Friday, July 31, 2015

Accelerating Your Ideas Into Cash

Most companies have great ideas. The challenge is deciding what to do with them. How can we get
over the hurdles, speed up the implementation and turn these ideas into cash, whether it be from revenue or cost savings?

Stepping outside the box and trying something new can prove difficult because of FEAR. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of letting yourself and others down. Fear hinders growth and perpetuates the status quo. The Good News: You can overcome fear. Below are two practical approaches to embracing the unknown and conquering fear.

1. IDENTIFY Death Threats
When beginning to implement new ideas, attack your fear head on. These fears, also termed ‘Death Threats’, are anything that can get in the way of successfully implementing an idea. Waiting to claim their victory, Death Threats stop an idea before it has the chance to succeed. Whether mentioned in conversation or through thought, they can be found in statements such as:
  • We tried that five years ago and it didn’t work.
  • If the idea saves us money will the customer want a price reduction?
  • My manager will never go along with it.
  • It costs money so there is no way we’ll do it around here, even if it saves much more.
  • To work, the idea needs four people to change how they do things. That will never happen.
  • I need IT to make it work, but they are always too busy.
IMPORTANT: Addressing Death Threats is the proven best and fastest way to implement new ideas. Rooted in psychology and founded on the rule of the 'Common Enemy', humans unite with those who have similar behaviors, vision, ideas and interests. People come together to fight off a common enemy. Examples include teachers in school, quality issues in operations, and dissatisfied customers. Having people identify and attack Death Threats builds natural teamwork. Teams are known to go to extreme lengths to attack common enemies.

How do you attack Death Threats? When an employee suggests an idea for improvement on the assembly line or during a meeting, instead of asking others what they think of the idea, ask them to identify the Death Threats. This shifts the discussion from how to make an idea work, which puts people on the spot and makes them defensive, to how to attack idea roadblocks. This is much easier for people to think about.

Shifting the discussion in this manner changes the dynamic of discussing new ideas. When asked how to make something new work, we gladly help out when it is someone we like. If it is Joe’s idea and I like Joe, I’ll offer a suggestion to help Joe out. So the ideas that move forward can be a popularity contest. When asked the Death Threats regarding Joe’s idea, it doesn’t matter how much I like or don’t like Joe, I’m far more likely to offer up a couple reasons that will stop us from implementing Joe’s idea.

2. INSPIRE Action
Remember the Goal:  Implement MORE ideas than average, FASTER than average. By doing this, you will have built a competitive advantage. The ideas you implement don’t have to be earth-shattering, they can just as easily be continuous improvement actions. It’s all about action.
Here’s how to start:
  • Teamwork: Create a small team to attack each Death Threat associated with an idea.
  • Action: Challenge each team to find ways to kill the Death Threat as fast as they can. Think – how can we pilot the idea without risk? Try it on the line after hours? Prototype the idea at low cost? Gather customer feedback quickly? 
  • Speed: Give each team one week for their action item.
  • Implement: When all Death Threats are addressed, combine the actions from each team together and you’ve got the road map for full implementation. 
Combine the two actions outlined here and turn your organization into an innovation machine with a team of motivated employees. Best of all, you’re creating a culture of innovation by encouraging every employee to share his or her ideas and to collaborate to make the ideas work. More ideas will be implemented faster and more successfully using this approach.

READY TO START?
MMTC offers Innovation consulting services from one-day Jump-Starts to Innovation Action Team mentoring. Call 1.888.414.6682 or email info@mmtc.org to find out more.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.





Friday, July 24, 2015

Outside the Lab: Improving Food Safety in Your Organization

Safety is on the minds of Americans every day. When you get into your car, you buckle up. When you go to the lake, you lather on sunscreen. The same expectation of safety is extended to food. Each year, millions of dollars are spent on food safety initiatives. Yet, despite efforts, extensive outbreaks of foodborne illness continue to exist. It leads many to ask: What’s the problem? Is the testing conducted inadequate? Do we need MORE testing? Unfortunately, we may be asking the wrong questions.

Look to the People
Maybe the solution to food safety issues comes down to tackling the basic fundamentals of human error and decision making. Employees working while sick, poor personal hygiene, and the inadequate cleaning and sanitization of equipment are the three biggest contributors to foodborne illness outbreaks. How can we change this?  The common thread in these situations is people. Fortunately, individual behaviors and poor choices can be improved through education, training, and behavior modification. No matter how much testing is conducted, without proper training, tainted food will still make its way into to the market.

Create Solutions with a Culture of Commitment
Everything flows from the top down in an organization. Creating a culture of commitment is a great step in improving food safety. Management must define standards, expectations, goals, and consequences for nonconformity. Clear GMP’s & SSOP’s must be outlined and instilled through rigorous training. To quote Confucius: “What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, but what I do I understand.” Employees must do to understand. Signs and posters showing how to wash equipment is not nearly as effective as showing staff how to do it and then having them repeat the process.

Set Better Standards
Setting better standards for excellence is another food safety solution. Many times a passing grade is 80-90%. Proper handwashing and equipment sanitation with less than 100% efficiency will not produce the results you want. Just because something was cleaned 100% yesterday does not mean it can be cleaned less than 100% today.

Food safety must start on the front lines. By focusing on providing our front line workers adequate tools and training to get the job done, instead of more tests and standards, food safety is better achieved. Best practices do not only refer to how something is done, but how we will best educate and train the heart and soul of our companies, our employees.

Learn more about food laws and staying safe by attending MMTC’s EXPLORE: Food Tools of the Trade Event on Tuesday, August 11, 2015. Learn more about MMTC's food safety, quality and efficiency solutions here.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How the Kaizen Philosophy Can Improve your Organization


how the kaizen philosophy can improve your organization
The word Kaizen is often referenced when talking about Lean Manufacturing. Kaizen is a combination of two Japanese words: ‘Kai’ meaning change and ‘Zen’ meaning good. Kaizen combines these words to express the idea that big changes come from many small changes over a period of time. For manufacturers, business process improvement and an increase in profit is the result of many small changes accumulated over time.
Kaizen is continuous improvement based upon various, sound principles such as:
      Good processes equals good results.
      Speak with data, manage by facts.
      Perform root cause analysis.
      Work as a team.
      Kaizen is everybody’s business.

Kaizen and Employee Buy-In
When it comes to Kaizen, continuous quality improvement achieves major change over time because changes are driven by employee input. When employees are empowered to participate in changing their environment, results are more sustainable. Kaizen uses the Japanese logic of bringing improvement internally from within the workplace. This concept first appeared in Masaaki Imai’s book “Kaizen: The Key to Japanese Success” written in 1996.

One of the many tools under the umbrella of Lean manufacturing, Kaizen has been successful in helping manufacturers improve. While there are many Lean tools that are used to describe manufacturing process improvement, each technique can produce different outcomes. Understanding those differences is important when trying to understand what process improvement plan is best for your company. You can read more about various Lean tools by visiting the Lean Business Solutions section of our website.
Kaizen Events in Manufacturing
In the manufacturing world, Kaizen events are scheduled to help companies identify and implement changes. These events are goal driven, typically last for one week, and the goals are specific and measureable. Events include a facilitator and team members from support areas in the company, along with management personnel. Kaizen events are most successful when they are part of a larger overall program of continuous improvement. Long-term success can only be realized if the event is supported and understood by all involved. Otherwise, change is short-lived and employees revert back to the “old” way of doing things. 

Kaizen relies on:
      Letting go of past ideas.
      Focusing on why you can improve something, not on why it can’t be done.
      Questioning current practices.
      Seeking improvement instead of perfecting.
      Correcting mistakes right away.
      Leveraging wisdom when faced with hardship.
      Asking "WHY?" multiple times and seeking the root causes of problems.
      Seeking the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one.

The benefits of Kaizen for Michigan Manufacturers are numerous. Increases in productivity and quality are often enjoyed while lowering costs and decreasing delivery time. Employees benefit from Kaizen as well, experiencing fewer accidents on the job, improved morale and overall improved job satisfaction.
Lower employee turnover is a huge boost to productivity and efficiency. Customers take notice of the little changes, which eventually create big improvements leading to increased customer satisfaction. 

If you are interested in conducting a Kaizen event at your company, contact the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) at 888.414.6682 or click here.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.