2019-01-07 4 min read


Notes, 2019-01-07.

The most clicked link in last week's issue (~12% of opens) was the step-by-step walkthrough of Tesla's Model X line.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • Holy mayhem at the NY MTA as it approaches its long awaited Canarsie Tunnel rebuild, one of the biggest maintenance projects going right now. Going over NYCT's Andy Byford (the person actually responsible for running NYC's subways), NY Governor Andrew Cuomo took a group of what sound like inexperienced engineers on a one hour tour of the tunnel and, a few weeks later, completely nixed the plan that the MTA had taken years to develop and build support for. As Ben Kabak wrote, "As he has in the past, the governor got the idea in his head he wanted to do something different, and so he found a group of people at local schools who would give him academic cover to try a new approach in a new environment on a project that had generated hundreds of hours of contentious controversial meetings." And the current plan? "The new plan still recommends removing unstable portions of the bench wall, but it proposes that workers reinforce weakened sections of the wall with a fiber wrap. Workers will also install a new sensor system to monitor for cracks or deformations in the bench wall." In other words, they'll leave (as one MTA official called it), "some f–ked-up concrete under there.” Andy Byford claims that "40 years is the figure that I've heard [for how long the reinforced concrete will last]", but (former president of MTA Capital Construction) Michael Horodniceanu guesses that "It might last 15 years and need to be fixed again." I leave you with Aaron Gordon's take: "It’s also possible that a decade or two down the road, perhaps after another big storm, we might find out this 'innovative' fix wasn’t that innovative after all. Cuomo said it is 'really a unique design, a unique system.' Another way of saying 'unique' is 'untested.' The line between innovative and foolhardy can be thinner than we like to admit. We will find out which this is in time, but when we do, the governor won’t be around to care, just as he couldn’t be bothered to care about the L shutdown before last month."
  • Related: A Signal Maintainer for NYCT is interviewed on the New York City Democratic Socialists' blog.
  • A cable repair tech's take on people, and America, and (I would argue) the attitude our culture takes towards maintenance of complex systems.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • The biggest IT failures of 2018.
  • BASF wants to blockchain + IOT their shipping pallets. "The company says it believes that this system will make it easier to locate and make optimal use of all of its pallets, according to Jan Buchmann, global head of innovation management at BASF's Supply Chain Operations and Information Services unit. This will reduce the costs associated with unused, lost, or stolen pallets." Sounds to me like a lot of buzzwords for a rounding error problem.
  • Walmart has figured out how to hire and retain truckers (trucking, as you'll recall from 2018-02-05, requires basic skills and therefore is prone to churn when the economy offers other options). "Retention has become a significant issue for the industry as a whole. According to the American Trucking Association, large truckload carriers are seeing an average turnover rate of 96% this year, the highest levels since 2013. According to Rosser, Walmart holds an industry low turnover average that's typically in the upper single digits or low double-digits, ranging from 7% to 12%." Related, Sikhs are apparently being drawn to trucking because it's one place where their appearance doesn't cause issues.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


Chicago's "bean" (aka Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate") under construction.

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