The end of the year is a time for reflection. One of my concerns over the past year has been the continued erosion of corporate camaraderie as remote work seems here to stay. Culture is hard to get right, and administering it over Slack and Zoom only makes it that much more difficult.
One thing that can help foster a healthy culture is productive feedback. If you’re not a part of The Great Resignation, then you’re likely having a yearly performance review with your manager soon. A useful framework for having these discussions comes from Laszlo Bock, former head of People Analytics at Google. He recommends a manager ask these three questions:
- What is one thing that I currently do that you’d like me to continue to do?
- What is one thing that I don’t currently do frequently enough that you think I should do more often?
- What can I do to make you more effective?
These appear in The Culture Code, a book I recommend, and I’ve used them to both give and receive feedback with great results. If we are able to be honest with each other about our strengths and weaknesses, then we can grow together to accomplish more in 2022 - despite whatever challenges lie ahead.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~14% of opens) was a clip of a cyclist stretching into a superman pose mid-race. In the Members' Slack, we've been chatting about knolling, cow magnets, and getting so drunk you implement the Toyota Production System. If you can't get enough stories about making things, join the real-time conversation.
Planning & Strategy.
- A treemap data visualization of the $550 billion in new federal spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While it will take time for the specifics to be outlined, Planet Money discusses potential infrastructure projects including a stressed bridge in Cincinnati that handles over $1 billion of goods a day and the Thief River Falls Regional Airport, home to Digi-Key Electronics.
- I was excited to see that many of the founders in Forbes 30 Under 30 2022: Manufacturing & Industry are building companies that have a focus on sustainability. One example is Algiknit, a company that knits sustainable fibers from kelp to reduce water and microplastic pollution. Algae also has great insulation and flame retardant properties. Tangentially related, a Danish architecture company built a modern seaweed house in this video.
Making & Manufacturing.
- A recent surge in sales for tungsten cubes was driven by the crypto community’s fascination with collecting these extremely dense objects. A 4” tungsten cube weighs a whopping 18.88 kg (41.62 lbs) and can be purchased on Amazon for $3500. Tungsten’s density is useful as more than just a paperweight; at my previous job, we used tungsten’s radiation shielding properties to help treat cancer. As shown in this video, motorized tungsten leaves shape radiation beams to target cancerous cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.
- A satisfying video of a tool for removing excess paper from the edges of a die cut carton. It is more efficient than removing the excess manually, but at high enough quantities it makes sense to invest in a tool-free stripping and blanking process like in this video. It’s a good example of how manufacturing processes evolve with scale.
- A video of wireless LEDs that light up with an inductive coil. I was surprised by how far away from the coil the LEDs remain lit.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Apple announced a self service repair program to make parts, tools, and manuals available to consumers. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, responded on Twitter showing support for Apple’s departure from their previous strategy. I used to replace my own cracked iPhone screens until after iPhone 6, when doing so disabled touchID. Apple claimed this was a security feature so that someone couldn’t steal your phone and swap your touchID module, but more recently they disabled faceID on iPhone 13 when replacing the screen - without justification. This is just one of many examples of Apple working against repairability over the years, but nevertheless I’m looking forward to reading more details of the new program.
Distribution & Logistics.
- TSMC is blaming Texas Instruments for the global chip shortage. Anecdotally, TI components in my PCB builds are the hardest ones to source right now. To make matters worse, TI makes excellent chips, which are challenging to find drop-in replacements for. On the bright side, we will have more production and diversification to look forward to - chip makers are building more US factories, and less powerful TI competitors like Microchip are seeing record-breaking growth.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A laser tracker is a highly accurate and portable measurement device capable of measuring within microns over many meters. I’ve used them to measure the accuracy of a robot moving across a room; they use a laser to track a small spherical reflector placed on the part. Here is a video demonstrating how a laser tracker can be used to measure an entire railroad car.
- A look at the $11 billion Webb telescope with illustrative graphics of its capabilities. I am amazed at the sheer amount of time, effort, and money that goes into a project like this. It started in 1997, when I was three years old, with a budget of $500 million. When I was a nanosatellite intern at NASA Ames in 2014, my manager would reference the cost of Webb as a rationale for why nanosatellite projects were so appealing. Now, three decades and $10 billion extra dollars since its inception, Webb is set to launch in a few weeks. Assuming the deployment goes well, I still think it will be worth it.
- NYC bagel shops are running out of cream cheese, and it is in part due to a cyberattack on the largest US cheese producer.
- An overview of ghost kitchens, a rapidly-growing category of restaurants that don’t have customer-facing space.