Home internet-linked manufacturing workstations


Adequate energy, adequate human resources, and adequate communication and transportation, are central to America as it is to civilization. As is adequate productiveness to match the needs of the nation and its place in the larger world economy.

As America is using 25% of the world's energy while producing only 3% of the world's energy, clearly energy is a key issue. Somehow, the two numbers need to be brought into equality. Many means for bringing wind and direct solar energy into the system have long been discussed elsewhere.

The current trends of approaches are necessarily to be made with minimum change involved, such as merely upping the fuel efficiency of the average car; that is an achievable goal if it is the goal instead of business profits being the prime goal; I drove a car that would meet probably 80% of the average commuter and housewife transportation needs and got 42 miles per gallon when cruising at freeway speeds, roomy inside, safe and very easy to drive, it was built 19 years ago. Surely that same vehicle could be being built today, if it was 19 years ago. But egos, franchises and excessive profiteering is in the way of doing that; and clearly we cannot overcome that problem even now.

Yet, even doubling the average car's fuel efficiency, does not bridge the great gap in energy usage vs energy supply in the nation. And in fact, the vehicular efficiency is part of a national system that can provide for the adequate energy, human resources, communication, transportation and productiveness. Putting patches such as raising fuel efficiency standards for car manufacturers, is needed as soon as possible; yet, there really needs to be an eye toward what could actually meet the goal requirements in a time frame enough to rescue the nation.

Key to the solution is the vision of the whole picture; and the endless questions of does a proposed change get us closer to the goal or not, and what does it do to the myriad other factors in the overall picture.

Some potential approaches would have a more interesting appearance if the whole picture is referenced.

The Home Workstation Approach:

Such an approach is that of bringing into reality a whole new technique for getting things done efficiently in terms of energy, time, and human resources for a new category of national productiveness, thorough to creation of an economy stimulation through creating a nationwide at-home workstation system of "kanban" subassembly and internet-coordinated and in some case partially teleoperated equipment for various kinds of manufacturing steps done at home, coordinated by small and large business management which is in turn managed by reference to the entire needs of the nation.

Home workstations, linked with internet, unified by corporate or small business management including shuffling of kanbans between homes.

Those home workstations being also set up to be on the job training workstations.

Goal for part time work at home with these home workstations. They could be used a few hours after a regular 9-5 job workday, instead of commuting to a second job to make ends meet.

The home workstations could be part time work for the unemployed, doing make-work that builds up their skills for when real work becomes available. They would be used for retired people, to get them back in the work force, at their skill level; this could boost their self esteem as they continue to contribute to the GNP even after retirement, when no full time job is practical for them. Aptitudes, rather than prior employment, would be the determiner for who does what on these home workstations.

Testing of aptitudes, much like the on the job training from the home workstations, would be done at home too.

Continued monitoring of quality and quantity of work from each workstation and person over time would provide additional data for potential for further jobs they could do, including change or upgrade to the particular type of fabrication or testing workstation.

These home workstation's design and fabrication would provide new business opportunities too. They could be of many kinds and be designed for modular add-ons for adding versatility; each would include common computer workstation functions much like already exist, as linked through the high speed internet, along with small scale tooling for manufacturing subassembly steps, some of which could be done teleoperated from elsewhere in some steps such as micro-assembly parts, analogous to electronic "pick-and-place" assembly of tiny surface mount parts on circuit boards common for decades. drill presses and similar small scale machine tools would be part of the workstations, as well as precision measuring equipment, especially suited for the home workstations primarily involved in quality control.

Instead of the commuter intensive transportation system we now have, this would then change to a delivery-intensive transportation system. The movement of the "kanbans" or packages of subassemblies between the various home workstations would become the domain of the delivery service providers; initially this could be the existing carriers such as the US postal service, UPS, Fed-Ex etc, as well as more local enterprising delivery such as by teenagers with small delivery trucks working within a smaller neighborhood subset. The tracking of location and movement of these "kanban" packages would be a prime function, possibly utilizing GPS tracking systems.

(* Note: the term "kanban" is adopted from the Japanese "Just-In-Time" - JIT - highly efficient manufacturing system begun in the 1980's.)

Existing types of video-chat systems can provide much of the face-to-face type interactions as needed between management and employees. Existing homes often have rudimentary computer, much less versatile, workstations for internet and game use with computers via the internet; such sites would be useful for addition with the workstation locations. The same combination of computer and manufacturing equipment of the workstations would also be adapted to on-the-job training and generalized home education, expanding the capabilities of the employees right at their workstations. The more versatile the workstations, the greater the potential for performing a wider range of kinds of processes as becomes needed by the national productivity's evolving need set.

Intended Results:

This concept has potential to bring back competitive manufacturing to the United States, through massively boosting productivity, by enabling part time work at home to match the abilities of all classes of people including retired seniors and young people, changing the transportation system needs drastically through elimination of much of the automotive commute system, and being more time-and-energy efficient due to the elimination of the daily commute to a worksite.

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The "Employment Agreement" that actually is to kill technological innovation in America

Although I endeavor to keep my posts fairly clear-headed and understandingly descriptive of the various sides of issues involved, my long standing irritation and frustration about the mechanisms whereby corporate business typically suppresses all technological ideas except those towards its specific products and then only if in total control of by those specific businessmen, this is a post where I have not first completely leveled my frustration and irritation at what I see as a major wrong-doing by the many large technical-oriented corporations which I worked for in my career in electronics; and no doubt the same thing occurs in most, if not all other large corporations in this country. And to be fair and balanced, indeed there are concerns that are probably valid for the corporations too, but the result is the over-reacting by the more powerful in the contest; and in the case of corporate business vs an impoverished individual, guess who is the more powerful.

Back in the Eighties I even wrote up what seemed to be a fair way to deal with the problem, but I could find no way to get it to the attention of people; even corporate management would be unable to evaluate it objectively as it put them in as the villains for the most part; and anyway they were too powerful to need to make any concessions. It did seem a potential solution; and indeed, if extended far enough, could supplant the now effectively rather useless patent system. Perhaps later I will add to this blog a resurrected version of that suggested solution.

For now, I am composing and posting what I see as the various aspects of a major problem in America; one that has not gone away simply by ignoring it; and I have seen it in a lot of instances over the past four decades and more.

Probably another reason that I have not written extensively on this major problem which the US faces, is that I would face more corporate-political wrath, and currently there is much rule by a run-amok business culture led by only the blinding guiding vision of maximum profits for the least effort... not to mention some egotistical elitism often involved in the mix. And corporate business can be ruthless toward the individual. (Another subject that comes to mind once again now is that of "Does might make right?" but I'm not going there now; one ultra-complex problem at a time please, if possible; even if they are somewhat interrelated.) So, here goes:

Contrary to an old adage, the world does not beat a path to one's door to buy your technological creative goodie from you; although you might return home some day and find it gone from your file cabinets and erased from your computer files; and more amazingly, though it may take years, eventually the last bits even gone missing from your bank safe deposit box (such as when banks buy each other out and physically move the bank with its safe deposit boxes; or, one gets foggy-minded unrelentingly about making the payment for the safe deposit box on time and rush to the bank to find they have drilled out your lock even though somehow they had ignored that you had finally made the payment on time.) These things have indeed happened to me; and "they" would no doubt now smugly say "prove it."

"Industrial espionage" is routinely and almost openly practiced among corporations, to find out what their competitors are up to, so as to help guide their own business plans; thus sicing the operators on an unemployed individual unprotected out there, is duck soup to those operators, masters of the arts of secretive snoop and deception.

Also, average people nowadays seem to require advertising sales pitches and some store to buy at; otherwise, there is nothing of interest to them. And, to businessmen, apparently they think that potentially competitive concepts must be suppressed, hidden and destroyed, so that they themselves will be able to continue to thrive.

It takes a large group to physically manifest and get a new thing to market; so it is reasonable for an idea-person to seek to get into good terms with a corporate business in hopes of figuring out how to communicate one's great ideas to the leaders of the business, and surely they would see the value and welcome one into the fold as one who helps guide what the corporate business does. Or so my naive Aspie mentality thought, rather stubbornly believing in the eventual wisdom and integrity of guiding businesspeople, corporation after corporation showed my that that image of business management was quite wrong, not just in the first unlucky try but in the other jobs with other companies too. Anyway, I also had to earn a living at the same time, so working in some lowly position (such as an engineering technician) for a corporation so as to have the opportunity to show them one's creative ability through ideas for new products for them so as to make things better for everybody, amazingly got automatically virtually destroyed when walking in through their door, when the so-called "Employment Agreement" had to be signed as a condition of employment, a legal document that declares that all of the employee's ideas and inventions of any kind whatsoever freely belong only to the employer (and the employer had no responsibility toward the creative ideas or to the employee, for their objective evaluation and development and marketing; the ideas were simply owned automatically and shelved, out of reach now by anybody.) Sign it or don't work; no work thus no way to pay bills or buy groceries. So, sign and hope they have better sense in reality. Nope; it generally was found to be a "casting pearls before swine" type result. (but not always; a few recognized and acknowledged my talent along the way, very rarely.) Lots of my concepts and ideas got ignored or rejected, and rarely did they later acknowledge that many years later the very thing I had earlier offered, was made into working reality by someone else, who additionally gave no credit to me. The company people were totally absorbed on the track on which they started, and to them the "employment agreement document" was just to ensure no one stole their pre-loaded company goodies. It all maintained the illusion that the company personnel, particularly management, were the only ones capable of improving the company's output, thus guaranteeing security in their jobs. Don't rock the boat, it is hard enough for them to keep all their ducks in a row.

So at this point, I can see a consistent pattern that ought to be noticed by Americans if they are going to fix the big mess we are no longer just potentially in; the mess is shouted on the front pages of the news nowadays. It is possible that the greatest cause of the collapse of America's innovative capacity, quite possibly the root cause of the "sick economy" recession ongoing, has been the unobvious so-called "Employment Agreement" required of most corporate technical workers. This "Employment Agreement" is a condition of employment at nearly all corporations, and stifles the grass roots of innovation, the people who are actually involved in the creation of technologies, unlike most manager mentalities, who are the ones directing what can be done by the technical types. The technical type workers, having to work for some corporation for a living, have all their rights to their spontaneous innovative ideas taken away from them automatically by their employers as a condition of employment; and the employers do not even need to take any action to develop those ideas they have forced away from their employees. Thus the stimulus for ideas for spontaneous inventions, the starting point for all great innovations as well as small ones, is crushed, and the technical types know it from when they have to start to work. Some states had passed laws against corporations to prevent them from controlling employees innovative ideas unless done as part of the paid assigned job; but the big corporations failed to obey the law, saying the employee would have to fight the company in court, and employees are there to earn a paycheck and have no money for lawyers and a big court battle over each little idea. Thus, the situation remained the same.

By crushing the baseline of innovation of Yankee Ingenuity, and having done it for probably half a century in America, the spirit of innovation has been crushed out of Americans.

The psychology of why corporations have done this is likely that managers do not understand spontaneous innovation, and see it as only interruptions to their planned out paths of bringing their predetermined products to market, is what the managers are paid for; and to make the implication that the employees will be stealing the company's ideas, makes them smug and covers up the theft the corporation is doing of the employees ideas, and the corporation has the money and power to control what happens. (I recall only meeting one employee who was such an idea-thief; and he was such a master of social deception that he e weaseled himself into the good graces of top management, while crushing the careers of the other employees from whom he had stolen their ideas.)

It is a real mess; and only America as America can fix it, since the corporations won't fix it because they see spontaneous innovation as something the managers rarely can do (and sometimes egotistically reinforce that attitude by using the word 'creative" in context to imply the meaning of "creative" is equal to "lying"); and they must keep their top esteem to keep their plush lives, managing to keep a steady-as-she-goes business as usual mode; that is their job. No wild cards of spontaneous inventions are allowed to foul up the nicely planned ultimate achievement of the company's original goals. But all the time, all the baseline innovations that the technical employees have as their nature, are getting told "NO!" at the instant of their birth.

Thus the only innovations that come to reality are those necessary to produce the originally-foresee goal product of the company. And, often that goal product is designed to make the company the most profit, not to provide the customer with the best product for the money, so even innovations the employees have are not welcome even if they relate directly to the job they are to do, blocked because it would be a disruption to the course of action laid out by management.

Is there a way to fix the problem, even if there were a way to get the corporate management to actually comply? That is a subject for some of the best of Yankee Ingenuity, if any sparks of it can be found still alive and functional. Possibly it can be declared (and fully somehow enforce) that all such "employment agreements" are absolutely null and void, and that the corporation is quite able to protect the innovations that it has actually employed and paid to be developed, through their virtual franchises in the field. Also, somehow every employee would need to be made fully aware of the new freedom thus given, which had long been crushed out of them, along with the awareness to not use company resources toward innovative ideas other than the minor costs of holding onto the idea until one can get to where the idea can be fully written to be remembered; ideas usually happen at any hour anywhere, unrelated to what is being done at the moment, and thus can also sometimes occur when on paid time at work; an idea often has to be jotted down at the instant of conception, ans the integration into a solution which the back of the mind has been working on, soon gets overwritten by ongoing attentions to teh tasks at hand. So those few moments are merely a "break time activity" to jot down the spontaneous inspiration for innovation.

Benevolent corporations could then find way to be a partner to employees in their innovative spirit renewed, as a company benefit, with invitations for the employer to be a partner in the development of the new inventions that would spontaneously start happening. But, it may take a long time for people to allow their creative spark to grow back into life again, even if it has not been stamped out completely.

And so then, with the grass roots innovator types having their hands now untied, eventually America can be grow to be the great innovator once again, something desperately needed to pull us out of the recession. Even if management then finds there are a few more things to do, so as to make a tiny space for the innovations' births and not strangle their growth; meantime keep on getting the corporate job done, even that might be done better with the employees no longer being so frustrated, and with renewed belief in a good working relationship with the corporation and its management staff, no longer feeling so much in a master-slave mode ruled by blind tyrants; but instead now as mutual cooperators understanding the special skills of each kind of person, whether manager or technical producer, all are needed to make it all happen. And those new sparks of spontaneous innovation of all kinds, can again have a chance at life, and some will become the new creations America needs to survive and thrive, originally totally unguessed by management.

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