Friday, January 30, 2015

“Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way”

The original source of that quote is up for debate. Some claim Thomas Paine, patriot of the American Revolution, used these words in his pamphlet Common Sense, which crystallized the rebellious demand for America’s independence from Great Britain. Others attribute those words to General George Patton, famous WWII Army commander whose character and outward expression was known by all and feared by many. Still, others associate the famous saying most closely with Lee Iacocca, as his outward expression of the determination to pull the downtrodden Chrysler Corporation out of trouble with K-Cars and Minivans.

Whoever the source or association, if you use those famous words you’re in good company. All three men used the saying to inspire change. From a ripple, they created tsunamis.

The Innovation Ripple that Creates a Tsunami
Do you want to create a ripple in 2015? Are you ready to lead your company into the future? Then read on!

Innovation is about change. Leading change. Promoting change. Leading the parade, not watching it. Okay I get it. I’m all in. Innovation is the buzz, but how do I do it? Do I need a product to innovate? Is there an App for that? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘Innovation’ is “The process of translating an idea into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”

Does that mean the following initiatives count as Innovation?
  • Improving customer service with a dedicated CS Rep?
  • Improving cycle time with a kaizen event?
  • Improving lead conversion with a new sales qualifying process?
  • Improving quote response time by value stream mapping the process and eliminating waste?
Yes, yes, yes and yes! Innovation is all those things and more. The challenge most leaders face is how to get started and determining which Innovation to launch first. We often hear, “We have lots of ideas, but we don’t know which one to dedicate our time and resources to right now.”

This is where “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the way” comes in. It’s a new year. The slate is clean. The best companies are launching new innovations right now. Your competitors are innovating. Are you? If not, what’s getting in your way? Making decisions can be downright scary. What if you make the wrong call? "I'd better be careful not to screw things up," you tell yourself. "Don't push the envelope. Just play it safe."

As we make decisions — ranging from big moves in business to smaller, personal choices — we often put the weight of the world on our shoulders. The nagging impulse to avoid mistakes, get it right, and not lose ground can paralyze our ability to try new things. Accordingly, many people and companies remain stuck in the quicksand of the status quo.

Start the Innovation Ripple
To crack through this barrier, try a fresh approach for 2015. Rather than viewing a decision to try something new as a written-in-stone, life-or-death noose, reframe it as an experiment. Put on your lab coat, and picture yourself in a research lab. You have an idea. Think about how you can you give it a try without risking the company. Do you want to build a prototype to show customers?

Breakthrough innovations like space flights to Mars come from a series of experiments, not a single idea perfected. In fact, most innovations are the result of a series of experiments, collaborations, which encounter setbacks, mistakes, and roadblocks. The act of progress, therefore, is a process of discovery, trial-and-error, not a single lightning bolt of inspiration.

From Ripple to Tsunami
Many of us have fresh ideas for change, but we get stuck in analysis-paralysis. We either fully embrace the new idea and risk everything, or don't pursue it at all. What happens most of the time? More Excel spreadsheets, analysis and paralysis! Then, nothing happens.

Forgo the all-or-nothing trap in favor of small wins. Break the idea down into one or more experiments, where you can test your innovation without betting it all. Figure out how to take the easy first step. Don’t expect a game-changer the first time out. Did you hit a homerun your first time at bat? Did you get a hole-in-one your first time swinging the club? Unless you are one in a billion, probably not. For the rest of us, when the first step works, celebrate the win, and share it around your company. It isn’t for the praise, but it will inspire others to take small steps, share their ideas for change, innovate, and try something new. It will give them the nudge to take the first step.

What happens next? A base hit leads to another. And another. The fear of change fades. The team gains confidence. What was once a boring, predictable place to work, now turns into a hotbed of creativity and innovation.

Let the Tsunami Begin!
Take the first step in growing and strengthening your company. Test your ideas and discover how new innovations can set your business apart from competitors by joining MMTC for the upcoming Leadership Best Practice Series Event on Wednesday, February 11 from 7:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Hear a panel discussion led by John Wortman, of Detroit Radiant Products Company, and Paul Ahern, of Cypress Integration Solutions, who have applied Innovation processes to make their company and profits better. To learn more or to register for this FREE event, click HERE.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Food Manufacturers Should Embrace Lean

When Americans think of Michigan, agriculture isn’t the first thing that usually pops into their mind. This mindset will be changing very soon—and rapidly.

food manufacturers in michigan
Agriculture and food production has become a booming industry in Michigan, with no signs of slowing down! Annually, the agriculture industry in Michigan adds $91.4 billion to the state’s economy.  Additionally, these industries employ 923,000 of Michigan residents. However, like all industries, there is always room for growth and improvement—and that’s where Lean manufacturing tactics can help.

Common Misconceptions
There are wide misconceptions about “being Lean.” Two of the most common falsities are:
  • Some manufacturers think Lean just means to cut, getting rid of jobs and everything else, just to reduce expenses and improve profit margins.
  • Lean is exclusive to the production floor.
Clearing up the Misconceptions
Let’s set the record straight. Lean manufacturing is a business process that can benefit any manufacturing organization. In short, the purpose of Lean manufacturing is to analyze a business and offer the best possible model for improvements to allow them to:
  • Eliminate Excess Waste
  • Reduce Unnecessary Costs
  • Increase Quality Products
Lean is about identifying and reducing the processes and costs your business doesn’t need. It is also not just limited to the production floor. Your front office, and virtually all departments within your company, can benefit by becoming more Lean, resulting in increased efficiency and production in order to manufacture better quality products at a quicker rate. Ultimately, becoming “Leaner” can help you provide a better customer service experience.

2015 Agriculture Expectations
Michigan's agriculture industry has set aggressive goals for 2015. One includes increasing food and agricultural career jobs by 10%. This might seem like a difficult goal to accomplish, but embracing Lean manufacturing can help. Adopting Lean principles allows businesses to safely increase productivity while lowering overhead costs, which incentivizes small businesses into expanding and hiring more employees.

Make a Lean Transformation Today
MMTC offers a variety of courses and workshops to manufacturers with the purpose of educating them on Lean principles and processes that will best benefit their individual businesses. Even better, several of these workshops also qualify as Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.

MMTC understands the challenges that Michigan’s manufacturers and food processors face. Whether it’s improving your safety management system, or conducting a specific project to help you become more efficient, we can help you become more safe, productive and globally competitive. For more information about our Food, Safety and Efficiency Solutions and upcoming Food Tools of the Trade Workshop, click here or contact us at 888.414.6682 or via email at

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

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Selecting Successful Six Sigma Projects

Project success is the true value of any Six Sigma endeavor. Value, achieved one project at a time, builds success. Six Sigma is more than just problem solving. This means that selecting the right projects becomes critical to success. Knowing that most businesses have limited resources, how should companies set project priorities? 

Six Sigma Project Objectives
  • Support the strategic goals of the organization
  • Impact key strategic business objectives
  • Improve a process in a measurable way
  • Provide a financial contribution to the bottom-line or contribute toward top line growth opportunities
  • Benefit key customers and increase customer satisfaction
Internal vs. External
  1. Projects with an external focus, improvement opportunities, come from asking how or why we are not meeting our customer’s expectations.
  2. Projects with an internal focus, improving process efficiency, come from areas of trouble and frustration. 
In both cases these project opportunities are identified from what we measure. We measure what we value and what gets measured, gets done. A metrics driven reporting system or scorecard is aligned with strategic business objectives and goals. Looking for unsatisfactory performance (gap analysis) identifies opportunities.

Six Sigma Project Evaluation

To determine if an opportunity is a good candidate as a Six Sigma project, be sure to ask these important questions.
  • Is there a gap between current and required performance?
  • Is the cause of the problem unknown?
  • Is there a predetermined solution or optimal improvement method readily apparent?
  • Can the process performance be measured and quantified?
It’s important to avoid getting caught up in providing data to support an already identified solution as well as trying to provide data for something that can’t be easily measured or quantified, two of the most common errors that lead to poor projects and even poorer results. 


Once identified as an approved Six Sigma opportunity, a simple tool such as a Cause and Effect Matrix can assist in setting the project priorities. Upon completion, the matrix provides an overall project value rating and helps feed a project pipeline.

Successful Six Sigma projects will have a high impact and be key to achieving a solid return on investment for an organization and improved satisfaction for customers. Carefully selected projects aligned with strategic organizational goals will help ensure success.

Join us for our next Six Sigma Green Belt class starting this February

For more information on Six Sigma, tools and methodologies, contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at  

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

It’s Time for your Comeback: Five Ways to Improve in 2015

The New Year has officially rung in, and with it, comes a time for contemplation. For Michigan’s manufacturers, 2015 is an opportunity to start with a blank slate. Yes, it’s time to begin anew. More than that, it’s time to make a comeback.

So what do we mean by that?

For the last two years, we’ve read about the comeback of American manufacturing. We saw the news reports about the growing number of industry jobs, read about how companies were re-shoring positions back from abroad and cheered on the statistics demonstrating how manufacturing was consistently expanding.  And on the state level, look no further than the comeback of the automobile industry. It wasn’t too long ago that people thought we were down and out. Through the resilience and hard work of manufacturers, the auto industry is alive and well and creating new jobs by the day. In fact, this has been the best year for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler since 2006.

manufacturing comeback in 2015
We collectively support U.S. manufacturing and when the industry does well, we’re all pleased! However, many local small- and mid-sized Michigan manufacturers are still waiting for their individual comeback moment… that moment when profitability exceeds expectations and the mood goes from cautious optimism to just plan optimism.

If you want to make 2015 your big comeback year, it won’t just magically happen. It’s time to proactively focus on the key areas that will help your company grow and become more innovative:

  •  Identify and Manage Costs:  It’s critical to gather accurate data about your operating costs. By assessing where you’re investing your resources, you can better set selling prices and determine your biggest profit drivers.
  • Adopt Six Sigma Principles: Six Sigma is a specifically tailored, data-driven program that’s designed to streamline and eliminate the waste or excess in your processes. MMTC offers Black Belt or Green Belt training programs, depending on the needs of the manufacturer, as well as mini-training programs like the MiniTab® Training Workshop and the Introduction to Design of Experiments (DOE)
  •  Invest in Website Marketing: The Internet has changed how our buyers and suppliers research and purchase products and parts. With an improved website supported by Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media, you can enhance your online presence and sales.
  •  Provide Training for your Leadership Team: Creating a company culture of innovation and sustainability is depending on the leadership of your organization. Train your company’s leaders on how to implement positive change.
  • Embrace Sustainability: Going green is more than a trend. There are many cost saving benefits to adopting environmentally sound practices.

2015 can be your greatest year yet! Experience your comeback by prioritizing projects that will help your company become more efficient, productive and globally competitive!

For a list of MMTC’s services, click here or contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at
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