Great ideas are not always immediately appreciated

We have seen many great ideas capable changing our planet from the prophets. Some were already put in place, but have not been given a chance to succeed. This article will discuss and analyze why that happens.

                My first example is the great idea to establish the European Union. Europe is a small continent composed of many small countries. The countries are developed, but each having its own currency and interests meant it could never compete against countries like the U.S. or China. Even competition against Japan seemed impossible. The solution was the foundation of the European Union. At the beginning it developed quiet well. Countries agreed on free trade and common standards. But every country fought to maintain its sovereignty. It’s not about different cultures or  traditions, which should be kept. The fight was over power. By applying a common currency, the countries can maintain sovereignty and go their one way. Due to the debt crisis in Greece, the whole European Union started to struggle. Greece’s BIP is only 2.5% of the BIP of the European Union. Can this really be a problem for the European Union? Yes it can. Greece is sovereign and the influence of the European Union is limited. The great idea of the European Union is jeopardized by the lack of ability to resign from power and sovereignty. 

The problem becomes bigger when dealing with issues that require agreements among countries from other continents. It is nearly impossible to reach an agreement on global issues. This issue is not only apparent when reaching an accord on North Korea or Syria; it is particularly visible in the worldwide problem of global warming and the need for a global energy policy. The idea for such a policy was overcome global warming and energy problems by using only renewable energy such as wind, water energy, photovoltaic energy, thermal-solar energy and biomass. These are the only energy sources that have little impact on the environment and are available as long as life on earth is possible.

We are working with alternatives that have a limited time of possible usage, and we are blocking the development of renewable energy. Different countries are applying different technologies. There are countries focusing on “fracking” to find gas and oil. The environmental Impact of these technologies is not verified today, but the countries are investing heavily in this solution. This solution is, for me, the worst one possible. These countries are investing in a technology that is jeopardizing the environment for a solution that will, in the best-case scenario, postpone the end of oil and gas availability by not more than 20 years.  In the end, these countries have to invest two times: first to make the fracking technology available, and again for a final solution. Some countries are focusing on gas technology. This emits less CO2, but it is still an energy source that has limited availability and will only be a survival solution. Some countries are still focusing on nuclear power. This is not only a bad economic behavior, it is simply irresponsible. After Chernobyl and Fukushima, and knowing that there is no solution for  waste treatment, it is irresponsible to build nuclear power plants.

Different countries are going different ways in the energy future, but long-term thinking allows only the “sun” energies. All other solutions are not safe, do not address the CO2 balance, and are only temporary. Why we are ready to pay the bill twice on the way to a sustainable energy future?

It is the same reason we stop halfway to a European Union. Individual interests and lobbying are blocking great ideas. These ideas will come sooner or later, but today the people in power are blocking them to assure their own interests.

It seems to be a rule: Big chances create winners and loser. As long as the people who will lose power or money have the ability, they will fight against change. A lot of big changes are delayed or blocked. I see a big political responsibility if we don’t want to pay the bill for sustainable energy twice. Politicians have to ensure that roadblocks to a sustainable future are removed. Can they do that?

Antidumping duties are not the solution for a healthy photovoltaic market.

The U.S. rise in antidumping duties against Chinese photovoltaic modules. This did not really break the development of photovoltaic in the US. Now, the European Union is investigating the Chinese photovoltaic industry to determine whether unfair trade conditions exist. In June of this year, they will make their decision about this subject. Prognos conducted a study, which concluded that, in the case that the European Union will apply antidumping duties of 60%, 190,000 workplaces in Europe will be lost. If the European Union will apply antidumping duties of 30%, 135, 000 workplaces will be lost. The study assumes that the market for big project solar power plants will drop dramatically if the prices for solar modules rise above the current Chinese module prices.

All these assumptions may be right. The target has to be to establish a healthy market environment, which is the only guarantee for creating sustainable market conditions. Antidumping duties are not the tools with which to establish these conditions. These kinds of duties are only destroying the markets. Even for China, it is not possible to subsidize the photovoltaic market in the long term. After finishing the subsidies, the market will be in the same shape as it was, as the German government drastically reduced its feed in tariffs.  Many companies will come into difficulties then. Due to the fact that these companies never did feel real market conditions, they will not be capable of adapting to the markets in an acceptable time. Antidumping duties and subsidies are only postponing the challenge of establishing a worldwide photovoltaic market.

What are the possible solutions? The only possibility to come to healthy market conditions is to start talking to each other. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, proposed discussions with the Chinese government during her visit last year to China. I did not see that these discussions started. Additionally, without these discussions, the antidumping duties are on their way to becoming implemented. However, discussing with each other is a precondition to solve problems.

The unpredictable and hesitating politic is in the process of destroying future technology. Even the latest Shell study clearly indicates the leading role of photovoltaic for long-term energy production. In this way, first subsidizing this technology, then destroying and then discovering that it is really needed to build up a long-term energy supply, we pay the bill more than one time.

My clear demand would be the following: The politics and the industry have to discuss on a world-wide scale in order to release the photovoltaic to the free market and to not interfere anymore. I am convinced that in several months, we will see how a healthy economical industry will find its way.

Implementing TPM Improves Nearly all KPIs of a Production

Total productive maintenance (TPM) is a concept that has a huge impact on most of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of a production. These KPIs include:

–          Productivity  (value added per employee, working productivity)

–          Quality       (number of bad parts or number of customer claims)

–          Costs        (maintenance costs, energy costs)

–          Storage      (warehouse frequency, value of the storage)

–          Work safety  (number of accidents, number of missed working days due to accidents)

–          Employee involvement (number of improvement proposals by employees, improvement workshops)

TPM influenced all of these KPIs. The best KPI for checking the efficiency of TPM implementation is the “overall equipment efficiency” (OEE).

The three main categories of equipment-related losses—downtime, speed loss, and defect or quality loss—are also the main ingredients for determining the OEE. Overall equipment effectiveness is calculated by combining three factors that reflect these losses: the availability rate, the performance rate, and the quality rate.

To calculate OEE, we multiply the three factors together:

OEE = Availability Rate x Performance Rate x Quality Rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every responsible person should read about the philosophy of TPM in order to be capable of implementing it. As with most of these kinds of systems, you will be successful with the implementation only if the management understands the concept exactly. The TPM philosophy is based on eight pillars:

  1. Continuous improvements: The target is to achieve zero defects in all production processes.
  2. Autonomous maintenance: Machine workers provide inspections and smaller levels of maintenance by themselves.
  3. Preventive maintenance: Assurance must be given that the machines are always ready for production.
  4. Employee training: The target is to improve employees’ usage and maintenance capabilities.
  5. Equipment monitoring: The startup time for machines will be shortened.
  6. Quality management: excellent quality due to elimination of all bad parts
  7. TPM in administrative areas: Waste is eliminated in non-producing departments.
  8. Work safety and health protection: The target is to have zero accidents in the company.

Founded on these eight pillars, the TPM system is developed.

If a company starts to implement TPM but has no experience with doing so, it should involve an experienced consultant in the beginning. Doing so is very powerful in implementing the TPM philosophy in a company. An old wisdom says: The prophet in his own country is less powerful than fresh blood. However, it is necessary that management together with the consultant pushes the process.

TPM improves much more than simply the equipment availability: If the implementation process is well set up, it will ultimately change company culture.

We are preparing destroying our planet

A lot of past efforts have attempted to introduce policies to stop global warming and allow for world ecological developments. Worldwide conferences took place and targets have been selected. When it comes time to implement such changes, however, the different countries decide that they see difficulties in achieving these targets, so they change their policies. At present, it looks like, that we are trying to forget the risks of global warming and those caused by nuclear power plants. Every single country is going this way, seeking the biggest short-term profits and hoping that the world will survive until the end of today’s decision makers’ lifespans.

In studies about the future of our energy supply, we are currently considering three scenarios:

(Enerdata – Global Energy Forecasting)

Looking at these three scenarios, we can say that at the present time we are behaving according to the “Balance Scenario.” Energy prices are rising, and there is no commitment to global policies. Now we are faced with a technical development, which makes it probable that we will choose the scenario that provides us with growth in the oil and gas sector combined with nuclear power production. In the U. S., large amounts of oil sands have been found. This, the U. S. will exploit through fracking processes. There has been a lot of progress made during the last year. The general fracking procedure is explained in the graphic below. China is, to a certain extent, using renewable energies. However, this is not sufficient to keep up with the Chinese population and industry growth. So, China intends to build a significant number of nuclear power plants. These will not disperse CO2 but will come with a lot of other risks and the problem of determining what to do with nuclear waste.

None of these developments are focusing on the “Emergence” scenario, which is the only one guiding us to a long-term, sustainable future.

Economic interests and short-term political actions are,  at the present time, hindering the development of our sustainable future. Not stopping these developments will lead us to a bleak future. We are on the way to destroying our planet.

 

Electroluminescence shows the quality of photovoltaic modules

A wise old proverb says, “Quality has to be produced, not approved.” What can we learn from this wisdom for the production of crystalline photovoltaic modules? It tells us that we have to use electroluminescence tests during production and not only as a final test of the modules.

Let us firstly briefly examine what we can see with an electroluminescence test. Electroluminescence relies on the same principle as a light emitting diode (LED). Current is fed into a solar cell (essentially a large diode), and radiative recombination of carriers causes light emission. Most of the recombination in silicon, which is an indirect bandgap semiconductor, occurs via defects or Auger recombination. The amount of band-to-band recombination producing radiative emission is relatively low. However, there is a small amount of radiative recombination that happens even in silicon, and this signal can be sensed using an external detector. The technique requires electrical contact and so can only be used once the metallization has been applied and the cell is substantially complete. Electroluminescence provides a wealth of data about the area-related uniformity of solar cells and modules. It is non-destructive and relatively fast, with measurement times of 1 s possible.

The luminescence signal of silicon peaks at 1150 nm, corresponding to the energy of the bandgap.

Electroluminescence has become increasingly popular with the advent of low cost silicon CCD arrays. They are similar to the ones used for digital cameras, but optimized for sensitivity in the near-infrared and cool to reduce thermal noise.

The key advantage, as noted above, is the ability of electroluminescence to image an entire solar cell or module in a relatively short time. The light output increases with the local voltage, such that regions with poor contact show up as dark.

Electroluminescence image of a monocrystalline silicon wafer. The intensity of the light given off is proportional to the voltage, so poorly contacted and inactive regions show up as dark areas. The microcrack and printing problem are not detectable through visual inspection.

Due to further cost reduction, photovoltaic cells are becoming thinner and thinner. This makes them much more sensitive not only to mechanical stress, but also to temperature influences during the production process. To assure high quality modules in the end, we have to monitor all relevant production processes using electroluminescence images. This gives us the ability to feedback control the production processes and react immediately in case of deviations. Using electroluminescence during the production of photovoltaic cells and modules assures high quality and controlled production processes and makes it possible to produce thinner cells and, as a result, further reduce cost.

Why not photovoltaic? Discussed on the example Europe.

Nothing is turning, nothing is moving, but it provides energy: that is photovoltaic. It is predictable for the different regions. Why it is as much under critic at present time?  Let us answer this question in this article.

Photovoltaic made the biggest progress within the last 2 years compared to all renewable energies. The prices for panels dropped by factor 4 from 2 Euro/Watt peak to 50Eurocent/ Watt peak. That is the biggest progress for all the renewable energies in such a short period of time. It is coming with this progress to grid parity. That means, that the energy produced by photovoltaic is price wise comparable to fossil energies. Why the photovoltaic is still under discussion and not simply used as an economical solution for energy production?

Looking to the availability of sun energy, we can see in the picture below, that surely the sun irradiation is higher in south Europe than is northern Europe. So the efficiency of sun power production will be higher in southern Europe. On the other hand, the northern part of Europe shows higher efficiency to produce wind energy. This is less efficient in the southern part of Europe. The logic would be for me, to focus in the northern part of Europe more on wind energy and in the southern part more on sun energy. To produce in both parts of Europe will reduce the transmission costs and will assure more stability in the grid.

 

 

Because solar and wind energy will become for Europe long-term the dominating energy sources, Europe has to deal with the intermittency of this energies. Biogas, natural Gas and Geothermic will become a stabilizing role, but it cannot completely solve the problem of the intermittency of this energies.

 

The picture above shows the four working areas, to solve the problem of intermittent energy production.

On the interconnection of the grids, the storages, the optimization of the demand side and a flexible usage of renewable energy sources we should focus.

It maid be necessary not to come meanwhile in difficulties of energy availability to build up a few gas power plants.  I personally cannot understand is to keep nuclear power in account. We have sufficient examples, that we cannot finally assure the safety of nuclear power plants and we have still no solution to store the nuclear waste. In Tschernobyl they are covering the destroyed reactor at present time with a new concert cover. The time to keep care on the Tschernobyl reactor needs another several hundreds of years. In Germany the nuclear waste in the final storage of “Asse 2” close to Wolfenbuettel has to be taken out and has to be brought to a safer place. We have no solution to assure the coverage of nuclear waste for the time it needs. So to use nuclear power as an intermediate solution to take the time to build up the renewable energies is irresponsible.

The proper mix of renewable energies is the only way in the future. To do this change in an economically adequate way is our responsibility

The right management is needed to overcome a crisis situation.

In the previous two articles in this blog we have been talking about restructuring and managing  a crisis. A company needs a clear and open mind to overcome a crisis to come out of it invigorated. During the research for these articles I found a quote from Berthold Brecht, which is in my opinion perfectly describes the behavior of different people during a crisis. Loosely translated, Brecht said “The unworried, who have never doubts /meet the worriers, who never act. They do not worry about coming to a decision, but just avoid the decision. They only use their heads to shake them in the negative. With a worried face they warn the passengers of a sinking ship about the risks of the water.”

These words from Berthold Brecht perfectly describes in my opinion about what management has to avoid during a crisis. A crisis situation needs to mobilize the thoughts  that come out of the situation. It needs the discussions about solutions and it needs decisions, which guide a brighter future. The notorious “worriers” are demotivating and counterproductive in such a situation. They will demotivate the whole team and they will block the actions to overcome the crisis. They have to change their mind-set or they have to be eliminated in order to not hinder the recovery of a company in a crisis.

Making decisions requires readiness to take risks. This should never be done without evaluating the risks. Especially in a crisis situation, it is necessary to make decisions. The notorious “worriers” are not capable of managing a crisis.

In this situation it is advisable to decide and not to expect every decision to have a consensus. And there is another wise advice which should be considered for crisis management: First keep your feet on the brakes and then use the turn signal. Avoid people who put their hands on the turn signal and accelerating at the same time.

Seeing a risk and not slowing down, and only saying “there is a risk,” means you are avoiding the crisis situation. Do things in the right order to eliminate the risks.

These are two wise words that managers should consider for their action during a crisis.

A simple restructuring project will fail if a change management is necessary!

We discussed in this blog a few weeks ago the restructuring of projects (see: http://www.managementism.com/2012/restructuring-is-necessary-but-it-has-to-be-done-with-the-target-in-mind/ ). We already discussed the target setting of a restructuring project. A restructuring project is normally focused on improvements. It helps only in the evaluation of the situation. If a real change in a business model and product portfolio is necessary, we must amend the restructuring project with a change project. What is the difference between a restructuring project and a change project?

Restructuring adjusts the weak points of a company and implements improvement actions, which strengthen the weak points. These adjustments are normally implemented by the organization itself and are followed up by management. In single cases, small projects are implemented to assist the organization in implementing the defined actions. Real change in a company always requires a project structure to be implemented. Very large changes will alter the organization of a company, changing business models and product portfolios, as well as the qualifications of employees. Implementing these changes using the existing organizational structure will fail, because the organization must change itself. No organization can do this.

An independent change project can do this, however. The project team can work out solutions for organizational changes or changes in qualifications. The need for these changes can be explained without having a personal impact on the team members involved. For a change project, it is necessary to have project leaders with very strong psychological skills. The different interests of the people who are impacted by the changes must be understood perfectly. If these preconditions are not fulfilled, the change in the company will fail.

Another key to making change projects successful is explaining the necessity of these changes and why exactly the defined changes will lead to success. The better this is done, the better will be the acceptance of the company, and the fewer will be the number of opponents. Opponents can slow down the speed of changes drastically. It is necessary to convince opponents or to eliminate them. To assure that the explanation for a change is accepted, it must indicate the clear direction of the changes. For this, the management must assure consistent and clear information.

Let us summarize: If drastic changes in a company are necessary, they should be carried within the context of a change project with independent project leaders. Important during the phase of changes is consistent and clear information being provided by management.

The energy production region for Europe is northern Africa.

The energy turnaround in Europe has started. Germany, especially, increases the share of renewable energies continuously. There are already several towns and villages that are completely independent of fossil energy. But this picture does not show the whole story.

It will be difficult to produce all of the energy needed throughout those countries in the European Union merely with renewable energies. Even to produce some more renewable energy in Europe directly will be possible, the gap to replace fossil energies completely is still big.. We have to keep in mind that 30% of the energy is used in households, 30% for transportation, and 30% by industry. My estimation is that Europe can produce only 50 to 60% of their energy use within Europe itself. Even the high demand for energy by industry would be difficult to source only within Europe.

Because of this, it makes sense for Europe to look to its neighbor to the south. There is a big potential in the North African deserts, which are not far from Europe and are not highly populated. There is an estimate of sourcing costs in the picture below for the year 2015. It shows that we should really start to develop this region as an energy source.

Initiatives like DESERTEC are working to achieve this, and I think that they are close to making the energy turnaround in Europe complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why does DESERTEC have more critics than followers? Here we have the same problems seen in the German energy policies at present time: The interest of some companies and the strong lobby work of certain companies are hindering the success of these initiatives.

This is especially visible in Germany’s struggles to improve their grid to a powerful smart grid. Every day, they are facing new challenges.

It would be much more advisable for Germany’s energy lobby to participate in projects like DESERTEC to protect their business interests. In the long term, they will never be capable of hindering the inevitable energy changes that are coming.

Asia is taking the lead in the development and production of renewable energies.

For forty years already, we have seen a pattern of great technical developments shifting their main location from Europe to Asia. The German photo industry moved to Japan in the 1960s, and at the present time, only niche areas of this industry are present in Germany. The European ship building industry moved to Japan and is now mainly located in Korea and China. Even niches of technical industries typically do not fare well in Europe. The whole consumer goods industry, especially home entertainment, is dominated by Korea, Japan, and China. The only industries that have managed to retain a strong footprint in Europe are the car industry and the machine building industry. Both industries were also already in jeopardy of being eliminated in Europe by Japan and Korea. The strong technical developments that were initiated in these industries, however, could allow the European countries to gain back their leading role.

In Europe, a multitude of analysis has explored these developments. Nevertheless, Europeans did not learn the lessons these studies taught. Nearly ten years ago, Europe was developing the technologies for renewable energies, starting production and installation, and focusing on making renewable energies accessible. What is the status today, though?

China is already producing more wind turbines than Europe, and the Chinese companies are independent from any European company. For several years, they have been fully independent of European licenses. The photovoltaic industry is similar. The best photovoltaic cells are currently produced in Taiwan or Malaysia. European companies can only compete within a few niches against Asian photovoltaic cells. China has the greatest production capacity for photovoltaic cells, while the largest market is still Europe.

In light of these realities, we must ask whether these products are fairly traded. Even if the Chinese government provides subsidies for the photovoltaic and wind power companies, this does not explain why the European companies are falling behind the Asian companies in the realm of technology, and why Chinese companies are becoming more successful in other markets as well.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons why Europe is currently losing status in respect to renewable energies.

  1. Convenience behavior. The EEG law assured convenient conditions for the whole renewable energy industry. Product development, system developments, and process development did not maintain the necessary speed. The development of the grid began too late and was blocked by the big electricity companies. Now the discussion centers on the ideas that the energy turnaround of renewable energy is too expensive, and that having a grid in one’s surroundings is unacceptable—ideas that are slowing the speed of development in the industry. To compete against the Asian countries, the whole of European society has to leave its comfort zone and fight for its place in the world’s economy.
  2. Lack of capability to develop business models and services. Another weak point in European society is the fact that European countries are not as creative as Asian countries in developing business models and services. Europeans are used to the idea that other countries need their products and come to Europe to buy them. Thus, Europeans do not take enough care in providing the services that are needed for their products. They are not sufficiently developing technical services, financial services, and assistance with gaining permission for grid connection, security services, and other necessities. If European companies are not bringing the only outstanding product to the market, they must make their product outstanding due to the package they offer. However, offering such services is not a strong point in European industries.

Europe must change its mentality about marketing products, lest renewable energies continue going the way of ship building and consumer goods. Speed in development and creative business models will play a decisive role in shaping the future of Europe’s renewable energy industry.