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Hitachi Develops Motor without Rare Earths

by APICS Staff | N/A 2012 | 0 | 0

Researchers at Japanese high-technology manufacturer Hitachi have developed an electric motor that does not require rare-earth minerals in its construction, the Associated Press reports. The aims of the project are to cut costs and lessen dependence on China for the materials. The high prices of rare earths are convincing other Japanese firms, including Toyota, to work toward the same goals. 

Most motors that use permanent magnets in their operation contain rare-earth materials such as neodymium and dysprosium. Demand for these components is rising, in part due to the growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles in production. Japan and other countries seek to reduce their dependence on China for rare earths. 

China currently controls more than 90 percent of the global production of rare earths. Recently, it has begun restricting both production and exports of the materials. In 2010, it temporarily cut off exports during a territory dispute with Japan. The United States, Japan, and the European Union lodged a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization in March of this year, asserting that China unfairly favors its own industries by restricting imports.

Representatives at Hitachi say the motor will begin commercial production in 2014.

US Natural Gas Boom Boosting Domestic Manufacturing 

Natural gas has become cheaper and more readily available, thanks to increasing use of extraction techniques such as horizontal drilling and fracking. This greater supply of gas is reducing energy imports and encouraging some companies to return to the United States after relocating overseas, reports the New York Times

The American petrochemical industry, for example, uses natural gas as both a fuel and a primary raw material for many products, including bulk chemicals, fertilizers, pool liners, building insulation, and food packaging. “The US has a competitive advantage when oil is seven times as expensive as natural gas, but now we have more like a 50-to-1 advantage,” says Kevin Swift, chief economist at the American Chemistry Council. 

According to a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, high rates of gas recovery from shale could result in a million new manufacturing jobs by 2025. This “has the potential to spark a manufacturing renaissance in the US, including billions in cost savings, a significant number of new jobs and a greater investment in US plants,” says Robert McCutcheon, United States industrial products leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

But there is concern over the safety and environmental impact of fracking. Some environmentalists say it can contaminate drinking water, while others are concerned with the potential for methane emission, a powerful, naturally occurring greenhouse gas.

Chinese Consumers Most Likely to Switch to Ethical Brands

According to a growing body of research, efforts to improve working conditions in factories may resonate more with Chinese consumers than those in the United States, USA Today reports. In one survey of more than 10,00 consumers from 10 countries, about three out of four Chinese respondents say they would switch brands to one associated with a good cause, assuming price and quality stayed the same. But only about half of respondents in other countries, including the United States, indicated the same. 

Similarly, when asked if they would buy a company’s product when they knew the company acted irresponsibly, 83 and 50 percent of respondents in China and the United States would refuse, respectively. 

Another study of more than 7,000 consumers in 13 countries indicated that people in China, India, Brazil, and Mexico were more likely to switch products to support certain causes than people in the United States. 

What consumers say and what they do can be two different things, however. “Corporate responsibility is rarely factored into consumer buying decisions,” says Tim Bajarin, president of high-tech research firm Creative Strategies. 

The question is what it will take until a product becomes so controversial that consumers will stop using it, says Henk Campher, senior vice president in corporate responsibility at public relations firm Edelman. There is currently no product “positioned as the ethical alternative” to Apple in the consumer electronics industry, which means many consumers will not consider switching, despite any bad publicity the company may receive.

Mark your calendars! It's time to start getting ready for the 2012 APICS conferences. Visit apics.org/events for information.

  • Best of the Best S&OP conferences, presented by APICS and IBF 
    May 10-11, 2012
    London, England 
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  • June 14-15, 2012
    Chicago, Illinois, USA
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  • 2012 APICS International Conference & Expo 
    October 14-16, 2012
    Denver, Colorado, USA
    Colorado Convention Center

Upcoming Webinar Event

APICS Extra Live: Strategic Imperatives for Improving Supply Networks 
Presented by: Darren Pitts, CPIM, CSCP
Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Kraft Foods

Date: April 19, 2012
Time: 1:00­ p.m.-2:00 p.m. CT

Attend APICS Extra Live to gain deeper insight into the March/April APICS magazine article “On the Map.” Author Darren Pitts, CPIM, CSCP, will discuss tactics for developing superior supply chains through effective mapping, strategic change management, and appropriate education and training.

In this APICS Extra Live, you will learn how to

  • embrace the reality of transformation as a business imperative 
  • recognize the value in visually mapping your supply network
  • understand why operations-savvy talent must be developed.

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APICS Vendor Webcast | S&OP: American Italian Pasta Company’s Recipe for Success 

Sponsored by Logility
May 2, 2012 | 11:00 a.m.-noon ET 
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 American Italian Pasta Company’s Recipe for Success

Presented by: 
Brandon Jobe, Director of Sales and Operations Planning, American Italian Pasta Company
Brian Vazquez, Senior Business Consultant, Logility

American Italian Pasta Company (AIPC) had a familiar story where the sales and operations teams were functioning independently within the organization.  This dynamic caused slow reaction times to changes in the industry, limited visibility, and frequent misunderstandings which lead to long lead times, excess inventory and plenty of frustration. 

Brandon Jobe, Director of Sales and Operations Planning at AIPC and Brian Vazquez, Senior Business Consultant with Logility will outline how American Italian Pasta implemented a S&OP process to create a more open and trusting environment, coupled with Voyager Solutions to collaborate on market demand, customer requirements and production needs to boost service levels, reduce costs and slash inventory obsolescence.

Top Learning Objectives: In this session, you will learn how AIPC

  • Significantly reduced inventory levels
  • Increased forecast accuracy
  • Increased customer service levels

Webinars On Demand Available

APICS Extra Live: Real-World Strategies for Improving Operational Efficiency
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APICS Extra Live: Racing Toward Operational Success with Kaizen
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APICS Extra Live: The People Factor in Supply Chain Excellence 
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APICS Members-Only Webinar: Operations Management Résumé Benchmarking Survey Résumé Structure and Organization
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APICS Extra Live: Advancing Your Supply Chain with Foreign-Trade Zones 
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APICS Extra Live: Merchandising for a Lean Supply Chain 
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APICS Extra Live: Keep Projects Flowing with Visual Project Management 
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APICS Members-Only Webinar: Résumé Formatting Best Practices

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Understand challenges and identify areas where senior management and operations management can work together to maximize the effectiveness of your supply chain strategy. Access this APICS folio to delve into critical supply chain functions and tasks that may not be effectively supporting your supply chain strategy.

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Mitigate and anticipate supply chain risks at your organization—from rising and falling demand to natural disasters, market uncertainty, and varying levels of trust among supply chain partners. Purchase this APICS folio to identify tools to deal with risk at your organization.

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Predicting the future generally is thought impossible; yet, S&OP users seek to do just that by strategically directing businesses to achieve competitive advantage. Purchase this APICS folio to understand how you can enable your organization’s bottom-line effectiveness with S&OP.

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Use APICS career packs to understand your career path and next steps, evaluate candidate qualifications, or establish consistency across your organization's hiring.

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  • Individuals seeking to advance in one of the career pack job title areas can evaluate their knowledge and skills, plan their next steps, and identify areas for improvement and growth.
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Download the APICS members-only report 2011 S&OP Practices and Challenges and purchase the APICS Folio: How to Be an S&OP Champion  
Predicting the future generally is thought impossible; yet, S&OP users seek to do just that by strategically directing businesses to achieve competitive advantage, and—more and more—are expected to do so to enable their employers' bottom line profitability.

Supply chain professionals: Take the APICS CSCP Learning System Free Demo today 
By earning the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation, you will demonstrate significant commitment to your profession and your career, distinguish yourself as an industry expert, and excel with your newly acquired specialized knowledge.

APICS CPIM exam study options
APICS offers a variety of study options to help candidates prepare for the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) exams and enables them to choose the option that matches their preferred learning method.

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For students who learn best in a classroom-based environment, there are instructor-led courses.
Find courses at your local APICS chapter or find an APICS partner outside North America to find courses in your area.

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