We Take a Look Back at Some of the Industry Commentary and Predictions We’ve Made During This Past Year
How Did We Do? Let’s Take a Look as We Review the Events of 2014
We kicked off 2014 with a three-part report on 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology. In the twelve short months since we launched that series, it seems that 3D printing has leaped from its geeky subculture roots to the center of mainstream culture. In fact, 3D printing made its outer space debut last week aboard the International Space Station. Recently there have been even more astounding developments in 3D printing. For example, researchers have devised a way to print LED lighting systems. Pretty incredible stuff! After reviewing developments at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) held in San Diego, we began an in-depth series discussing Lean Manufacturing. We also introduced you to some of the new operations and engineering executives and managers here at Formaspace.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, we are enthusiastic boosters of manufacturing here in the good old USA. We kicked off February with a look at how the pursuit of quality has roared back in American manufacturing. Our February Valentine’s Day wish for you was to fall in love with your workplace all over again. How do we make our workplaces something to love again? Sometimes all it takes is a good spring cleaning — and maybe purchasing some high-quality technical furniture from Formaspace! In Lean Manufacturing terms, you can accomplish this by launching a 5S program at your workplace.
At the tail end of February we talked about video wall applications, which was a good segue for the beginning of March, when we welcomed the SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Festival to Austin. Then we took the first of several trips to McCormick Place in Chicago this year, where we visited the Pittcon Conference and Expo to find out where the new laboratory research jobs are — a growing bright spot in our economy. Next we embarked on an in-depth report on materials handling at distribution centers with a particular focus on Walmart’s unrelenting focus on distribution and transportation logistics.
In April we continued this series on distribution by taking at look at Amazon’s warehouse fulfillment strategy, and their customer personalization and fast delivery techniques. We also looked at how Amazon works hard to establish close customer relationships and how competitors are responding by using flash sales and curated subscriptions in the battle for on-line consumer retail sales. In our final feature for April we looked at some of the diverse range of laboratory research discoveries and their surprising implications. This was the first time this year we mentioned the Ebola virus, which sadly exploded into a worldwide health crisis only months later.
In May, we visited the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) held in Houston, which set new records for attendance. One prediction we missed: we did not anticipate the precipitous drop in worldwide oil prices that has occurred in the final quarter of 2014. We took a look at research behind drug discovery and challenges facing public health officials. At the time, we reported that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was the top concern of officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.
While Ebola was mentioned in our article, the outbreak in West Africa had not yet exploded into a worldwide pandemic threat. Since we wrote our last two articles in May there have been some interesting new developments. We talked about the magical material graphene, and recently there has been news that bulletproof vests made from graphene material could be stronger than those made from Kevlar. In our article about film stars from the material science research laboratory, we talked about the exciting new possibilities for flexible electronic components. In the past few days, Sony has introduced a new watch using this kind of thin ‘electronic paper’ material— the project was a skunk works effort that was crowd-funded on Kickstarter to boot!
In June we commenced on a three-part series on robots and their role in the workplace. We also talked about flying drones — and one news item in the last week caught our eye: a drone made of organic material which can decompose into the environment — a very green feature, particularly if a drone suffers a crash-landing and cannot be retrieved from a remote location. At the end of June we returned to McCormick Place in Chicago where we attended the Neocon 2014 tradeshow — it covers the entire gamut of the contract furniture marketplace. One of the highlights at Neocon was a return of the concept of privacy, as part of an overall trend for better health and well-being in the office environment.
We followed this discussion with a survey of the different visions created by furniture designers at Neocon to promote health and well-being. The key health take away: sitting for long periods of time is ‘the new smoking’. Then we dived into the design constraints facing today’s furniture and interior designers. From there we went out on a limb and wrote a two-part series on the top visual design trends in furniture and interior design in 2014. July concluded with an article covering some breaking news in the field of laboratory research: the CDC announced corrective measures to address a series of incidents and potential safety lapses at their research laboratories.
By August, the Ebola virus outbreak in Western Africa was reaching pandemic proportions, threatening world health. We took a look at two Americans who received experimental anti-Ebola serums directly from the research laboratory. Fortunately, both patients recovered. Without a widely available vaccine or drug treatment, the Ebola outbreak can only be controlled by public health measures, such as strict quarantines.
Fortunately, the concern we had in August that the Ebola virus could spread out of control through Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, has not come to pass. We’re more than happy to concede that we missed on this prediction — because as horrific as the outbreak has been in Western Africa, the consequences of it also spreading across Nigeria is too terrifying to contemplate. Then we looked at seven different classes of experimental treatments and vaccines for the Ebola virus. Since we wrote the article, many of these experimental treatments have entered into early-stage human trials, reportedly without side-effects. Finally, at the end of August, we talked about the conflicting priorities facing public health organizations like the CDC, who have to reconcile ‘moving as fast as possible’ to contain or prevent a pandemic — while at the same time moving slowly enough to ensure robust safety measures at their research laboratories to protect the general public.
We shifted gears in September as we got caught up in Apple iPhone fever. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 6, we looked at the difficulty Apple faces when trying to establish a supply-chain to build up to 80 million next generation iPhones in complete secrecy. This is probably where we had our biggest miss in terms of predictions this year. The marriage between Apple and its sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technology went horribly awry. GT Advanced Technology unexpectedly declared bankruptcy (perhaps due to delays in supplying crystals for the Apple Watch — but details are still sketchy) and now there is heavy-duty litigation between GT Advanced Technology lawyers and Apple as they try to unwind their confidential contract.
Next we looked at the impact of the announcements that Apple made, including its preview of the upcoming Apple Watch, the Apple Pay system and more. We concluded our series with a brief history of Apple’s long roots in European industrial design. At the end of September we kicked off a three-part series on renewable energy, beginning with the vast investment Germans have made in transforming their electrical grid and power generation away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. An important update to our story: this week Düsseldorf-based E.ON, one of the world’s largest investor-owned power and gas companies, announced it would divest itself of fossil and nuclear-based energy production facilities in order to focus entirely on renewable energy sources.
We kicked off October with a review of American renewable energy production and how it compares with the best practices of Europeans. Then we took a look at wind power generation and the investments required to connect remote wind resources with the electrical grid in urban areas. Next we reviewed a book on — of all things — furniture manufacturing! The book, Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town, is an interesting read and one we recommend to you! We went back on the road again — this time to Galveston Island south of Houston — to exhibit at the Gulf Coast Conference.
We took a look at the amazing advances in miniaturization and modularization for chemical analysis instruments, such as gas chromatography systems. We concluded October with a virtual visit to the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, where they are merging laboratory science, engineering and manufacturing to create amazing advances in scientific research and drug discovery, including new research tools which they call organs-on-a-chip.
The following week we were back on the road again in the Chicago area for the third time this year to visit The Assembly Show. We really appreciated the keynote address featuring the authors of the book Bringing Jobs Back to the USA, Rebuilding America’s Manufacturing through Reshoring. After Chicago, we visited what we called Pets’ Best Friend — the new Antech Diagnostics Veterinary Laboratory Testing Hub in Orlando.
Antech Diagnostics is one of Formaspace’s long-term customers, and we really enjoyed working with them to supply the laboratory furniture for their newest laboratory center, which services the Southeast region of the U.S. Next, like so many across the globe, we were transfixed by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to intercept and land the little intrepid Philae onto the fast moving Comet 67P! That brings us to last week, when we took a survey of the efforts to transition from government-led space exploration to public/private or wholly private enterprise sponsored space exploration missions.
Don’t forget that NASA‘s latest mission, the Orion’s Expiration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) is planned to
launch tomorrow (December 4, 2014) on its first, unmanned test flight. And we’re also waiting anxiously for the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco (Dec 15-19, 2014) where the European Space Agency plans to do their first in-depth debriefing on the Rosetta mission.
What’s the top story for 2014?
Now that we’ve reviewed all our articles from 2014, we’ve got to ask: what’s the story of the year? We’ll have our selections for you next week as we rank the top stories and trends of 2014 — and make some predictions for what 2015 may bring.
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Give us a call today at 500.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of stock, semi-custom and custom-made computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services. Our American-made technical furniture solutions are flexible, reconfigurable and long-lasting. In fact our 12 year, 3 work shift furniture guarantee is the best in the industry.