Friday, June 26, 2015

Workforce Engagement: How Important Is It To Your Organization?

Workforce engagement can be interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. It can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. It is important to note it is NOT the same as employee satisfaction. Thirty years of research tells us a satisfied employee is not necessarily a productive one.

Employee Engagement Types
Highly Engaged Employees are truly connected and committed to their organizations. They can be described as “the good soldier” and believe in the organization's goals. They are likely to accomplish more, be involved in continuous improvement, and help out colleagues. Typically, these employees are not looking for a new job.

Moderately Engaged Employees are good employees that come to work every day, are on time, and do a good job. At times they become enthusiastic, but are usually ambivalent. These employees are generally happy and probably not looking for a new job.

Slightly Disengaged Employees come to work and do the job, but that’s about it. They are not interested in helping or improving and come to work because they need a paycheck. They may be looking for a different job.

Highly Disengaged Employees are actively disengaged from their job and their organization. They are dissatisfied with their work and/or the organization. Unfortunately for the employer, they may not be looking for another job. They often feel justified just coming in to work everyday and appearing to work, while they actually do little or nothing at all. Identifying a disengaged employee may be difficult, as casual observations will not necessarily detect them.

Workforce Engagement & Your Business
As an employer, it is important to understand that engagement cannot be taught, required, or be the single reason for discharge. Workforce engagement has a direct effect on an organization’s performance and profitability. Data collected by Gallup and Towers Watson shows how an organization is affected by low and highly engaged employees:

In addition, disengaged employees:

  • Have a direct, negative impact on your bottom line
  • Undermine the productivity of engaged coworkers
  • Cause disruption and dissatisfaction, killing morale
  • Negatively affect customer satisfaction

Look to the Future
Now, more than ever, it is important to find and keep engaged employees. Data collected by MMTC, from hundreds of responses to our workforce engagement survey, tells us employees are looking for things like opportunity, respect, communication, accountability, and security. The future of your organization depends on your ability to provide what your engaged employees are looking for. Are you up to the task?

MMTC Can Help
MMTC uses a three-component model of engagement to describe the active use of cognition, emotion, and behavior to form the underlying foundation for engagement. To learn more about how MMTC can help you build and repair employee engagement, call 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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Become more Marketable with Green Manufacturing

become more marketable with green manufacturing
Kermit the Frog famously says, “It’s not easy being green.” With all do respect to Kermit, it’s easier than you think!
The “green” movement is the sister of sustainability. Sustainability, or green manufacturing, means working within the means of natural ecosystems without causing harm to others or jeopardizing future needs. It also means reducing environmental impact and cultivating renewable resources.
For Michigan’s manufacturers, green manufacturing focuses on using less energy, fewer production materials and less packaging. Waste is inevitable in most production processes, but green manufacturing creates safer waste products which are less harmful to the environment and uses sustainable materials that are renewable and not finite.
The many benefits of green manufacturing can be broken down into two main categories: Business Benefits and Environmental Benefits.
Bottom-line Performance
Heightened awareness of environmental issues is driving demand for green products. Many consumers want products that are produced with green processes. Going green is nice, but not if it hinders your ability to compete in the realities of the marketplace. With the right approach and defined goals, green manufacturing holds potential economic benefits including long-term cost savings and process efficiency improvements. Green manufacturing can also grow your customer base and existing sales.
A variety of lower costs can also be byproducts of green manufacturing. Reduced energy consumption cuts energy bills, which is a sore subject for many manufacturers. Waste removal and storage are often reduced as well. Green compliant companies can also take advantage of various tax credits for federal income tax purposes.
Let’s look ahead to the future! Green manufacturing and sustainability are important issues to younger generations who may look to purchase products from environmentally responsible companies. Many consumers and suppliers feel a personal responsibility to preserve the world. Improved customer loyalty often results from green manufacturing. Green techniques can also be used in marketing campaigns with the goal of attracting segments of the market that were previously untapped.
Environmental Impact
If the manufacturing community focused more on green manufacturing, future generations will most likely benefit from:
      Fewer landfills
      Improved air and water quality
      Use of renewable energy sources
      Reduced impact on the overall environment

MMTC offers onsite consulting and assistance to help you become a green manufacturer. Onsite consulting can range from individual or small group training and mentoring to complete implementation projects throughout the facility.
If you are interested in transitioning your company to green operations, or would like to consult with an expert about your company’s potential, call 888-414-6682 or email

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, June 12, 2015

Lighten the Load With Lightweight Materials

If you’ve ever taken a physics class or rearranged your furniture, you know the heavier an object is, the more energy it requires to move it. The same principle applies to automobiles and other types of transportation. This is great news for consumers! This means the lighter a vehicle, the less energy it takes to accelerate, and the better its fuel economy will ultimately be.

Major Changes on the Horizon
Lightweight vehicles. Lower MPG. Aggressive EPA and CAFÉ standards. These major changes are on the horizon for how cars and vehicles, in general, will be produced, ultimately impacting the manufacturing community at all levels of the supply chain. With change comes questions:
  • How will these trends affect small and medium-sized manufacturers?  
  • Will steel remain the primary material used to create cars and trucks?  
  • Will all vehicles now have electric engines?
  • Is there an opportunity for the lower tier manufacturer?  
  • Could this shift drive a segment of manufacturers out of business in the next 10 years?
Thinking Ahead
Although manufacturers everywhere should be thinking about how the incorporation of lightweight materials impacts them, this often isn’t the case. Unlike Tier One suppliers, Tier Two and down don’t have teams of engineers and planners plotting future strategies. The smaller, privately owned manufacturers are focusing on TODAY by filling orders, quoting new business, and satisfying customer needs, finding it difficult to look more than one or two years ahead.

Know the Facts, See the Potential
According to the U.S. Energy Department:
  • Reducing a vehicle's weight by 10% can improve the fuel economy of the vehicle by 6 to 8%.
  • Magnesium and carbon fiber have the potential to reduce the weight of some vehicle components by 75%.
  • If just one quarter of the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. used light­weight components and high-efficiency engines, we could save more than 5 billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030.
A Meeting of the Minds
In May, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) hosted a Lightweight Materials seminar for industry experts to discuss advances in materials and lightweight challenges facing the automotive sector. Speakers from Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, Nexteer Automotive and Ducker Worldwide, presented an optimistic, yet potentially daunting, look at the next 10 years. Here is what was projected:
  • Steel isn’t going away, but aluminum and advanced high strength steels will gain significant share of the automotive market. Ducker Worldwide estimates net aluminum share of the curb weight of American autos will go from 11% to 16% between now and 2025. At the same time, overall steel will drop from 52% today to 46% in 2025, although use of advanced high strength steel will increase from 5% to 11%.
  • Internal combustion engines will remain, but will go to smaller displacements and fewer cylinders. Turbo and supercharger shares will increase from 24% today to 42% in 2020 versus naturally aspirated engines. 
  • Better batteries and the Tesla commitment to e-vehicle production suggest that electric car production will grow at a tremendous rate. It is estimated electrics may go from 0.2% of total new car purchases to 1 – 2% by 2025. This is major growth, but not a huge loss to the internal combustion engine.
  • Hybrids and start stop engines will take a much larger share growing from 11% of production today to 55% in 2020. 
  • Plastics and composites will also increase. As a percentage of curb weight today, they are 23% and in 2025 they will grow to 25%. Projected costs of carbon fiber composites are still too high to be considered for high volume vehicle production, but in applications like heavy trucks, expect to see continuous growth in the use of both carbon and glass fiber composites.
  • In order to meet the 2025 mpg CAFÉ goal of 54.5 mpg, estimates call for the average curb weight to be reduced from 3800 lbs. to 3400 lbs. for all passenger vehicles.
  • By incorporating all aluminum exterior panels or body in white, the 2015 Ford F150 is 700 lbs. lighter than the 2014 version. Other vehicles across all lines will need to make similar changes. Ducker Worldwide identifies the hood panels as becoming nearly all aluminum by 2020 with 25% to 60% of other panels going aluminum.
Manufacturers are faced with profound changes in materials and the processes to convert them into finished components. MMTC, through its Materials expertise, will be working with client companies to help them find the best opportunities and new products to take advantage of the changes in transportation industry materials.

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, June 5, 2015

Choosing a Path For Your Company: Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing or a Combination of Both?

six sigma, lean or a combination of both?Every day, MMTC is out consulting with Michigan’s manufacturers about how to improve their competitiveness. While we work with a diverse group of companies – from food and chemical producers to automobile parts and metal manufacturers – organizations of all industries and sizes are focused on process improvement to boost profits.

This is great news. Continuously improving processes enables companies to produce higher quality goods, better meet shipping deadlines and shorten lead times. However, there seems to be a little bit of confusion regarding the best way to improve processes. Some manufacturers ask us about Lean Manufacturing, while others inquire about Six Sigma methodology. There is often the misconceptions that Lean and Six Sigma are the same thing, or they can’t be used simultaneously. 

Setting the Record Straight
There is a difference between Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. However, many of the objectives between adopting Lean Manufacturing principles and Six Sigma are similar, and the lines between the two are understandably a little blurry. Both Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing aim to help businesses:

  • Identify and eliminate waste
  • Deliver goods to their customers at a better rate
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Decrease production costs
  • Improve efficiencies

Focusing on LEAN
Lean Manufacturing focuses more on removing steps in the production cycle that are considered “non-value added” activities. Non-value added activities are considered those that a customer ultimately wouldn’t deem beneficial and want to pay for.

Lean’s objective, therefore, is to make sure your processes are providing value to your customers. If staff members have a laser focus on the activities that only provide value, manufacturers can produce goods and parts at a more efficient rate.

Lean also isn’t limited to your production floor – you can apply Lean principles to all areas of your organization, such as your office. There are various Lean tools including the 5S system, cellular & flow manufacturing, pull and kanban systems, and total productive maintenance (TPM).

Related blog entries on Lean include:

The Significance of Six Sigma
On the other hand, Six Sigma enthusiasts believe that waste occurs in a facility because of variations and deviations within their processes. Six Sigma includes methods and tools which help manufacturers identify and remove these variations and deviations from the production cycle. All results are designed to be measured and verified.

Six Sigma also extends to areas beyond the production floor – it looks to incorporate and streamline processes in places like shipping, delivery and customer services. Projects frequently are based on the acronyms DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) and DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Validate).

Related blog entries on Six Sigma include:

A Great Match
The needs and processes of a manufacturer are unique, which will ultimately determine what are the best method, or methods, for process improvement. Realizing the benefits of Lean and Six Sigma, manufacturers have adopted both the Six Sigma tools and Lean manufacturing techniques to create the Lean Six Sigma methodology. This combines Lean’s focus on waste reduction through eliminating non-value added activities with Six Sigma’s quality focus, ultimately accelerating your improvement efforts.

MMTC offers programs and services geared towards Lean, Six Sigma and the combination of the two. For more information, visit our Solutions page by clicking here or call us at 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