How Technology is Improving the Environment

This is an outstanding article from Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, about some of the positive aspects of technology’s impact on our world. Here is a teaser from the article:

“US Geological Survey data through 2010 shows that water use has now declined below the level of 1970, while production of corn, for example, has tripled 

Thanks to Russ Roberts (twitter handle econtalker) at EconTalk.org for featuring Jesse Ausubel in the 8-24-2015 podcast titled: Jesse Ausubel on Agriculture, Technology, and the Return of Nature

Link to the original article: http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/issue-5/the-return-of-nature

How Technology Liberates the Environment

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Despite predictions of runaway ecological destruction, beginning in the 1970s, Americans began to consume less and tread more lightly on the planet. Over the past several decades, through technological innovation, Americans now grow more food on less acres, eat more sources of meat that are less land-intrusive, and used water more efficiently so that water use is lower than in 1970. The result: lands that were once used for farms and logging operations are now returning as forests and grasslands, along with wildlife, such as the return of humpback whales off the shores of New York City (pictured above). As Jesse Ausubel elucidates in a new essay for Breakthrough Journal, as humans depend less on nature for the well-being, the more nature they have returned. Photo Credit: Artie Raslich / Getty Images.

Spring 2015 | Jesse H. Ausubel

Toyota Production System

The “Thinking” Production System:

TPS as a winning strategy for developing people in the global manufacturing environment

At the 2003 Automotive Parts System Solution Fair held in Tokyo, June 18, 2003, Teruyuki Minoura, Toyota’s an aging director of global purchasing at the time, talked about his experiences with TPS (the Toyota Production System), and what it means for suppliers and for the future of the auto industry.

At the 2003 Automotive Parts System Solution Fair, held in Tokyo, June 18, 2003, Teruyuki Minoura, then-managing director of global purchasing, Toyota Motor Corporation, talked about his experiences with TPS (the Toyota Production System), and what it means for suppliers and for the future of the auto industry.

Teruyuki MinouraTeruyuki Minoura is confident that the long-standing principles of the Toyota Production System will not change in the future, and that TPS will be able to meet any challenge. He noted that the system originally emerged through a trial-and-error approach aimed at solving practical problems and meeting the needs of the company. Recalling painful memories of the labor dispute of 1950 that destroyed so many friendships, he observed, “Businesses suffer if efforts are devoted to raising productivity when the products themselves cannot sell.” It was through such experiences, that the basic concept of just-in-time was born.

In simplest terms, Just-in-time is “all about producing only what’s needed and transferring only what’s needed,” says Minoura. Instead of the old top-down “push” system, it represented a change to a “pull” system where workers go and fetch only what is required. Tools, including the kanban (information card), andon (display board), and poka yoke (error prevention) were developed to implement the pull system. But, Minoura warns “simply introducing kanban cards or andon boards doesn’t mean you’ve implemented the Toyota Production System, for they remain nothing more than mere tools. The new information technologies are no exception, and they should also be applied and implemented as tools.”

Early in his career, Minoura worked under Taiichi Ohno, recognized as the creator of the Toyota Production System. Ohno, through tireless trial and error, managed to put into practice a “pull” system that stopped the factory producing unnecessary items. But Minoura observes that it was only by developing this “loose collection of techniques” into a fully-fledged system, dubbed the Toyota Production System or TPS, that they were able to deploy this throughout the company.