Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Helmets


Ordinarily BMW debuting a new motorcycle concept wouldn’t be particularly newsworthy, but the storied manufacturer had an ace up its sleeve this month when it revealed a new model out fitted with artificial intelligence safety technology so advanced that riders won’t need to wear a helmet.

The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 motorcycle is the latest incarnation of BMW’s Vision Next series, which celebrates 100 years of the German brand with forward-looking concept vehicles. The group has been hosting events around the world this year to debut each new concept in a different city, with this unveiling happening in California. The bike comes equipped with self-balancing systems to keep it upright both when standing and in motion. Several systems—one BMW calls a “Digital Companion,” which offers riding advice and adjustment ideas to optimize the experience, and one called “The Visor,” which is a pair of glasses that span the entire field of vision and are controlled by eye movements—correlate to return active feedback about road conditions to the rider while adjusting the ride of the bike continuously depending on the rider’s driving style.1x-1

NY Fed Survey: Business is Down, but For How Long?

federal reserve bank of new york

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has released the results of its monthly manufacturing  survey. The survey showed that business activity continued to decline in New York. The headline general business conditions index slipped five points to -6.8. The new orders index edged up but remained negative at -5.6, indicating an ongoing drop in orders, and the shipments index increased to -0.6, meaning shipments were essentially flat. Labor market conditions remained weak, with both employment levels and the average workweek reported as lower. Price indexes increased somewhat, and continued to signal moderate input price increases and a slight increase in selling prices. On the bright side, indexes for the six-month outlook suggested that manufacturing firms expect conditions to improve in the months ahead.

What do this Year’s Nobel Laureate Scientists Have in Common?

statue of liberty

This year, six of the scientists receiving the Nobel Prize were associated with American universities. All of them are immigrants. In a year that has seen a surge in nativism in the U.S. (as well as abroad) the ordinarily mundane fact that none of America’s Nobel Laureate’s this year were born in America takes on a political subtext. Already some are using their newfound platform to speak out about the importance of open borders. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” Sir James Fraser Stoddart, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a professor at Northwestern University, who was born in Scotland, told The Hill. “It’s particularly pertinent to have these discussions in view of the political climate on both sides of the pond at the moment…. I think the United States is what it is today largely because of open borders.”

The laureate told The Guardian that his research group at Northwestern University has students and scientists from a dozen different countries and that bringing in international talent raises the bar overall.

“I got colleagues saying ‘Don’t you know that our people are better?’ ” he said of his early career in Britain. “When you get people from Messina or Madrid moving to a cold place like Sheffield, they’re serious about science…. It’s better for everyone.”

Manufacturing Job Numbers Disappoint, Again


Despite the rebound in sentiment and activity seen in other measures, manufacturing employment fell for the second month in a row, NAM Reports. There was some hope that job growth might stabilize in this report. Instead, manufacturers lost 13,000 workers on net in September, extending the loss of 16,000 from August. More importantly, and more troubling, manufacturing employment decreased by 58,000 year-to-date, suggesting continuing cautiousness among manufacturing business leaders to add workers in light of lingering weaknesses in the global economy.

Additional data was less pessimistic, but not particularly celebratory. Durable and nondurable goods firms shed 11,000 and 2,000 workers in September, respectively. The largest declines were seen in the food manufacturing (down 4,300), transportation equipment (down 4,200, including a 3,100 decline for motor vehicles and parts), furniture and related products (down 1,700), wood products (down 1,600), computer and electronic products (down 1,500) and fabricated metal products (down 1,500) sectors. In contrast, there were employment gains in September for miscellaneous nondurable goods (up 1,300), nonmetallic mineral products (up 1,300) and textile product mills (up 1,200), among others. Despite the drop in hiring for the month, average weekly earnings in the manufacturing sector moved higher, up from $1,058.85 in August to $1,064.71 in September. On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings have increased from $1,031.65 in September 2015, up 3.2 percent for the 12-month period. Average weekly hours were also up slightly, rising from 40.6 hours to 40.7 hours, with average overtime hours unchanged at 3.3 hours.

Manufacturing Day is Almost Here



Tomorrow is Manufacturing Day, our favorite day of the year!

Manufacturing Day is a nationwide event organized each year by the National Association of Manufacturers, NIST and other affiliates. It’s goal is to promote the great benefits of a career in manufacturing and demonstrate our industry’s value to the U.S. economy. You can read more on our website.

And don’t forget to check out the official Manufacturing Day website. We’ll post pictures of some of the events. Good luck to everyone who’s participating!

Google Tries out AI


Google is one of the most valuable companies on Earth, it’s become so synonymous with internet searches that its name is now a verb for the procedure, its future would seem secure. But in this high tech world nothing is certain, and Google is bracing for the possibility that its core business of internet searches might be displaced by the growing popularity of apps. To counter this the company is developing a number of new devices, including a new type of AI that the company hopes will develop into something like the talking computer from Star Trek, an all purpose digital assistant. Read more about it at the NY Times.

Why He Brought Back Manufacturing

Robotic Automation Feature Intro Photo

Marketplace.org recently spoke to Matt Turpin, a small electronics manufacturer in Baltimore. The reason for the interview was Turpin’s company Zentech has bucked conventional wisdom and actually relocated manufacturing work from Asia to the US:

“We’ve brought back probably four projects in the past two years,” he said. There are “probably 30 people associated with those projects.”

How’d he do it? First, “the level of automation has increased dramatically,” Turpin said. “What used to take two to three hours to build now can be built in under 10 minutes.”

So if products don’t require much labor, then cheap Chinese labor isn’t that important.

Second, labor in China isn’t so cheap anymore.

Those two factors mean the number of manufacturing jobs leaving the United States now equals the number of jobs coming back, roughly, and it’s been holding constant for the past year or so.

Read more

New 3D Printing Frontier: Footwear?


Imagine needing a new pair of shoes, only instead of heading to the mall you pick out your customized design online and then use your smartphone to scan your foot’s dimensions and send them to a manufacturer who will then run a made to order pair of sneakers, sized and designed perfectly just for you, off their 3D printer. It sounds a little like the Jetsons, but that’s exactly what a startup is trying to do with an app and 100 printers. It’s called Feetz, and you can read more about it and the woman running it here.

Top 5 STEM Inspiring Movies

The weekend’s just around the corner, so for today’s blog post we thought it would be fun to make a Top 5 list of movies focusing on STEM topics that can inspire interest in the topic in viewers young and old alike. So, in no particular order:

Apollo 13: From director Ron Howard, this dramatization of the failed Apollo 13 lunar mission stars Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon as the three astronauts on the ill-fated expedition. A love letter to American ingenuity and space exploration, it offers an inspirational tale of what scientists and mathematicians can accomplish.

Jurassic Park: Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur epic still packs a wallop more than 20 years later. The much imitated story about an exclusive theme park where guests can see real living dinosaurs can raise interest in two different STEM fields. All the talk of cloning dinosaurs can inspire an interest in genetics, while the two archaeologist leads have captured many viewers’ imaginations. Laura Dern’s down-to-Earth Dr. Ellie Sattler has already become something of a role model for women in the field.

A Beautiful Mind: Another from director Ron Howard. This biopic of the esteemed mathematician and Nobel laureate John Nash from his college years through his cryptology work for the Pentagon to his recieving the Nobel Prize in Economics, all while suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This movie deserves praise just for making complex mathematics engrossing for average viewers.

Big Hero 6: It’s hard to think of a better advertisement for robotics than this charming Disney film. Focusing on a team of kid and teen scientists who, along with the lovable healthcare robot Baymax, become superheroes to save their city, this is bound to inspire audiences of all ages.

Temple Grandin: Claire Danes won an Emmy for her portrayal of the world renowned inventor and advocate. Diagnosed with Autism at a young age, the film follows Grandin’s life as she works towards a degree in Animal Science, developing more humane ways of handling livestock, and ultimately becoming an advocate on behalf of the autistic.

NY Fed Report: Business Activity Down

federal reserve bank of new york

Business activity decreased in New York State, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey for September 2016. The headline general business conditions index held below zero, and was little changed at -2.0. The new orders index fell eight points to -7.5 and the shipments index fell eighteen points to -9.4—developments that pointed to a marked decline in both orders and shipments. The labor market took a beating as well, with both employment levels and the average workweek reported as lower. On the brighter side, indexes for the six-month outlook suggested that firms generally expect conditions to improve in the months ahead. Read the full report.