Thanks to everyone who came out in SF last week - was great to meet/chat! I'm working on similar meetups in a few good cities soon... stay tuned :)
Planning & Strategy.
- I watched The Founder this week, which tells the story of Ray Kroc's career at McDonald's. The focus - on the part of the McDonald brothers, who stripped their menu down to the bare minimum to optimize purely for speed and efficiency - and on the part of Kroc, who identified the key value in the McDonald's business model and hustled just what was needed to make it work - is really remarkable. Also of note: The business model nuances, the alcoholism, the hubris, the *crazy* timing, the personal drama, and Michael Keaton's neckties.
- I also blasted through Robert Caro's On Power, in which he describes how "regard for power implies disregard for those without power," and how the stories of the small farmers that Robert Moses so brutally displaced spurred the path of The Power Broker.
- The phrase bootleggers and baptists is used as a shorthand to refer to counterintuitive coalitions in regulatory economics. This relates to my anecdote from April about fuel economy policy and auto parts makers: If you're a major player in an industry where regulation is coming, it makes a *lot* of sense to be a driving force behind it.
- Apple "invested" (gave?) the first $200MM from their $1B manufacturing fund - to Corning.
- ARPA-E is safe, for a few months.
Making & Manufacturing.
- The first time I've wanted a VR headset in possibly ever: The NYTimes' 360* video of a highly automated Ford assembly line in China.
- A battery researcher working with Tesla was able to double the lifetime of their NMC batteries (which are used for Powerwall, not the cars). Meanwhile, an energy tech company in California has been working on zinc batteries which, due to the fact that zinc is already the fourth most mined element on earth, would be *way* cheaper than lithium.
- Elon Musk posted two series of videos to Instagram this week: One showing the start of The Boring Company's first tunnel, and the other showing Tesla's roof tiles being smashed with hail.
- On US manufacturing, and the total lack of scale here. Related, something I wrote in a personal email recently: "There's also a lot to be said for doing simple things *really* well, in the style of a Proctor and Gamble rather than a Boeing."
- The first episode of The Digital Factory Podcast, with Max @ Formlabs. Also, a nice shout out to nTopology + discount codes for the Digital Factory conference!
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- The NYTimes gets in on the MTA's deeply out-of date signaling & monitoring gear. "At the current pace, transforming every subway line could take half a century and cost $20 billion." I find it hard to imagine that anything will change unless... well, to be honest, we get a little more Robert Mosesy about it.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Yara, a Norweigan company, is working on an all electric, autonomous container ship that they claim will be the world's first; it's projected to be running unmanned in 2020. Note that this is a feeder ship, meant for short trips and with a relatively low capacity - roughly 5-10% the size of a modern, Neopanamax ship.
- A good piece on how Altanta's MARTA dealt with the increase in ridership due to the I85 collapse. Volunteers!
- Ice batteries are rad.
Inspection & Testing.
- Why traditional woodworkers prefer sharpened steel to sandpaper: It cuts through the grain rather than roughing it up.
- Instacart open sourced 3 million orders; ice cream is more popular at night.
- A long, wonky roundup of a week's worth of financial news. Of particular note is the analysis of the Etsy layoffs, and the complex relationships between executives and investors in B Corps.
- Why are there so many 17th century paintings of monkeys getting drunk?
- Tracking the hockey stick shaped rise of fidget spinners.