Friday, August 29, 2014

We Interrupt This BlogCast . . .

...to bring you this special bulletin. 

We regularly look for new methods and products with which we can serve Michigan businesses, with a special focus on manufacturers. As a result, we're adding key personnel to concentrate on Michigan's emerging and expanding markets. We are so excited about some of the new things happening around here that we couldn't wait to share them. Here's just a few of our latest additions.

John Spillson - Food Processing Development Manager
John has more than 25 years of experience working in his family's food business. Spillson's LTD was the manufacturer of rice pudding and deli sandwiches that were sold around metro Detroit. John will help us expand our existing programs to include food growers as well as end product food producers.

Doug Rulon - Master Six Sigma Black Belt
Doug has so many core competencies that he's a walking acronym dictionary. His expertise includes: quality initiatives, process improvements, plant operations, strategic planning, cost reductions, project management, job scheduling, internal auditing, process optimization, performance metrics, supply chain, change management, start-up operations, facility management, process engineering, control plans, operational streamlining, process development, turn-around strategies, PFMEAs, BOS, PPAPs, lean methodologies, master black belt, DMAIC & DFSS. . . In other words, he knows your acronyms and which ones are the right tool to improve your operation.

Mike Brooks - Director, Materials Technology
Mike is a materials specialist and will be working with companies on various light weighting and materials issues. Mike brings a wealth of knowledge to the MMTC, including years of experience working with composites and plastics materials with a focus on flame retardant applications and compounds. This experience has included work with companies in a variety of industries including marine, recreational vehicles, agriculture, automotive, defense, electrical and electronics, medical, computer, construction, aerospace, and consumer products. Basically, if you make it, he can help select the right materials for you.

Ken Pickett - Materials Engineer
Ken will be supporting Mike's charge to assist Michigan's businesses on light weighting and materials issues, with a special focus on metals. Ken has a strong background in materials, metallurgy, manufacturing and six sigma. He has crafted and taught courses on metallurgy and materials science and has served as a technical liaison with local companies and future metallurgists. Not only that, but Ken also holds 3 patents so can you help navigate the patent application process. 

This is only the beginning. We'll be taking a deeper dive into workforce and other issues later this year to see how we can best integrate into Michigan's existing tapestry of business support programs and agencies. As we continue to leverage our resources and partnerships to expand our offerings, know that we are here to help. If you have any questions on MMTC products and services be sure to contact us at inquiry@mmtc.org. We look forward to hearing from you.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. 


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, August 22, 2014

I’ve Completed My Waste Walk. . . Now What?

A couple weeks ago, we posted about Waste Walks. In fact, there’s a lot of information out on the internet that you can just Google and discover.

  • Are Waste Walks a good thing? Absolutely.
  • Are they applicable outside of a manufacturing only environment? Without a doubt.
  • Is there a good form or checklist available? A plethora. 

Remember, the most important thing is to identify what you see – what type of waste it is, potential causes, and potential solutions. This sets you up for the next part – which is what you are going to do about it.

A waste walk can ultimately provide a fresh perspective of your existing operations, and illuminate improvement opportunities that might be overlooked when employees are focused on routine tasks or crisis management, depending on the cyclical nature of your business. The key to a waste walk, like any physical activity, is the forward motion. The most important element to a waste walk isn’t the time spent reviewing and documenting waste, though they are certainly vital components; it’s the follow-on actions that lead to improvements or changes in the way things are done.

What does MMTC look for during a waste walk? First, we really view it as an Improvement Opportunity Assessment. When scheduled, we’ll come out to your facility and we’ll look for the typical types of waste. But in addition to that, we’ll look for evidence of efficient operations, and this goes beyond typical evidence of waste. 


Leadership is a crucial component of every successful business venture. Is there evidence of management commitment and company vision? By walking the shop floor or office areas, is there visual or other evidence of the company culture and do the employees exhibit an awareness of how their job contributes to the overall organizational success? Is there a clear form and function for every action? Is there an active 5S or visual order to daily activities?

How do parts flow through the organization? Whether raw materials to finished goods or purchase order to delivery, there should be a recognized process in place. Is there evidence of versatility and cross-training between functions? Are parts produced as needed or are there large quantities of inventory or piles of paperwork waiting for processing? How are mistakes identified? Is there a control or quality verification process in place?

Are employees equipped and empowered to conduct their own problem solving or root cause analysis? Is performance tracked in any way? Are there regular maintenance or process checks in place?

In addition to the above, we provide a detailed comprehensive evaluation by area, a benchmarking percentile radar chart comparing your performance against best in class, and recommendations for decisive improvements.

For more information about MMTC products and services or to schedule an improvement opportunity assessment at your facility, email us at inquiry@mmtc.org.


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, August 15, 2014

The Strategic Importance of Technology Roadmapping (Part 1 of 2)

How much time do you spend on strategic planning for your organization? In manufacturing, it’s very easy to get caught up in the daily grind…and understandably so! You have to worry about maintaining production levels, serving clients, adhering to safety standards, marketing your products, and so on and so on. When you have to mark so many things off of the “to-do” list in a given day, there’s seldom time for strategy.

If you’ve been procrastinating developing an official strategic plan for your company, use this as a call-to-action: plan NOW! As Charles Dickens more eloquently put it, “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Small and Large Manufacturers Benefit from Roadmapping

A great way to organize a strategic plan for your company is through roadmapping. Roadmapping is something you should know about (and consider) especially if your manufacturing firm wants to grow. It’s particularly useful because roadmapping concerns technology… and as you know… technology always seems to be changing. Every time you turn on the TV or go to a networking meeting, you hear about new software / hardware or an invention that you need to put on the radar.

So what is roadmapping? It’s a strong management technique for planning a company’s technological capabilities to ensure that they meet strategic goals. These maps are effective because they give organizations a way to visualize this alignment. Their “graphical nature” makes it easier to have a conversation about how products and processes should be developed and connected.

Road maps are first introduced to a manufacturer in the form of charts which contain bars or graphs. Then, after finding the technique useful, companies graduate to using standard software or even customized software for road mapping. (FYI - there are a lot of vendors for this out there at all price levels.)

In addition to helping your company plan the right technology required for new product developments, roadmapping typically includes the recording of expenses to help you stay within your set budget.

How Motorola Benefited from Roadmapping

how motorola benefited from roadmapping
Roadmapping was developed in the 1970s, and Motorola was one of the first major companies to use the process. The company created road maps for its business and once institutionalized, Motorola reported saving over $500 million as a result.

Roadmapping isn’t for every company. But if technology is a part of your processes and your company is prioritizing growth, it’s a great way to test out various scenarios and see whether or not a certain product or line of business fit into your business strategy.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll give you more information on how to create a road map. Stay tuned!

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, August 8, 2014

Downtime or Tim Woods: Signs of a Waste Walk in Progress

Waste. . . something we've heard from an early age, and throughout the stages of life.
“Don’t waste your food,” said all parents everywhere.
“Waste not, want not,” an American idiom
“A man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” Kurt Cobain.
It seems like everyone has something to say about Waste. So, when we say, a company can benefit from a Waste Walk . . . what do we mean?

First, it’s important to understand just what a waste walk is in the context of manufacturing. The purpose of a waste walk is to gather information about the work process, the work areas within which it is performed, and any instances of waste that is observed. Typically, the waste walk is conducted by experienced lean practitioners who can offer a fresh perspective to manufacturers and illuminate opportunities for improvement. In many cases, opportunities that are often overlooked because “it’s the way we've always done it.”


And what, exactly are those experienced lean practitioners looking for? Why Waste, of course, but what do we mean by that? There are a couple of good acronyms for that...There’s DOWNTIME and TIM WOODS. . . depending on your personality and preference.

The DOWNTIME acronym captures the 8 wastes in a very effective manner. Typically, when observing a pre-lean manufacturing process, we find that 95% of what's observed is non-value added time. Time, that if better utilized, could lead to a competitive advantage by getting finished product into the hands of customers sooner - and at a lower cost to you. For a shop in the midst of lean implementation, a waste walk can promote dialogue among employees and celebrate gains that have already been made. This collaboration is important in maintaining employee engagement and momentum in achieving the ideal future state. 

As for my 'friend' TIM WOODS, the same wastes as above are identified, with the shift from 'extra processing' to over processing and adding S for Skills as in wasted skills. Some people are just better with names and faces.

Regardless of the acronym of your choice, the idea is to utilize the waste walk as a motivator to action. As an initial step - it can open the eyes of employees new to the company or new to lean - to potential improvements. As an intermediate step - it can identify improvements and highlight future steps. And, as a final review, it can solidify your progress and help move your organization beyond the low-hanging fruit of process change and initial work cell organization into more comprehensive changes to encompass your entire organization.

For more information on our lean business solutions or to schedule a waste walk at your facility, please contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at inquiry@mmtc.org. 

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, August 1, 2014

A Manufacturer’s Guide to Email Marketing


Email is still an important marketing tool for manufacturers. It gives your business the opportunity to easily connect with your target audience on a consistent basis. According to a study by ExactTarget, 91% of consumers use email at least once a day. Furthermore, “66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message,” according to the Direct Marketing Association.

manufacturer's guide to email marketingWhile email still plays a vital role in how we communicate, email marketing is evolving. Your target audience is being bombarded with email marketing messages, so yours has to rise above the noise. Forrester reports that 838 billion marketing messages were sent in 2013 alone.

If you haven’t seen effective results from your email campaigns, here is a guide on how you can improve your email marketing program:

1)    Convey your Brand – Your email blasts should have a template that’s consistent with your brand. Your emails, website and sales collateral should all have a reliable look and feel. Make sure to include your logo in all emails.
2)    Subject Line – People are going to open or delete your email based on your subject line. Keep your subject lines catchy and to the point. Avoid using “sales-y” terms and $$$ signs because spam filters will block them.
3)    Strong foot forward – All emails should start with a “hook.” Translation: the beginning of your email should be enticing and “hook” the reader to view the rest of your message. Think about a news article – if the beginning is boring, do you read on?
 
4)    Content – The occasional discount or deal is fine, but shouldn’t be the entirety of your email marketing program. Use your emails to demonstrate your credibility and industry expertise. Provide useful tips and information for your target audience and earn their trust.

5)    Use Visuals – While your copy “does the talking,” use visuals to support your messages. Using pictures or videos to show your products or processes can make your emails more effective.

6)    Targeted blasts – Instead of sending every email out to your entire database, segment your email marketing lists. Break down your email list based on location, industry or demographics and tailor your messages accordingly.

7)    Consistency – Sending out an email once a year probably won’t yield the best results. Outline an email marketing schedule and stick with it. At least shoot to complete one email a month.

8)    A/B Testing – Is 9am on Tuesday the best time to send an email to your database? Or is Thursday at 2pm? Does your audience respond better to “edgier” emails or do they prefer more conservative messages? You won’t know until you do some testing!

9)    Social Integration – If you have them, make sure you include you include your social media sites in all of your email blasts. A lot of email marketing programs now give you the option to include social sharing in your communication.

10) Call to Actions – All emails should have a purpose and “call to action” at the end. What is the next step for a reader? Are they supposed to request a consultation? Buy a product? Make your call to action clear.

11) Drive website traffic – Include opportunities for readers to visit your website to find out more information. Hyperlink key words and phrases in your message.

12) Feedback – Your email messages should be interactive. Invite readers to provide feedback on how you can improve your email program and thank them for suggestions.

13) Mobile Friendly – According to Litmus, nearly half of all emails are now viewed on mobile devices and almost 70% of those users will delete emails if they aren’t optimized for mobile. Check with your email marketing vendor to make sure your emails can be viewed correctly by mobile channels.

14) Tracking Reports ­– Virtually all email marketing systems allow you to view the results of your campaign. Evaluate how many people are opening your emails and more importantly, how many readers are clicking on the clicks and following your calls-to-action. Tweak your email marketing program based on the results.

Think about how many emails you receive everyday. Now think about how any emails you delete everyday. Follow these tips and make sure that your emails stand apart from your competition!
For more information about MMTC’s business development and growth services, click here or call 888-414-6682.

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.