Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Influencing STEM Education in Africa

A once in a lifetime experience of Bishop-Wisecarver sponsored candidate Janelle Jolley

Bishop-Wisecarver Group (BWG), a woman-owned family of WBENC certified companies that strive to support students, women, and programs related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, recently has sponsored Janelle Jolley on a 2 week tour to influence STEM in Africa.  Take a look at Janelle’s journey to promote women empowerment and STEM education.

In an act of camaraderie and collaboration, a group of female change-makers across technology and the social impact space embarked on a two week innovation excursion across Africa. The uplifting journey promoting women’s empowerment and global entrepreneurship granted the women and other distinguished guests the opportunity to meet with fellow entrepreneurs, attend pitch parties and government meetings, enjoy cultural excursions, and connect with innovators across Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Bishop-Wisecarver was involved by being a sponsor of Janelle Jolley, a trip nominee and attendee.
Janelle Jolley is the CEO and Founder of Sidewalk District, a social enterprise connecting local independent retailers with their consumers through an eCommerce marketplace in order to increase their impact on hyper local economic development. She has a background in journalism and public policy, but eventually found her way to technology. Her passion for local independent retailers and their ability to spur economic development in communities across America is what led her to pursue the Sidewalk District platform.

One of Jolley’s biggest takeaways from her experience in Africa was the opportunities for technology/IT solutions across all sectors that are endless throughout the continent. Africa is ripe for disruptive technological solutions as well as technological solutions which make entire business sectors more efficient and modern.

Jolley also discovered that just as in the more modern West, the pipeline for STEM & technologists needs to be diversified throughout Africa. More women and people of color in Africa need to be made aware of and trained in STEM so that they are the driving forces of the change and wealth creation happening throughout the continent.

Lastly, iHub, Nariobi’s innovation hub for the technology community, has built the most impressive startup ecosystem she has have ever seen anywhere in the world. Jolley has never seen as comprehensive an approach to an end to end, integrated organization for startups ever in her life. There is literally anything that anyone would ever need to build and grow a successful company at iHub.

Jolley’s overall experience was a wonderful and educational experience. With her efforts and the efforts of all STEM influencers, there are hopes to increase the awareness of STEM education for women, minorities and youth across all continents.

Check out some of the photos below captured from her trip:


The group's first full day in Lagos, Nigeria. This morning, group attendees Claire and Yasmin are outside of the hotel waiting on transportation recapping some of the opportunities for business which they identified in Accra, Ghana which was the first stop on the expedition.

Hassan and Caleb at the headquarters of one of Nigeria's biggest tilapia farms. Saheed Olakunle is the owner of the headquarters and founder of the Nigerian Tilapia Association. He is a STEM success story and applied his knowledge and training in aquaculture to make Nigeria one of the biggest players on the global scene for farm raised tilapia.

DeShawn Jenkins of the Africa to Atlanta initiative at Georgia Tech and Sandra Hirschberg of GirlTank sitting and discussing the ecosystem being developed at Co-Creation Hub in Lagos with Femi Longe, their Director of Programs.

Monday, March 10, 2014

“Make Mistakes, Learn From Them and Move Forward”

Q&A with FIRST Team 3470 President Logan Dorsey

Bishop-Wisecarver, a Diamond Supplier of the FIRST® Robotics Competition, is committed to inspiring future innovators and supporting Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) by sponsoring three local teams in Northern California. In this blog, we are proud to feature President Logan Dorsey of Heritage High School Robotics FRC Team 3470, The Patriots, located in Brentwood, California.

A senior at Heritage High School, Logan has participated in his school’s robotics program since his freshman year.  As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Logan has interned at Google in the video production department, and currently works on side projects that involve programming and building robots. He aspires to attend Yale this fall to study computer science.

Logan, without a doubt, has the talent to be a future innovator in his field of expertise. Learn what he had to say about what it takes to be the President of a FIRST robotics team.

Question:  We understand that the FIRST program has a lot to offer. What do you think about the program and what skills have you gained from it?

LD: I think it’s a great and rewarding program. I have been a part of the robotics team for four years and I’ve gained a lot of skills that I can apply to both school and home. To name a few, I have learned to manage my time, be patient and maintain a good worth ethic. I’ve even gained the skill set to open my own software company.

Question: What challenges have you run into as President of Heritage FRC Team 3470?

LD: When I was appointed as President, I didn’t realize how challenging the position would be. I was the team’s software engineer before taking this leadership role, so I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, I had the guidance from our coach/mentor Mr. Pardi. He’s taught me the importance of team work, how to manage a small team and coordinate the many processes that needs to come together to building a robot. Mr. Pardi has encouraged my own personal growth as well as our team’s that we had him nominated for the FIRST Compass Award, which recognizes his outstanding guidance and support. We were ecstatic that he won!

Question: As much challenges your team has run into, what would you say your team’s greatest accomplishments are this season?

LD:  With scheduled restrictions and commitments it has been very hard to get the team together, however, we’ve taken long strides since we started this season. We’ve improved our building process from building one part of the robot at a time to dedicating different members of the team to sections of the robot. We’ve change an important mechanism of our robot in three weeks and we placed 14th out of 36 teams at the Northern California FTC Championship on February 22nd in Newark, CA.
Question: With this being your last year, what would be your advice to your teammates?

LD: Make mistakes, learn from them and move forward.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Lean" Principle 5S is More Than Just Cleaning House

Aside from being a "lean" principle, what exactly is 5S?

1. Sort
2. Straighten
3. Systemize
4. Standardize
5. Sustain

While there are many tools in the lean “library” of applicable principles, 5S would seem to deliver the largest impact in the shortest amount of time, making it an ideal choice for the quick-moving environment at Bishop-Wisecarver Group (BWG). BWG is in the process of making factory upgrades in the form of adding production floor space and capacity. 5S is also the simplest principle to implement, involving the least amount of training and multiple staff can conduct it at the same time. Many times, and definitely when it comes to lean, it would seem that simpler is indeed better!

The implementation of 5S instills a sense of pride in one’s work center and work environment. Staff participate hands-on in the Kaizen activities associated with 5S and subsequently work to sustain these principles. Normally, after 5S is initially implemented, others within the organization will begin to request that their work area has this principle applied to it as well.

5S can be closely approximated to spring cleaning – most people dread it, but when the end result is evident, everyone is generally more upbeat, positive, and energized to return to their work processes which can now be conducted in a manner that is cleaner and more efficient than ever before. As BWG is upgrading its technology as well as the capabilities of the production floor, making room for new equipment and new processes, simultaneous advantages begin to emerge that ensure a more optimal internal process, as a greater value available to the customer.

Monday, November 25, 2013

“Woman-Owned”: Expanding the Possibilities for Professional Diversity and Moving Beyond Gender Bias

The WBENC, or Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, certifies woman-owned businesses for their increased ability to compete for business opportunities provided by WBENC corporate members and government agencies. The WBENC certification can provide a tremendous advantage for those women business owners and leaders who aspire for greater visibility and success.

Because let’s face it: the statistics surrounding the rise of women in the modern day workplace are not as favorable as many might think. 

Women currently hold about 15% of executive positions at Fortune 500 companies, while only about 18% of US congressional representatives are women. Let’s not forget, in addition, that full-time women workers still earn, on average in the US, 82¢ for every dollar earned by their male counterparts (Forbes 2013).

Yet, on the flipside, the number of woman-owned firms continues to grow, and even beyond that remains the fact that within the past six years, since the depth of the U.S. recession, the only businesses other than large, publicly traded corporations that have helped employment grow are privately held majority women-owned firms (American Express Open 2013).

When we look yet closer at the available data on women as business owners, however, we see that despite the fact that the number of women-owned firms continues to grow at a rate exceeding the national average, and now accounts for 29% of all enterprises, women-owned firms only employ 6% of the country’s workforce and contribute just under 4% of business revenues—roughly the same share they contributed in 1997 (American Express Open 2013).

The disparity between the desires and, perhaps even pressures, for women to succeed in business, and the reality of the ease with which a woman can ascend the ranks in the business world, calls into question how much we are still evaluating performance on the unspoken basis of gender, rather than skills and abilities. But perhaps yet, if we more closely examine our cultural values, we should ask ourselves this question: are we raising our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters, and goddaughters to overperform while underanticipate?

Globally as well as nationally, in order to overcome gender biases we require a system that compensates fairly on an equal basis.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

5 Reasons to Celebrate Woman-Owned Small Business — Especially in Manufacturing

Though the glass ceiling remains overhead, as evidenced by pay disparity between genders and the percentage of female CEOs out there, women in business have made tremendous strides. Their hard work is paying off, particularly in the traditionally male-dominated world of manufacturing.

With CEO Pamela Kan at the helm, Bishop-Wisecarver Group is proud to be a certified woman-owned small business. As such, we're thrilled to celebrate other women in small business this October for National Women's Small Business Month. In honor of the occasion, we culled together several reasons to invest in woman-owned small business:

1. More women are starting small businesses. The latest U.S. Census Bureau stats show that there were 7.6 million woman-owned firms in 2007 — 90 percent of them small businesses. Between 1997 and 2007, female-run firms grew at double the speed of their male-owned counterparts, according to a 2010 report by the Economics and Statistics Administration.
2. That means women are creating jobs. For a picture illustrates the impact of women in the small business sector, take a look at this interactive graph on the White House website. Over the past 27 months, the American workforce has added 4.3 million jobs, and women, the White House says, are leading the way. According to Forbes, women will create more than half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs by 2018. That's remarkable. We wonder, how many of those jobs will be in manufacturing?

3. Women in charge change long-entrenched gender dynamics in the world of manufacturing. Picture an old manufacturing company. What comes to mind? Gears, gadgets, mechanical parts and a guy in charge, right? That's an image that various industry groups are trying to change by encouraging more women to get involved in the industry. Unfortunately, women lost more manufacturing jobs than they gained between 2010 and this year, according to a recent Forbes report. Forbes credits some of the loss to perception. Because people generally have an outdated idea of what manufacturing is, they shy away from it. As a woman-led manufacturer, we continually do our part to promote STEM education to young women and support women currently in a manufacturing role by networking and doing business with them.

4. Small businesses owned by women are more likely to get SBA-certified loans. Women have the opportunity to apply for loans inaccessible to others, not just through the Small Business Administration, but through other government entities as well. Bishop-Wisecarver Group is certified woman-owned through the Women's Business Enterprise Council (WBENC), which trains companies like ours on how to apply for opportunities in government contracting reserved for woman- and minority-owned businesses.

5. Woman-owned business generates enormous revenue, spur economic growth. American Express in March estimated that woman-owned businesses in the United States employ 7.8 million people and generate $1.3 trillion in revenue. That's incredible, and incredibly encouraging when you realize that since 1997 woman-owned businesses have increased by 59 percent.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is Manufacturing Really All That Important?

If the Great Recession taught us anything, it's that sustainable wealth creation and the jobs that come with it don't come from Wall Street, but from the actual creation of goods. We were reminded that our recovery and economic health depend on the middle class, which has historically driven an innovative manufacturing sector. With every job created and innovation introduced by these companies, we're reminded that manufacturing is the engine that drives this economy — and the rest of the world — forward.

That's why we'll join thousands of others to commemorate this year's Manufacturing Day, October 4. The mission of the day is to address common misconceptions about the industry by opening our doors to the public — to show people what manufacturing is and what it isn't.

We can talk about how we contribute to the economy — both here at home and abroad. Manufacturing pumped $1.87 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2012, up from $1.73 trillion the year prior, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). That was 11.9 percent of the GDP, by the way. For every dollar spent in the industry, $1.48 goes to the economy, making it the most tangibly productive economic sector.

We can talk about jobs, how manufacturing sustains about 17.2 million in the U.S. That's one in six private-sector gigs. Some 9 percent of the workforce are employed in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We can talk about pay. We can remind the public that the average manufacturing employee in America takes home $77,060 a year with pay and benefits, per the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Compare that to the average across all industries: $60,168. The higher pay makes our nation's manufacturing sector the most productive in the world, NAM says, leading to higher wages and higher quality of life.

We can talk about innovation, and how U.S. manufacturing — which, taken alone, would stand as the 10th largest economy on the planet — is responsible for two-thirds of all private-sector research and development, making it more innovative than any other sector, according to the National Science Foundation.

We can talk about the skilled labor gap, how about 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain vacant across the U.S. We can talk about the need to fill them, but also about some of the barriers. Sure we need more people with the right skills to keep up with the ever-evolving industry, one that's becoming increasingly high tech. But we can also look at the shorter-term causes, like how some companies embattled during the recession cut training budgets and learned to get by with less human capital.

We can talk about the future, most of all. How do we convince the next generation to get educated, pick up the advanced skills they need to staff our companies in the future and come up with brilliant ideas that galvanize manufacturing, that make it such a great field to be part of?

For more information about Manufacturing Day, go to

And remember to tweet #MFG, #CA, and #BWGmfgday, especially on October 4 - Manufacturing Day!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Building a Strong U.S. Economy Through STEM

“STEM”, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics has certainly become a buzzword, and like many trendy acronyms, it may become confused or lost potency over a period of time. But if STEM supporters, and industries that require these disciplines (a large majority of U.S. businesses), have anything to do with it, STEM is here to stay.

Of the 1,650,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 2009–10, the greatest numbers of degrees earned were in the fields of business, social sciences and history, health professions and related programs, and education, according to data published in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education. The number of engineering degrees rose 12% from 2004-2010, which could indicate that interest in this field is growing. However, we are unclear on what proportion of these graduates are international students migrating to the U.S. to pursue technical education, who return to other locations to work in their foreign economies. Additionally the percentage of students who initially begin college with an engineering major is still dramatically high, hovering at around 40%.

Why, as a society, have we grown to avoid the very fields which uphold our country and help us attain prosperity and economic stability? Can we find fault in our education system, or is there a perception that these fields are dull? Perhaps our dilemma is more culturally rooted, in the notion that our society thrives primarily on the sensationalism evident in our news sources, which hype glamor, social drama, and interpersonal conflict. In fact, it is possible that as a culture we are no longer compelled by data and information, so much as subjective media and opinion-based sources.

Another theory is that we have failed to place an importance on multidisciplinary education and as a result we lack a sufficient means of translating the subjects of engineering and mathematics into practical applications and in terms which many people can understand.

A broader focus on multidisciplinary education is emerging with initiatives such as STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. And after all, the U.S., and the global economy at large, operates by the articulation of highly technical, specialized information and data. Dr. Pamela McCauley Bush, a Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Central Florida, addresses this very issue on her blog, which addresses focused on the question of “Why Are Engineers Boring?” whereby she explains that while most engineers are very bright, few may be inclined or challenged within our educational system to adopt the common language of the local economy or the business world and that this commonality is oftentimes magnified within by our society.

The most compelling reason is that more than 50% of our sustained economic expansion is contributed by only 5% of U.S. workers employed in fields related to science and engineering, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (Forbes 2012). It is clear that most jobs in the future will require a basic understanding of math and science according to 10-year employment projections by the U.S. Department of Labor. These projections show that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for the coming year require significant mathematics or science preparation.

STEM is important to our present, and it is ultimately a huge factor in the outcome of our future.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What's the Difference Between Lean Manufacturing and Green Manufacturing?

When Michigan-based seals and gasket maker FNGP enacted a lean manufacturing initiative in 1992, it slashed staff in one particular department from 21 to three, its square footage from 2,300 to 1,200, and upped production from 1,155 to 1,800 units a month. Productivity rose from 55 monthly units per employee to 600 units.

As evidenced by the Midwest manufacturer, lean policies are good for business. But in improving efficiencies, the company also shrunk its carbon footprint, notes an article recently published on The unintentional side-effect proves that the intersection of lean manufacturing and green initiatives are key to reducing waste.
Is Lean Manufacturing Green Manufacturing?
Is Lean Manufacturing
Green Manufacturing?

"The economic benefits are pretty obvious," Charles Cohon, a manufacturing executive, tells ThomasNet. "But if you look at the same numbers from the standpoint of what effect it would have on carbon footprint, you can see even greater benefits ... going from 2,300 square feet to 1,200 square feet, you've cut almost in half the amount of space you have to provide lights and heat to."

Bishop-Wisecarver Group is no stranger to the advantages of both lean and green. We're a certified Bay Area Green Business. In reaching for the distinction a few years ago, the company went through a process that included eliminating non-recyclable packaging and upgrading to Energy Star electronics, among other things. The certification had more than the effect of making the business of creating guided motion technology more sustainable, though: it was good for the bottom line.

"All the required changes were not just green but better for our business overall," Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan said back in 2010.

Our Vice President of Manufacturing, Aldo DeAmicis, reiterated Kan's point when he came aboard  in 2012. Lean manufacturing is about reducing and eliminating:

  • Overproduction
  • Defects
  • Unneeded movement
  • Unnecessary inventory
  • Wait times
  • Redundant processing and transportation
It's also, in a big way, about motivating workers to live up to their potential.

As ThomasNet points out, those priorities lend themselves well to improving sustainability by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, excessive water and power use and trash. It also keeps the people who work there safe and healthy.

We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments about ways your company has implemented policies that qualify as both green and lean. [ CLICK HERE ] to check out the infographic we made about the symbiosis between lean and green manufacturing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manufacturing IS Technology


Gears, levers and other trappings of a steampunk contraption? Maybe you think of cartoon inventors like Maurice, Belle's father in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, with his coke-bottle goggles and bumbling attempts at various rudimentary forms of mechanical tinkering.
As manufacturers of linear slides and rotary guides, we know the importance of basic components, the bearings, gears and tracks that move things from one point to another. But these are only the building blocks for more advanced systems, which are poised to shape the future of the industry as well as the rest of the world.
3D printing technology is a manufacturing process
(photo credit: The Verge 2013)
It is likely that you have encountered or overheard some of the newer "buzzwords" that have been introduced to many laypersons, many of which were created in order to parboil complex cutting-edge innovations or indicate advancements beyond the cursory realm of simply "manufacturing". Today, you're more likely to hear words and phrases like "mechatronics", "advanced manufacturing", and "additive manufacturing", than simply, "manufacturing."

Maybe manufacturing has become a "dirty word," associated more with "dirty, dumb, boring [and] cheap" labor, as Bishop-Wisecarver Group CEO Pamela Kan poses in a post she wrote recently for GE's Ideas Laboratory. Perhaps the word "manufacturing" has become semantically outdated, which indeed justifies the industry's attempts to come up with contemporary lingo to more accurately describe the field in a way that makes sense.

When taken in accurate context, modern manufacturing is comprised of the latest and greatest innovations of our time. Surpassing the low-tech and common connotations of antiquity, modern manufacturing, both present and future, is high-tech: manufacturing is technology.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece last month that highlights this important definition. The article highlights the 11 areas of technology identified by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that will push manufacturing into the future. These emerging technological fields should be the focus of research and development in the U.S., the group says. So what are they?
  • Sensing, measurement, process control
    Manual processes: our past,
    but not our future?
  • Materials design, synthesis and processing
  • Digital manufacturing
  • Sustainable manufacturing
  • Nanomanufacturing
  • Flexible electronics manufacturing
  • Biomanufacturing
  • Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing)
  • Industrial robotics
  • Advanced forming and joining technologies
Kan mentioned before that it is a shame manufacturing has become a dirty word. However, with the exponential advancement of modern technologies (aka manufacturing), it's no problem to start making our language more specific to dispel whatever outdated notions the public still has about manufacturing being a thing of the early Industrial Revolution.

Changing the language can influence the national conversation in a way that encourages the next generation to choose careers in manufacturing and influences public policy to favor conditions that promote manufacturing innovation.

A number of emergent technologies
that apply to manufacturing

What do you think about the language we use to describe manufacturing? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tweets of the Week: A Manufacturing Renaissance, Life of an Inventor and DIY 'Blinking Eyes'

We loved the varied conversations we had this week, ranging from the future of manufacturing to application stories of linear and rotary motion systems and articles about teen inventors and DIY makers. Here's a short list of highlights. Stay in touch in the days ahead at @BWCnews!

1. White House Makes Case for Manufacturing Renaissance via Ideas Laboratory: "Nobody really doubts that manufacturing has been a bright spot in the economy," White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling told an audience at a Brookings institution lectureThursday. "But people do raise the issue ... is the focus on manufacturing appropriate public policy? Is it really promising in light of globalization and technology trends, and is what we're seeing in the last couple of years just a normal, cyclical recovery that doesn't represent any structural or competitive advantage for the U.S.?" Via @IdeasLaboratory.

2. Bishop-Wisecarver Videos via YouTube: If you haven't stopped by our YouTube channel, you're missing out on a ton of great stuff, including event news casts, product demos, how-to's and company updates. One of our favorites is a video series of interviews with our founder, inventor Bud Wisecarver. Check it out. Via @BWCnews.

3. Make Your Own LED "Blinking Eyes" via Dr. Lucy Rogers: One of our favorite tweeps and scientist extraordinaire also dabbles around as a maker, a hobbyist. We love this latest project of hers: A pair of spooky blinking "eyes," which she instructs how to recreate with some wiring, lights and a bunch of ping pong balls. Love it! Via @DrLucyRogers.

4. Linear Motion Systems in the Medical Industry via Read about how our LoPro® Linear Motion System guides a coil-winding machine in the medical industry used to make high-quality coils. Via @BWCnews.

5. Meet the 17-year-old Who Make a Cheap, Brain-Powered Prosthetic Arm via Fast Company: If you want something enough, you do the work. That's a truth reaffirmed by teen inventor Easton LaChappelle, who set out to make a better prosthetic arm, one attune to the will of the mind. Read his incredible story here. Via @FastCompany.