Archives : Manufacturing

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    What Covi-19 means to manufacturers

    COVID 19 has introduced a vast array of challenges for the industrial or manufacturing company. Those who rely on manufacturing understand that this isn’t a work from home thing that can be carried out in a remote way. About 90 percent of the manufacturing community knows there will be negative ramifications to their business.

    A recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers says about 80 percent feel they will be impacted negatively and that was more than a month ago. The impact is now dramatic and very real. Many major industries have closed their doors and the manufacturing sector which is one that employs more than 13 million workers in the United States, is losing ground dramatically. Companies from clothing to food prep are warning that the supply chain is broken.

    Safeguarding workforce health as well as consumer health is first and foremost in our minds. Many closures could continue to be necessary manufacturers in areas that are being hard hit by the virus, such as in Grand Island Nebraska and areas like Louisiana.

    Companies such as meat packing plants are seeing a dramatic rise in the cases of Corona virus.

    What predictions are we making for post corona?

    Automation technologies will take hold such as they never have before and be used to prevent problems in the worker ranks.

    Robotics will be up and coming in the supply chain, helping companies to get products to market and delivered.

    Tele-medicine will be used more than ever before in order to protect both patient and health care workers

    Industrial internet of things will be used more fully than before and embraced by companies to decrease worker density.

    The United States will come through the COVID 19 crisis intact but not without some measure of economic and worker woes for several months to come. What are you thoughts on how things will shake out?

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    Leadership During Difficult Times

    Currently businesses and people are struggling and problems with transportation, shipping and receiving and retail sales continue. At the same time others have stepped up and are holding it together. Every type of business continues to see issues. How do you cope as a business or community leader? What steps can you take to help your people and your company achieve growth from this unprecedented worldwide problem?

    In every crisis, real leaders find opportunity. As we have seen the past month or so this has been the case. They find opportunity for growth and opportunity to assist their teams and community members to move forward and find a path out of the problems.

    Here are some things that you can do to establish yourself as a leader during the COVID-19 crisis and emerge as someone who is seen as a leader by your community and your company.

    Know what you stand for and make every action reflect those values. It is about making a difference in the world right now and helping people to cope with whatever they are dealing with on a personal and a professional level. Don’t miss any opportunity to lead and build your brand and show the value of it.

    Listen. Don’t just talk at people and offer advice, but really research the problems taking place now and hear what people are telling you is their problem.  Giving them advice that comes from your vantage point isn’t helpful and they won’t take it well. Hear what they are concerned about and empathize with their problems– and then find a way to help them through. Offer suggestions geared toward their fears and concerns not your own.

    Be honest in your answers. If you don’t have a good response, find one but don’t just offer people lip service.  They will know it and you will come off as someone who can’t be trusted well after the crisis is over. If you don’t know, say it but then find the answer & follow up. Be clear and consistent in what you say and make it a point to have real facts, not conjecture.

    Stay calm and keep moving forward. People are fueled by composure and concerned about lack of lack of it so you must keep yours. If the future looks uncertain, take steps to make it more certain or give people ways to boost their own value and worth during the crisis but work to keep them calm and keep your own composure too.

    WH Meanor & Associates is the premier manufacturing and engineering recruiter. Visit us at: https://www.whmeanor.com

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    How Will the ‘Internet of Things Change Manufacturing?

    Already, devices like televisions, stereos and of course, computers and mobile devices are able to network with an existing internet connection. From your coffeepot to your car, the Internet of Things is among us and cloud computing is more important than ever. But how will the cloud be used in this revolutionary new technology and how will this pairing make our lives better?

    Almost all of our appliances and electronics come with smart technology these days that will need to store and retrieve data from the cloud to be able to use the IOT. Some technology companies are currently creating industrial equipment that will actually collect information, interpret and learn from that information and then take action. In other words, the machine will be able to and ultimately learn how to fix itself.

    Of course, the machine won’t be storing the data itself. It will happen somewhere remotely, stored in the cloud in this case. But that could be an immense amount of data by today’s standards. That’s why the cloud and the Internet of Things are joined at the hip, as it were.

    Right now, the cloud is nebulous and general, and is just a place to store data so that you can access it from anywhere. But we are already seeing that clouds that have the sole purpose of connecting devices across the IOT  to be used in the manufacturing world. These will be prevalent.  Manufacturing is changing and this is just one way that it will change the face of the manufacturing world.

    These machines and other items that are part of the work world are beginning to l both gather and analyze data quickly and respond almost instantly. That means that machines that you might never have thought would need or be able to use smart technology are suddenly equipped with it, and these machines will fix themselves, upgrade themselves and operate much better than we can make them.

    The cloud and the Internet of Things must work together so that this new technology can be used successfully. Of course, those two items are actually only two-thirds of the equation. There is at third aspect as well, although companies are already working on the problem – handling Big Data.

    The smart technology will collect the information, send it instantly to the cloud where the data will be accessed and analyzed by applications designed for that purpose, and then sent back to the machine in the blink of an eye.

    The future of manufacturing is already here. Is your team ready to handle cloud computing and smart manufacturing? We can help with nearly every aspect of building the team that you need to create the factory of the future.

    Call today and see what WH Meanor has to offer.

     

     

     

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    Manufacturing Transformation Trends in 2020

    Digital transformation is fascinating because it acts quickly and gradually at the same time.  The main improvement in this year’s manufacturing digital transformation is that more companies are starting to realize its importance. They are also beginning to adopt it.

    The companies that concentrate on manufacturing acknowledge the effect of connecting with the Internet of Things (IoT). With them are the consumers who demand high-quality products constantly, available to them immediately. The pressures of quality, cost, and efficiency will always be there. The only way to survive this evolving manufacturing industry is to adopt IoT.

    Here are the most significant technological trends that will continue to get bigger in 2020:

    1. 5G. The advancement of connectivity to 5G is going to make business a lot better for manufacturers. With it, they can decrease latency, implement more real-time methods of communication, and elevated bandwidth. 5G can help manufacturers use their smart tools more. They can bring their smart working ecosystem to life through their centralized tracking, sensors, quality inspections, and cloud saving, just to name some.
    2. Everything is predictive. With the use of predictive analysis, data, and AI, experts say that manufacturers can lower their anticipated outages by half. With the help of predictive analytics, manufacturing companies can comprehend how their machines run and why they sometimes break down. When they do, they perform enhancements that will prevent those failures in the future. Present-day manufacturers are functioning in so many unknown scenarios and risky environments. Numerous global factors affect output and with predictive analytics, manufacturers can make less risky, smarter, and quicker business decisions from the maintenance of their machined to the optimization of their supply chain; from product quality to the delivery of goods. All of these decisions affect the entire experience of customers.
    3. More AI, Less I. As anticipated, there will be more digitization in every industry. The adoption of IoT by manufacturing companies applies in consumer goods, retail, martech, and healthcare. The coinciding connectivity and data provide a valuable understanding that is transforming the means by which manufacturing companies operate. Also, a huge percentage of IoT projects involve artificial intelligence (AI).

    Alongside 3-D printing and other advanced technologies, the enormous trends in manufacturing digital transformation will result in cheaper and faster prototypes. They can even pave the way to safer, more efficient training.

    The connectivity of the current products allows consumers to voice out their demands more quickly. This pushes the changes in manufacturing further this year. Add to this the transformational 5G, AI, and IoT, which will motivate manufacturers to do more this year and in years to come.

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  • How To Combat The Worldwide Skills Shortage

    In the past decade, we have experienced a steady erosion of skills among people working in various industries, professions and businesses. This includes many large industries like chemicals, petrochemicals, oil refining and the like. This is a very provocative statement which will, no doubt be hotly contested by some people, but nevertheless it is true, like it or not. This is the reason why one often hears a cry among HR professionals, business leaders and management gurus of a “worldwide talent crunch”. A side effect of this skill erosion has been an increase in salaries and benefits in many companies to those employees who have retained or enhanced their skills ( as contrasted with the pay cuts seen everywhere not so long ago), as well as concrete steps to stem attrition at all levels. This paper attempts to provide an insight into the issue as well as provide a solution for companies and businesses that are suffering from this problem.

    History of the problem

    The problem of the skills shortage can be directly attributed to three reasons. The first and primary reason is the “Downsizing “ effect. The second reason is Demographics. The third reason is that not enough young workers are entering the workforce in some sectors. We will study these one by one and also attempt to provide a solution.

    Downsize ‘em all!

    In the mid to late nineties, there was a wave of a new management fad that cut across all sectors, industries and professions. This fad was the concept of “downsizing” and “rightsizing”. Coupled with its cousin of “outsourcing”, it played a dominant role in creating todays’ problem. Like many other temporary quick fixes, it only proved the old adage , that the solution to a problem can create a bigger problem.

    Until the nineties, typically employees in most companies, shared between them, a vast body of knowledge, that was the real driver of the growth and profitability of the business. This was never acknowledged or measured as such by top management seriously. Thus this “intellectual property” of the business was never cared for properly. Merely having a physical location (like an office or a factory) and machines (or plants or computers or other physical assets) and money in the bank, does not make a business. The business requires skilled people, in various functions, having diverse skills, to glue it all together. They co-ordinate the people and assets, use the money productively and thus create value. This key insight was lost on the swashbuckling managers and cost-focused bean counters of the “cutting nineties” (a term similar to the swinging sixties, but more sinister), who looked askance at people, mocked them as mere “cost centers” and concentrated on cutting them out of the business.

    No doubt that every business does acquire some flab and bureaucracy as it grows older, but this wave of downsizing threw out the baby along with the bathwater. This scored the managers of those days some brownie points and lifted the bottom lines of those companies during the recessionary times by some percentage points. Not to speak of the increase in their own bottom lines because of the bonuses and stock options. But then, when the economy picked up again, this downsizing process left the companies with gaping skills shortages. This left companies with little or no resources to again expand capacities, regain their market positions, introduce new products or even to take care of existing products.

    This opportunity cost has been never seriously measured by any of the management gurus, to my knowledge.

    Demographics

    In Europe the average age of the population has now increased. This fact is well known and publicized often. However, what is not emphasized enough, is that the aging is far from uniform. In some industries, like chemicals manufacturing, the average age of a typical plant operator is more than 50! Besides, because of the decrease of retirement age by the industry (in its cost-cutting era), it means hundreds of these operators would retire at the same time, permanently cutting off their knowledge of so many years of industries and processes. There won’t be enough operators to go around since this age profile cuts across many chemical companies in the western world. Hence, once these operators exit the workforce, finding replacements won’t be easy. Ditto for other large manufacturing sectors.

    Bad PR and “Uncool” industries & sectors

    Professional PR managers say, that there is no such thing as “bad PR”, any publicity is good, if it generates interest among a community to discuss it. While this may be true for businesses like software or mobile phones, bad PR has badly affected the chemical industry, by painting it as eco-unfriendly, polluting and bad smelling. This is simply untrue with respect to many chemical industries today, who have far less pollution & environmental problems today. In fact most of the problems of pollution and warming in cities can be attributed to vehicular pollution rather than industrial pollution. However, who’s listening? To the youngsters graduating out of college the “chemical industry” is simply “uncool”. There also do not seem to be many efforts at correcting this view from the manufacturers of chemicals. Besides, the memory of the downsizing campaigns is still fresh and nobody wants to join the chemical industry, IT industry or other manufacturing industries, to make a career. They would rather join a TV channel, become a Radio Jockey, or go into the hospitality business or perhaps even try stock broking or merchant banking. This “bad PR” has also hit the IT industry in the US, where not many young people are enrolling in Computer Science courses in universities, because of the fear of not getting jobs due to outsourcing. Thus this leads to further shortages from the IT businesses point of view.

    The effect of combined factors

    The effect of all the factors in combination above, has been a dramatic shortage of skilled people in the industry. This creates not just problems of paying more for available skills or overtime, but the fact that a wrong operation because of lack of skills and / or training can result in a disaster, in case of a chemical company, affecting entire communities, not just individuals or companies. Wrong operations in other professions like the IT industry can have also serious undesirable consequences, which may also be catastrophic (imagine a software code with many bugs in your banking application software).

    The solution to the problem

    The only solution to the problem, is by spending more time, attention and money on training programs that enhance the skills of the workforce in general, refresh old skills that workers have and bring up the skills of the freshers or semi skilled workers who join the workforce, all in a short time. This can be achieved, only by employing innovative training solutions. The old training technique (which is hundreds of years old, by the way), can no longer be used effectively in todays’ situation.

    We are talking about classroom based training here. When somebody says “training” to a manager, the first thing that comes to his/her mind is “Oh! My God! Not again! I am already short of xx workers and they ask me to spare somebody for training!!”. This is because many of us still associate the word “training” with “classroom training”.

    This is of course not correct. The world has moved ahead and training can now be imparted online, at home, in the garden or on the beach. It is now ON DEMAND learning, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet, easy availability of PCs/laptops and mobile phones.

    We are talking of e-learning and m-learning here. Besides being flexible, it can be imparted in bite sized chunks, easily digestible, over a period of time. Repeating it hardly costs anything, whereas a classroom refresher training directly doubles the cost.

    An added benefit is that, for young entrants to the workforce, it gives them learning on platforms that they are already used to and comfortable with (i.e on laptops, PDAs and Mobile phones). It somehow enhances the “cool” factor and removes the image of the industry as staid, conventional and old-world.

    Topics for learning

    Previously there were not many courses with ready made topics with e-learning providers. Typically, most e-learning service providers used to provide custom-made, bespoke learning packages to individual companies. While this approach had its benefits, the downside is, that the courses are suitable only for the company for which they were designed, leading to a very high cost per user, nullifying the low cost advantages of e-learning.

    However, now newer companies like Abhisam Software have e-learning titles on topics that are suitable to many process industries. Examples include Hazardous Area Instrumentation and Gas Monitors. Since these are standard courses, they can be offered at a much lower cost than the earlier custom designed courses. Besides, if the number of learners is sufficiently large (say about 50 or more) then some degree of customization of these courses is also possible, again at a low cost.

    Summary

    Due to historical reasons, there has been a skill shortage in the industries and businesses, all over the world.

    This skill shortage will only worsen, as seniors retire and not enough youngsters enter the workforce in large numbers.

    If somehow more youngsters do enter the workforce in large numbers, the cost of training them, using the traditional training methods will be prohibitively expensive and unviable. Also not enough technical training personnel are available, to offer one-on one training.

    Using newer education technologies like e-learning and m-learning, knowledge and expertise, can be imparted quickly and precisely, to those people whose skills need to be developed. This can be done at a fraction of the cost of traditional learning. Thus new recruits can be trained effectively.
    Using standard topics and templates for learning, reduces the cost of the training further. Customization if required, however is always possible. In most cases, even with the cost of customization added, the total cost of training using these modern methods is lower than the cost of traditional training.

    Additionally, e-learning provides managers with a way to track training remotely, because most e-learning systems will provide test scores, record time spent on each module or page, log the students activity and provide very detailed measurements, that can be used to improve the training. Traditional methods hardly provided any data, save for a feedback form at the end which students themselves filled in, which then lies forgotten in some dusty file, forever.

    E-learning and m-learning does not mean merely reproduction of classroom training materials into ‘soft’ copies and viewing them on a PC or a mobile. Companies like Abhisam Software provide e-learning that is media rich, with lots of pictures, Flash based animations (that simulate a process or show the working of a machine or a phenomenon), interactive simulations (that include the learner in the Flash exercises), real-life video clippings of events or procedures and online assessments. This kind of “rich-media” training is simply not comparable with the traditional classroom based training. The courses are designed with the help of several subject matter experts, Instructional designers, animation and user-interface experts.

    Thus the worldwide shortage of skills can be addressed by using training to enhance workers’ skills, cross train workers, enhance the skills of semi skilled workers or freshers. This is possible only if company managements focus their attention on effective e-learning and m-learning philosophies. It is by far the best solution to bridge the skills shortage and gain competitive advantage.

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    AI Creates more than it Costs

    Innovation in technology is something that we all use and look forward to using. We want to see the new things come along and make our lives better, of course. AI in manufacturing is one such innovation that we are looking forward to seeing and want to use to our advantage, but it is also an innovation about which we have grave concerns.
    Nearly every type of innovative change may be a double-edged sword.
    Inventions come along every day that change the way that we do business and the way that we manufacture. Innovations give us the means to perform tasks faster, better, more cheaply. This is known as displacement or the displacement effect.
    In China this kind of innovation has been a part of the changing landscape for more than half a century.

    Fifty years in the past, more than 75 percent of the workers were in agriculture. Along came time saving and energy saving innovations and today only about 25 percent of the people of China are employed in agriculture today.

    New technology and innovation freed them up for manufacturing and many other, safer pursuits. New methods can take away jobs, but conversely they can also create jobs for everyone. The jobs that they can create may be higher paying and safer jobs.

    From job security to national security, it’s no secret that one such innovation–AI or artificial intelligence –has caused some grave concerns in both industry and individual sectors, but it has also given new hope and new life to many job sectors.

    AI and the technologies that it engenders such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and drones have the power to boost our economy and to boost our business growth. They will add billions of dollars to our economy this year alone.

    Unfortunately,AI also has the power to negatively impact jobs. In July of 2018, PwC’s UK Economic Outlook confirmed that AI could and likely would displace jobs that are being done by humans—even over the course of the next five years.

    While AI has the power to replace humans, it will also create new jobs and bring better and more innovative products to the marketplace. The impact on the UK and the US will stay at about 20 percent and is projected to remain largely neutral .

    This means that there will be approximately as many jobs created as there are jobs lost. That holds true in the UK and probably the United States but the same is not true everywhere. Around the world, where many low skilled jobs and manual jobs are being done, these lower paying jobs may be undertaken by machines using AI.

    One example of this is China and it is not surprising that people are resistant to the use of AI when they are not well trained and will not –in their opinion—be able to find another job to support their families.
    The technologies associated with AI may well displace more than a quarter of all jobs that are currently being done in China. Between 26 and 27 percent of current jobs may be lost.

    Fortunately there is one more difference. AI will also create more jobs in China than it will in the rest of the world. In China, particularly in the service sector, the net job increase is expected to be around 29-31 percent. That amounts to about 97 million jobs being created by the advent of new AI technology.
    Whether or not the current labor force is able to be retrained to do these jobs remains to be seen, but there will be myriad new positions being created by the advent of AI technology and these will be higher paying and infinitely safer for the average worker.

    What’s your take? Can lower skilled workers without a lot of tech savvy be retrained to allow them to keep their jobs?

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    IIoT – Who is using it? Part II

    IIoT. while not well known or understood, is one of the top applications being used in manufacturing and industry today. It’s found in nearly every industry in the world including these:

    Agriculture-to provide for connected farms that can do things such as even tell the farmer when the cow is coming into season.

    Aerospace, to be used in un-mapped vehicles in air such as drones and airplanes or to manage airports.

    Automotive, for connected or autonomous cars.

    Energy systems for things like renewable energy, smart homes, smart grids, and distributed energy resources.

    Healthcare systems such as connected healthcare, things like insulin pumps and medical imaging but also including the newest up and coming robotic surgeries.

    Manufacturing, connected factories that are offering data and safety information.

    Oil and gas exploration and connected refineries.

    Transportation and travel, where it is used by buses, hyper-loops, trains, subways, parking structures.

    Typical IIoT systems mean that you have to share the data and information between multiple different devices. This means that it must be available and used between multiple devices and across multiple networks. From the edge (sensors, remote devices and computers) to the cloud (centralized computer systems) the data must be able to flow everywhere.

    That’s a challenge not only due to the connections and the security but because of the vast array and the massive volume of the data. It can easily overwhelm a network, particularly one that encompasses very remote operations. “These interconnected systems require new ways to manage increased data volume, performance requirements, security risk and safety certifications.”

    What’s your take on autonomous parking, vehicles, logistics, supply and manufacturing?

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    Offshoring -Nearshoring – Reshoring

    Do you think that Henry Ford would have imagined that in a few decades from revolutionizing industry, we would have a global economy with a global workforce?

    Perhaps one of his most valuable visions was his understanding of industry.  Today in our world of manufacturing so much of our products are manufactured with parts from all over the globe. It is difficult to purchase a single product today that was manufactured 100% in the USA – or solely in any other country for that matter.

    That doesn’t mean that it is without problems. It most assuredly is not.

    Manufacturing in China had for a very long time taken the manufacturing industry by force. Low cost labor and world class factories made it a very viable country to consider when thinking of manufacturing your product. Large corporations have taken advantage of this for many years, but recently they are considering coming back to the US to manufacture. Today we are seeing a vast array of companies re-shoring or near shoring rather than offshoring to other countries.

    Although globalization has brought American countries lower wages and lower cost to their manufacturing needs, we have to consider the impact it has had on our local economy and in many cases, the impact it has had on brand loyalty. Many Americans won’t buy from companies who are solely manufacturing overseas.

    For years we saw far fewer manufacturing jobs being filled on the mainland USA.  Today that is changing! Far less offshoring and a great deal more companies moving their manufacturing back to the United States. What is the reason that we’re seeing that happen?  What do you believe will be the final outcome years from now?

    At WH Meanor, if you’re looking for the right manufacturing team here at home to help you to compete on a level playing field. we can help.

    If you’re looking for the right manufacturing team, you have to start with the right recruiting team. Let WH Meanor put our experience to work for you.   Register now for a free ten minute assessment of your search efforts by clicking the link https://whmeanorassociates.as.me/

    Keep up to date on industry information sign up to receive all important information right here: Register to receive industry information

     

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    Contract Manufacturing

    In every industry today, organizations succeed by focusing on what they do best and leaving the rest to their partners, agencies or outsourced vendors. Contract manufacturing, while it can be difficult from a supply chain perspective, seems to fit neatly into this scenario. In addition to allowing global organizations to focus more on their core competencies, value proposition, and engineering; contract manufacturers provide several other advantages over manufacturing products internally to include: lower costs, flexibility, access to external expertise and reduced capital expenditures.

    However, the question remains and must be addressed: with so much potential and cost savings that contract manufacturing can offer to their partners, why do so many of these relationships fall short of expectations? Perhaps one reason is that many of those expectations are flawed from the very beginning.

    For example, let’s take the first example of cost savings. The fact of the matter is that many of the cost savings that should be passed on to the customers may go to the contract manufacturer’s bottom line instead. This happens more than you think. Additionally, many contract manufacturers don’t always have the supposed influence with their suppliers since the original manufacturers often select the partners from the very beginning. This lack of influence is a key driver for an increase in costs from the contract manufacturer. Also, flexibility can be compromised by the contract manufacturer’s focus (or lack thereof) on low costs and low inventory. And, although using contract manufacturers often ties up less capital, the dollars need to compensate against the inventory holding costs included in contract manufacturers’ charges.

    Even with clear assumptions on the objectives and expectations, it may be a challenge to realize the benefits. That’s largely because it’s difficult to manage relationships with vendors and suppliers; especially when those suppliers were not selected by the contract manufacturer. Essentially, the parties should create clear objectives and expectations from the beginning that would make it possible to manage the relationship through service level agreements linked to a set of key performance indicators. However, these challenges may tempt businesses to keep manufacturing in house, at the sacrifice of increased costs. Instead, organizations need to take a strategic approach to contract manufacturing relationships; one that will benefit all in the supply chain.

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    Curbing Counterfeits in Manufacturing

    Some field experts believe that manufacturing lies at the heart of economy, which leads undoubtedly leads to a high influx of counterfeit products in recent years. Problems tend to arise when legitimate companies fail to acquire product end consumer data from suspicious sources.

    Manufacturers have undergone additional measures to prevent consumers using dependable QR code labels and other forms of scanning methods in authenticating products. Open tags found on products are also being closely monitored by AI-backed systems that perform routine checks and logs on the patented technologies.

    Due to rampant cloning methods and other expedients of piracy, the distribution of counterfeit products remains an onerous issue.

     

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