Friday, August 18, 2017

How Manufacturers Can Avoid Extinction by Using Competitive Intelligence

By: Shelly Stobierski
Knowledge is power, and it’s truer today than ever before. Simply consider our rapidly-evolving manufacturing environment. Revolutionary new technologies in 3D printing have emerged—shortening the amount of time it takes to develop new products. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has brought more intelligence to manufacturing operations and is enabling manufacturers to improve production processes at an impressive pace. A CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) now can track system maintenance, inspection and breakdowns, eliminating or reducing the effects of costly disruptions.

How closely do you monitor what’s happening within your market segment and manufacturing overall?

If you aren’t already utilizing regularly-scheduled market and competitive intelligence to keep a watchful eye on your competition and the industry as a whole, it’s time to start. Otherwise, you risk being rendered obsolete. Gone are the days where manufacturers can sit back and see how things played out in the market. Welcome to the new world of manufacturing where competitive intelligence reigns supreme.

Competitive Intelligence: An Introduction
According to Investopedia, competitive intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing data about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in a legal and ethical manner to enhance business decision-making processes. Competitive intelligence activities can be grouped into two main types:

1. Tactical – shorter-term and seeks to provide input on issues including market share and
    increasing revenue.
2. Strategic – focuses on longer-term issues such as key risks and opportunities facing the
    enterprise.

It Stems from Market Research
Market research is an organized effort and systematic approach to collect and interpret data about business and industry environments, customers and competitors for the purposes of decision-making. Competitive intelligence uses many of the same proven techniques as market research but deploys them to answer highly targeted and specific questions.

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive
A lower tier automotive supplier recently came to us to help them understand why they were losing ground for their carbon steel parts. Turns out that their competitor grabbed the company’s market share by transitioning to lighter weight materials to help them reduce weight to meet the upcoming CAFE standards. This situation could have been avoided if someone were assigned the task of monitoring what is happening in the industry.

There are several key things you can do (even without hiring additional staff) to ensure you are facing competitive threats head on. Someone in your organization needs to regularly spend a few hours each week scanning the market.

For starters, have a member of your team be on the lookout for the following:

Industry trends – Are new materials being used? What kind of new processes or emerging
  technologies are being developed?
Changes and updates to your competitors’ websites and social media sites – What are main
  themes? What are they highlighting?
Industry tradeshows – Who’s attending? Who’s exhibiting? What new and potentially
  disruptive products are being introduced?
Regulatory and compliance standards that impact your business – Are there deadlines to meet?
  Will you have to make any adjustments to current processes?

Need More Extensive Assistance?

The Research Services team at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center offers unmatched, industry-specific competitive intelligence. We gather information from industry reports, news and industry trade press, company profiles, government statistics and other reputable resources to create an accurate portrait of the competitive landscape and help companies thrive by:

Understanding market dynamics
Creating a snapshot of the marketplace
Identifying potential direct and indirect competitors
Anticipating competitors’ moves
Monitoring technology advances
Reducing risk in business decisions
… and more!

Industry insight can make or break whether your business is a step ahead of the competition—or lagging behind. Contact me at sstobierski@the-center.org for more information.




MEET OUR EXPERT

Shelly Stobierski
Director of Research Services



Shelly Stobierski is the Director of Research Services for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). She has more than 15 years of market research experience, with a primary focus on automotive-related manufacturing businesses. Shelly has extensive skills in survey research (phone, internet, focus groups) and in the use of proprietary industry databases. She holds a BA in English from Wayne State University and is certified as an Economic Gardening Market Research Professional by the Edward Lowe Foundation. To read her full bio, click here.






Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed 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.the-center.org

Friday, August 11, 2017

Improving Your Value: Implementing Lean Manufacturing

By: Roger Tomlinson


A manufacturer’s focus each day must revolve around increasing production, reducing costs and generating profits—while simultaneously minimizing the risk of errors. This can be a delicate balance for manufacturers to achieve. That’s why implementing lean manufacturing is a critical component for success.

Defining Lean Manufacturing: The Customer Perspective

Lean manufacturing is typically defined as the production and management philosophy that considers any part of the enterprise which does not directly add value to the final product to be non-value added (in need of elimination) or a necessary non-value-added step that cannot be eliminated now but must be minimized.

Lean manufacturing uses Value Stream Mapping to analyze a manufacturing facility’s day-to-day operations. How does the organization respond to changing market conditions, emerging technologies and customer needs? Working from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or service, "value" is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Lean manufacturing makes it obvious about what adds value. After identifying the value-added steps, lean manufacturing then examines the processes that generate that value and determines how to reduce or eliminate all non-value-added aspects of that value stream.

Considering Lean Enterprise

To get started in lean manufacturing, manufacturers must assess their facility’s productivity in terms of the form of waste using the acronyms DOWNTIME:

Defects
Overproduction
Waiting
Non-utilized talent
• Transportation
Inventory
• Motion
Extra Processing

Manufacturers also can assess their current level of productivity by asking themselves important
questions such as:

Does my team clearly understand what value the customer wants for the product or service?

What are my Value Streams from raw materials, production of the product or service, customer
  delivery, customer use?

How do my Value Steams perform?

Do my Value Streams flow? If it's not moving, it's creating waste, taking up time and producing
  less value for the customer.

Are my production processes robust enough to not make anything until the customer orders it?

Is communication within our company, or between the business and the client, strong or weak?

Does my team systematically and continuously remove root causes of poor quality from
  production processes?

Do my products require constant re-work?

Are my Value Streams capable of manufacturing more product for a client ahead of schedule?

Does production come to a stand-still if an employee is sick or if a component is out of stock or a
  key piece of equipment is not working?

Lean manufacturing allows manufacturers to not only answer (and address) all of these questions, but enables them to execute a strategy of continuous improvement that is specifically designed to suit their unique set of business needs.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) – Your Lean Resource

The Center’s lean manufacturing consultants can provide your company with the proper tools to eliminate waste and strengthen processes for today and the future! Contact me at RTomlinson@the-center.org for more information.



MEET OUR EXPERT

Roger Tomlinson
Lean Program Manager


Roger Tomlinson is a Lean Program Manager on the Lean team at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, operations management and process re-engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing management. To read his full bio, click here.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed 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.the-center.org.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Risky Business

Are Your Employees Making Your Business Vulnerable to Cyber-Attacks?


By: Elliot Forsyth


Cybersecurity is no longer optional—it’s a necessity for business survival. As cyber-attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and the frequency continues to escalate at breakneck speed, it’s imperative that your business has a plan to combat these dire threats. After all, it’s no longer a question of “if” a cyber-attack will occur, it’s now a matter of “when.” According to a Deloitte report, 39 percent of executives surveyed experienced a breach in the past 12 months.

While technical compliance issues are an integral part to help safeguard your business, one critical element is frequently overlooked—the human element. Cybersecurity is primarily focused on the dangers of outside threats, but businesses must recognize that inside cybersecurity threats caused by employees are equally damaging and expose your business to serious vulnerabilities. Worst of all, your employees might not even be aware they’re putting your business at risk!

The emphasis on staff safeguards and training is evident in a guiding cybersecurity document published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The publication, known as NIST 800-171, is a fundamental part of requirements for Department of Defense (DoD) contractors who must comply with Defense Acquisition Regulations System (DFARS) clause 252.204-7012 by December 31, 2017.

The focus of NIST 800-171 centers on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), unclassified information that must be protected from public disclosure. NIST’s Special Publication 800-171 defines policies in 14 main categories that apply to all prime and subcontractor companies conducting business with the Federal Government. Five of the 14 components address the human element of cybersecurity. By following the best practices for each, you can make a significant impact on the security of your organization’s infrastructure, as well as meet compliance requirements for doing business with the DoD:

Access Control & Identification and Authentication – 80% of cyber-attacks are attributed to weak authentication (Source: Dr. John Zandargi, Acting Department of Defense Chief Information Officer). Enforce a minimum password complexity and change of characters when new passwords are created, and prohibit password reuse for a specified number of generations. To maximize security, limit system access to authorized users only. Protect wireless access prior to allowing such connections and encrypt CUI on mobile devices and mobile computing platforms.

Awareness and Training – Ongoing training and education is essential for all employees. Ensure that managers, systems administrators and all users of the organizational system are aware of the security risks associated with their activities and of the applicable policies, standards and procedures related to the security of those systems. Verify that staff personnel are adequately trained to carry out their assigned information security-related duties and responsibilities.

Personnel Security – According to the 2017 Black Hat Attendee Survey, the most feared cyber attacker is someone who has “inside knowledge of my organization.” Always screen individuals prior to authorizing access to organizational systems containing CUI. Ensure that CUI and any systems with CUI are protected during and after personnel actions such as terminations and transfers.

Physical Protection – Limit physical access to organizational systems, equipment and the respective operating environments to authorized individuals only. Protect and monitor the physical facility and support infrastructure for organizational systems.

The Best Advice? Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late. 

Are your employees unknowingly sharing highly-sensitive information? Are safeguards in place to ensure an employee doesn’t leak confidential data to a hacker? Are you at risk for losing DoD business? When you have proper training and safeguards in place, you can confidently answer these questions and help protect your organization and intellectual property.

Ask how the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) can help. Contact The Center today at 888.414.6682 or email cyber@the-center.org to get started. Have a question? Read our most frequently asked cybersecurity questions here.



MEET OUR EXPERT

Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot Forsyth is Vice President of Business Operations at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. The Center plays a lead role in coordinating and streamlining technology-related services to Michigan’s established industries and in assisting businesses to diversify into new and under-served markets.

As a National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) affiliate, The Center has developed a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries. Over the past two years, Elliot led this effort and expanded his expertise in cybersecurity, supporting Michigan companies to safeguard their businesses and maintain regulatory compliance. As a result, Elliot has been quoted and interviewed by print, broadcast and online media outlets, as well as presenting at numerous conferences and events.

Prior to joining The Center, Elliot spent more than 20 years gaining broad, global business experience in high tech and manufacturing companies. He has a proven track record and practiced methodologies to transform global corporations for high growth and profitability.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed 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.the-center.org.