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, …


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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 …



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Open Source Tools Built The Web

Ironically, while open source is often associated with the Internet, many Web development managers remain uncertain about whether open source software can become a viable source for the tools they need to deliver their e-commerce projects on time.

However, open source has huge potential advantages when compared to traditional proprietary software models. The obvious advantage is that, with the software freely available to developers, open source is developed by, in effect, the world’s largest R&D teams. Improvements such as bug fixes and functionality extensions become available much faster–sometimes literally overnight–compared with traditional vendor models.

Another effect of the open source community is the ability to experiment in marginal areas or produce enhancements that do not have immediate, known commercial potential. Conventional ISV teams are rarely allowed to produce things that the customer isn’t asking for.

ostbtwFor instance, an integrated development environment (IDE) may provide the development and debugging environment. However, an IDE typically does not address design and analysis, configuration


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Working With The Guts Of PostScript

Lots of people fly in airplanes, but few understand how aviation works. That’s why many of us cling to erroneous ideas about flying, believing that air turbulence is dangerous, say, and can even cause an airplane to fall out of the sky. For these unfortunate travelers, ignorance is not bliss; it’s the cause of unnecessary anxiety.

PostScript is what makes desktop publishing fly–it’s the underlying structure on which many magazines, books, and newspapers are built. Sure, you can use QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign without knowing anything about PostScript, just as you can fly without understanding the physics of lift. But knowing even a littie about PostScript can go a long way: it can help you predict what’s going to come out of your printer, saving you time and frustration. It can also help you troubleshoot problems. And with a smattering of PostScript, you can do a few tricks you may not have thought possible (see “Zap the Big White Box”).…


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Encoding The Tough Stuff

It turned out that this was the first subscriber whose name contained a character not representable in 7-bit ASCII. The character is one that I can type in my emacs text editor (using its insert-ascii function) as the integer 232 (hex E8), thusly: e. What you will see, in your browser, depends on the encoding that it’s using. For many of us, that encoding will be ISO-8859-1, and you will see the character whose Unicode number is 00E8, and whose name is LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH GRAVE:

But if your encoding is set to ISO-8859-2, you will instead see the character whose Unicode number is 010D, and whose name is LATIN SMALL LETTER C WITH CARON:

wfThe Web form that accepted this ASCII 0xE8 character relayed it to a backend business system that happily stored it. But that backend system also communicated the character, by way of XML-RPC, to another system. And that system — specifically, its XML


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Ada – Portrait Of A Classic

Green Hills Ada programming tools are involved in projects to build the future U.S. Joint Strike Fighter, as well as programs to upgrade the B-1B strategic bomber, B-52 bomber, AV-8B Harrier jump jet, and C-17 airlifter, Carbone says.

Green Hills officials are not alone in their optimism about Ada. “We are seeing the language popping up in places far afield from the military, such as in yachts, video systems, and video encoding for images stored on tapes and disk,” says Joyce Tokar, vice president of technology at Ada tools vendor DDC-I in Phoenix.

apoac“The market is recognizing there is an advantage to a programming language that supports early detection of errors at compile time,” Tokar says. DDC-I provides Ada compilers and tools for the U.S. Army RAH-66 scout-attack helicopter computer systems.

Things did not always look so good for the Ada business. As a matter of fact, only three years ago it looked as if Ada had hit


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