Monday, May 13th, 2013
During my workweek, at some time just before midnight, David Letterman unveils his nightly Top 10 list. With this comedic mainstay, the gap-toothed funnyman signals to me that it's probably time to go to bed, and does so in a manner that is perfect for his blend of witty-awkwardness.
Top 10 lists span a wide spectrum of media and topics because they spark debate, enable direct statistical comparisons, and, in the case of the NCAA football rankings, cause confusion.
Lists in general play a big role in our everyday lives. Whether it's grocery lists or the oh-so-common Honey Do list, they help us to remember the important and mundane alike. Most time-management gurus advocate the use of lists to keep all daily/weekly/quarterly/yearly tasks in order. Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
In April 1961 inventor and Intel Corp. co-founder Robert Noyce was granted a patent for a newfangled invention he had been working on called the integrated circuit. Today we know it better as the microchip, and one can be found at the heart of nearly every electronic product on the market.
The creation of the chip at that time must have been destiny, because during that same period and many miles away, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments fame also was working on this technology. Great minds think alike, indeed.
After several years of bickering and lawsuits, the two companies finally agreed to cross-license the technology, and what was created became today's $1 trillion-a-year microchip industry. Since that time the world has changed dramatically, figuratively shrinking, and only true Luddites can live harmoniously without some kind of microchip-driven product. Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
In a world where penny candy now costs 5 cents, eliminating the 1-cent coin certainly seems logical. And that's what got me thinking; since when did the government ever do anything that was logical?
This process started in 2012 when the federal government unveiled its War and Peace-sized manifesto called the Economic Action Plan. As a small part of this plan, Ottawa decided to phase out the penny because of the rising cost of production when compared to the coin's real monetary value—a penny actually costs 1.6 cents to produce. Also cited were environmental reasons and the costs incurred by retailers and banks to handle these coins. Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Give it to us straight, economists, we can take it. Do we, or do we not, have Dutch disease?
Dutch disease is a term coined by The Economist in the late 1970s to describe the collapse of the Netherlands' manufacturing sector after a massive growth in its natural resources industry. A strong currency—some would argue that it becomes artificially strong—is a byproduct of this "disease."
This resource curse is now affecting Canada in much the same way. A higher dollar value is making this country a less desirable manufacturing location, and Canadian exports, including manufactured products, are becoming more expensive in the world markets. Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
A decade can be a small amount of time or a large amount—it all depends on perspective.
For a child, 10 years can seem like a lifetime, even be a lifetime. As we get older, however, 10 years simply can be how long we've owned our current car or how long it's been since we had a decent vacation.
Ten years also is a good amount of time to provide enough data to show a trend.
Recent numbers from Statistics Canada state that 255,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ontario over the past decade—a disturbing trend no matter how you slice it. One province's struggles can be a boon to others, though. In terms of both manufacturing output and jobs, Alberta and Saskatchewan have been the beneficiaries of Ontario's losses. Read the rest of this entry »
Monday, December 17th, 2012
Last month’s FABTECH® show, North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing event, rolled into Las Vegas at the same time an unexpected cold front hit the American Southwest. While I expected to see the latest in sheet metal joining, forming, and cutting equipment, I didn’t expect the single-digit temperatures.
In an atmosphere where everyone was talking technology and attendees were surrounded by the newest fabricating equipment, a few new developments still managed to stand out from the rest of the pack. Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
When I first talked to Steve Mann a little more than a decade ago, he was an ideological, if slightly off-the-wall, inventor who looked at the world like no other man. Today he remains the same, only the technology has changed.
Dubbed the father of the "wearable computer," Mann has spent decades moving through life connected to a computer. He is constantly connected to the Internet, and his EyeTap camera technology, which he wears like a pair of glasses, shoots the world around him and delivers the image directly to his eye. Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Last month's International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) blew through Chicago with the ferocity of a Midwestern summer storm, leaving me with a renewed sense of optimism ... and sore feet.
In an environment where technology is king and show attendees are surrounded by the latest in machining equipment, it was the human element of the industry that really stood out. No new single technological advancement leapt to the forefront during the six-day event, but a renewed sense of hope was tangible.
Even though data from a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report shows that optimism among Canadian manufacturers dipped this quarter, you cannot argue with the empirical data—smiling faces and sold signs—that was present on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Made in Canada. Three little words with big meaning.
When the Chevrolet Equinox® first hit the streets in 2005, it became the first major automotive platform both engineered and built in Canada. It was a coup for the automotive industry here and a feather in the cap of Canadian manufacturing in general.
In short, it was made in Canada. Read the rest of this entry »
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
In 1921 a new play premiered at Prague's National Theater that forever changed the English language.
"R.U.R.," or "Rossum's Universal Robots," by playwright Karel Capek marked the first time the word robot was used to describe an artificial worker. While not the mechanical constructs we think of as robots today, Capek's molded humans were described as being able to "do the work of two and a half human laborers." Read the rest of this entry »