Nicholas A. Heras Security, Middle East The Trump team has options for stabilizing Syria, but each one comes with its own set of risks. The ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS held in Washington, DC was an important milestone on the path to the Trump team’s mission to fully defeat the would-be caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the proceedings by unequivocally stating that the ISIS threat would be the first priority of the new administration, and that in achieving that overarching objective, the United States would be invested in securing the stability of areas conquered from ISIS. Tillerson correctly identified Syria as a priority for stabilization after ISIS. The challenge for the Trump administration in Syria is that the United States could be a victim of its own success: by prosecuting the campaign against ISIS, the U.S. military is building out an American zone of control on the ground in a large area of eastern Syria. Unlike in Iraq, where Baghdad is a state actor that the U.S. military has chosen to work by, with and through to take the fight to ISIS, the United States refuses to formally work with Damascus. It will only deconflict military operations targeting ISIS and Al Qaeda that the Russian military occasionally carries out on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Under both Obama and Trump, the United States has operated under the assumption that Syria is a geographic space, not a functioning state with sovereignty over all of its territory, and for all intents and purposes cutting al-Assad out of the process. When ISIS is forced out of its Iraqi “capital” in Mosul, which appears set to occur in the near future, the ultimate authority for the territory held by ISIS in Iraq will fall to the Iraqi government, working with local actors. In contrast, in eastern Syria, the al-Assad government is present in a few scattered, beleaguered military outposts—the most significant being an airbase outside of the city of Deir al-Zour in the lower Euphrates River Valley near the Syrian-Iraqi border. Distracted by the fighting in western Syria, and the Syrian Arab Army’s chronic manpower shortages, even with the support of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its network of foreign, primarily Shia militias and the Russian military, the al-Assad government has ceded the operational freedom to the U.S. military to conduct counter-ISIS campaign throughout eastern Syria. Read full article
WASHINGTON ― Thousands of American combat troops are fighting in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nuclear-armed North Korea is testing long-range missiles. Russian troops are battling alongside insurgents in eastern Ukraine while U.S. special forces are working with the Ukraine army. U.S. aircraft are tangling with Russian planes over Syria and conducting strikes in Yemen, Libya and Somalia, while China is confronting U.S. warships in the Pacific. But here in Washington, the Defense Department seems almost abandoned. Two months into his administration, President Donald Trump, who promised to “make America safe again” and to manage a “massive” rebuilding of the U.S. military, has left the Pentagon without the top officials needed to turn those vague promises into reality and to manage the inevitable crises abroad. “Our adversaries are unlikely to wait long to test the new Administration,” a Pentagon panel of senior business leaders and policy experts warned last September, urging that the next president get senior staff ready even before the inauguration. That didn’t happen. Now, of the two dozen senior posts that provide critical direction to the Defense Department, only two are filled: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Deputy Secretary Robert Work, a temporary holdover from the Obama administration. That leaves the Pentagon struggling to make critical decisions without the people needed to thoroughly analyze proposals and examine potential consequences. For instance, Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command, has requested several thousand additional troops in Afghanistan and as many as 1,000 more for Syria. Mattis ought to have a full staff to assess those proposals. “You can’t expect him to run the entire show,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, grumbled this week. Trump has sent a budget to Congress calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. But the Pentagon has not linked the money to any strategy or prioritized it by specific threats because the top jobs in policy and strategy analysis are still vacant. No new strategy has even been devised. Without a strong cadre of seasoned civilians in senior positions, decision-making within the Pentagon defaults to the military, said Eric Fanning, who was secretary of the Army until Trump’s inauguration. “It’s not nefarious, not an orchestrated coup,” Fanning said. “But someone has to step in. Someone has to lead. There’s a void, and they fill it.” Walk along the Pentagon’s 17.5 miles of fluorescent-lit corridors and you’ll find strings of empty offices. Officials overseeing intelligence, manpower and nuclear weapons: missing. No senior civilian in the office responsible for special operations ― like the recent Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, in which Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed. The comptroller and chief financial officer in charge of $600 billion in spending: nowhere to be found. As the White House sends Trump’s first budget to Congress, there is no Defense Department legislative liaison to work with Capitol Hill to get it passed. And the Pentagon needs, but doesn’t yet have, a general counsel. The suites of offices for the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force are also empty, along with the desks of most of their senior staff. So are the seats for the officials responsible for policy toward Russia, the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, China, homeland defense, drones, logistics, military health care, research and engineering, and foreign military sales. This week Trump announced his intention to nominate six officials to high-level Pentagon posts, all of whom require Senate confirmation. Friction has arisen between the White House and Mattis over who gets to pick nominees for senior Pentagon positions. Contrary to Mattis’ expectation when he accepted the job, it remains the prerogative of the White House ― not the defense secretary. Last week Mattis had to withdraw veteran diplomat Anne Patterson as his choice for policy chief, after the White House reportedly voiced unwillingness to fight for her confirmation. He was also said to be furious after the White House publicly pushed two wealthy businessmen as Trump’s picks to lead the Army and Navy. Both men chose to withdraw because of potential business complications. While the nomination dramas play out, defense policy can get dangerously out of whack. When the military is providing advice, decisions tend to reflect a purely military viewpoint, a military answer to a problem. Lacking are the civilian officials to bring economic, political and cultural considerations to bear on policy. As a result, experienced Pentagon hands note, decisions are likely to favor the application of “hard” military power over the “soft” power of foreign aid, support for political reforms and anti-corruption drives in places like Afghanistan. Military officers serving at the Pentagon “are really excellent, smart, dedicated people, but they come at issues from a very defined perspective,” said Fanning, who has held top civilian posts overseeing the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Trump administration’s suddenly bellicose stand against North Korea this week, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising the possibility of military action, may represent just such an over-reliance on military advice by the administration. Mattis himself has recognized the critical value of the State Department as a partner in counterinsurgency campaigns, providing targeted development and governance programs. “If you don’t fund the State Department fully,” he said in 2013 when he was serving as Middle East commander, “then I need to buy more ammunition.” Trump’s proposed budget would slash State Department funding by 28 percent while boosting Pentagon spending on “urgent warfighting” requirements. It’s not clear if Mattis was consulted. But that strategic choice, emphasizing military force over diplomacy, might have come out differently with a full house of experts on hand to balance competing initiatives. You can’t expect him to run the entire show. Sen. John McCain, referring to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Many of the Pentagon’s vacant positions are ably but temporarily filled by senior career officials. Peter Verga, for example, is sitting in for the assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security. A Vietnam combat veteran, Verga has a long and distinguished civilian career at the Pentagon. Arthur T. Hopkins is acting assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. He holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering and has years of government experience in those fields. Still, career official fill-ins cannot effectively run the Pentagon, former officials warn. Even though many senior civil servants hold rank equivalent to a three-star general, “the military doesn’t always treat them as peers,” said Fanning. Moreover, “they’re simply not empowered to break any new ground,” said Michael Carpenter, a senior Russia expert who resigned from the Pentagon before Trump took office. “This is compounded by the mixed messaging from the White House,” Carpenter added. “Should career officials listen to Trump when he says, ‘NATO is obsolete,’ or Vice President Pence when he says, ‘The U.S. strongly supports NATO’?” Most career bureaucrats opt for the status quo, which is OK in the short term, he said. “But the world continues to throw new problems and challenges our way every day. You can’t remain flat-footed for long.” Storm warnings were posted early last fall when the Defense Business Board, the independent advisory group, urged the two presidential candidate camps to put together their senior defense teams right away. Otherwise, the board warned, the new administration would find itself with “insufficient numbers of people in the Pentagon with statutory authority to make decisions and keep the Department operational and running on course.” With U.S. forces actively engaged in combat and potential crises simmering around the world, the board said, “it is simply untenable to run the Department for months without a competent and complete senior leadership team actively leading and managing it.” Trump remains upbeat. “You see what we’re doing with our military ― bigger, better, stronger than ever before,” he boasted in a campaign-style speech in Nashville this week. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Print section Print Headline: Employment outlook UK Only Article: standard article Issue: The global economy enjoys a synchronised upswing A survey from Manpower, an employment-services firm, showed that in most countries payrolls are expected to increase in the second quarter of this year. Taiwan’s labour market looks buoyant: almost a third of employers surveyed say they expect to hire more people. Although hiring expectations in India are at their lowest since the third quarter of 2005, confidence remains high relative to many other countries. A sense of uncertainty prevails among employers in China—nearly two-thirds say they don’t know how their payrolls will change in the next quarter. Employers in recession-hit Brazil expect to shed more workers in the second quarter, but the labour market is stronger than it was a year ago. Article body images: 20170318_inc154_0.png Published: 20170318 Source: The Economist Newspaper ...
Russian sappers will carry out demining activities in Syria’s Palmyra using cutting-edge equipment and protective gear, Ruslan Alakhverdiyev, Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ Engineering Troops, told the Rossiya 24 TV channel. "As part of this work, we plan to use both in-service equipment and the equipment under development, which will help us facilitate the execution of the task and ensure safety of manpower. These are new protective suits, new search tools, robotic devices and exosuits," he said. More than 150 Russian sappers have arrived in Syria to take part in a mine clearance effort in Palmyra, the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry said on March 16. Some 17 pieces of special equipment have been sent to Palmyra, the ministry said. In addition to the sappers, the group also includes canine teams. The city was liberated from the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) on March 2, and on March 10 Russia’s General Staff reported that the first detachment of nearly 200 Russian sappers arrived in Palmyra. Source: TASS Read more: Will Syria and Russia be able to protect Palmyra from terrorists?
Seven states are asking a Seattle judge to include the revised executive order under the original injunction.
Albin Aronsson, Blake Franko Security, Europe Stockholm's armed forces are facing a manpower shortage. The Swedish government has had conscription lying dormant since 2010 and finally feels the need to once again press the nation’s youth into service. While this may be construed as part of Stockholm’s desire to show its commitment to Baltic security, the underlying reasons for the reintroduction of conscription may be more pragmatic politically. Whether Sweden wants to admit it or not, its armed forces have a manpower shortage and conscription is an easy way to fill the ranks. Originally introduced in 1901, conscription in the country was aimed at providing defense for the long-held desire to remain neutral, while defending Swedish borders. After the end of the Cold War and a switch to predominantly foreign missions, Stockholm started gearing its military towards an all-professional force. Thus, as of 2010, conscription was stopped until deemed necessary once again. That time has now arrived, as evinced by a recent government led report. The inquiry found that only 2500 of the 4000 needed training slots had been filled in 2015 and that recruitment would need to increase 47 percent starting in 2017 to fulfill the needed expectation of employed soldiers and officers. For additional consideration, out of the nations on the Baltic Sea, Sweden spends the smallest share on defense in proportion to its GDP. While many in the United States, including U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, are pushing for European NATO members to hit 2 percent of GDP defense spending, Stockholm is projected to spend a measly 1 percent of GDP on defense by 2020. As a comparison, this has gone down from around 2 percent of GDP in 1997, and 3 percent of GDP in 1976. Read full article
The new directive includes significant concessions after the courts halted Trump's first controversial order.
March 2, President Putin received from the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a report on the completion of the operation to regain Syrian Palmyra.
As Simon Black points out in his latest weekly intelligence commentary, it is now YOUR responsibility to enforce the government's laws. What happened: Are you an expert at identifying forged documents, and fake IDs? How about investigating immigration history? If not, you may want to think twice before becoming a landlord, investing in real estate, or opening a homeless shelter. According to Texas law, upheld by a Federal Appeals Court, you could be held legally liable for “harboring” an illegal immigrant. The law was originally struck down, but has been reinstated by an appeals court. The court claims that the law could not be used against landlords or immigrant aid organizations because they could not be considered to be harboring an illegal immigrant. Unless they actively protect or shield the immigrant from authorities, they cannot substantially fear prosecution, the court said. In their decision, the court used the testimony of the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety to support the fact that the groups suing would not be prosecuted under the law. What this means: Then government is passing its duties on to you. You are now expected to be a legal expert on all sorts of topics just to make sure you don’t end up liable for harboring illegal activity. Just because the current interpretation of the law doesn’t go after landlords, that doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Laws in America clearly have a way of migrating towards whatever interpretation fits the ideas and desires of whoever is in charge at any given time. Texans will have to wait until the vague “harboring” provision of the law is used against them to change the law. Until then, they need to be better at investigation than the police in order to be safe. * * * And in another notable development, Black muses that the Federal Government really needs to relax the hiring standards for agents who get guns and badges to enforce federal law… said no one ever. Actually, the Department of Homeland Security said just that. According to an internal memo, the DHS will loosen hiring requirements for border patrol agents. In order to hire the number of agents required by President Trump’s border security plan. To hire more than 6,000 additional agents, they will need to do away with certain standards, including the polygraph test which a majority of applicants fail, meaning less qualified, easily corrupted border security will be hired. What this means: Why should you need to pass a polygraph test to get your license to kill? This is reminiscent of the relaxed standards implemented in order to bloat the U.S. Army forces to get enough manpower during the Vietnam War. Stopping the spread of communism was so important, that they hired a bunch of drug addicts, criminals, and low educated soldiers to carry out the policies of the United States government overseas. It took the military decades to recover to the point of having intelligent, disciplined, effective soldiers. Nevermind the damage it did to the poor civilians who came accross these soldiers. So what exactly can we expect from the same tactic to hire Border Patrol Agents? How will the DHS maintain high quality, effective, and disciplined personnel that do not pose a risk to immigrants, peers, and American civilians? They probably won’t.
Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) is expanding its North Texas operations hub at the Galleria Towers in Dallas.
Mike Fabey Security, They might not be sexy--but these changes will make a big difference. Some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks. Slated for springtime delivery, the aircraft carrier CVN 78 Gerald Ford has sparked much interest in its technological breakthroughs for launching and recovering aircraft – as well as new systems to cut down on the number of sailors that run the ship and run up the costs of operating the vessel. But some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks. The 10 elevators have to carry up to about 200,000 pounds of weapons from the main deck magazine to the flight deck preparation area, according to Newport News shipbuilders at Hunting Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding unit. That ship-climbing trek is comparable to going form the basement to the roof of an extremely large city skyscraper, carrying about 100 tons, all within a minute. Shipbuilders wired the elevator up for more electricity using linear motors, replacing the rope-and-wheel systems that required a great deal more manpower to operate and maintain. With the new system, shipbuilders say, the elevators can carry two times the weight as the previous system, covering the distance in about third the time. Increasing the carrying power and cutting the operating speed were key in providing the Ford with the quicker sortie rate that has been one of the ships selling points. Getting aircraft on and off the ship at a faster clip means little if the aerial platforms are not properly armed or loaded. Early success with the new elevator system prompted Newport News to start developing a totally electric elevator system. The move toward such systems is part of the effort to create more-electric carriers with the Ford-class vessels. Beyond the new operational systems, such as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) that replaces the hydraulic launching system with an electromagnetic one, the ship also will rely more heavily on sensors, electronic grids and computer networks than previous carriers. Read full article
Via Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog, Virtue-signaling doesn't signal virtue--it signals decline and collapse. There are many reasons why Imperial Rome declined, but two primary causes that get relatively little attention are moral decay and soaring wealth inequality. The two are of course intimately connected: once the morals of the ruling Elites degrade, the status quo seeks to mask its self-serving rot behind high-minded "virtue-signaling" appeals to past glories and cost-free idealism. Virtue signaling is defined as "the conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person's standing within a social group," "the practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue" and "Saying you love or hate something to show off what a virtuous person you are, instead of actually trying to fix the problem." Yes, yes and yes. "Virtue-signaling" expresses two other key characteristics of an empire in terminal decline: complacency and intellectual sclerosis. Michael Grant described these manifestations of decline in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a short book I have been recommending since 2009: There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea. This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance. This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all. What are those "resisting Trump" proposing as solutions to the profound structural ills afflicting the empire? Gender-neutral bathrooms? A continuation of a dysfunctional immigration policy? Blaming Russia to mask the catastrophic failure of the past 25 years of neocon imperial over-reach? Cost-free "virtue-signaling" proclamations in support of diversity? "Safe places" on college campuses paid for by student loans crushing a vast indentured class of debt-serfs? These status quo policies and cost-free diversions are the acme of a profound complacency and intellectual sclerosis that serve to defend a self-serving, morally corrupt political and financial elite. Virtue-signaling pronouncements lack any recognition of the moral, political, social and financial crises facing the American empire, and are devoid of any practical, politically/financially painful first-aid measures to staunch the decline. Glenn Stehle, commenting on 9/16/15 on a thread in the excellent website peakoilbarrel.com (operated by the estimable Ron Patterson) made a number of excellent points that I am taking the liberty of excerpting: (with thanks to correspondent Paul S.) The set of values developed by the early Romans called mos maiorum, Peter Turchin explains in War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires, was gradually replaced by one of personal greed and pursuit of self-interest. “Probably the most important value was virtus (virtue), which derived from the word vir (man) and embodied all the qualities of a true man as a member of society,” explains Turchin. “Virtus included the ability to distinguish between good and evil and to act in ways that promoted good, and especially the common good. Unlike Greeks, Romans did not stress individual prowess, as exhibited by Homeric heroes or Olympic champions. The ideal of hero was one whose courage, wisdom, and self-sacrifice saved his country in time of peril,” Turchin adds. And as Turchin goes on to explain: "Unlike the selfish elites of the later periods, the aristocracy of the early Republic did not spare its blood or treasure in the service of the common interest. When 50,000 Romans, a staggering one fifth of Rome’s total manpower, perished in the battle of Cannae, as mentioned previously, the senate lost almost one third of its membership. This suggests that the senatorial aristocracy was more likely to be killed in wars than the average citizen…. The wealthy classes were also the first to volunteer extra taxes when they were needed… A graduated scale was used in which the senators paid the most, followed by the knights, and then other citizens. In addition, officers and centurions (but not common soldiers!) served without pay, saving the state 20 percent of the legion’s payroll…. The richest 1 percent of the Romans during the early Republic was only 10 to 20 times as wealthy as an average Roman citizen." Now compare that to the situation in Late Antiquity when "an average Roman noble of senatorial class had property valued in the neighborhood of 20,000 Roman pounds of gold. There was no “middle class” comparable to the small landholders of the third century B.C.; the huge majority of the population was made up of landless peasants working land that belonged to nobles. These peasants had hardly any property at all, but if we estimate it (very generously) at one tenth of a pound of gold, the wealth differential would be 200,000! Inequality grew both as a result of the rich getting richer (late imperial senators were 100 times wealthier than their Republican predecessors) and those of the middling wealth becoming poor." Do you see any similarities with the present-day realities depicted in these charts? A self-serving class of Technocrats and bureaucratic Nomenklatura have garnered all the gains, while the bottom 90% have lost ground in wages, wealth and financial security. This Technocrat/Nomenklatura class controls both private and public powers (media, finance, trade, industry, governance and institutions) which serve its own interests. What we have now is a self-serving "virtue-signaling" technocrat class that works for a self-serving political/financial elite that avoids the imperial burdens of military service and taxes while imposing what amounts to an economic military conscription on the working class. This Imperial elite sends these military conscripts around the globe to defend their Imperial interests. Virtue-signaling doesn't signal virtue--it signals decline and collapse. Just as in 5th century Rome--an empire careening toward collapse--those reaping the gains are complacently confident in their moral superiority while their hubris-soaked intellectual sclerosis blinds them to the systemic banquet of consequences that will soon choke their precious self-serving status quo.
Meeting customers’ expectations for personalization and customization requires flexibility. And such flexibility can provide a distinct competitive advantage — as long as costs aren’t spiraling out of control. In a study of nearly 250 manufacturers over a 10-year period (2005–2015), we found that 78% of firms had improved their ability to fill their total actual market demand but had lost control over costs. Apparently, chasing the often elusive customer came at a cost that many boards and shareholders had somehow overlooked (or had discreetly discounted). We also found that 11% of the companies studied had suffered both a decrease in their demand fulfillment percentage and an increase in their conversion costs, the labor and overhead costs incurred when converting raw materials into finished goods. Hardly a desirable position. All kinds of companies had failed at operational flexibility. There were companies in a wide range of industries, from automotive and industrial equipment manufacturers to oil and gas majors. There were companies with revenues over $100 billion and with revenues under $5 billion. There were Japanese manufacturers and Chinese manufacturers. There were companies that had more than doubled production levels during the 10-year period, and even those that had reduced production levels by 10% or more. In other words, we found no flexibility correlation with respect to industry, geography, size, or growth rate. But here’s the interesting part. In our study 11% of the manufacturers were able to both increase their demand fulfillment and lower their costs. What were the secrets of these masters of manufacturing? We found three common traits. More products but fewer parts. The first is SKU proliferation, or a greater number of product variants, which was a natural response to the need for greater customer personalization. Over 80% of the master manufacturers believe that producing more (not fewer) SKUs per line has been a key success factor for them. In fact, more than half of those masters stated that they wanted to further increase their number of SKUs per line over the next decade. To keep conversion costs in check, however, the SKU proliferation must involve fewer components. Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) is a case in point. The TNGA approach gives more choice to the customer, but on a simplified platform and with fewer components, all with the aim of cutting conversion costs. Toyota’s goal is to make the transition from having 100 different platform variants to just five standardized platforms across all its models. These five vehicle platforms will cascade into a manageable selection of accompanying components and unique interior choices, helping retain design distinctions. Toyota expects TNGA to help cut factory investments by 40% and manpower by about 20%. In addition, design improvements to the standardized platforms are likely to improve the customers’ driving experience and increase vehicle fuel efficiency. Faster, cheaper, and more flexible through digitization. The second common trait of many masters is digitization. The use of digital designs and 3D printing enables rapid prototyping, which more than 80% of the masters said was imperative for improved flexibility, and allows companies to experiment more with alternative designs. Consider a European automotive company, which has been successfully deploying rapid prototyping across its various businesses, using an effective combination of digitized designs and 3D printing. Such technologies have, for instance, enabled the company to slash the development time for a critical component from 20 weeks to only two weeks, with a cost savings of 92%. And the company is now deploying 3D printing not just for part prototypes but also for actual manufacturing tools. In the company’s truck division, 3D printing has helped reduce the tool manufacturing time from 36 days to two. Moreover, tools printed using a material called thermoplastic have helped slash the tooling costs by 99%. So far, the division has printed more than 30 different production tools, all with 100% accuracy. Optimization through cross-training. The third trait that many masters share is the use of flexible plant designs and multiskilled, or cross-trained, machine operators. A great example of that is Honda’s Assembly Revolution Cell (ARC) line, which was built from scratch, in 2015, for the company’s new Prachinburi plant, in Thailand. At the facility, each ARC unit consists of one rectangular platform sandwiched lengthwise between two circular platforms. The units are mounted on wheels, and each carries one vehicle body at the center as well as four operators, with a complete set of parts to be installed at the four sides of the vehicle. The entire production line consists of 50 such moving ARC units, one after another, with each capable of assembling a car from start to finish. Adding or removing the ARC units is relatively easy because there are no overhead conveyors and the units are not fixed to the plant floor. This allows flexibility to increase or decrease volume and SKUs at short notice without any major cost penalties. Equally important, the ARC operators learn to solve a broad range of production challenges, another boost to flexibility and efficiency. There are a number of incremental efficiencies built into the design of the line. The curved shape of the circular platforms, for instance, allows full boxes of parts to be supplied and empty boxes to be retrieved from the same position in a single trip. Also, operators are not required to walk back and forth between the moving line and the parts shelves, saving precious time. In our study, more than 90% of the manufacturing masters said that cross-trained operators were instrumental to achieving flexibility. What’s more, those companies that failed to achieve master status tended to place less emphasis on employing such workers, with only 79% saying they were an important asset. Reducing changeover times is not the only issue here. Cross-trained operators are better suited to optimize time and effort across multiple tasks while the line is operational. The strategy has helped Honda improve work efficiency by 10%, compared with a conventional line, and because each operator is responsible for a wider range of tasks, their feedback to the design and development teams has turned out to be more insightful. Flexibility is not an end state. It is only relative, tied to how important a company’s need for it might be at any given time. But when executed effectively, it can earn measurable financial returns even through times of uncertainty and upheaval. As companies continue grappling with the adoption and implementation of digital technologies, they may easily lose sight of flexibility. But the masters of manufacturing recognize flexibility as fundamental to their business. Like efficiency and productivity, it is becoming an increasingly important barometer for future success.
Midterm elections are a nightmare for the Democratic Party. But they can change that by embracing a lesson learned by zoos and conservationists long ago.
**Weekend Reading: Lyndsey Gilpin**: _[Cancer Rates Are Dropping—But Not In Rural Appalachia | FiveThirtyEight]_: "Just over a year ago, Natasha Lucas, an agent for the University of Kentucky’s Owsley County Extension Office... >...needed a local lung cancer survivor to speak at a popular annual cancer awareness event in Booneville, Kentucky....
(Don Boudreaux) TweetHere’s a passage from page 18 of volume 1 of Roger Backhouse’s forthcoming (in May) biography of Paul Samuelson (1915-2009): Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A. Samuelson: His remark that he could see the Keynesian multiplier at work when he was on the farm [that he often visited as a boy] is clearly a later […]
The Syrian army continues its offensive on Palmyra with the support of the Russian air task force, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Feb. 13. "The Syrian government troops are continuing their offensive towards Palmyra with the support of Russia’s aviation. A distance of less than 20 km remains to be covered. Over the past week, Russian warplanes have conducted over 90 sorties in the Palmyra direction," the Defense Ministry said in a statement obtained by TASS. In the course of their offensive, the Syrian government troops have destroyed over 180 militants’ objectives, including more than 60 strongholds, 15 depots with armaments, munitions and military hardware, 43 armored fighting vehicles, and also jeeps armed with large-caliber machine guns, the statement said. "The terrorists’ losses in manpower have amounted to over 200 men," the ministry said. According to data of Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Syrian government troops have established control of a territory of 22 square kilometers since Feb. 7 and liberated the communities of al-Kulaib and Kirkuk and the surrounding dominant terrain. "Overall, the Syrian government troops have liberated 805 square kilometers of the territory in the province of Homs from terrorists of the ISIS since they launched their operation with the support of the Russian air task force," the ministry said. Russian expert: ISIS demolishes what is easiest to destroy in Palmyra