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Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):22-25. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-1.
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This article discusses the significance of psychologically diverse individuals in the success of a team. As technology advances, products are increasingly being designed in the commercial world by teams of skilled collaborators. Each team member is chosen to bring a specific range of skills and experience to bear on the mission, and each contributor is essential to a successful outcome. Some studies suggest that performance improves when a team pays attention to its individual personalities. The basic principle learned, which may apply in corporations as well as universities, is that in the long run teams do better when they are composed of people with the widest possible range of personalities, even though it takes longer for such psychologically diverse teams to achieve smooth communications and good cooperation. Before diverse team members can be integrated into a cooperative unit, they must not only cultivate an openness to opposing opinions, but also recognize the value of exploring a problem from various angles. Sharing personality information about each other facilitates this essential awareness.

Topics: Teams
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):26-29. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-2.
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This article discusses how Six Sigma analysis in a chemical plant helped it keeping the technicians efficient and its machinery reliable. The focus of this project was the wrench time of the technicians—that is, the actual time they spend in the field carrying out their primary job. An initial survey, based on examination of work records, discovered that the wrench time of the technicians was about 20%. It was suggested that by improving wrench time, the company would control overtime expenses of the technicians and would also improve service to ensure reliable and smooth operation of the plant’s machines. A Six Sigma approach was employed to identify the issues responsible for the low wrench time and to identify the solution for improvement. The approach had five steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. The approach was useful in the identification of the factors responsible for the problem. The major success of the project was the reliable operation of the plant, the objective for which the management had been striving.

Topics: Machinery , Teams
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):30-34. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-3.
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This article discusses the experience of a company in applying a visual method to determine the abilities of its engineers. Ecopetrol, one of South America’s largest energy enterprises, embarked on a process known as competency mapping. This term is often applied to identify the soft skills or behaviors that make employees effective in their roles and distinguish some as candidates for leadership positions. In Ecopetrol’s case, the competencies to be mapped were the objective skills that engineers require to deal successfully with the daily operations of a refinery. This project gave the company insights into the skills of its engineers. A side-by-side comparison of the Knowledge-Capability maps for different engineering disciplines revealed that almost 30 competencies were common among the various engineering disciplines. These competencies included information technology skills such as ability to use Microsoft Office and tools for capturing real time data, technical foundational competencies such as working knowledge of probability and statistical analysis, ability to use various company documents, and business competencies such as knowing Ecopetrol’s key performance indicators.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):36-38. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-4.
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This article presents an overview of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program. The award program was launched by Congress when it passed the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987. The act and the award it created were named for Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Commerce, who was killed in July 1987. The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding, well-managed companies to set a standard of competitive excellence for American enterprises in the global economy. Applicants complete an application that makes them take stock of their critical practices—in management, employee relations, customer focus, and other key areas of business operations. The application, which reflects principles known as the Baldrige Criteria, invites a company to look at itself methodically to recognize what it is doing well and to find areas where improvement is possible. Although winning the award is prestigious, the more fundamental value lies in structuring a company’s culture and practices to deserve it.

Topics: Economics , Teams , Milling
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):39-41. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-5.
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This study presents an overview of multiphysics software, whose implementation simulate physical phenomena in tandem to depict real-life behavior on a virtual prototype. In order to give engineers access to multiphysics packages, many vendors’ focus now is on speeding the applications and making them intuitive to use. Multiphysics software analysis is helping to reduce feedback noise in hearing aids made by Widex of Copenhagen, Denmark. Engineers at hearing aid maker Widex use Comsol multiphysics software to simulate vibrations within the ear, and thus to reduce hearing-aid noise and feedback. Meanwhile, engineers at steelmaker ArcelorMittal of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, turned to multiphysics modeling to help them find the most corrosion-resistant steel possible. Developers of multiphysics software say they are addressing the reality that physical phenomena do not operate singly in nature. They believe that solving for multiple phenomena can make simulations more realistic. And they are designing software packages to be easier to use and more accessible, to put them into the hands of more engineers.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2010;132(02):42-45. doi:10.1115/1.2010-Feb-6.
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This article discusses comments and feedbacks received from the respondents of the ASME’s Sustainable Design Trend Watch Survey. The ASME/Autodesk study on sustainability was a comprehensive two-part survey gauging the opinions of members of ASME on matters of general sustainability and sustainable technologies. Part I included 10 aided questions, where respondents were asked to select from a list of answers. This survey was e-mailed to members of ASME. Part II included four aided questions and was mailed only to student members. Despite the challenging economy, respondents of the study indicate with a 6% increase over last year that they believe sustainable design will be further incorporated into their work in the year 2010. In addition to the survey questions, the respondents were given an opportunity to comment on the sustainability process in manufacturing, and many of those comments revealed a deep ambivalence toward the very idea of ‘sustainable manufacturing.’ A majority of engineers surveyed expected that no matter what, the companies they work for would have an increasingly large involvement with green or sustainable design specifications over the coming years.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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