Schnitger Corporation

News you can use, 24 March 2013

news headlinesEvery week, I read dozens of news articles, technical publications, presentations and magazines about the world of engineering, software, manufacturing, infrastructure, business and IT. I tweet the most interesting links but realize that Twitter goes by so fast (and not everyone used Twitter) that a compilation blog post might be useful.

We’ll periodically create this digest to keep you current on news and other content that might be useful to you. Please let us know in the comments whether this is useful and what other areas interest you; we’ll add those topics to future editions. Enjoy!

It’s the Economy, Stupid

The Wall Street Journal reported that an HSBC analysis of China‘s economy showed that government spending intended to boost the economy is becoming less and less effective and weak exports can’t boost growth.

In the US, the picture is also worrisome, as durable goods orders “recorded their biggest drop in seven months in March”. The only bright spots: cars, computers and other electronics. The news from Europe is all about slump. Industry Week called the outlook “gloomy” while the Financial Times called it “weak“.

Whatever you may think of the US patent system, many consider getting to a patent to be a career highlight. Last week the USPTO awarded the inaugural Patents for Humanity, “promoting game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges” in health and standards of living.

The Obama administration’s “Rebuild America Partnership” proposes a national infrastructure bank that, if it comes to pass, would help fund roads, bridges, intermodal projects, ports, pipelines, power grids and schools. In the private sector, architecture and engineering firm AECOM formed AECOM Global Fund I, L.P., a $150 million fund that will invest in P3 infrastructure projects. As I’ve written before, P3s (public/private partnerships) are increasingly seen as a way of funding infrastructure projects where traditional methods can’t or don’t work.

The Business of Business

Are You Listening to Your Most Important Customers?“, from the Harvard Business Review, points out that we may not be looking at the right customer satisfaction metrics and therefore reacting to the wrong feedback.

Industry Week profiles manufacturers that are reshoring production as labor and material cost gaps close and techniques such as lean make US-based facilities competitive by increasing utilization rates. However, Shopfloor says that 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled because people just don’t have the right skills, so moving production back to North America isn’t as simple as it sounds.

The FTC recently released an update to disclosure policy for bloggers, tweeter and other social media types and now requires Tweets to carry #Ad or a similar designation if they are sponsored endorsements.We’ll be adding cmp.ly/6/1KhgGX to out tweets from conferences from now on — and suggest that organizers make their hashtags shorter! If you’re new to this, you’ll find good ideas on establishing a disclosure policy and process here.

Engineering Software Industry Happenings

COFES 2013 sounds like it was terrific. John Chawner of Pointwise writes about being a first-time attendee while Oleg Shilovitsky posted his take on the event here.

Develop 3D Live hosted its second annual bash in the UK, drawing over 1,000 to the vendor-neutral event. Randall Newton of GraphicSpeak writes about it here and Develop 3D’s Stephen Holmes writes an exhausted quick note here. I will certainly check the site for the presentations, since I couldn’t be there in person. (Maybe next year!)

Geeking out is important, even if it’s not in person. This post, by Professor Wolfgang Joppich of Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences in Sankt Augustin, continues an interesting discussion on solvers on the Comsol blog. The point: advanced users need to know the advantages and limitations of the solvers they use. My add: novice and casual users could easily get overwhelmed if they need to worry about this, so wizards, personas, workflow engines and the like must select the correct solver automatically so the user can worry about setup and interpreting results.

Finally, last week was tough here in the Boston area but some amazing stories came out, too, that show that the vast, vast majority of people are good. This one, about Random Acts of Pizza made us smile.

Image courtesy flickr user RambergMediaImages.

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