You Won’t Believe These 4 Bizarre Facts About China

China, China, China. Seems like you can’t flip on the news or open your web browser without hearing or seeing something new about the Middle Kingdom (as China is sometimes called). There’s a reason for this: China is the world’s most populous country and will soon — if current trends hold — have its largest economy. Many of the world’s consumer goods are manufactured in China, and the country is increasingly a consumer powerhouse of its own. Plus, its semi-authoritarian government appears to have big designs on regional influence.

Big things are happening in China. Unfortunately, most Americans know precious little about the world’s second-largest economy. Check out these four crazy facts about China — and, as there are plenty more where these came from, feel free to share your own.

  1. It’s Arguably the World’s Oldest Extant Civilization

Modern China is a big place: larger than the continental United States, in fact. It’s important to note that, in spite of outsiders’ perceptions, it’s not ethnically homogeneous. Much of China’s western reaches, including Xinjiang Province and the vast Tibetan Plateau, house ethnocultural groups that have historically been marginalized by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group.

For better or worse, the Han are more or less synonymous with “China,” and they form the core of what’s arguably the world’s oldest continuously operating civilization. In fact, China has existed in recognizable form since before 3,000 B.C. — putting it on par with the long-vanished Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations.

  1. China Actually Won’t Be the World’s Most Populous Nation for Much Longer

China remains the world’s most populous nation, but it won’t be for too much longer. Despite a long-predicted slowdown in its fertility rate, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s largest country by 2030. By then, the two countries will house nearly 1 in 3 of Earth’s inhabitants.

  1. China Has a Dynamic Precious Metals Market

China is one of the world’s largest single markets for precious metals. In particular, it’s a top destination for salvaged metals from old catalytic converters — accounting for the lion’s share of the market for rhodium and palladium on any given day.

  1. China Has Thousands of Miles of Bullet Trains

Love trains? You’ll love China. China has about 12,000 miles of dedicated high speed rail as of late 2015, according to this fascinating article, and nearly double that amount in planning or under construction. China’s bullet train network includes the world’s only pressurized rail line, a Tibet-bound service that reaches more than 15,000 feet above sea level.

Go East

Here’s a bit of friendly advice: If you’ve never been to China, go. You don’t need to drop everything you’re doing and board the next flight to Beijing, but there’s no reason not to make the Middle Kingdom a priority destination.

In fact, why not swap out your next trip to New York or San Francisco for a week in China’s hinterland? You’ll make back the extra airfare costs thanks to China’s low, low living costs, and you’re sure to see things you never even knew existed in the process. Your favorite American attractions will still be there when you get back — and just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell.

Here’s Why Your Business Needs Lean Six Sigma

Modern business is more results-driven than ever. If you want your company to be successful in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, you need to give it every single advantage you can muster. Moreover, you need to maximize said advantages — squeezing every ounce of value and productivity out of yourself, your equipment, your team and your customers.

It’s not exactly news that modern businesses live and die by the efficiency sword, but that doesn’t mean the path to efficiency is neatly laid out for business owners of different stripes. There’s a particular approach to efficiency, in fact, that has just recently gained favor as a critical component of business best practices. It’s known as Lean Six Sigma, and it could mean the difference between success and failure for your enterprise.

Here’s what you need to know about Lean Six Sigma — and how your business can benefit.

What Is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a hybrid of two popular process efficiency and waste reduction initiatives: Lean and Six Sigma. The hybrid uses qualitative and quantitative metrics to reduce waste, improve quality and enhance efficiency for cost- and reputation-conscious businesses in various verticals (including technology and manufacturing). Key areas of waste-reduction focus include:

  • Time
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over production
  • Over processing
  • Defects
  • Skills

Within each area, LSS professionals seek to reduce or eliminate deficiencies, such as by reducing production and transport times.

Certification Levels

Professionals trained in Lean Six Sigma practices attain progressively higher certification levels, known as belts. LSS belts correspond with levels of mastery of LSS principles:

 

  • Yellow Belt: Yellow belts are considered “Lean Six Sigma aware.” They’re familiar with the basic tenets of LSS and devote some valued time per week to LSS-related initiatives or learning modules.
  • Green Belt: Green belts devote significant amounts of valued time to LSS tools usage, as well as implementing DMAIC and Lean principles. They usually work under or with LSS Black belts, and may or may not consider LSS-related activities to be primary job functions.
  • Black Belt: Black belts are full-time LSS project leaders. They direct multi-person teams working on specific LSS initiatives or work as at-large consultants on general process improvements. LSS-related work constitutes the bulk of their valued time and is considered a primary job function.
  • Master Black Belt: Master black belts have at least two years of LSS experience and are certified to teach LSS principles to subordinates and clients.

Not every business requires (or can afford) multiple Lean Six Sigma black belts in key organizational roles. Nevertheless, companies committed to process improvement often provide opportunities for employees to obtain LSS training and certification, or hire LSS-certified consultants to help with specific projects or initiatives. If you haven’t already done so, assess your process improvement needs and incorporate manageable LSS-related initiatives — including hiring certified professionals as consultants or dedicated employees, or implementing a Lean Six Sigma training program for existing employees.

What Else Does Your Business Need to Succeed?

Businesses that implement lean practices tend to outperform their old-fashioned peers. But Lean Six Sigma isn’t the only ticket to corporate success. It’s just one of many newfangled differentiators that companies looking to compete in the 21st century need to implement in order to stay one step ahead of the curve. There are plenty of others that fit this bill, too.

Bottom line: Make sure your focus on Lean Six Sigma certification doesn’t crowd out other worthy initiatives. The future of your business could depend on it.

 

Scott Vollero is an international entrepreneur and expert in the precious metals and automotive parts recycling industries.