Archive | April 2015

Do We Really Need a New Smart Phone Every Two Years?

We all know about natural resource scarcity. However, as brand companies make consumers believe they need a new smart phone every two years, today’s global supply chains are responsible for incredibly large amounts of electronic waste. A new United Nations University report, titled The Global E-waste Monitor – 2014, details e-waste generation by region. The total amount of e-waste generated in 2014 is 41.8 million metric tonnes (Mt) and it is forecasted to increase to 50 Mt in 2018. This e-waste comprises 12.8 Mt of small equipment (e.g., toasters, video cameras), 11.8 Mt of large equipment (e.g., washing machines, photovoltaic panels), 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment, 6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (e.g., mobile phones, computers), and 1.0 Mt of lamps. With 32% of the world’s total, the United States (7.1 Mt) and China (6.0 Mt) are responsible for most of the e-waste overall. The top per capita producers, however, are Norway (28.3 kg), Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

Baldé, C.P., Wang, F., Kuehr, R., Huisman, J. (2015). The Global E-waste Monitor – 2014. United Nations University, IAS – SCYCLE, Bonn, Germany

Eight Technologies Redefining the Future of Supply Chains

The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report is out now. It was published by MHI, a U.S. material handling, logistics and supply chain association, in collaboration with Deloitte. The authors argue that “companies that continue to rely on traditional supply chain models will likely find it increasingly difficult to stay competitive and meet customer expectations for orders that are complete, accurate and on-time”. Based on survey data, the study, thus, analyzes technologies and innovations that are transforming supply chains around the world. Particularly, the following sets of technologies are covered by the study: (1) maturing technologies (inventory and network optimization, sensors and automatic identification, cloud computing and storage, robotics and automation), (2) growth technologies (predictive analytics, wearable and mobile technology), and (3) emerging technologies (3D printing, driverless vehicles and drones). The authors believe that “the innovations and technologies highlighted in this report have the potential to provide step-change improvements in both cost and service”.

Are We Betraying Humboldt’s Ideals?

Some people argue that the ultimate goal of university teaching should be vocational qualification. Similarly, in the Bologna Declaration (1999), the European Ministers of Education agreed that undergraduate studies shall “be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification”. These arguments are certainly opposed to the Humboldtian model. About 200 years ago, Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote: “There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life.” Universities have to decide between two perspectives of academic education: between – as the philosopher Nida-Rümelin boldly put it – “McKinsey” and “Humboldt”.

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