2019-01-14 4 min read


Notes, 2019-01-14.

The most clicked article in last week's issue (~11% of opens) was on Volvo's Polestar 2.

Planning & Strategy.

  • I'm looking for some really well executed pieces on project management - how interesting projects are planned and completed. Send 'em here!
  • The head of Daimler's truck division says he "doesn’t see a business case for so-called platooning any more, where two or more trucks are digitally coupled behind one another at a short distance to save fuel."
  • SLM, which had an acquisition offer blocked by hedge fund Elliott Management in mid 2016, is down more than 75% since the offer collapsed.
  • Yubico got MFi certification, which *starts* to pave the way for FIDO2 integration on iOS apps.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • A full walk-through of a ZOTAC/NVIDIA GeForce GPU being made. Note the extensive hand-assembly in the second half of the video, and (as Anton wrote) *wow* that's a long pick-and-place line in the first half!
  • Foxconn will assemble top-of-the-line iPhones in India. Cry your heart out, Scott Walker :/
  • The toys that refugees make. "In a remote refugee camp in Uganda, South Sudanese kids create their own entertainment from mud, paper, and plastic."
  • On Veo Robotics blog (a sponsor of this newsletter), a good piece on the fragility of automation. "Although the automation of the screw-mounting operation led to very low product and process variability (important attributes on their own), it did not simplify the manufacturing process. Far from it. The automation actually introduced dozens of redundant process steps into the workcell, all because of the robot’s natural inflexibility. The additional complications might have lowered process variability and increased product quality, but they also increased system fragility."

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • A very good twitter thread on the perverse economics of commuting in the Bay Area. "If you value your time at more than $11.25 per hour, commuting by car in the Bay Area is *the most economical choice*. A California tax *credit* that a household like mine has *no business* getting, coupled with underpriced EV leases due to CA automaker legislation, means California taxpayers pay for two/thirds of my car ownership. This is a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich."
  • Ford's Chariot (basically small private buses) is shutting down; it was nowhere near financially viable. "Even on its best-performing weeks, Chariot’s fleet of 25 or so vans only serves...about nine riders per vehicle per day. The overall average is much lower — just five riders per vehicle per day."
  • Elwood, Illinois signed itself up to be a *big* hub for intermodal (train/truck) transit. "But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt." Note that this piece cites a 2016 study on "alternative work arrangements" that was significantly walked back this week: Instead of a 5% increase from 2005-2015, the researchers now believe that gig work only increased by 1-2%.
  • A good twitter thread on the state of Shanghai's mobility/delivery/parking systems.
  • Tom Lipton moves a lathe. That's a *very* sweet clamp-on dolly system.
  • An update on what trucking between the EU and UK will look like if "hard Brexit" happens. Spoiler: It'll look like a complete disaster.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


Augmenting old USGS maps with 3D elevation data.

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