Archive for the "Manufacturing" Category


The Ugly and Not-So-Sustainable Smart Device Battery Supply Chain

The Ugly and Not-So-Sustainable Smart Device Battery Supply Chain

It’s time for consumers to stand up to tech giants and force them to procure raw materials, used in an ethical and sustainable manner, for smart devices.


Highlights:

  • Smart devices have created a dependency on batteries.
  • Blockchain is being considered to track cobalt from its source in the production of lithium ion batteries.
  • The number one way to decrease reliance on batteries is to reduce overall consumption of energy from batteries.

Battery technology is hot these days, no pun intended.  Consumers are demanding high performance and safety from batteries as energy storage devices.  Smart device manufacturers are responding by producing batteries that are smaller, safer, and store more energy; this performance comes at a cost.  Increasingly rare and advanced materials are required to produce a safer and more high-performance battery for your smart device.

Cobalt is one of the key raw materials required to support the green revolution.  Too bad over half of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they are known to use child and slave labor in the mining of cobalt.

No one cares, however.  Device manufacturers are delivering a price point and value that the consumers are willing to pay for.  Supply chain reform could briefly interrupt this harmony, and peoples’ relationships with their smart devices could be jeopardized.  The sad truth is that device manufacturers have pulled the wool over our eyes for too long and we have now become dependent on these batteries.

There is a solution, however.

Consumers have to stand up to tech giants such as Apple and Samsung and force them to procure raw materials used in an ethical and sustainable manner.  This is happening in the “Responsible Cobalt Initiative” where blockchain is being considered to track cobalt from its source in the production of lithium ion batteries.

The blockchain method relies on adequate and honest oversight at the very site where the cobalt is being mined from the Earth in locations such as the DRC.  How will honest oversight be implemented in what is known to be one of the most war-torn and corrupt regions of the world?  Why wouldn’t Congolese mine owners simply lie about labor practices?  In this case, the supply chain reform also requires political and cultural reform.  I can’t help but think about that time when the U.S. tried to cause political and cultural reform in Iraq…

The bigger and more disturbing picture is that society is on track for over-reliance on lithium-ion batteries as energy storage devices.  The number of smart devices is skyrocketing.  And if electric vehicles achieve widespread adoption someday, the amount of lithium-ion batteries and cobalt required to fuel that growth will be staggering.

This is just one reason why the energy future of our planet is so uncertain.  Surely the population will continue to grow.  Smart device numbers will keep rising exponentially.  The planet is going to need more energy and more energy storage. Hopefully, an increasing amount of energy will come from renewable and carbon-neutral sources.  In order to maximize the potential of renewable energy installations, we need vast amounts of energy storage.  Putting all our eggs in the lithium-ion battery basket is a very bad idea by-in-large due to the shortcomings of the cobalt supply chain.

In order to maximize the potential of renewable energy installations, we need vast amounts of energy storage. Putting all our eggs in the lithium-ion battery basket is a bad idea due to the shortcomings of the cobalt supply chain. Click To Tweet

It is important to note that the number one, most surefire way to decrease our reliance on batteries is to reduce overall consumption of energy from batteries.  Simply put, if everyone were to spend half as much time on their cell phones, we would need half as many cell phone batteries.  The phone would have to be charged half as often, and the battery would last twice as long, thus requiring half as many batteries over time.  Maybe we would even start talking to each other once again.

In addition to reducing consumption, humankind must pursue radical technological advances in the field of energy storage.  Power-to-gas and room-temperature-superconductors are two cutting-edge technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the way we store energy.  Distributed generation, smart grids, and passive heating and cooling are some more conventional ways to reduce the energy storage burden placed on large-scale renewable generating facilities.

To make a long story short, the force of corporate greed and government corruption has overpowered the force of the consumers’ desires up until now.  I am sure that the vast majority of smart device users, if asked, would be opposed to the use of child and slave labor in the mining of raw materials for their smart devices.  I, for example, would be willing to pay more for a device that guarantees fair and ethical trade up and down the entire supply chain.  We must never forget that we the consumers have the ultimate power.  If we want Apple or Samsung to change their ways, we can easily do that.  Get out and vote.  Make your voice heard.  Stand up to corporate greed and government corruption.  Take a break from your cell phone and talk to the person next to you.  I promise the world will be a better place.

This article was written by Peter Chivers, an MBA student at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Pete is an engineer and MBA student with a passion for innovation and the outdoors.  He spends his free time with his family hiking mountains, gardening, and building ice fishing contraptions. 

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Archive for the "Manufacturing" Category


Prospects Prefer This Type of Content — By Far

Prospects Prefer This Type of Content — By Far

Case studies are a perfect way to organize and present hard facts about your products and services — and they continue to be one of the most effective types of content out there.

A recent study shows that case studies far outperform other types of content. The DemandGen 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report found that 78% of B2B buyers used vendor case studies as part of their purchasing decisions in the past 12 months. 89% of B2B marketers consider customer testimonials and case studies to be the most effective kind of content to convert buyers.

Buyers are looking to “benchmark their own experiences against others who’ve tackled similar challenges,” concluded DemandGen’s report. Data is powerful stuff, and buyers know it. In fact, DemandGen’s survey indicated 48% of buyers not only prefer case studies but find them to be the most valuable type of content for research. 57% even said that they would register and share information in exchange for case studies.

Why the case study?

Beyond the obvious answer that data is important to buyers, why do they respond so well to this type of content? According to Frank Cespedes, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and author of Aligning Strategy and Sales, ultimately, buyers are less interested in theory than practice: “Buyers, especially B2B buyers, want to know what others are doing with your product, not what they might do to improve productivity or other outcomes.”

Yes, case studies are highly effective, but their success is predicated on your reputation as a thought leader and source of knowledge and expertise. Click To Tweet

As a side-note, before you jump ship on aspects of your content marketing strategy, like blogs, social media, webinars, etc., that focus on sharing ideas rather than just data, consider this: even the most impactful case study is only as useful as the totality of your brand’s content. In other words, yes, case studies are highly effective, but their success is predicated on your reputation as a thought leader and source of knowledge and expertise.

What makes a case study effective?

Not all case studies are created equal. Data presented in a confusing or incomplete way, for example, doesn’t pack the kind of punch needed to demonstrate exactly how your products and services help your buyers. A good case study should prompt the reader to explore your brand and the rest of your content. Ultimately, the goal is to show your prospect that making a change in their process will lead to better results.

As you design a case study, think about giving buyers the tools to present your products and services to decision-makers within their business. “Especially in B2B contexts,” says Cespedes, “buyers must justify a decision to others in the organization who have competing priorities for limited funds.” This is where a compelling case study comes in. Show your potential buyers how other organizations benefit from your offerings, and they have the tools to make a case for your business.

Case studies are proven to be well worth the time and energy needed to produce them. Recommendations and data from real customers have a powerful impact and should continue to be a significant component of your overall content marketing strategy.

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Archive for the "Manufacturing" Category


5 Secrets to Creating Infographics that Will Wow Supply Chain Buyers

5 Secrets to Creating Infographics that Will Wow Supply Chain Buyers

Infographics are a content powerhouse, but creating them isn’t always easy. These five tips will help you make the most of this format.

Infographics can be one of the most effective content mediums. We know that digital natives, who make up the majority of B2B buyers today, prefer short-form, highly visual content. So infographics make a lot of sense when it comes to speaking their language.

Infographics can be one of the most effective content mediums. We know that digital natives, who make up the majority of B2B buyers today, prefer short-form, highly visual content. Click To Tweet

Infographics are also prime candidates for reposts on social media. But, if you’ve ever tried to create one yourself, you know making an effective infographic is a lot harder than it sounds.

It might seem daunting at first, but these five tips will go a long way to help you in creating infographics that are effective in engaging supply chain buyers.

5 tips for creating infographics that engage supply chain buyers

1.      It’s all about the title

Well, maybe not all, but your title does matter a lot. When it comes to infographics, your audience will definitely be judging a book by its cover. This means that your title should be accurate, short (70 characters or less), descriptive, and engaging. This is how your audience will decide whether they’ll click and read.

2.      Colors matter

You’d be surprised by how much people are influenced by color in their content choices. The color scheme you choose should make your readers feel comfortable and should be visually appealing. This generally means sticking to two main colors and using no more than four colors. Use clear, bold colors for your main colors, and subtle, warm tones for complimentary colors.

3.      Bump up your SEO

There aren’t a lot of downsides to infographics, but, unfortunately, there is one: publishing them on your blog doesn’t do much for your SEO, since text in infographics is contained in the image and isn’t recognized by search bots. But there’s an easy way around this: Include a transcript of your text with your graphic. I recommend writing at least 350 words, in addition to the graphic, to boost SEO.

4.      Keep it simple

There’s a reason that simplicity is king when it comes to graphic design online. Increasingly, designers and businesses are favoring clean, minimalistic layouts. This means few unnecessary elements and plenty of white space so as not to overwhelm readers and to convey information without unnecessary distractions.

5.      Get interactive!

If you’ve mastered creating infographics and are feeling ambitious, try taking on the next big thing: interactive designs. This means your readers can engage with your content, whether by hovering over it, clicking on it, or even answering questions or taking a quiz.

There are a number of infographic-creation tools available on the internet these days. At Fronetics, we really like using Canva, which has plenty of templates that are easy to use and do a lot of the design work for you.

What are your tips for creating infographics?

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Archive for the "Manufacturing" Category


Content Marketing Can Work with Account-Based Marketing

Content Marketing Can Work with Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing has traditionally utilized outbound marketing tactics, until now.

Account-based marketing has been around for decades, but it has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years. More and more companies are starting to use account-based marketing to increase their brand awareness with specific audiences and work together with sales teams to close deals.

But what is account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a focused approach to B2B marketing in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers. Marketers and sales teams focus their efforts on specific accounts — companies, customers, target audiences — and work to get marketing materials in front of them.

Essentially, account-based marketing takes a potential customer and turns them into their own market. “[ABM] is to address the needs of organization by connecting with all of the stakeholders within it. That’s one reason why it works so well in B2B — oftentimes you have to work with five or more stakeholders in a given sale,” writes Sam Balter, HubSpot’s Corporate Marketing Manager.

So how can content marketing help with ABM, which has traditionally been a sales strategy?

Content marketing and account-based marketing

Inbound marketing focuses on audiences finding you. Instead of pushing a message onto buyers, inbound marketing allows you to establish your brand as an industry leader and let interested audiences come to you. This type of marketing attempts to draw in potential customers through interesting and engaging content.

Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing that uses blog posts, social media, infographics, and video to expose target audiences to a brand.

Merging sales and marketing efforts

There’s no reason that ABM and content marketing can’t work together. In fact, you’re missing out on maximizing your marketing efforts if you aren’t incorporating both of these marketing strategies in your overall marketing plan.

Traditional sales pitches are no longer pushing buyers down the sales funnel. Instead, buyers want a personalized experience, where they feel they are getting to know a brand before they make a buying decision. Click To Tweet

Today’s buyers don’t want to be ‘sold.’ Traditional sales pitches are no longer pushing buyers down the sales funnel. Instead, buyers want a personalized experience, where they feel they are getting to know a brand before they make a buying decision.

What does this mean for your ABM strategy? It means that content marketing can help educate and inform the specific accounts your sales team has identified through valuable, interesting content.

“For example, if you approach any content you create as part of the strategy with both goals in mind, you can create a piece of content that is both incredibly useful from a keyword perspective (and drives a ton of traffic to your site) while also providing all the key information that you’d like to say to your ABM contacts,” writes Stacy Willis for Impact.

When creating content for any marketing effort, the key is to make sure that your content has value. Whether you’re trying to attract a specific account or looking to increase web traffic, content marketing focuses on value and not just volume.

Creating a cohesive account-based marketing and inbound marketing strategy will help maximize your marketing efforts. Though not traditionally used together, it’s time to think outside the box and start seeing the benefits of a joint marketing approach.

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Archive for the "Manufacturing" Category


Are the Robots Winning?

Are the Robots Winning?

Automation in manufacturing can help create more, better paying jobs. But two leading economists have examined real-world data and concluded that the robots may be winning after all. Is it true?

Last year I wrote about artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential loss of American jobs. At the time, I thought; “Yes, people will lose jobs — that is inevitable. Automation, however, will create many more.”

Automation would create leaner, more efficient operations. Efficiency facilitates new market opportunities and business growth, which in turn would allow for expansion and job creation.

It felt like a good argument! And I wasn’t alone. If one looks at media coverage from last year, one can find plenty of references to “beating the robots.”

There was a palpable feeling, an energizing hope, that automation would, in fact, ultimately create more, better paying jobs. And these new jobs wouldn’t be the low-skill positions of their pre-automation predecessors, but rather higher-paying opportunities operating new technology and supervising automated processes.

In a paper last year, two of the most respected researchers on the subject said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels.

It all seemed positive.

This year’s news

But wait. The same researchers — Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University — published an updated study that has gained a tremendous amount of attention. It was covered in-depth by the New York Times, with the title: Evidence That Robots are Winning the Race for American Jobs.

Sadly, their study appeared to be the first “to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.”

In referencing the difference in prognosis from last year to this year, the NYT article noted that the older paper was “a conceptual exercise” and the new study “uses real-world data — and suggests a more pessimistic future.”

I thought, I’m going to have to write a new article. It was tentatively titled, “I Take It Back: The Data Says the Robots May Be Winning.”

But as I sat down to write, something just didn’t add up. How did all this jive with the latest employment news? Only days ago, unemployment rates hit 3.9%, a rare low, mimicking rates we haven’t seen since 2000.

Taking in the whole picture

As I looked further into the study, I found that it covered 1990-2007, a lengthy but rather unique time in our economic history. The years from 1990 to 2007 saw a dotcom boom and burst. (Just for reference, unemployment rates rose sharply in 2009 and 2010, but have been on a steady decline since then.)

The robot vs. man study said that robots were to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007. I’m not arguing with the study.

But they then go on to conclude the following: The numbers will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple. And from where I sit in 2018, I simply don’t see the facts to support that assumption.

Let’s look at manufacturing specifically. Are machines and automation blowing up the manufacturing sector? Well, yes and no.

Certainly manufacturing jobs have had a sharp decline over the last 20 years; that’s undeniable.

But since 2000, their percentage of the overall job market has held generally stable between 8 and 9%. And current employment statistics for 2018 show increases in the manufacturing sector.

Now, I’m not suggesting manufacturing jobs are “roaring back” by any stretch. But a positive trend line is … well … positive. The prognosis of a “pessimistic future” just doesn’t seem widely supported yet by the facts. Time, as always, will tell.

Of course, economists warn that employment rates aren’t the whole picture. While they may mimic that of 2000, they warn that the economy isn’t the same and that it is concerning that wages have been slow to rise even though unemployment has fallen.

From what I see now, however, I still feel optimistic that AI and automation will create leaner, more efficient operations that will, in turn, create new (even if different) jobs. To me, it still looks like the ones winning from the increasing technological advances in the manufacturing industry are, in fact, we humans.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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Is the Tesla the Next Honda Accord?

Is the Tesla the Next Honda Accord?

Tesla has been long-favored to lead the charge in the mass adoption of EVs, but recent challenges have halted production. Can the Tesla become the next Honda Accord before they run out of money?

Plug-in electric passenger cars achieved a market share of only 1.16% of all car sales in 2017. That’s tiny. Some predicted 2018 might be the “year of the electric car,” but sales aren’t expected to break 2% this year.

The auto industry is betting billions that electric vehicles will soon be as “cheap and ubiquitous as conventional cars.” Click To Tweet

Nearly all experts believe, however, that change is indeed coming. The auto industry is betting billions that electric vehicles (EVs) will soon be as “cheap and ubiquitous as conventional cars.” Some projections put electric vehicle sales over 20% by 2025. Others are more cautious and predict a slightly delayed rise to 25% by 2030. If the industry hits those numbers, it will be a boon to the electronics industry, as the number of cars with electronic components and the number of electronic components in each car grows by leaps and bounds.

Tesla has been long-favored to lead the charge in the mass adoption of EVs. But production of the company’s Model 3, the carmaker’s attempt at a mass-market sedan, has had major challenges, including issues with its supply chain. Can Tesla beat the ticking clock before the massive influx of money dries up?

Tesla’s ticking clock

Tesla is racing to overcome obstacles that have slowed the Model 3 progress, and the company’s make-or-break moment is fast approaching. The carmaker must boost production of the Model 3, or they will run out of money by the end of the year.

Since going public in 2010, Tesla has burned through an estimated $10 billion. Last year alone, Tesla spent more than $3.4 billion in cash — almost $1 billion a quarter — largely to bring production and sales of the Model 3 to sustainable levels.

Earlier this month, Tesla revealed that it nearly hit its target to manufacture 5,000 Model 3s a week, a production goal that is necessary to generating enough cash in house to sustain its own operations. Without it, the automaker will need to raise even more capital from outside investors.

Everyone expects that Tesla could, in fact, raise more funds if necessary. But proving it can build Model 3s at the thrice-promised target rate would go a long way in securing it.

The issues working against EVs

Even without its production issues, Tesla and other electric-vehicle manufacturers have their fair share of roadblocks.

The biggest issue to the supply chain? Electric-car battery manufacturing depends on the supply of certain minerals, including cobalt and lithium. As demand increases, these raw materials are increasingly scarce. Manufacturing is literally running into a metal crunch.

The biggest logistical issue? There are currently not enough places to re-charge.

Where exactly will we charge all those electric cars we plan on buying? Experts say that simply duplicating the existing refueling system, where motorists “charge up” like they “gas up” today would likely require dozens of new power plants or massive new investments in solar and wind farms.

The biggest issue to the American consumer? Battery-powered cars still cost more. Until that changes, consumers will still have a reason — a big reason — to go for more traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Could the Model 3 become the next Honda Accord?

So, even with all these current issues, could the Model 3 still be the highest-selling car of the next 40 years?

Tesla may still have a fighting chance if:

  • they can solve their production issues;
  • the battery market can find alternatives to its raw-materials shortage;
  • the American public can feel confident that their batteries won’t die on the highway;
  • the cost of EVs can rival that of traditional vehicles

Admittedly, that is a lot of “ifs,” but somehow no one is REALLY doubting that Tesla will pull it all off. But, not yet. A study last year found that 70% of millennials don’t yet want an electric car. Huh. Electric cars have mystique but simply don’t yet have widespread appeal.

Even taking these surprising stats into consideration, that still means 30% of young buyers consider an electric vehicle even now. So, by 2025 or 2030, when all the kinks are ironed out, they just may be as vanilla as Honda Accords. Except that the Model 3 is gorgeous, and electric, and made by Tesla. So maybe more like vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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