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Developments to Watch
THE BALDRIGE'S OTHER REWARD
DESPITE THE HIGHLY PUBLICIZED PROBLEMS OF one winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award--Houston's Wallace Co., which went into Chapter 11--the efforts of implementing a quality program usually pay off, especially for investors. The 16 winners since 1988 have outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index by 3 to 1 in terms of return on investment (chart).
Even the 48 companies that didn't take home a Baldrige but made it to the final round of judging have bested the S&P 500 by 2 to 1, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Science & Technology, which each April invests an imaginary $1,000 in the winners and finalists of the Baldrige Quality Award competition.EDITED BY OTIS PORTReturn to top
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IS THIS WHY SOME BACTERIA LIKE IT HOT?
AN UNUSUAL COMPOUND that contains phosphorus may help unravel the mystery of how certain forms of life can thrive at temperatures near the boiling point of water--and how industry might exploit this remarkable heat tolerance in a new generation of enzymes.
The compound, called DIP, has just been found in Thermotoga maritima, a bacterium that flourishes near undersea volcanic vents.
DIP had previously been spotted in archaea, a recently discovered family of microorganisms that love being in hot water. Its presence in another form of heat-loving life is strong evidence that DIP probably plays a role in insulating biological systems from the effects of heat, according to Michael W. Adams, a biochemist at the University of Georgia and a member of the research team that found DIP in the first bacterium. Pinning down what role DIP plays in protecting against heat, Adams adds, is the next research job.
Enzymes derived from the organisms could be a boon to business and industry. Because they are able to survive the heat of chemical reactions, they could speed up multistep processes. For processed foods, that could make them taste fresher.EDITED BY OTIS PORTReturn to top
AN ARTIFICIAL EYE ON QUALITY IN TEXTILES
EVERY MINUTE, A HIGH-speed automated loom at Johnston Industries Inc.'s factory in Phenix City, Ala., delicately rolls out another yard of finely woven fabric. The patterns in the resulting material are practically flawless, thanks to sensitive monitoring cameras and computer software developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This prototype system, which uses a potpourri of artificial intelligence techniques
--including fuzzy logic, neural networks, and so-called wavelets
--is not the first AI tool that has been used for quality control in textile manufacturing. Elbit Vision Systems Ltd. in Haifa, Israel, already markets inspection gear that spot-checks fabric as it is transferred from a loom onto rolls. But the Georgia Tech system, says Engineering Professor Lewis J. Dorrity, gets higher marks because it can identify problems sooner, while the yarn is still on the loom, ignoring unimportant variations in color, yarn thickness, or quality.
In addition, Georgia Tech's system automatically runs diagnostics on mechanical parts of the loom that gradually wear down and can abrade the cloth.
The technology will be commercialized by Appalachian Electronic Instruments Inc., a manufacturer of textile equipment in Ronceverte, W.Va.EDITED BY OTIS PORT By Neil GrossReturn to top