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INSIDE CI: Flexibility and the Dog Days

August 1, 2007
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The monthly roundup from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

One of my three dogs has a double coat-shorter, thick hair beneath a fairly long top coat. She pants incessantly, even when it's not terribly warm, and it used to pain me to think about how hot she must be. Thinking a trim would do her good, I recently took her to the groomer, who assured me that taking her hair down to a uniform 1-in. length would help her feel much better.

When I went back to pick her up, however, I didn't even recognize her. Somehow, signals had gotten crossed at the groomer and they'd shorn her, very much like a sheep. She felt, well, precisely like felt. My daughter was in tears, and my other two dogs treated her like a total stranger. My mother tried to chase her out of the house, thinking she was a stray that had somehow snuck in.

After an hour or two of relative embarrassment-she was clearly not interested in being the center of so much hysteria-my previously fluffy pet settled in as a short-haired dog and I got to thinking of the importance of flexibility. No matter how carefully we might plan or what results we have every right to expect, sometimes things just go plain wrong.

When disappointing situations sneak up on us, how do we react? Do we freak out, freeze up and let them get the better of us? Or do we take a moment, get a grip and look for a solution? Flexibility can truly make or break us.

Our August issue is devoted to modern manufacturing, where flexibility certainly is key and innovative equipment can be a life-saver. For example, a new inspection instrument evaluates both roughness and roundness to improve product quality and prevent bottlenecks in production. The unit's programmed routines and automatic alignment help reduce human error and ensure repeatability and reproducibility (see "Roundness & Roughness-Together at Last”).

Methods for best practices in manufacturing, such as lean and enterprise resource planning (ERP), enable varying degrees of flexibility. Depending on the specifics of each organization, one or the other of these methods-or a hybrid of the two-can help achieve optimized operations. "Lean Manufacturing and ERP Systems: Different by Design" has all of the details.

From initial concept to planning, implementation and testing, perhaps no other element of manufacturing benefits from flexibility more than research and development. Managing Editor Brian Hayes has compiled a selection of technology advances being made at universities and laboratories around the world, including a self-assembled, pseudo-periodic array of ceramic nano-islands; bio-resorbable scaffolds; porous wall, hollow glass microspheres for hydrogen storage; and solvothermal crystallization. Check out CI's ceramic and glass R&D overview in "Advancing Ceramic & Glass Technology."

Even now-about a month after The Trim-I occasionally catch myself looking at my dog askance. Then she'll wag her tail and smile at me (she does smile, I don't care what anyone says). I just shake my head and tell myself to get over it already. She might look a little odd, but she really does seem to feel better.

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