Monday, January 4, 2021

To Build a Fire

In 2021, much of our work at Mayo Clinic Platform will be creating repeatable processes that achieve their intended result in a timely, repeatable, scalable fashion. To understand what it means to achieve process maturity, let me tell the story of firewood management at Unity Farm Sanctuary, a great illustration of use case definition and attention to detail.

At the Sanctuary, we heat the farmhouse in the evening with a wood fire using fallen trees from the property. The logs must be sorted into wood species — ash and black birch can be burned without aging, while maple and oak must be aged. Cedar and pine are not good firewood because their oils cause the wood to pop and sputter. Poplar is not a good firewood because it smells and doesn't generate much heat.

Once we've identified the right wood for the right purpose, it needs to be cut into logs less than 2 feet long so they can be split and stored.

How do you cut up a fallen tree? You need multiple tools, including a chain saw for bucking, a forest axe for limbing, a timber jack to lift the tree off the ground, a sawbuck to trim the logs that are too long and a felling wedge to prevent the chain saw from getting pinched as logs are cut.*

If you have all these tools and the training to use them, you can reduce a fallen tree into firewood for splitting.

Then how do you split it? An engineer in West Bridgewater, Mass., custom built the SuperSplit, which uses flywheels instead of hydraulics. With this tool, I can split a cord of wood by myself in 30 minutes.

Then how do you store it? We use firewood brackets to create whatever size and shape storage we need, and then we cover it with a tarp.

Next, we have to transport it to the fireplace. We use a Vermont cart with flat-free tires and a log carrier.

When the chain saw chains are dull and covered with sap, how do you clean and sharpen them? We use a small tank of mineral spirits to soak the chains, and then scrub them with a stainless-steel brush. Then we use a commercial chain sharpener adjusted at precise angles to bring each chain back to factory specification. Then we use another tank to soak the chain in oil before storing it.

I mention all these process steps because to achieve maturity, we needed to identify each action to turn a fallen tree into a cozy fire. We had to implement the collection of technologies and training to do it rapidly and repeatedly.

In the Mayo Clinic Platform, we're developing mature processes for bringing on new partners, ingesting new kinds of data, launching new projects with existing joint ventures, evaluating AI algorithms and accelerating pilots with startups. Like the tree-to-fire procedure at Unity Farm Sanctuary, we’ll develop detailed use cases, appropriate vendors, training/staffing, toolsets and key performance indicators to support these Platform processes.

Maneesh Goyal, COO of Platform, notes that we need People, Processes and Products to be successful at Mayo Clinic Platform. My role as President of Mayo Clinic Platform and co-founder of Unity Farm Sanctuary is to support these concepts in both my professional and home life. 

*Products mentioned are not endorsements. The Sanctuary has no relationship with any of these companies.

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