari stated, “In 2012, National Instruments awarded the Prognostics Innovation Award to IMS Center for the development of Watchdog Agent Prognostics toolkit. Watchdog Agent consists of a set of algorithms and tools developed for degradation assessment and failure prediction of machinery and processes. The toolbox has been implemented in various industrial applications and has been commercialized by National Instruments as an additional toolbox for the LabVIEW software package.

I told him I could see how important preventing failure is healthcare because a failure could result in serious harm to a patient and even be fatal. When I asked him to explain what a “Digital Twin is, he said, “It is a digital representation of the physical system, generated by data-driven and physics-based models. IMS Center has developed a Cyber-physical Interface, through which the data is being collected from a machine continuously. This data is then processed and converted to machine health information using tools in Watchdog Agent toolbox. This health information is used to make informed decisions for optimum maintenance and near-zero breakdowns. It also continuously seeks for possible variations in the machine performance and provides insight into the current performance of the machine compared to its past performance, or its peers doing the same job. Digital twin basically connects the physical world to cyber world for improved visibility and transparency in machine operation.” He later forwarded me a link to a video describing IMS technologies.

Next we visited the Ceramic Matrix Composite Laboratory at GE Aviation and met with Jon Blank, Composite Matrix & Advanced Composite Section Leader, and Perry Bradley, Communications Leader, GE Aviation, followed by a tour of the lab.

From the material I was provided in advance, I learned that advancing the use of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) has challenged industry for decades. In my day job as a manufacturers’ sales rep for fabrication companies, I had represented a company doing ceramic injection molding and a company making pre-preg layup composite parts for airline interiors in the 1990s. I was aware of the ultra-lightweight and super-heat-resistant properties of CMCs and knew that companies were investing millions to try to win the race to mass-produce this engineered material.

We first toured the Leaning Center where all the engine models GE has produced were on display. It was inspiring to me to see that advancements in technology incorporated into these successive generations of engines. Since I have previously represented companies that produced forgings and investment castings, I understood how advances in metals technology, particularly the use of Titanium, had reduced weight and improved the efficiency of engines. Since Solar Turbines in San Diego was one of my customers, I was aware of their work in the development of using ceramic molded parts in small turbine engines. However, when I saw the complexity of shape and size of the CMC turbine blades that GE Aviation is now making, it was astonishing.

Mr. Blank told me that “For more than 20 years, GE scientists in the U.S. and worldwide have worked to develop CMCs as a differentiating technology in large gas turbines for power generation, and in jet engines for commercial and military jet planes. Now their big bet is paying off as GE leads the charge to industrialize CMCs for large engine applications. GE leads the world in introducing CMCs into the hot section of jet engines and gas turbines and is creating the vertically-integrated supply chain necessary to mass produce CMC components.”

He explained why CMCs are critical to advancing the jet propulsion and power generation industries. “Components made of CMCs allow gas turbines and jet engines to run hotter, and thus more efficient. Ultra-lightweight CMCs also reduce weight throughout the engine, leading to higher fuel efficiency. CMCs in gas turbines and jet engines contribute to lower emissions and improved environmental performance. They create a significant economic advantage. CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, manufactured through a highly sophisticated process, and further enhanced with proprietary coatings. They are one-third the density of metal alloys and one-third the weight.”

He continued, “CMCs are more durable and heat resistant than metal alloys, allowing the diversion of less cooling air into the engine’s hot section, and thereby improving overall engine efficiency. By using the cooling air instead in the engine flow path, the engine can run more efficiently at higher thrust. The average rate of technology progress for turbine engine material temperature capability increased 50 degrees per decade. With the use of CMCs, GE will now increase the temperature by 150 degrees in this decade, 3x the traditional rate. The benefits of CMCs are a 10% thrust increase and increased temperature using 2400F CMCs.”

He said, “In 2009, GE Aviation ran the first CMCs in the hot section of the F136 military engine. The CMCs were structural shrouds that direct air in the high-pressure turbine section, the hottest area of the engine. The results encouraged us to pursue CMC components with its next-generation commercial jet engines. GE worked to expand its overall CMC production capability. In 2012, Nippon Carbon (NCK) of Japan, a producer of composite fibers, formed a joint venture with GE (25% ownership) and Snecma (25%) called NGS Advanced Fibers, which produces fibers for CMC components such as the CMC shrouds. The next year later, GE Aviation expanded CMC “lean lab” operations in Delaware to develop new CMC components and the plant in Asheville, North Carolina was selected as factory to mass produce CMC components. Their lab was established in 2014, and in 2015, the Huntsville, Alabama factory was selected to produce CMC building-block materials [fiber and tape.]”

As we toured the lab and watched a couple of parts being made, he said “We have now established a fully-integrated CMC supply chain in the U.S. involving CMC raw material production in Huntsville, research and low-volume production here in Cincinnati, the CMC Lean Lab in Delaware, and CMC mass production in Asheville.”

Mr. Bradley said, “The LEAP engine for narrow-body aircraft will enter airline service in 2016 with CMC shrouds [18 shrouds per engine] in the high-pressure turbine section. This is being developed by CFM International, which is a 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma of France. By the end of the decade, GE will introduce the GE9X engine for the new Boeing 777X under development. This engine will also feature CMC components in both the combustor [inner and outer liner] and high-pressure turbine sections [stage 1 and 2 nozzles, and stage 1 shrouds]. ”

He also said, “GE Aviation continues to run an advanced military engine through the U.S. government-sponsored ADVENT program with CMCs in the combustor and turbine sections – demonstrating the highest core temperatures in jet propulsion history. In 2014, GE Aviation successfully ran CMC turbine blades – a high-speed rotating part – in a F414 military demonstrator. This is a huge breakthrough for GE in pursuing the use of CMC in rotating parts because up to now, CMCs have been limited to static parts in an engine.”

Mr. Blank concluded, “This is all part of GE Aviation’s continuing efforts to further mature CMC technology for future commercial and military engines. The demand for CMCs is expected to grow tenfold over the next decade.”

We ended day one with a meeting with the directors of several accelerators/incubators and a few entrepreneurs in these programs in the region, which I will cover in a future article. I already covered meetings I had with key leaders in my first article last week on “Cincinnati focuses on Re-industrialization to Create Prosperity. Part two of this article will cover the companies I visited on day two of my visit.

Cincinnati Focuses on Re-industrialization to Create Prosperity

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Last week, I spent two and a half days in Cincinnati, Ohio as the guest of Source Cincinnati, an independent, multi-year national social and media relations initiative that works to enhance perceptions of Cincinnati as a world-class Midwestern region. I met with Julie Calvert, Executive Director, during my visit, but my personal guide and host was Paul Fox, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Proctor & Gamble and “Executive on Loan” to Source Cincinnati for a year.

From Mr. Fox, I learned that Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio and had such interesting nicknames as “Porkopolis” in the past because it was the largest pork packing center in the world and the “Queen City of the West,” for its ideal location on the Ohio River and its rich culture and heritage of a predominantly German population who settled Cincinnati in the late 1700s.

After arriving late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Fox and I had dinner with David Linger of TechSolve, and Scott Broughton, Center Director for Advantage Kentucky Alliance at the WKU Center for R&D at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. TechSolve is a 30-year old consulting firm that is a State of Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partner (MEP) affiliate, and Advantage Kentucky Alliance (AKA) is the MEP for Kentucky. Mr. Linger just took over the reins as President and CEO on September 1, 2016 after Gary Conley retired from 20 years of service.

Mr. Linger, said “There are about 2,500 manufacturers in the Ohio region of metropolitan Cincinnati, and Cincinnati used to be known as the “Machine Tool Capital of the U. S.”, but very few machine tool companies exist today, including its most well-known machine tool company, Cincinnati Milacron,” after its machine tool line was sold to Unova. TechSolve provides manufacturing and health care consulting. It has a focus and strength in process improvement, machining, and innovation — applying these skills to help businesses find long-term solutions and promote problem-solving cultures.

Mr. Broughton said, “AKA is a not-for-profit partnership that provides assistance and training to help manufacturers of all sizes grow, improve their manufacturing and business strategies and processes, adopt advanced technologies, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve competitiveness. Manufacturing in Eastern Kentucky was mainly related to the coal mining industry, and two-thirds of the companies have gone out of business. We have focused on helping the remaining manufacturers to understand their core competencies to market to new industries, such as aviation and automotive. Our services include:  business growth services, continuous improvement services, and workforce solution services.”

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast with Laura Brunner, President/CEO, and Gail Paul Director of Communication Strategy of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. She told me that the Port Authority was established by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 2001 and is the second largest inland port covering 26 miles from the Indiana/Ohio border. In 2008, the Port Authority was reformed and empowered to take a leadership position in regional economic development. It is a quasi-public agency that operates collaboratively with dozens of economic development, community and corporate partners.

Ms. Brunner presented me with a report prepared for me, titled “Manufacturing in the Greater Cincinnati Region. As background, “The Port Authority leverages its infrastructure strengths and development-related expertise to design and execute complex projects to improve property value, catalyze private investment and promote job creation.”

I was astounded when she told me, “The Cincinnati region has lost 67% of its manufacturing jobs.” The report states, “Manufacturing was a primary component of Cincinnati’s economy until its peak in 1969 when 43 percent of the workforce in Hamilton County was employed in manufacturing jobs. Today, lower-wage service-providing jobs far outnumber manufacturing jobs by about 7:1…From 1969-2015, the number of people employed in manufacturing decreased from 146,000 to 48,000.”

She said that the Port Authority Board of Directors has established a vision to transform Cincinnati to prosperity by 2022 through “repositioning undervalued properties and re-building neighborhoods.” The report she gave me states that the strategies for success are:

  • “Industrial Revitalization – redevelopment of 500 acres of underutilized industrial land along key transportation corridors
  • Neighborhood Revitalization – transform ten communities for lasting impact, including residential properties and commercial business districts
  • Public Finance Innovation – cultivate a nationally-recognized public finance program that supports economic and community development efforts

The projected Return on Investment for these strategies is:

500 industrial acres redeveloped 10 revitalized communities
8,000 new jobs 300 quality homes
$565 million in annual payroll 50 commercial acres with 400K SF
$550 million in capital investment 130 new businesses
$8 million in income taxes Increased property & income taxes
$14 million in real estate taxes Improved lives of residents

In June 2015, the PGCDA Board approved establishment of the industrial and neighborhood strategy, development of internal resources, communication strategy, and the financing and fundraising plan to support the strategies.”

The report states, “The proposed redevelopment of approximately 2,000 acres of industrial land through Hamilton County for Manufacturing uses will have a considerable impact on the Greater Cincinnati Region.”

The first sites for the Redevelopment Pilot program have been selected, and the first funds have been obtained for acquisition of land parcels, demolition/remediation of existing buildings, and site preparation. The first site is assembled and is scheduled to open in 2017.

In the meeting with Ms. Brunner and Paul, I was also provided a “Manufacturing Attractiveness Study” by Deloitte Consulting LLP presented on October 3, 2016 to the Greater Cincinnati Port Development Authority, TechSolve, and Cushman and Wakefield.

The study states, “The current lack of easily developable real estate (cleared, access to utilities, free from environmental concerns, etc.) in the Cincinnati area likely puts the city at a significant disadvantage for attracting manufacturing investments.

The Port Authority’s operations focus on transportation, community revitalization, public finance and real estate development makes it especially well-equipped to evaluate and address opportunities to redevelop and reposition sites formerly occupied by industrial operations.”

The Port Authority seeks “to achieve the following objectives:

  • Analyze the last 5 years of manufacturing deployments in the Ohio Region (Ohio and surrounding states)
  • Understand trends in urban manufacturing through case studies
  • Identify demand-side location factors that drive location decisions in the advanced manufacturing, food and flavoring, and Bio-Health (Life Sciences) industries
  • Understand the strengths/ weaknesses of Cincinnati as business location”

In analyzing the Manufacturing Investments for the Ohio Region from 2011-2016, the study revealed:

States # of Project Announcements Capital Investment Jobs Created
Indiana 350~ ~$13.4 ~37,000
Ohio 271 ~$17.6 ~34,000
Kentucky 230 ~$9.0 ~24,000

“Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky saw the most number of project announcements along with largest amounts of capital investment over the past five years.”

“The majority of the manufacturing investments in Ohio over the past 5 years are spread throughout rural areas within commutable distances of large metropolitan areas (Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Akron and Cleveland.) Based on FDI data, 14 manufacturing projects were announced in Cincinnati within the past 5 years.”

The Deloitte study stated “Advanced manufacturers are highly interested in labor quality and availability as well as minimizing risk related to site development and neighboring use concerns.” The two highest factors are: “Labor Quality and Availability (engineers, technicians and operators) and Real Estate (Site readiness, Capacity and availability of utilities, and Neighboring use/pollution). Labor quality, labor availability and supply chain tend to be the key drivers for food industry in making location decisions.

The study showed that “A 1-hr drive time from downtown Cincinnati allows access to a significant labor force, with over 2.5 million in population.” The manufacturing industry represents 14.34% of the Cincinnati Metro economy. Persons with Associate degrees (20.12%), Bachelor degrees (11.97%), and graduate degrees (8.42%) represent 50.51% of the population, and another 45.71% of workers have a high school diploma (26.08%) or some college (19.63%).

Other advantages are: “When compared to the states surrounding Ohio, Ohio has a relatively low average industrial electricity price;” and “Cincinnati is located right in the heart of the most utilized truck routes in the country and has a relatively low percentage of roads requiring significant maintenance when compared to nearby states…”

The summary findings of the report were:

  • “Cincinnati has an advantage in the presence of industrial engineers, machinist and tool/ die makers, as well as a large supply of lower skilled production workers, giving the area a talent proposition to attract manufacturing deployments
  • However, a key driver of the evaluation process for manufacturing deployments is developable sites… Cincinnati currently lacks suitable real estate options to entice most manufacturing operations
  • Given Cincinnati’s availability in key manufacturing skill sets and low/average cost in several talent segments, an investment program to prepare site options would enhance its ability to attract manufacturing investment.”

Our next meeting was with Kimm Coyner, V. P. Business Development & Project Management of REDI Cincinnati, which was spun out of the Cincinnati Chamber in 2014 with the support of Jobs Ohio. REDI Cincinnati covers 15 counties ? five in Southwest Ohio, seven in northern Kentucky, and three in Southeast Indiana, through which the Ohio River runs in the center.

Ms. Coyner said, “REDI is solely focused on new capital investment and attracting and expanding manufacturing to create good paying jobs. We have 165 public and private members. Our team identifies opportunities to attract businesses to the region by developing relationships with companies and new markets – domestically and across the globe. We provide connections to the resources that take startups to the next level and grow existing businesses. We connect companies to the region’s assets, advantages and business leaders to secure Greater Cincinnati’s place as one of the world’s leading business centers.”

She told us that railroads were the key to industrial development of the region in the 19th Century to provide transportation beyond the river. She said, “While Cincinnati arguably stayed too long in the manufacture of carriages and missed out on being a primary automotive manufacturing center like Detroit, we remain a major tier 1 supplier to that industry with hundreds of manufacturers and a significant talent base. We have five key industry clusters:  Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Food and Flavorings, BioHealth, and Shared Services. Advanced Manufacturing is made up of automotive, aerospace, chemicals and plastics and additive manufacturing/3D printing. Our region is the #1 supply state to Boeing and Airbus. We have nine Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Cincinnati, and four of the nine are manufacturers: AK Steel Holding, Ashland, Kroger and Procter & Gamble.”

I was subsequently emailed a list of the top ten employers, nine of which are manufacturers:

  • Kroger 21,646 employees
  • GE Aviation – 7,800 employees
  • AK Steel Holding Corp. – 2,400 employees
  • United Dairy Farmers – 2,029 employees
  • Ford Motor Co. – 1,650 employees
  • Mubea NA – 1,360 employees
  • Bosch Automotive Steering – 1,300 employees
  • Intelligrated Inc. – 1,100 employees
  • Hillenbrand Inc. – 1,080 employees
  • Milacron LLC – 1,020 employees

She added, “We participated with JobsOhio in a booth at the IMTS show in Chicago and focused on promoting Cincinnati as a site destination to companies from Germany.” She noted that Cincinnati has the second largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, Germany. I told her that we have a strong German-American club in San Diego that puts on a good Oktoberfest featuring a band they bring from Germany.

It is obvious to me that Cincinnati leaders recognize the important role that manufacturing plays in a local and state economy. I had mentioned to everyone I met that manufacturing is the foundation of the middle class, and if we lose manufacturing, we will lose the middle class. Cincinnati learned this lesson the hard way, but I am confident that their new vision to re-industrialize Cincinnati will create good paying jobs for residents and restore prosperity to the Cincinnati region.

I was honored to be invited to give a presentation on “How to solve the skills shortage and attract the next generation of manufacturing workers” that was based on several articles I have written in the past four years (all are available at www.savingusmanufacturing.com under Workforce Development category). If Cincinnati’s leaders achieve their vision, more skilled workers will be needed. Specific recommendations I made were: (1) start to engage youth in middle school through summer camps, and robot contests (2) provide career technical pathways in high schools and community colleges, plan a Maker Faire, promote establishment of a Maker Place, and become more involved in future Manufacturing Day (www.MFGDAY.com).

These meetings provided so much information that I will devote my next article to my visits to local manufacturers:  GE Ceramic Matrix Composite Laboratory at the GE Aviation plant in Cincinnati, Balluff North America in Florence, KY, and TSS Technologies in West Chester, OH, as well as the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems at the University of Cincinnati.

 

Innovative Products Win Best Invention at San Diego Inventors Forum Contest

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Ten companies competed for the best consumer product of the year at the 9th annual invention contest of the San Diego Inventors Forum on August 11, 2016 held at Coleman University. The San Diego Inventors Forum (SDIF) meets every 2nd Thursday in Del Mar (just north of San Diego) and has been the nursery for hundreds of ideas of local San Diego inventors for over 10 years.

The San Diego Inventors Forum is a non-profit organization that provides a year-long education program at monthly meetings where keynote speakers cover the full spectrum of what inventors need to know to go from capturing a design concept to how to get their product to the market. I have been involved with SDIF for seven years, first as a member of the steering committee and mentor to inventors, and now as a director on the board after SDIF incorporated in 2014.

Our meetings cover topics such as harnessing creativity, patents, trademarks & copyrights, licensing, video and internet marketing for inventors, finding funding/investors, and planning and giving presentations. I give one of the presentations each year on “Manufacturing 101 – how to select the right processes and sources for your products.” All of our meeting presentations have been videotaped for the past three years and can be viewed on YouTube and are linked at the SDIF website:  www.sdinventors.org

The meetings also provide unique opportunities for inventors to connect with people and services they may need to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to bring their product to market and profitability.

At the end of each year, SDIF hosts a competition where ten inventors have the opportunity to present their product to an audience of 75 – 100 people. The number of votes by members of the audience determines which inventors receive the top prizes ? 1st prize is $1000, second is $500, and third wins $250.

President Adrian Pelkus said, “This was one of the most competitive contests we have ever had. Each of the products was so innovative, unique, and useful that it was tough to choose the best consumer product. There was only a five vote spread between the first place winner and the third place winner.”

The winner was Greg Wawrzyniak for his PaintWell Caddy. The two models attach easily to any kind of a belt and hold the brush and roller in place with embedded magnets when not being used. The small size holds a small roller and paintbrush for painting trim and the larger size holds a large roller and brush for painting walls. For further information, contact Greg at  enovex@gmail.com.

Second place went to Dean McBain for his Alive Iris Biometric security system solution that comprises a dual parallel authentication ID system that analyzes an individual’s iris independently. The system identifies the individual as well as verifying the “alive” status simultaneously. For further information, go to www.trueidsecurity.com.

Third place winner was Dan Garcia and Kirsten Hanson Garcia for their Sipsee – the only universal, sanitary, reusable, portable bottle plug. The Sipsee enables you to immediately be able to identify your bottle among a myriad of identical bottles at home, parties, sporting events, picnics, campsites, and other places. The plug has a cover that can be attached to a lanyard or key chain for handy use. For further information, contact Daniel.L.Garcia2014@gmail.com or go to their website www.mysipsee.com.

Other contestants were:

Marvin Rosenthal for his Enforcer dog leash ?  a innovative leash with three ergonomically designed handles to allow owners/handlers to choose how much control they have over their dog, especially designed for military or law enforcement applications. For further information, contact lawdog_leashco@yeahoo.com.

Van Dexter Duez for his Pieceptions – an easy to use baking device that allow you to create two pies in one for flavorful combinations, as pumpkin and pecan, cherry and chocolate silk, and spinach and Lorraine quiche. For further information, contact pieceptions@gmail.com.

Robson Spiane for his Pro RiseTM seat assist product that allows seniors, wounded veterans, and post-surgical individuals to rise from their seats independently without motors, pistons, or hydraulics.  It allows an individual to use their upper body to assist their legs in rising up or descending into a seated position. It is portable and can be secured too many types of seating. For further information, go to www.tryprorise.com.

Josh Rifkin for his Bit Viper ? a right angle hand tool that holds two interchangeable bits in one small easy to use tool. For further information, contact joshrifkin@gmail.com.

Mr. Tam Phuong Tran for his patented, new age eating utensil that makes grabbing and picking up food easier than traditional chopsticks. For further information, contact tamptran@yahoo.com

Alex Robertson for his Lumasoothe Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) device to provide an advanced, cost-effective, non-surgical home treatment  for pets that are suffering from various conditions, including arthritis, back pain, wounds, hair loss, skin discolorations, and more. For further information, contact Luma-Tech, LLC at www.LumaSoothe.com.

The San Diego Inventors Forum is one of 45 different accelerator or incubator programs in San Diego County, and San Diego is a hotbed of innovation. One of the more well-known accelerator programs is the CONNECT Springboard program that helps to create and scale great innovation companies through access to the resources that entrepreneurs and growing companies need most – People, Capital, & Technology. I joined the team of Connect mentors last year and had the pleasure of mentoring a company that came in second in the San Diego Inventors Forum invention contest last August – Bixpy for their lightweight water jet system that adds propulsion to water sports and can be used by kayakers, standup paddle boarders, divers and other water-sports enthusiasts. Houman Nikmanesh, founder and president of Bixpy, just graduated from the CONNECT Springboard program in July. SDIF has often been a “feeder” organization for entrepreneurs who want to found a company rather than license their technology.

The San Diego region has long been a hot bed of innovation. In fact, a report released in April by “the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows that the San Diego region comes in ninth for the number of technology patents granted with over 34,000 patents, among other metropolitan areas from 2000-2013.

The amount of technological intellectual property granted in the region has more than doubled in the last decade, with 4,805 patents awarded in San Diego County in 2013, up from 1,724 patents in 2000. The region had a total of 34,605 patents from 2000-2013.”

However, according to an article in the L. A. Times on July 13, 2013, “the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which ranks cities around the world by calculating ‘patent density,’ or the number of patents produced per a certain level of residents” ranked San Diego as the second most innovative city in the world. The OECD ranked Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands, as the most innovative city in the world that year.

“Eindhoven, for example, churned out 22.6 patents for every 10,000 residents, dramatically outpacing the 9 patents per 10,000 residents produced by San Diego. The top 10 list includes four American cities and 6 European ones. San Francisco follows San Diego at No. 3, while Boston clocks in at the seventh spot and Minneapolis at No. 9.”

The San Diego Inventors Forum is a member organization of United Inventors Association of America (UIAA), and our SDIF president, Adrian Pelkus, is on the board of directors. Mr. Pelkus also participated with other members of www.usinventor.org in testifying before a Congressional committee in Washington, D. C. in opposition to legislation that would have destroyed the patent system as we know it (H.R.9, The Innovation Act and S.1137, The Patent Act).

We welcome all inventors in southern California to attend our meetings, which are held at the conference facilities of AMN Healthcare in the Carmel Valley area of San Diego the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 PM. The availability of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding mechanisms is providing the opportunity for inventors to get their products into the marketplace faster than ever. It has been exciting to see the successful launching of new products of so many of our San Diego Inventors Forum members in the past two years.

 

How the Trade Secrets Act will Benefit Manufacturers

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Many times, Congress passes important bills that are go unreported by the mainstream media. Such was the case with the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA – S. 1890), passed by the Senate and House of Representatives with near unanimous support in April and signed by President Obama on May 11, 2016. This beneficial bill was authored by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and cosponsored by nearly two-thirds of the Senate.

The bill was supported by a broad industry coalition that included manufacturers and organizations, such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, Inc., Biotechnology Industry Organization, The Boeing Company, Caterpillar Inc., Corning Incorporated, Eli Lilly and Company, General Electric, Honda, IBM, Intel, The Intellectual Property Owners Association  Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation , National Association of Manufacturers, The Procter & Gamble Company, Siemens Corporation, Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and United Technologies Corporation (click here for full list). This industry coalition sent a letter dated December 2, 2015 to Senators Hatch, Coons and Flake, saying in part:

“Trade secrets are an essential form of intellectual property. Trade secrets include information as broad-ranging as manufacturing processes, product development, industrial techniques, formulas, and customer lists. The protection of this form of intellectual property is critical to driving the innovation and creativity at the heart of the American economy. Companies in America, however, are increasingly the targets of sophisticated efforts to steal proprietary information, harming our global competitiveness.

Existing state trade secret laws are inadequate to address the interstate and international nature of trade secret theft today. Federal law protects trade secrets through the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (“EEA”), which provides criminal sanctions for trade secret misappropriation. While the EEA is a critical tool for law enforcement to protect the clear theft of our intellectual property, U.S. trade secret owners also need access to a federal civil remedy and the full spectrum of legal options available to owners of other forms of intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act will create a federal remedy that will provide a consistent, harmonized legal framework and help avoid the commercial injury and loss of employment that can occur when trade secrets are stolen. We are proud to support it.”

The intent of the DTSA is:

“IN GENERAL.—Section 1836 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking subsection (b) and inserting the following:

‘‘(b) PRIVATE CIVIL ACTIONS.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—An owner of a trade secret that is misappropriated may bring a civil action under this subsection if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.”

‘‘(c) JURISDICTION.—The district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction of civil actions brought under this section.

However, the DTSA does not preempt state law. Therefore, the owner of a trade secret could potentially file a federal claim and a state law claim at the same time.

In a May 11, 2016 guest post on www.manufacturinglawblog.com by Ian Clarke-Fisher of Labor & Employment and Jim Nault of Robinson + Cole’s Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Team, they wrote, “…the DTSA provides the following important provisions, among others:

Federal Civil Action:  The DTSA creates a federal civil cause of action, giving original jurisdiction to United States District Courts. This will allow companies to decide whether to bring claims in federal or state courts, and may have the net effect of moving most trade secret litigation to federal courts…Importantly, similar to federal employment laws, the DTSA does not supersede state trade secret laws.”

“Seizure of Property:  The DTSA includes a provision that permits the Court to issue an order, upon ex parte application in ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ seizing property to protect against to improper dissemination of trade secrets…the DTSA permits such an order only if the moving party has not publicized the requested seizure…”.

“Damages and Attorney’s Fees:  In addition to the seizure of property and injunctive relief, the DTSA permits for the recovery of damages for actual losses and unjust enrichment, and allows for exemplary (double) damages trade secrets that are ‘willfully or maliciously misappropriated’… The DTSA also provides for the recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees in limited instances…”

In a blog article prior to the bill’s passage (April 8, 2016), Nuala Droney and James Nault, members of Robinson + Cole’s Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Team commented: “The law provides for the award of damages for trade secret theft as well as injunctive relief. It even includes a provision allowing a court to grant ex parte expedited relief to trade secret owners under extraordinary circumstances to preserve evidence or prevent dissemination of the trade secret…”

They explained that “Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property that are of increasing importance to many manufacturers for a variety of reasons. A trade secret can be any information that is (i) valuable to a company, (ii) not generally known, and (iii) not readily ascertainable through lawful means, as long as the trade secret holder has taken reasonable precautions to protect it. A classic example of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. A more recent example is DuPont’s innovative Kevlar product, which was the subject of a large scale trade secret theft in 2006. Trade secret theft is a huge problem; a recent Pricewaterhouse-Coopers study showed that trade secret theft costs American businesses $480 billion a year.”

Dennis Crouch, Law Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law and Co-director of the Center for Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship, provides this commentary on his blog:

The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) includes a new provision added to the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) that, depending upon how it is interpreted, may govern how district courts handle trade secret information in all cases. The new section will be codified as 18 U.S.C. 1835(b) and reads:

(b) Rights Of Trade Secret Owners—The court may not authorize or direct the disclosure of any information the owner asserts to be a trade secret unless the court allows the owner the opportunity to file a submission under seal that describes the interest of the owner in keeping the information confidential. . . .

Courts already liberally allow parties to file documents under seal – so that doesn’t provide the entire impact of the provision. Rather, the provision’s importance is that it extends beyond briefs being filed by parties and instead reaches disclosures at trial and court opinions. Thus, the statute presumably prevents a court from disclosing a trade-secret in its opinion without first providing the trade-secret owner with the opportunity to brief the issue of disclosure. In addition, it provides non-parties with a right to request (under seal) non-disclosure of their trade secret rights.”

However, the website of the Essex Richards law firm of Charlotte, NC has a warning that “businesses should know that the DTSA contains certain requirements that affect their employment and similar agreements with provisions protecting against disclosure or misappropriation of the company’s trade secrets or confidential information.” Here are a few provisions of the DTSA that they highlight as important for employers to understand:

  • “The DTSA provides immunity from trade secret misappropriation claims to whistleblowers who disclose their employer’s trade secrets or confidential information to government officials for the purpose of reporting or investigating a violation of the law.
  • The DTSA requires all employers to notify employees of the DTSA’s whistleblower protection provisions in any contract or agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information. Otherwise, an employer will be deprived of exemplary damages and attorney’s fees under the DTSA. This notice requirement is satisfied if the agreement cross references a separate written policy that addresses reporting suspected violations of the law. Importantly, the DTSA broadly defines “employee” to include any individual “performing work as a contractor or consultant for an employer.” Therefore, independent contractors and consultants, in addition to “W-2 employees,” are covered under this definition. The notice requirement applies to agreements that are entered into or modified after May 11, 2016.
  • The DTSA provides a variety of remedies. If the court finds liability, it may: (1) issue an injunction so long as the order does not prevent an individual from entering an employment relationship and does not conflict with applicable state law prohibiting restraints on lawful employment; (2) order that a party take certain affirmative action to protect the trade secret; (3) award actual damages and damages for unjust enrichment; (4) condition future use of the trade secret on payment of a reasonable royalty, and (5) in a case of willful misappropriation, award exemplary damages not more than twice the original damages amount.  In addition, if the court determines that a party willfully and maliciously misappropriated a trade secret, or if it finds that a misappropriation claim or a motion to terminate an injunction has been brought in bad faith, it may award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.
  • In the event a defending party is damaged due to a wrongful seizure, it may sue for and recover “relief as may be appropriate,” such as damages for lost profits, damages for loss of goodwill, reasonable attorney’s fees and punitive damages if the seizure was sought in bad faith.”

As a director on the board of the San Diego Inventors Forum, I am particularly interested in the fact that the DTSA is the first federal legislation that allows private citizens, without first having to obtain patent, trademark, or copyright registration, to sue in federal court to protect their trade secrets. This will be a great help for inventors and existing businesses that do not have “patentable” Intellectual Property and have to rely on trade secrets to protect their “secret” formulas or processes to produce their products.

Why Should the U. S. Have a Specific Productivity Policy?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

This question is answered by  Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Part II of the  report, “Think Like an Enterprise: Why Nations Need Comprehensive Productivity Strategies.” He states, “Rather than think of an economy as a large market with self-interested actors transacting on the basis of price and seeking to maximize productivity, it is more accurate to conceive of an economy as a large, integrated enterprise that requires coordination of activities that individual enterprises will not effectively undertake on their own.”

 

His opinion is contradictory to that of most Anglo-Saxon nation economists, whose policies are based on two major competing doctrines vying for influence: “neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics, neither of which supports a national productivity policy.” In a nutshell, he states, “the neoclassical economic doctrine is focused on limiting government’s role in the economy, even as neo-Keynesians see the government’s main role as managing the business cycle and supporting a fairer distribution of income.” His definitions were so simple that even non-economists like me could understand them:

Neoclassical ? focuses on the “managing scarce resources in such a way that maximizes the net benefit from their use, and that produces the quantity and mix of goods and services most beneficial to society.”

Neo-Keynesian ? is “grounded in the core belief that demand for goods and services from business investment, government spending, and consumer spending drives growth.”

Atkinson particularly criticizes neoclassical economists because they “do not study how societies create new forms of production, products, and business models to expand productivity; rather, they study markets to see how commodities are exchanged.”

He criticizes neo-Keynesian economic policy prescriptions because they “revolve around increasing government spending to keep the economy at full employment and ensuring economic fairness and redistribution, because…their goal is not productivity growth, it is full employment.”

Atkinson states. “Thus, the first step for any policymaker seeking to maximize the economy’s productivity is to reject the conventional neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economic advice and embrace an alternative economic doctrine grounded in an understanding of the economy as an integrated, complex enterprise.”

He adds, “This approach is grounded in understanding that productivity is less about markets and more about organizations and systems, in particular about how technology is developed and deployed to drive productivity.”

Atkinson concludes, “Few conventional economists bother to “look inside the black box” of actual organizations or industries and crossindustry systems. Yet it is there that the keys to raising productivity and the keys to the right productivity policy will be found.” He comments that “conventional economics is of little help in understanding the sources of productivity growth, much less in providing useful or actionable advice on productivity policy.”

The rest of Part II discusses how “public goods, externalities and other enterprise failures, and system interdependencies for development and adoption of productivity-enhancing tools all mean that markets alone will not maximize productivity.”

Public goods are “a good or service provided without profit to all members of a society—to increase their productivity.” Some examples are transportation infrastructure such as roads, highways, bridges, airports, seaports or the education infrastructure for K–12 and higher education. Atkinson comments,”… though public goods are necessary, they are not sufficient.”

Atkinson comments that rather than maximizing productivity companies “can maximize profits from increasing revenues or reducing costs. Many companies focus less on boosting productivity and more on increasing revenues, either by getting more customers or increasing revenue per customer by selling products or services with higher margins.”

What he does not cover is that the best way for companies to boost productivity is to transform themselves into lean companies through the adoption and implementation of lean principles, tools, and strategies.

In addition, “some industries do not have strong incentives for driving productivity because “productivity increases hurt its implementers…In such industries, workers ‘control the means of Production’ and therefore productivity is a direct threat to their jobs.”

I found his brief discussion on the effect of system interdependencies on productivity interesting in how he shows that there is a relationship between product innovation and “interdependencies that are only observable and actionable at the industry or economy level.” For example, “when Apple developed the iPod, it needed customers with broadband Internet access and it needed music to be available for purchase online. Without either, the iPod would have gone the way of the Newton (an earlier, failed Apple attempt at creating a PDA).”

Market failure can stem “from markets tending to be poor at coordinating action when multiple parties need to act together synergistically and simultaneously. These chicken-or egg challenges must be overcome for productivity-enhancing innovation to occur in many technology platforms…Unless government plays a facilitating role, relying on markets alone can mean significantly delayed implementation.”

Atkinson identifies another challenge:  “Many technology solutions require mutual adoption and coordination for them to be effectively deployed… For example, when automobiles were first developed few paved roads had been built. Only after a certain number of autos were sold was demand strong enough that the government needed to build roads. But initially cars could be driven on dirt roads that horses used, so adoption could grow gradually in the absence of government construction

In Part III, Atkins lays out a comprehensive and actionable agenda for spurring productivity growth, which can be used as a guide to tailor national productivity policy policies. This agenda includes policy recommendations…and the ways in which governments need to organize themselves to advance effective productivity policies.”

He states, “The conventional theory holds that the only thing government can do is to remove barriers and fix policy failures so that firms reacting to price signals can do whatever they may choose to drive productivity. This overly passive framework ignores the complexity and enterprise-like nature of economies, which actually require more strategic productivity policies.” He recommends that an “effective productivity policy needs to go beyond the standard limits to embrace four other key components:”

  1. Incentives, including tax policies, to encourage organizations to adopt more and newer “tools” to drive productivity…In particular, governments should use the tax code to provide incentives for acquisition of new capital equipment
  2. .Policies to spur the advance and take-up of systemic, platform technologies that accelerate productivity across industries. Many of the information technologies central to driving future productivity have chicken-or-egg network effects which mean that adoption will lag unless governments adopt smart, technology-specific policies.
  3. A research and development strategy focused on spurring the development of productivity-enabling technologies, such as robotics…Governments need to focus a much larger share of their R&D budgets on advancing technologies that will reduce the need for labor.
  4. Sectoral productivity policies that reflect the unique differences between industries. In terms of productivity and productivity policy, industries differ in significant ways…Any effective national productivity policy will need to be grounded in analysis-based, sector-based productivity strategies.

Within these four policy components, Atkinson makes some recommendations that are more controversial, such as:

Roll back policies favoring small business – “special benefits to small business and discriminatory policies that place tax and regulatory burdens only on large businesses. He recommends, “To boost productivity, governments should embrace firm-size agnosticism in all policies.” (pages 70-73)

Replace the term informal with the accurate term the illegal economy – “individuals are breaking the law by not registering their businesses and paying taxes. Informality is a drag on productivity growth, not a progressive force.” (pages 73-74)

Set a reasonable set minimum wage indexed to inflation – this helps make it more economical for organizations to substitute capital for labor” and “in some sectors may expedite the adoption of automated equipment and new technology to increase labor productivity.” (page 81)

Atkinson warns, “Countries that protect entrenched, incumbent, or politically favored industries from market-based competition only damage their own country’s productivity and economic growth potential… This limits the ability of firms at the productivity frontier to take market share away from firms with lower productivity.”

Atkinson acknowledges that “The challenge is that few governments have designed their scientific research programs explicitly around advancing technologies to drive productivity. Instead, they follow the advice of neoclassical economists that governments should not pick particular technology areas and should focus on curiosity-directed basic science… if economies are to maximize productivity growth, they need to craft technology research agendas specifically around productivity.”

In fact, Atkinson recommends that “Governments need to focus on identifying and funding many more research and engineering projects that are specifically targeted to developing Technology that can replace human labor.”

He explains, “Productivity policy cannot be fully effective unless it is grounded in a sophisticated understanding that industries differ significantly with regard to their productivity dynamics… Three key factors differentiate industries when it comes to considering productivity policy.” They are

  • Scale ? Industries differ in terms of average firm size.
  • Competition ? Industries differ in the extent to which they face competition.
  • Incentives ? The third factor is intensity of incentives for an industry to increase productivity.

This is why Atkinson recommends that “An effective national productivity policy needs to be based on an analysis of individual industries and when appropriate, broader production systems.”

In his conclusion, Atkinson recommends, “The single most important step governments can take to boost productivity is to make higher productivity the principal goal of economic policy, more important than managing the business cycle, defending liberty, or promoting equality.”

He adds, “National governments should also identify or establish one agency or laboratory whose main mission is to support development and adoption of productivity technology as well as of platform and sectoral productivity strategies. In the United States, this might be the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

Finally, Atkinson states: “Productivity is the key to improving living standards—so policymakers should ignore conventional economists who say there is little government can do about it and instead make it the principal goal of economic policy.”

Even if you do not agree with all of his premises, recommendations, and conclusions, this is an important report that should be widely read and debated for some time to come.

 

 

This question is answered by  Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Part II of the  report, “Think Like an Enterprise: Why Nations Need Comprehensive Productivity Strategies.” He states, “Rather than think of an economy as a large market with self-interested actors transacting on the basis of price and seeking to maximize productivity, it is more accurate to conceive of an economy as a large, integrated enterprise that requires coordination of activities that individual enterprises will not effectively undertake on their own.”

 

His opinion is contradictory to that of most Anglo-Saxon nation economists, whose policies are based on two major competing doctrines vying for influence: “neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics, neither of which supports a national productivity policy.” In a nutshell, he states, “the neoclassical economic doctrine is focused on limiting government’s role in the economy, even as neo-Keynesians see the government’s main role as managing the business cycle and supporting a fairer distribution of income.” His definitions were so simple that even non-economists like me could understand them:

 

Neoclassical ? focuses on the “managing scarce resources in such a way that maximizes the net benefit from their use, and that produces the quantity and mix of goods and services most beneficial to society.”

 

Neo-Keynesian ? is “grounded in the core belief that demand for goods and services from business investment, government spending, and consumer spending drives growth.”

 

Atkinson particularly criticizes neoclassical economists because they “do not study how societies create new forms of production, products, and business models to expand productivity; rather, they study markets to see how commodities are exchanged.”

 

He criticizes neo-Keynesian economic policy prescriptions because they “revolve around increasing government spending to keep the economy at full employment and ensuring economic fairness and redistribution, because…their goal is not productivity growth, it is full employment.”

 

Atkinson states. “Thus, the first step for any policymaker seeking to maximize the economy’s productivity is to reject the conventional neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economic advice and embrace an alternative economic doctrine grounded in an understanding of the economy as an integrated, complex enterprise.”

 

He adds, “This approach is grounded in understanding that productivity is less about markets and more about organizations and systems, in particular about how technology is developed and deployed to drive productivity.”

 

Atkinson concludes, “Few conventional economists bother to “look inside the black box” of actual organizations or industries and crossindustry systems. Yet it is there that the keys to raising productivity and the keys to the right productivity policy will be found.” He comments that “conventional economics is of little help in understanding the sources of productivity growth, much less in providing useful or actionable advice on productivity policy.”

 

The rest of Part II discusses how “public goods, externalities and other enterprise failures, and system interdependencies for development and adoption of productivity-enhancing tools all mean that markets alone will not maximize productivity.”

 

Public goods are “a good or service provided without profit to all members of a society—to increase their productivity.” Some examples are transportation infrastructure such as roads, highways, bridges, airports, seaports or the education infrastructure for K–12 and higher education. Atkinson comments,”… though public goods are necessary, they are not sufficient.”

 

Atkinson comments that rather than maximizing productivity companies “can maximize profits from increasing revenues or reducing costs. Many companies focus less on boosting productivity and more on increasing revenues, either by getting more customers or increasing revenue per customer by selling products or services with higher margins.”

 

What he does not cover is that the best way for companies to boost productivity is to transform themselves into lean companies through the adoption and implementation of lean principles, tools, and strategies.

 

In addition, “some industries do not have strong incentives for driving productivity because “productivity increases hurt its implementers…In such industries, workers ‘control the means of

Production’ and therefore productivity is a direct threat to their jobs.”

 

I found his brief discussion on the effect of system interdependencies on productivity interesting in how he shows that there is a relationship between product innovation and “interdependencies that are only observable and actionable at the industry or economy level.” For example, “when Apple developed the iPod, it needed customers with broadband Internet access and it needed music to be available for purchase online. Without either, the iPod would have gone the way of the Newton (an earlier, failed Apple attempt at creating a PDA).”

 

Market failure can stem “from markets tending to be poor at coordinating action when multiple parties need to act together synergistically and simultaneously. These chicken-or egg challenges must be overcome for productivity-enhancing innovation to occur in many technology platforms…Unless government plays a facilitating role, relying on markets alone can mean significantly delayed implementation.”

 

Atkinson identifies another challenge:  “Many technology solutions require mutual adoption and coordination for them to be effectively deployed… For example, when automobiles were first developed few paved roads had been built. Only after a certain number of autos were sold was demand strong enough that the government needed to build roads. But initially cars could be driven on dirt roads that horses used, so adoption could grow gradually in the absence of government construction

 

In Part III, Atkins lays out a comprehensive and actionable agenda for spurring productivity growth, which can be used as a guide to tailor national productivity policy policies. This agenda includes policy recommendations…and the ways in which governments need to organize themselves to advance effective productivity policies.”

 

He states, “The conventional theory holds that the only thing government can do is to remove barriers and fix policy failures so that firms reacting to price signals can do whatever they may choose to drive productivity. This overly passive framework ignores the complexity and enterprise-like nature of economies, which actually require more strategic productivity policies.” He recommends that an “effective productivity policy needs to go beyond the standard limits to embrace four other key components:”

 

  1. Incentives, including tax policies, to encourage organizations to adopt more and newer “tools” to drive productivity…In particular, governments should use the tax code to provide incentives for acquisition of new capital equipment.

 

  1. Policies to spur the advance and take-up of systemic, platform technologies that accelerate productivity across industries. Many of the information technologies central to driving future productivity have chicken-or-egg network effects which mean that adoption will lag unless governments adopt smart, technology-specific policies.

 

  1. A research and development strategy focused on spurring the development of productivity-enabling technologies, such as robotics…Governments need to focus a much larger share of their R&D budgets on advancing technologies that will reduce the need for labor.

 

  1. Sectoral productivity policies that reflect the unique differences between industries. In terms of productivity and productivity policy, industries differ in significant ways…Any effective national productivity policy will need to be grounded in analysis-based, sector-based productivity strategies.

 

Within these four policy components, Atkinson makes some recommendations that are more controversial, such as:

 

Roll back policies favoring small business – “special benefits to small business and discriminatory policies that place tax and regulatory burdens only on large businesses. He recommends, “To boost productivity, governments should embrace firm-size agnosticism in all policies.” (pages 70-73)

 

Replace the term informal with the accurate term the illegal economy – “individuals are breaking the law by not registering their businesses and paying taxes. Informality is a drag on productivity growth, not a progressive force.” (pages 73-74)

 

Set a reasonable set minimum wage indexed to inflation – this helps make it more economical for organizations to substitute capital for labor” and “in some sectors may expedite the adoption of automated equipment and new technology to increase labor productivity.” (page 81)

 

Atkinson warns, “Countries that protect entrenched, incumbent, or politically favored industries from market-based competition only damage their own country’s productivity and economic growth potential… This limits the ability of firms at the productivity frontier to take market share away from firms with lower productivity.”

 

Atkinson acknowledges that “The challenge is that few governments have designed their scientific research programs explicitly around advancing technologies to drive productivity. Instead, they follow the advice of neoclassical economists that governments should not pick particular technology

areas and should focus on curiosity-directed basic science… if economies are to maximize productivity growth, they need to craft technology research agendas specifically around productivity.”

 

In fact, Atkinson recommends that “Governments need to focus on identifying and funding many more research and engineering projects that are specifically targeted to developing Technology that can replace human labor.”

 

He explains, “Productivity policy cannot be fully effective unless it is grounded in a sophisticated understanding that industries differ significantly with regard to their productivity dynamics… Three key factors differentiate industries when it comes to considering productivity policy.” They are

 

  • Scale ? Industries differ in terms of average firm size.
  • Competition ? Industries differ in the extent to which they face competition.
  • Incentives ? The third factor is intensity of incentives for an industry to increase productivity.

 

This is why Atkinson recommends that “An effective national productivity policy needs to be based on an analysis of individual industries and when appropriate, broader production systems.”

 

In his conclusion, Atkinson recommends, “The single most important step governments can take to boost productivity is to make higher productivity the principal goal of economic policy, more important than managing the business cycle, defending liberty, or promoting equality.”

 

He adds, “National governments should also identify or establish one agency or laboratory whose main mission is to support development and adoption of productivity technology as well as of platform and sectoral productivity strategies. In the United States, this might be the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

 

Finally, Atkinson states: “Productivity is the key to improving living standards—so policymakers should ignore conventional economists who say there is little government can do about it and instead make it the principal goal of economic policy.”

 

Even if you do not agree with all of his premises, recommendations, and conclusions, this is an important report that should be widely read and debated for some time to come.

 

 

What is the Heart and Soul of Manufacturing?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Once in awhile you read a book that has such kernels of truth that they touch your soul. One such book is The Heart & Soul of Manufacturing by Bill Waddell that I just finished reading. The subtitle reveals the focus of his book: “How Lean Management aligns with the better angels of our nature to create extraordinary business results.”

I met Bill in 2014 when we were both speakers at the Lean Accounting Summit in Savannah, Georgia and reconnected with him at the summit in Jacksonville, Florida last year. I knew that we connected at a higher level because of his presentations and the topics we cover in our blogs, but reading his latest book confirmed it.

Bill has been a lean guru for more than 30 years, and in his Introduction, he writes this about his journey, “During the time I have grown in my own thinking from seeing lean as an exciting new set of tools to use on the factory floor and in the supply chain, to an all-encompassing business and economic model, to what it truly is: All of the above driven by and centered on a powerful and rare organizational culture.”

My own lean journey has been much shorter ? only 10 years since I attended my first workshop about lean in 2006, but it was preceded by getting my certificate in Total Quality Management in 1993. By the end of the 1990s, I had discerned that TQM failed because it started from the bottom up with “Quality circles” and was not adopted as a philosophy or incorporated into the corporate culture by C-level management.

I began my lean journey with the viewpoint that the adoption and implementation of lean tools and principles would help American companies be more competitive in the global marketplace and play a role in “saving” American manufacturing as expressed in my book published in 2009.

When I read Bill’s book, I resonated with his statement, “The cut throat world of business, and especially manufacturing over the last thirty years, has become centered on the negative: laying off good people in pursuit of lower headcounts, closing plants and moving the work to China, decimating entire small towns across America, and bankrupting small suppliers by abruptly terminating long relationships and replacing them with cheaper foreign sources.” These facts are what motivated me to write my book, Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can.

The understanding of the importance of the total transformation of the culture of a company was revealed to me when I took classes in 2014 from Luis Socconini of the Lean Six Sigma Institute to acquire my Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma and thereafter read his book, Lean Company.

After years of applying the Toyota Production System tools and principles in his consulting, Bill dug deeper into the precepts behind them to understand what enables “Toyota with its nearly perfect track record of providing lifetime employment to its workers ? and making a lot of money at the same time.” One of the five precepts that more Americans need to emulate is “Be contributive to the development and welfare of the country by working together, regardless of position, in faithfully fulfilling our duties.”

Bill realized that there are other people like him “who want to do their jobs well, but also want to treat people well…they want to have a positive impact on the world around them and especially on the people around them.” The purpose of his “book is to send the message to those people that it is possible to do both…it provides a path for good people to combine the crafts of their trade with their moral code, to be good manufacturers because they are good people, rather than feeling they must either be good manufacturers or good people.”

Bill’s book features in depth consideration of companies that are every bit Toyota’s equal in their people-centered culture: ATC Trailers, Barry-Wehmiller, and West Paw Design.

Bill states that a lean culture is more than a “feel good culture;” it must be “a driver for a completely different way of running the business.” It must be based on “servant leadership,” wherein “the servant leader is always asking, ‘How can I help?’ Leadership and management exist to enable the folks on the front lines to better serve customers.”

Bill writes, “Eliminating waste and empowering people intersect beautifully.” But, in the goal to eliminate waste, “The resources that are the most important to eliminate wasting are people’s time and talents.” He adds, “Traditional management sees human beings as little more than unique tools, while lean thinkers see people as the very heart and soul of the organization’s reason for existence.” And, “In a lean company letting a thinking, feeling, growing person go ? laying them off ? is a shameful waste of a resource that is both precious and has enormous economic value.”

Those familiar with lean will understand his emphasis in a subsequent chapter on organizing a company by value streams, which engenders the feeling that “we’re all in this together” in the “shared commitment to the common good.” In a company with a lean culture, “success is defined by how the team performs along the entire end-to-end value stream…Rather than pit people against each other for individual recognition, lean incentivizes people to help each other, and to do whatever they can to make the other folks on the team more capable, to enable them to bring more of their talents to bear on the job.”

In chapter 5, “It’s all about Growth,” he writes, “There is a widespread misconception that lean is a strategy for reducing costs by eliminating waste. Quite to the contrary, lean is an engine for growth. The purpose of waste reduction and ideally elimination is to free up capacity.” When you free up capacity, you can grow, produce more, and make more profits. As Bill writes, “no company has ever cut its way to success…Success can only come from more, and you can’t cut your way to more.”

In chapter 6, “Hard Core Culture,” Bill discusses what is meant by a lean culture in contrast to “the traditional culture of blame, and its companion – arrogance…that causes most companies to fail from the inside out.” While a lean culture eliminates blame to utilize the Deming Cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), Bill states, “The core concept of respect for people is not just theoretical or philosophical respect based on the belief that we are all children of God and equal in His eyes. It is professional respect, as well…based on the knowledge that no one knows everything about a process or an operation, but everyone involved knows something.”

Chapter 7, “Accounting,” contains Bill’s easy to understand explanation of “the important aspects of lean accounting, and how they support the decisions a principled, faith driven manager…” Lean accounting measures costs “based on cross functional value streams, rather than in each functional silo. It is based on “real money…it largely does away with the various types of cost types typically assigned to them…Standard costs are done away with in lean.”

I became a big proponent of lean accounting after a four-hour module in my Yellow Belt class that was reinforced when I attended sessions at the Lean Accounting summits of 2014 and 2015.

In chapter 8, Bill recounts the horrific story of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that I recounted in my own book, wherein 145 women workers died in a fire because the doors were locked so the women couldn’t get out via the stairs, three of the four elevators weren’t working, and the owners had not installed a sprinkler system. It was the worst industrial incident in American history. It shocked the country and “it set off a series of laws and changes in industrial safety that eventually put an end to sweatshops in the United States.”

Bill then recounts the stories of two equally or more horrific tragedies that occurred in 2012 and 2013 offshore: Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Bangladesh where 117 women died in a fire because of locked doors and no fire prevention system and the Rana Plaza factory building collapse killing more than 1,200 people. He comments, “Since NAFTA was enacted some twenty or more years ago there has been a flurry of global trade agreements that typically pay little more than lip service to moral and ethical issues…These same trade agreements have had the effect of causing American environmental regulations to be something of a sham…great swaths of American manufacturing has moved to places such as China and Vietnam where there has been little or no environmental concern.”

We have actually been outsourcing our pollution to primarily China or Mexico. There is no sky-high fence to keep the air from crossing our border with Mexico, so we are breathing the polluted air being generated by companies in Mexico. In addition, the horrifically polluted air from China is actually coming to the U. S. on the trade winds.

The rest of the chapter 8 is a rather lengthy discussion of the differences between a privately owned vs. a publicly owned company with regard to practicing moral principles in the conduct of business.

Chapter 9 focuses on people, as “lean is a completely people centered business theory… lean management assumes the best and is based on empowerment and trust.” A culture of lean eliminates the conflict between management and labor. He presents examples of the “talent development” aspect of lean and now some companies evaluate people on the basis on their skills and knowledge in a four-square quadrant for both compensation and leadership. He concludes, “The companies with the best people working together on the best teams are the winners, and putting the best people into the best teams is done by principled leaders, not on the basis of accounting parameters.”

Chapter 10 considers “A Few Specifics,” and one of them that flies in the face of modern technology is the elimination of ERP systems as lean companies “see big IT systems as creators of significant levels of non-value adding waste. ERP systems create the need for planners, production schedulers, cost accountants and buyers. They require data collection and entry, as well as supervisors to oversee all of this, along with the costs of the software and hardware itself.” He provides examples of how ATC and West Paw Design use much simpler systems based on kanban (“a Japanese term mean something like ‘display card'”) He explains “Lean companies operate on a demand pull basis, rather than sophisticated forecasting models. Under this approach, they set a minimal inventory level in place and their purchasing and producing simply replenish that which has been used to meet actual customer demand…”

He concludes, “Perhaps the biggest reason lean companies avoid systems such as ERP is their cultural aversion to complexity. Complexity is the enemy of short cycle time, and it is the enemy of continuous improvement.”

The final two chapters contain a plea to take action and start leaning. He states, “You can’t change the basic trajectory of the business unless you change how you manage it…The gut wrenching, radical transformation in the business is not on the shop floor ? it is in the management office.” He states that successful lean leaders don’t come to this enlightened approach to management through logic, “they come to it through their principles…a principled leader is not content with the basic shop floor tools…they delve deeper and deeper into lean to find the zone of the management structures and philosophies need to allow them to manage by their principles and they dive even deeper into the core of lean culture until they fully understand and support the cultural rules need to turn the whole company into one driven by the leader’s strongly held beliefs.” He encourages companies to “learn why a strong culture is the linchpin of Lean success.”

The kernels of truth I briefly highlighted herein are why I recommend this book to everyone who wants to live and work by his higher principles while achieving greater success. If more American companies had the type of lean culture that Bill envisions, we truly could rebuild our manufacturing industry to make America great again and create jobs for millions of out of work Americans.

CPA Criticizes Peterson Report on Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

On January 25, 2016, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) released a report  on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) promptly released their commentary on the Peterson Institute report the same day, which was based on oral and written testimony CEO Michael Stumo had given to the U. S. International Trade Commission on January   15, 2016.

The Peterson Institute used the “”computable general equilibrium (CGE) model.” I’m not an economist. I live and work in the real world of manufacturing. Thus, I am not familiar with some of the terms economists use for economic models, and had not heard of this term previously. I try to find explanations that make sense, but even the Wikipedia definition was complex; “A CGE model consists of (a) equations describing model variables and (b) a database (usually very detailed) consistent with the model equations… CGE models are useful whenever we wish to estimate the effect of changes in one part of the economy upon the rest. For example, a tax on flour might affect bread prices, the CPI, and hence perhaps wages and employment. They have been used widely to analyse trade policy.”

The World Bank states, “Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models offer a comprehensive way of modeling the overall impact of policy changes on the economy… However, CGEs are significantly affected by the assumptions that they are based on which, depending on their definition, can impact on the results.”

CPA criticized the PIIE for using “the controversial computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to analyze the TPP rather than models that produce less optimistic results.” Stumo stated that the CGE model is increasingly recognized as unreliable because:

Untrue Facts Assumed ? “full employment always exists, trade is in balance, that wages and productivity stay in alignment rather than diverge, and that all countries have perfectly free markets with rational economic behavior.” These assumptions are false ? “full employment rarely exists; trade is almost never in balance; wages have diverged downward from productivity for the past several decades; and many TPP countries have state-directed capitalism or strong industrial policies to influence and alter market outcomes.”

Untrue Past Results ? The CGE model was used to analyze China’s being granted Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China (China PNTR) in 2000 and the Korea-U. S. trade (KORUS) agreement in 2012. A reduction in the trade deficits were predicted for both countries, but the reality is that U. S. trade deficit with China increased from $68.7 billion in 1999 to $337 billion in 2015, and the Korea trade “deficit worsened by $12 billion annually between 2012 (date of KORUS implementation) to 2015.” (US Census Bureau)

Untrue Assumption of No Net Job Losses? “The CGE model wrongly assumes that there are no job losses to produce its results. The International Trade Administration assumes that for every billion dollars of U.S. exports supported 5,796 jobs, down from 7,117 jobs per billion dollars of U.S. exports in 2009. Conversely, every billion dollars of imports has the opposite result. Thus, where trade agreements result in worsening trade deficits, as is the case for the NAFTA, Korea and China PNTR deals, the job losses are drastic.”

Additionally, Stumo criticized the Peterson report because it ignores the fact the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement does not address problems with currency misalignment, border taxes (VATs), and industrial policies, such as state-owned enterprises and government subsidies.

Stumo stated, “The PIIE model incorrectly assumes that currency valuations will be set by the perfectly free market and will not be manipulated. It does not take into account rising foreign value added taxes – which replace tariffs – charged to imports from the US.  It also ignores the industrial policy and state-directed strategies that Japan, Vietnam and others use to give an advantage to state-influenced or national champion domestic industries.”

Stumo criticized the fact that PIIE admits the TPP will create no new jobs and little growth even if the CGE model’s conclusions are true.

Job Creation Will Not Occur ? “…while the TPP is not likely to affect overall employment in the United States, it will involve adjustment costs as US workers and capital move from less to more productive firms and industries. Section 4 estimates that 53,700 US jobs will be affected—i.e., that number is both eliminated in less productive import-competing firms and added in exporting and other expanding firms—in each year during implementation of the TPP. This kind of movement between jobs and industries is what economists refer to as “churn,” and most kinds of productivity growth cannot occur without it taking place. For perspective, 55.5 million American workers changed jobs in this way in 2014—so the transition effects of the TPP would represent only less than 0.1 percent increase in labor market churn in a typical year. Most workers who lose jobs do find alternative employment, but workers in specific locations, industries, or with skill shortages may experience serious transition costs including lasting wage cuts.”

The Peterson report even admits job loss from past trade agreements, stating “The largest loser is the United States, whose trade and current account deficits have been $200 billion to $500 billion per year larger as a result. The United States has thus suffered 1 million to 5 million job losses.

The reality is that we lost 6.2 million manufacturing million jobs in the past 20 years as a result of NAFTA, China’s being granted PNTR in 1999, and the subsequent trade agreements with Central America, Korea, and other countries. Since manufacturing jobs create three to four other supporting or related jobs, we really lost 18 – 20 million jobs, which partly explains why 94,610,000 Americans are no longer in the labor force, which is the lowest participation rate in 38 years.

What do the report’s authors mean by “import-competing firms”? It appears to me that this means American manufacturing firms whose domestically-made products compete with imports for market share in the U. S. In addition, the Made in USA products are also competing as exports to other countries against the exports of China, Korea, our other trading and non-trading partners. So what guarantee do we have that the people losing jobs at import-competing firms will find jobs at exporting companies? None!

In addition, the CPA commentary highlighted the following:

Income gains are Negligible ? “The study projects that, by 2020, US incomes will rise a mere 0.1% of GDP. (Table 2).  This means that 99.9% of growth will happen without regard to the TPP.  The number 0.1% is equivalent to, or less than, a rounding error. It can only come true if all untrue assumptions in the CGE model are true. It will take another 10 years for the optimistic projection to deliver a meager 0.5% income gain by 2030.”

Middle Class Will Not Benefit ?  “Assuming (which we do not) the small income gains are realized, the study is silent on who benefits from them. The Economic Policy Institute reported that trade agreements account for 90% of wage inequality. If there are any income gains, the middle class will be a net loser.”

Other countries will “benefit” more than the US ? “The Peterson Study projects that Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam will gain far more than the United States.  The US Trade Representative, by pushing the TPP, is helping open markets for competitors in Japan and other countries. Japan is estimated to gain five times more income (in relation to GDP) than the US, Vietnam 16 times more, and Malaysia 15 times more. (Report, Table 2).”

Finally, the CPA commentary points out that other economic models show losses to the U.S. and other TPP countries. The commentary cites the fact that scholars at the Global Development And Environment Institute of Tufts University released a working paper in January 2016 that used the United Nations Global Policy Model (GPM). The Executive Summary of this paper states, “This GDAE Working Paper employs a more realistic model that incorporates effects on employment excluded from prior TPP modeling. We find that any benefits to economic growth are more limited, and even negative in some countries such as the United States. More importantly, we find that TPP would lead to losses in employment and increases in inequality. This is particularly true for the United States, where GDP is projected to fall slightly (-0.54 percent), employment to decline by 448,000 jobs, and inequality to increase as labor’s share of income falls by 1.31 percent.”

The paper states that the job loss would not be limited to the U. S, stating, The TPP would lead to employment losses in all countries, totaling 771,000 lost jobs…Participating developing economies would also suffer employment losses, as greater competitive pressures force them to limit labor incomes and increase production for export.”

In fact, it also states that job losses would not be limited to TPP trading partners: “The TPP would lead to losses in GDP and employment in non-TPP countries. In large part, the loss in GDP (-3.77 percent) and employment (879,000) among non-TPP developed countries would be due to losses in Europe, while developing country losses in GDP (-5.24%) and employment (-4.45 million) would reflect possible losses in China and India.”

The CPA commentary concludes that “the PIIE report as revealing the lack of any economic benefit from the TPP under the most optimistic, albeit implausible, circumstances. It is more likely that job destruction and industry shrinkage will continue being the net result.”

I will be even more emphatic in my predictions if the TPP is approved by Congress. The TPP will result in millions of job losses since past predictions were always exceeded. It will be another nail in the coffin of American manufacturing. The TPP is so overreaching in its scope that it would change many aspects of American life. I’ve written several previous articles posted on the blog section of my website under “trade” on the dangers of the TPP and why we must stop it from being approved by Congress. Do your own research and don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of its supporters. You can read the full text of the agreement for yourself here.