There are many lessons that we can learn from the Andretti-Herta Team’s approach to problem solving and reaching their goal, in this case to win the 2016 Indianapolis 500 race by crossing the finish line first without running out of fuel.Read More
Recently, my wife and I watched The Martian, Ridley Scott’s movie starring A-list actor Matt Damon. In this thrilling science fiction drama, NASA astronaut Mark Watney, portrayed by Damon, found himself stranded on Mars, completely alone and with no way to signal Earth 140 million miles away that he’s alive. Against insurmountable odds and with dwindling supplies, Watney refuses to be the first man to die on Mars.
To survive, Watney draws upon his ingenuity, his incredible resourcefulness, his engineering and botany skills, and a dogged determination. He solves seemingly unsolvable problems one after the other in a masterful display of intelligence, wit and engineering prowess.
In the science fiction novel The Martian by Andy Weir, the lead character Watney is portrayed as having earned master’s degrees in botany and mechanical engineering, yet the movie reveals Watney as having a Ph.D in botany with no mention of an engineering degree.
Whether it be the movie or the novel, with a botany degree and/or a mechanical engineering degree, it’s clear that Watney is one thing – a master at solving problems.
When failure brought the surety of death, Watney solved problems. And on Mars, alone and left to his own devices for his very existence, he engineered his way to survive and ultimately be rescued.
As an engineer, I solve mechanical problems for a living. Sometimes the solutions are simple and obvious, but often times they are as mind-bending as trying to find ways to live on Mars.
I’d like to think I could engineer my way home from an unsustainable planet called Mars, but that’s the folly of science fiction. For now, I’ll keep unleashing my creativity as if my life depended on it from the safety of the planet I call home – Earth.
Rick Miller is president / sole owner of Innovative Drive Solution LLC, an engineering consulting firm specializing in gears and power transmission devices.
Indianapolis, Indiana - Rick Miller announces the issuance to him by the U.S. Patent Office of a patent for a torque sharing drive and torque sharing process.
The patent is for invention No. 9,145,956 issued on September 29, 2015. Miller’s invention is intended to be used for the lifting and lowering of off-shore oil rig platforms.
The latest patent is the second of Miller’s inventions and a third patent is pending. The U.S. Patent Office issued Miller Patent No. 4549449 in 1985 for his original design of a gear reducer. This invention is a two-speed hydraulically shifted planetary speed reducer serving industries such as construction equipment, road building and general industrial.
Rick Miller is president and sole owner of Innovative Drive Solutions, LLC, and Indianapolis-based mechanical engineering design consulting firm. Miller has 40 years of experience in the gear industry, including 37 years with Oerlikon Fairfield Mfg. Co. in Lafayette, Indiana, the last 16 years as chief engineer. With more than 300 original designs, Miller helps clients in the United States and around the globe with his gear and gearbox design and analysis expertise, creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving abilities.
Miller earned a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering technology from Purdue University. He is a member of Society of Automotive Engineers International, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and vice-chairman of the Vehicle Gearing Committee of the American Gear Manufacturers Association.
Innovative Drive Solutions, LLC is proud member of the American Gear Manufacturers Association. To learn more, visit InnovativeDriveSolutions.com.
Uber and Airbnb are examples of what has come to be known as the “Sharing Economy.” Uber doesn’t own a fleet of cars, but they operate a widely successful ride service using privately-owned cars driven by their owners. Airbnb does not own any hotels or bed and breakfasts; they use local hosts in 190+ countries who rent out their own rooms, apartments and homes. One source of their success is being able to quickly and efficiently connect those desiring their services with those able to provide these same services.
During a trip to Long Beach, California recently, I marveled at Captain Jonnie Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit. At night, Lee offers renters the opportunity to sleep on his yacht for a fee. By day, he uses the same watercraft for his burial at sea service. As an ordained minister, Lee can also be hired to perform marriages while sailing on his vessel. He’s cleverly found additional sources of income that would not have been captured.
Shared access to products or services is a not new concept.
A favorite and frequent destination of mine is the Volo Auto Museum located in Volo, Illinois - a suburb of Chicago. As a lover of classic and muscle cars, I’ve long known about and admired Volo’s unique business model. Nearly all cars displayed are done so on consignment – the cars are owned by prospective sellers hoping to attract interested buyers who visit the museum. Volo charges the car owners a storage fee; collects an entrance fee to tour the museum and look at cars owned by others, and when a consigned car is sold the museum collects a 10 percent auction fee.
In its favor, Volo’s business plan is based on getting others to bear/share many of the costs normally associated with owning and operating a traditional auto museum while capturing significant additional income in the process. It’s a brush stroke of business brilliance; shades of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence for him.
The rise of social media platforms, Internet and alternate sources of information has enabled many industries and individuals to reinvent themselves, many times by connecting prospective buyers and sellers. Recently I heard of a company that empowers its employees to be original and “blow sh!t up” by pushing beyond limits and do things in bigger, better and different ways. Many, if not most old line industries, are and will be subject to some level of disruption and innovation. If they don’t embrace it, their competitors will or already has.
The Dead tree media is another example. The newspaper industry is dying right before our eyes. Competition has arisen digitally online where the content is free and no subscription is required. As a result, traditional newspapers are either going digital themselves or ending publication.
Friction is being eliminated in the marketplace because information is easy and instantly accessible and removes the need for gate keepers and third party sources. Information asymmetry, where one party has more or better information than the other, creating an imbalance of power in transactions, is also being eliminated for the same reasons.
The on-demand or ‘gig’ economy provides labor flexibility. These ideas and others lead to what some are calling the “post ownership economy”.
Today an author can publish his or her own book for almost no cost and as low of a print quantity of one. And there are many options to fund a project’s start-up costs through crowd funding and crowd sourcing. So an inventor is able to create or manufacture a product or provide a service using other people’s money.
Many items that used to require a large company to manufacture can be created with a 3D printer or other type of additive manufacturing device.
The heavily vertically integrated company of the past is or should be experiencing the effects of these changes in the capabilities available in the marketplace at all stages of the process. Those that are smart and successful will take advantage of these opportunities as they arise and embrace new technologies and new ways of thinking and doing business.
As a consulting engineer, I’m often called in to help an organization navigate its future through engineered solutions. It takes a lot of creativity and staying abreast of novel ideas and new technologies which can be applied.
You may not aspire to have a yacht for rent with a unique business plan, but no matter the size, every organization can and should evolve and improve their methods of providing and selling their goods and services. How are you and your company using new technologies and finding new ways of doing business?
Creativity doesn’t just happen. It’s a discipline. It’s intentional and when invited in, it’s a tool you can use to help solve simple and complex problems. As a design engineer, I tap into my creative self on every project. This includes gathering ideas, tools and methods needed to solve problems in an imaginative manner.Read More