Great article, Sana! This is a fascinating deep-dive into the many ways digital technology can increase student safety when it comes to school transportation. Having worked on a 9-month consulting project with the Pittsburgh Public Schools on their bus transportation optimization, I can agree wholeheartedly that school districts have a long way to go before they fully take advantage of all the benefits that digital technology can confer on their transportation operations. Interestingly, my work with PPS and my research on other U.S. school districts highlighted an arguably even more fundamental benefit to using digital technology: route and tiering optimization. Such efforts have the potential to save the average urban school district millions of dollars each year, which could be reinvested in programming that actually improves student academic outcomes. In Pittsburgh, we found over $5M in potential savings. As a more recent example, Boston Public Schools just launched a city-wide hackathon this past summer to find ways to optimize its bus transportation using digital technology. As this article explains , the winning team found opportunities to save BPS tens of millions of dollars by rerouting busses and eliminating unnecessary vehicles. Imagine what that money could do if reinvested back into student safety and achievement! All of this brings me back to your last paragraph: are transportation efficiency and student wellbeing mutually exclusive, or can digitization actually improve both?
I had never thought of 3D printing as a way for companies to overcome isolationism until now – thanks for the fascinating post, Caue! Overall, I agree with the sentiments above that 3D printing in general has tremendous potential to transform a range of manufacturing processes across a number of industries. That said, I’m also a bit skeptical about the potential for 3D printing to truly de-risk GE’s supply chain in the face of trade restrictions. For one, 3D printing still requires a range of raw material inputs, of which some would presumably still need to be imported into the foreign country where the 3D printer was being operated. Second, while I’m admittedly no expert in 3D printing, I suspect that this technology would be most useful for printing relatively small parts and sub-assemblies. Thus, producing large aircraft engines and gas turbines abroad would still demand a bit of “conventional” manufacturing when it comes to assembling 3D-printed WIP into a finished product. This article I found seems to support that concern . Even if that’s not the case—that is, even if GE’s intention is truly to use 3D printers large enough to produce an entire finished product at once—then I would expect the importation and/or construction of the 3D printers themselves would introduce even more risk in the face of trade restrictions. All this being said, your article is a great impetus to learn more about this exciting topic. Well done!
Great article, Jack. The example of Mars is especially interesting given its private ownership, the relatively significant size of its financial commitment (i.e., $1B), the context behind this commitment (i.e., negative press), and its NGO partner (i.e., WRI). Like others, I have some skepticism about the intention behind this commitment for all four reasons above. Mars’ private ownership frees it from the pressure to generate returns to shareholders from these supply chain improvements, so I’d be wary of expecting them to produce any proof of economic viability. The $1B dollar amount seems like a figure that Mars’ management derived more because it generates positive shock-value than because they actually have a solid plan for how to invest all $1B. The fact that Mars ranked so low in its sustainability ratings prior to the commitment also suggests an ulterior greenwashing motive. Lastly, the partnership with WRI raises similar concerns, given the positive PR benefit Mars gets from being associated with WRI’s positive environmental track record and the revenue diversification WRI gets from displacing public funding with corporate donors (http://www.wri.org/about/wri-2016-funding-commitments). Skepticism aside, however, I’m glad to see large-scale companies like Mars at least putting skin in the game like this—particularly when climate change and supply chain sustainability have a direct effect on both their core business operations and the communities in which they operate.
Great article, Ben! As others have mentioned, the questions you pose at the end are fascinating. I generally agree with the sentiments shared above that over the long-term Ford should try to de-risk its supply chain on a global scale (i.e., expand production in China) in the face of NAFTA uncertainties. However, reading through the comments made me wonder about some of the disadvantages with this approach. For one, currency fluctuations between the yen and USD might be hard for Ford to absorb . I also wouldn’t understate the economic welfare implications from lost jobs in the U.S., which we’ve seen play out with auto plant closures in Europe, Canada, and Australia. Regulatory uncertainty abroad should also give Ford pause when considering where to move/build its auto plants. The Chinese government, for example, requires foreign auto-makers to enter into joint ventures with Chinese companies and may introduce regulation that puts pressure on Ford to shift even more towards electric vehicles . Ford would need to weigh these new risks against the risks it would mitigate by moving production outside of NAFTA countries.
I’m encouraged by the way Starbucks has been addressing sustainability not just as a CSR/reputation/greenwashing play but as a core business concern. From my work in social impact consulting, I’ve seen too many companies settle for the former and overlook the latter. Reading about the many measurable risks across Starbucks’ supply chain convinces me that they have no choice but to act. The biggest question for me, though, is how. While they seem to be addressing this issue from multiple angles (e.g., crop resilience, renewable energy, policy change), I think they could do more. Criticism about its coffee cup waste, for example, should prompt Starbucks to consider expanding bring-your-own-mug initiatives and introducing bio-based materials (http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/behavior_change/hannah_furlong/criticism_over_coffee_cup_waste_leads_starbucks_discou). Coffee also has a very high water footprint (https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/06/10/starbucks-coffee-green-or-greenwashed), but Starbucks doesn’t seem to be addressing water availability in any meaningful way. Perhaps most of all, Starbucks could be doing more to leverage its brand and move other multinational companies towards prioritizing sustainability as a core business concern. Starbucks has a significant opportunity to help corporations see environmental stewardship as a way to create “shared value” in their supply chains.
Great post! I completely agree that there’s tremendous potential for digital solutions like Enli to improve population health outcomes. The key – as you mentioned – is distinguishing the data that is valuable from the data that’s not. What type of information (if captured in a digital platform like Enli) would truly be helpful in enabling providers to make different decisions and driving changes in patient behavior? My sense from prior casework in the healthcare sector is that (1) there’s a lot of noise around basic demographic characteristics that a platform like Enli would have to sift through, (2) some of the most valuable data is not publicly available and thus would have to be entered by the patient/provider, and (3) having more/better information – i.e., through dashboards and scorecards – does not by itself equate to optimal decision-making by the patient and provider. To me, these are the biggest barriers to preventing the majority of diseases through proactive population health management tools like Enli.
Your question about differentiation and competitive advantage is also spot-on. The population health management space is already extremely crowded (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/lists/70-population-health-management-companies-to-know-2017.html), and these platforms are only as valuable as their scale. I suspect Enli’s competitive edge going forward will be less about its “product” and more about the “place/partnership” it chooses to scale-up adoption. For example, are there ways to partner with health insurance companies in order to get access to large provider networks, or team up with large employers who may already sponsor their employees’ health insurance and have an interest in improving employee wellness?
Overall, a fascinating topic and an intriguing company!