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News you can use, 10 May 2013

news headlinesA quick digest to keep you up to speed on what’s happening in our end-markets and the world at large.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

The Harvard Business Review examines how Chinese government subsidies changed the global economic landscape, and ponders what will happen as the government tinkers with its policies. Bottom line: look for more bankruptcies as certain industries like solar panel manufacturing have to learn to do business without subsidies but “don’t interpret [the withdrawal of some subsidies] as a reversal of its overarching policy of aggressively subsidizing targeted industries in order to dominate global markets.”

Many of the engineering software suppliers mentioned cautious buying by their customers, especially late in the March quarter and anticipated that this hold on spending would continue into the second quarter. Some of their customers, however, are actually doing well. CNN reports that the major U.S. auto makers reported the strongest April for U.S. sales in at least five years, with GM adding that sales in China in April were up 15% over last year. The mixed signals still lead economists to expect modest  growth in the US economy in 2013, with 1.5% to 2% second quarter growth rebounding a bit to 2.5% by the fourth quarter.

Whatever else may be happening, the world’s appetite for energy is insatiable. Sources of energy that were once un-economical are becoming more so, as extraction technology improves and prices remain high enough to ensure a profit. Shale oil, trapped in rock, is found in huge supply in North America and causing an oil boom –one report says the US may surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by 2020– that could see $5 trillion invested in U.S. shale and other “unconventional” energy developments by 2035.

The Business of Business

In “PLM Needs To Be Viewed As Strategic Corporate Asset” Kevin Prendeville writes that CEOs often view PLM as an engineering department black box and argues that this must change, that management must view “PLM as a strategic corporate asset, a cross-functional, enterprise-wide business discipline that augments innovation, helps drive significant revenue growth, and reduces costs of activities ranging from engineering rework to regulatory compliance.”

Do you use Facebook to reach out to customers and prospects? Facebook just published a guide for media companies that want to using the social network to share content. The tips are good (if a bit obvious), and worth a look if you think your target audience hangs out on Facebook. MIT’s Sloan School has some great ideas on building brand awareness on Facebook, but I’m still wondering how well Facebook works for our industry. One Forbes writer is pretty much convinced that Facebook isn’t worth it; are your ‘Likes” and “Followers” turning into revenue?

Meanwhile, in the World of Engineering …

Adobe made major news this week, as the Interwebs mistook a license model change (perpetual -> subscription) for moving-all-products-to-the-cloud. I wrote about it here. Lost in the kerfuffle was perhaps a more important announcement, that Adobe has come up with two devices (yes, hardware) that could change the way we all iterate between paper and digital. Josh Mings over at SolidSmack writes a great piece about how “using a pen to transfer data instead of a scanner to bring in the data, which would then be traced over or refined, is a delightful reduction in the amount of work and stress of completing a project”. Worth a read.

Finally, a $750 million project airport project caught our eye. At Bentley’s Be Inspired conference last year, we learned that Tokyo International Airport extended a runway into the ocean to add capacity, solving engineering challenges to do with earthquake-prone foundations, airplane loads at taxi, takeoff and landing and the fatigue caused by doing this hundreds of times per day over many years. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Florida, US) International Airport is taking a slightly different tack, lengthening a landing strip into a runway by taking it up and over a highway and rail line. In case you’re wondering, too, the new runway will be 150 feet wide, level for about the first 2,400 feet, then “it begins to slope upward, to a maximum of 1.31% before flattening out to 0.8% just before the bridge structures. Over that stretch, the runway gains roughly 55 ft in height”. Yikes.

Did you find this useful? Please let us know in the comments what other areas interest you; we’ll add those topics to future editions. To answer one of your questions: We link to sites like CNN and MarketWatch because the fee-based services we use put all the good stuff behind a paywall. The paid sites have more analysis, but the basic news is the same on the free sites.

Image courtesy flickr user RambergMediaImages.

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