October 22, 2012
"Instead of talking about the fruitless pursuit of bringing low wage jobs back, we need to talk about how to help accelerate a new renaissance of manufacturing and embrace the opportunity. We need to better structure local networks of suppliers, expand support for R&D in advanced manufacturing, find new mechanisms to finance the growth of these industries, and retrain our workforce for this new reality."

— Smart piece from entrepreneur and former USC innovation chief, Krisztina Holly, who argues in American Manufacturing Re-energized for the need to bring the sexy back to making stuff.

March 31, 2012
"For firms trying to improve working conditions the fault may well be in their own business model. Just-in-time manufacturing has made supply chains leaner. Slimmer inventory cuts costs and allows firms to move more quickly. As products’ life-cycles shorten, this is a crucial competitive edge. But a last-minute design change or the launch of a new product can mean suppliers having to pull out all the stops to keep up—or face a stiff financial penalty."

When The Jobs Inspector Calls is a nuanced Economist piece looking at supply chain issues for large multinational companies making the bulk of their products in developing markets such as China or south-east Asia. Focused mainly on, surprise surprise, Apple, the piece also looks at practices by the likes of Nike, and does a good job of illustrating the complexity of the issue. The piece also cites the fascinating findings of MIT’s Richard Locke, author of the upcoming Promoting Labour Rights in a Global Economy.

January 30, 2012
"Politicians see the world as blocs of voters living in specific geographies — and they see their job as maximizing the economic benefits for the voters in their geography. Many C.E.O.’s, though, increasingly see the world as a place where their products can be made anywhere through global supply chains (often assembled with nonunion-protected labor) and sold everywhere."

— In a New York Times op ed, Made In The World, Thomas Friedman discusses the gap between the way lawmakers think and the way chief executives approach their business. The issue: while politicians are focusing on one nation, executives are competing in a world where outsourcing is an antiquated idea and where “every product and many services now are imagined, designed, marketed and built through global supply chains that seek to access the best quality talent at the lowest cost, wherever it exists.” Friedman recounts the tale of President Obama asking Steve Jobs about all those workers overseas. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” said the late Apple CEO, bluntly. But, argues Friedman, the United States could learn how to compete effectively, if it could just focus and get its act together. The list of things it needs to change/master is daunting, but really not optional if the nation is to thrive.

September 14, 2011

"Chronic disease management is a team sport." So said Dr Sanjeev Arora at this week’s Transform conference, hosted by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Arora is an liver specialist by training, though a sideline in community healthcare has now become more than a day job. In 2002, he founded Project ECHO [Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes] in an attempt to handle the very real problems suffered by those diagnosed with hepatitis C in New Mexico. Frustrated that he wasn’t able to do enough within his own clinic (there was an eight month waiting list while many of those with the disease were unable to travel for the many visits necessary for treatment, Arora started ECHO as an attempt to mobilize a network around a disease.

The video above gives the gist of how the program works. At Transform, Arora outlined the importance of collaboration to the new practice. Every Wednesday afternoon, a team of specialists, including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and the like call in from wherever they’re located to take part in a video conference. Together, they’ll co-manage the care of up to 15 patients in the course of the call. In his talk, Arora spoke the language of business, of the need to standardize best practices and channel the processes of the most streamlined organizations. Yet, he added, expert clinicians need to implement a quality that’s not necessarily a factor on Toyota’s production line: wisdom. “What makes this different from manufacturing is that every patient is different,” he said.

As Arora mentions in the video, there are now ECHO projects for diseases other than hepatitis C, though he’s also aware of the complex issues that surround trying to scale the program too aggressively. “Don’t start ECHOs for 200 diseases,” he said at Transform. “Just a few diseases account for morbidity and mortality. Do it for those.”

August 31, 2011
"The biggest enemy of manufacturing in the U.S. is the pseudo-knowledge that America is a bad place for manufacturing. This perception will keep manufacturing from happening and thereby ensure that the reality will fulfill the prophecy."

— Former Intel chief, Andy Grove has some terse words to say about the state of American manufacturing in this MIT Technology Review interview. As he puts it, where’s the evidence that manufacturing in Asia really is so much cheaper? Instead, shouldn’t the American government embark on a vigorous marketing campaign to rebrand its own capabilities instead of simply accepting that manufacturing in the U.S. is dead, and thus accelerate the industry’s death spiral race to oblivion?

June 5, 2011
"Apple employees [sic] 50,000 people. Foxconn employs 1,000,000 people. So you can have all the innovation you want and tens of thousands of engineers in California benefit, but hundreds of thousands of people benefit in China because the manufacturing has gone there."

Journalist and pundit Fareed Zakaria has an update to his book, The Post-American World, due out at the end of the month. For it (and a CNN special report airing tonight), he delved into the world and meaning of innovation—and examined how the United States has a job on its hand to keep up the pace of innovation and stave off the challenges from emerging markets. He described the above quote as the “scariest statistic” he unearthed in the course of his research.

Also, check out the Global Innovation Showcase, just launched by CNN and the New America Foundation to go along with its special report. Featuring the likes of Steven Johnson’s brief history of innovation and political and economic analyst Zachary Karabell on the innovation challenge posed by China, it looks like it might shape up to be an interesting resource.