GM’s Closed Loop Set The Standards For The Industry


At the General Motors Power Train division, five casting plants pour a total of 26,000 blocks, 26,000 transmission cases, and 40,000 heads each day. The parts aren’t all the same. To make them quickly and accurately requires the most agile technologies available.

From Mike Edington’s perspective, GM accomplishes this by combining one of the world’s best privately owned global networks and home-grown mathematical wizardry with commercially available three-dimensional CAD software, LAN products, and client/server technologies. But Edington, the top IT executive for casting, could easily add a four- letter word to the formula: r-i-s-k–and the company’s willingness to continuously stalk the cutting edge of computer technology.

Now here’s what lies ahead: GM’s developing sensoring devices and special software that will allow it to collect data from each manufacturing cell, measure the performance of each tool or machine in the cell, and chart all of it on a computer in real time.

GM is also planning to replace its costly, proprietary hardware, including computer numerical controllers, with PCs. “Five years from now, we believe every machine that goes into the plant will have a PC-based open modular architecture controller,” says Clark Bailo, manager of advanced controls for GM Power Train, in Pontiac, Mich.

The result is a closed-loop system that will reliably create the same parts without variations. Or, as …


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Is It Necessary To Hire Data Recovery Experts?

One of the things we haven’t really looked at lately is hard disk health. Let’s face it, we all have hard drives, and yet most of us don’t really have a plan in case they fail. And the issue is, of course, that they do. Every single day. When you least expect it. Which is exactly why I thought it was necessary to point this out to my readers. I’ve lost data before, and let me tell you, it’s a hard, hard thing.

Attempting to recover files that you have accidentally deleted may do further damage to your hard drive even if you have an idea how to go about it. You need to keep in mind that data loss may be due to a number of reasons and if you do not have a concrete solution to the problem, you might end up losing the files completely. This is why, instead of attempting a data recovery, why not hire an expert to do the job for you? Not only will you save time but money as well because you no longer have to replace your hard drive. When you consider data recovery in Irvine, you may want to consider Hard Drive Recovery Group (website here), because they offer low cost, hard disk recovery that takes place in …



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Rover’s Custom Order Process Revolutionized Car Manufacturing


It’s not the three-day car, but it’s pretty damn close.

While U.S. and Japanese auto manufacturers struggle to achieve that perennial benchmark of agility, a small, U.K.-based car manufacturer is driving off with the goods–the promise of delivering a custom-order vehicle to a customer within 14 days (including five days’ ground-transit time).

Here’s a surprise: For the Rover Group Ltd., perfecting the customer end–rather than optimizing the shop floor–has been the route to agility.

Rover (a subsidiary of BMW of Germany) is out to take the sleaze out of the car-buying experience. Its revolutionary new PC-based sales and order-entry system lets customers bypass the disagreeable haggling process in favor of an enlightened exchange with sales “consultants.” With the aid of full-motion car-demo videos and online options and pricing information, the sales consultants empower buyers to choose the right vehicle with the right options at the right price.

As of the end of this year, the PC sales data will then be poured into the factory-floor manufacturing systems without needing to be re-entered or translated.

In the process, Rover has eliminated the need for dealers to keep inventory, with the exception of a few demonstrator models. In addition to straight bottom-line benefits, this approach freed up physical space that the dealers are now free to use for real cash …



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Manufacturers Stay Agile


No matter what you make, the concept of agility is driving your business. Better get used to the factory floor.

How do you move a 150M-BYTE file from the Unix-based engineering department to the PC LAN-based plant floor? Today, Harley-Davidson Co. does it 1 megabyte at a time. It takes about an hour over a T-1 line, says Larry Stair, manager of engineering systems at the Milwaukee-based $1.2 billion motorcycle maker.

That’s going to change because Harley is striving to be more agile.

The plant guys don’t have time to read blueprints. They need three-dimensional models–files up to 150M bytes–on their PC screens. They need the data to prepare bills of material, to program manufacturing machines, to send specs to tooling suppliers, and to monitor quality. In this blitz-paced world, every minute shaved off the time it takes to move product to market means the difference between life and strife.

Welcome to the Age of Agility, where rapidly changing markets, cutthroat competition, and choosy customers mean the entire enterprise must be poised to deliver faster, better, cheaper, and more varied products. In interviews with dozens of IT experts, manufacturing engineers, researchers, consultants, market analysts, and vendors, we found agility means different things to different people. But most agree–and this special report emphasizes–that it must include linking and integrating the …


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Stretching The Definition Of “Beta”


The race to incorporate the latest innovations and enhancements into Internet software programs has major Internet players and startups alike radically changing the meaning of the beta test.

Formerly a period of controlled testing, the beta has evolved into an open forum in which hundreds of thousands of users can gain access to beta code. The result: more rigorous testing and a new way to distribute software, say users and vendors.

Microsoft Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., SunSoft Inc., Progressive Networks Inc., and VocalTec Inc. are just a few Internet developers putting their unfinished wares on the Net.

While desktop applications, World Wide-Web browsers, and add- ons remain the primary beta wares freely available, Microsoft took the process to the next level last week when it made available for free over the Internet its first Internet Information Server.

Users are faced with the proverbial double-edged sword.

“It seems that wherever I turn, the software I am downloading is a beta product,” said Irwin Greenhar, a marketing manager with JBS Inc., in Houston. “It’s great that I am able to get the latest and greatest stuff right away, but oftentimes I wonder if the glitches that I have to put up with are worth it.”

Dealing with unhappy users is worth the risk, said Mike Homer, vice president of marketing for …


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Filtering News For Your Needs


The infoglut has led to information overload. Choosing the right technology can help sift through the deluge.

Daily newspapers, hourly newscasts, all-news TV, news ticklers, wire services. Information is everywhere, and your users want to read all about it to gain a competitive edge. But a funny thing has happened on the way to the knowledge forum: Instead of staying informed, workers are struggling to manage information overload.

That’s where news-filtering systems come in. These tools help users wade through the deluge, aggregating news feeds from hundreds of sources. The newest ones even custom-tailor information. The long-awaited era of the personal newspaper is here.

Traditionally, filtering systems have been installed as servers on internal client/server networks. This fall, vendors began unleashing versions for the World-Wide Web. There’s even one that beams multiple news feeds from a satellite to a DirecPC satellite delivery service stationed on a corporate WAN.

The market for agent-based filtering technologies is so promising that soon there’ll be as many solutions as there are information sources. And the agent technology used in these filtering services will soon be more important as a programming paradigm than client/server or object orientation, says David Hatch, senior publications editor for BIS Strategic Decisions, in Norwell, Mass.

What’s behind this bold prediction? First, a need has arisen from the exponential …