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.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Consistency is Key: Top Benefits of Standardized Work

All manufacturers want to boost productivity and efficiency while reducing errors and accidents.
Standardization of work, which can be difficult to adopt initially, can be an effective way to increase productivity and efficiency since it defines expectations, formalizes processes and creates accountability. Not all employees may welcome standardization initially, since it is perceived to reduce opportunities for creativity and individual decision-making, but when executed correctly and with professional assistance, the benefits to the company and staff are great.

What is Standardized Work?
Standardized work is a detailed, documented and visual system where staff develop and follow a predefined series of steps. The detailed process of steps, which we call standardized work, represents the current best practices for workers to follow in order to complete their defined task. They are designed to minimize process variation introduced by the worker and to eliminate unnecessary motion, ultimately reducing waste, easing problem solving and enhancing productivity.

It is also important to note that standardized work provides the baseline required for continuous improvement. Without it, continuous improvement activities are unmanageable because processes are constantly changing. The same job may be performed by different individuals-each accomplishing their task in a different way with no record as to how they did it. Detailed understanding of the steps needed to be taken to complete tasks is necessary to eliminate root causes and permanently resolve issues.

Reap the Benefits
Some of the benefits of standardized work include:

  • Employee involvement and empowerment (when executed appropriately)
  • Consistent processes for different employees to follow
  • Optimizes staff training and new employee orientation
  • Employee safety is highlighted and a top priority
  • Improved productivity 
  • Increases customer satisfaction
  • Improved, consistent quality
  • Shifts blame for errors from the worker to the system
  • Reduction/elimination of errors and mistakes 
  • Makes management responsive to employee needs
  • Makes for much easier problem solving   

Understanding the Goal
It is important to realize that standardizing work for the sake of standardization is not the ultimate goal. In a Lean organization, standardized work goals should aim to achieve greater safety, quality, cost control, and EMPLOYEE MORALE. From production floor workers to warehousing teams, allow your staff to contribute their thoughts as to what works and what doesn’t. Always ask yourself: Why are we doing this? Don’t bark out orders. Unquestioned compliance rarely works with children, yet alone adults.

MMTC Can Help
By adopting Lean practices, such as standardized work, you have an opportunity to achieve a better trained, productive and efficient workforce. When executed with the assistance of quality, expert professionals-like the kind at MMTC-standardized work can make a significant, positive difference. To help you gain the full benefits of Lean Business Solutions, MMTC conducts an assessment of your facility and manufacturing processes-working with your executive team to develop a roadmap for implementing profitable, positive solutions for your company. Call 888.414.6682 to speak to an MMTC Lean Expert 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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Celebrate Michigan Manufacturing and American Quality!


celebrate michigan manufacturing this 4th of july
The Fourth of July is right around the corner and, right along with it, is the ushering in of vacation season. With a large embrace, we welcome the summer sun, day trips to the lake, and time with family and friends. But, in addition to the “fun things” associated with Independence Day – BBQs, playing horseshoes, and attending parades – it’s a great time to think about what is important to us as Americans: hard work, our personal liberty, and of course, the dedication of our servicemen and servicewomen.

A History Rich With Manufacturing
While we should always be proud of our great nation, patriotism is especially high as we near the Fourth of July. As a bastion of democracy for more than two centuries, Americans take pride in the economic growth of the United States. And they should! It is important to recognize that manufacturing has been a key part of it every step of the way.

Manufacturers have helped the United States through most of the challenging times confronted as a nation. It was the manufacturing capacity of the United States that proved decisive in World War II. Who can forget the mass production of the Liberty Ships that transported vital supplies across the oceans? Or the vast number of Grant main battle tanks that swept through Europe on its way to liberation? Only America had the manufacturing infrastructure to accomplish such things. The world was a better place because manufacturers played a vital role!

Manufacturing’s Comeback
Although it’s great to hail manufacturing’s place in history, we have reason to cheer by today’s standards because Michigan’s manufacturers know what it’s like to fight back from the brink. After being counted down and out during the recession, we found ways to become more innovative, competitive and efficient. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing jobs have grown by 4.5% for the year ending May 31, 2015. We have reason to celebrate as a nation: The U.S. is still a powerhouse of manufacturing, as over 17 million Americans are employed in this sector.

The Re-Shoring Trend
There has been a revival in manufacturing in this country, as many companies begin to “re-shore” its operations. The reason? People are realizing the power of American quality in manufacturing. New off-shoring has declined by over 70% since 2003, while reshoring has increased by over 1,500%.

  • the number of engineering doctorates granted in 2012 was triple the amount granted in the 1970s, and
  • the cost of manufacturing steel was actually 2.1% cheaper in the United States rather than China.

The weakening U.S. dollar against other world currencies makes the United States a more attractive place to manufacture. So for those who predicted the doom of U.S. manufacturing, you may need to eat humble pie. The U.S. may not be able to always compete with foreign competitors in price, but we will always win when it comes to quality… quality that comes to us through perseverance and innovation!

If you are interested in poising your company to play a part in this economic resurgence, MMTC can help. Our experts can help your company be more efficient, sustainable and competitive. For more information, 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.