Friday, January 27, 2017

Set Up for Success: Implementing a Culture of Continuous Improvement


Implementing a Culture of Continuous Improvement

“How can we do better?” It’s an ongoing question for business owners and managers. 
In order to lead your organization towards sustained success in 2017, it’s imperative that you look for new ways to optimize organizational processes and operations. This will help leverage your company’s competitive advantage. 

Start by introducing a culture of continuous improvement. After all, you need the right tools in your tool box to build something the right way. And when it comes to having the best tools for the job, the following three elements should be included:

Engaged Leadership

Engaged leadership is undeniably the most important ingredient when it comes to creating a culture of continuous improvement. For a business to thrive, organizational leadership must be actively engaged in the development of employees through training and influence. They must lead by example, empower others to express ideas and emphasize the importance of making small, incremental improvements on a regular, daily basis. Achievements must be gathered and celebrated and should NEVER go unnoticed, as it is crucial that employees are positively reinforced to sustain the methodologies. 

A Consistent Improvement Methodology

There are various lean and continuous improvement tools that a manufacturer can use to become more efficient and productive. Embracing an open and transparent corporate culture will enhance the willingness of the employees to use the appropriate tools for the various challenges and targeted improvements. Not all tools need to be used at the same time; significant improvements can be made by using some of the tools such as: 

5S
A3 
Cellular Flow Manufacturing
Hoshin Kanri 
Kanban Pull System
Poka-Yoke
Set-up Reduction
Six Sigma DMAIC Methodology
Total Productive Maintenance
Value Stream Mapping

Remember, implementation should be simple, consistent and disciplined, not overwhelming. By simplifying the continuous improvement process for your employees, they will be able to clearly define what needs to be accomplished and focus on moving forward to new tasks, ideas and opportunities. If the process becomes complicated, your employees will become susceptible to errors, confusion and eventually, they will gradually abandon the processes adopted. 

Enabling Technology

Having older, traditional technologies can make it harder to manage and monitor your progress. Special continuous improvement software eliminates this risk and enhances the visibility throughout all functional levels of an organization. The software enables employees to connect with one another, influencing them to collaborate, communicate and increase productivity. The software is structured with a variety of features including: 

Structured Improvement Management
Active Notifications
Engagement and Impact Reports
Built-in Recognition

Need further assistance?

The Center is your best resource for a wide range of lean manufacturing consulting services and training courses to help manufacturing organizations resolve issues, optimize business processes to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. To learn more, visit us at http://www.the-center.org/Our-Services/Operational-Excellence. 


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, January 20, 2017

On a Positive "Note"... The Value of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Database

By: George Singos

What do most manufacturing sales reps normally do when they get a sales lead? A lot of them grab a sticky note and put it on their computer with the best intentions of following up—until the sticky note falls off, and it’s nowhere to be found. Then, the lead is history.

There has to be a better way, right? There is. It’s called a customer relationship management (CRM) database. If you already use a CRM, you understand what a game changer it can be. If you don’t use one yet, it’s time to get on board.

CRM Defined.

According to Wikipedia, CRM is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential future customers that tries to analyze data about customers’ history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth.

Five Key Benefits for Manufacturers.

Integrated with Microsoft Outlook, a CRM database will conveniently put all of your action items, contacts, quotes and important client data in one place—and help you easily manage and analyze it throughout the entire lifecycle. The main goals are to improve relationships with your clients, increase retention and drive sales growth. Here are five major benefits for manufacturers:

1. Organization
All client interactions should be documented. Thanks to CRM technology, it can become a reality; storing all of your contacts, meeting notes/discussions, plus other pertinent information in one convenient location. Since it’s cloud-based, all key staff at your organization have actionable data at their fingertips.

2. Better Communication
Communication is paramount to success. Whether it’s a pressing issue or a new product launch, your entire team will have the information they need and your clients expect. When you have a CRM database, it’s possible for your team (sales manager, administrative assistant or the CEO) to stay in the loop.

3. Improves Service

Your time (and your clients’ time) is valuable. If a client contacts your office with a concern, he or she is not going to be satisfied unless the issue is handled in a courteous and timely manner. With a CRM, as soon as the client contacts your company, key employees will have access to this helpful information and will be able to handle it in an appropriate manner.

4. Automation of Daily Tasks
Whether it’s getting a lead or cultivating a relationship, the sales process isn’t always easy. Along the way, there are possibly dozens of small, time-consuming tasks that must be completed—from filling out forms to sending emails. With a CRM, you are able to automate the little things so you can concentrate on the important things, e.g. closing the sale.

5. Win Rate Optimization

Do you know your win rate historically? You should. Win rate is the ratio of sales you’ve won in relation to the amount of leads that have been generated. Having a CRM is the simplest way to effectively measure your win rate and the ratio of leads to closed sales. When you focus your attention on your win rate, you can effectively break it down by each stage, test new strategies and be able to correctly identify where you get the best return on investment.

Getting Started.

Typically, a CRM database can be implemented in about a day. (Yes, this includes training!) If you already have a proper contact list, implementation will be even faster. 

Remember, CRM databases can be easily modified to fit your company’s specific needs. Best of all, you’ll never have to worry about losing revenue as a result of incomplete data (or a lost sticky note) again.

Want to get started? The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) is your best resource for a CRM database. Contact me today at gsingos@the-center.org.


MEET OUR BLOGGER

George Singos
Business Leader Advisor


George Singos is a Business Leader Advisor for The Center. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in various capacities. For the past 20 years he has focused on sales and marketing management both domestically and internationally.

To read George’s full bio, visit http://www.the-center.org/About-The-Center/Our-Team/Growth-Team/Singos





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, January 13, 2017

New Cybersecurity Requirements Impact Michigan Manufacturers



The risks are enormous and potentially devastating. According to IBM, small and mid-sized businesses are hit by cyber-attacks about 4,000 times a day. The U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small companies are unable to sustain their businesses over six months after a cyber-attack.

As a result of increased concerns about cyber-attacks, manufacturers with contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA) or NASA must be compliant with defined cybersecurity requirements no later than December 31, 2017.

Since 2009, Congress has added more information security requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has produced several iterations of cybersecurity standards. The DoD, GSA and NASA have implemented these measures through changes to policies, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

Today, there are new standards for companies handling “Controlled Unclassified Information,” or CUI. This data can be considered government-proprietary. It is information the government wants held secure, but is not vital to national security. FAR now is implementing cybersecurity requirements on contractors handling CUI—a far broader set of companies than those doing classified work.

What represents adequate security for CUI under FAR? The set of minimum cybersecurity standards is described in NIST Special Publication 800-171 and broken down into 14 areas:

· Access Control
· Awareness & Training
· Audit & Accountability
· Configuration Management
· Identification & Authentication
· Incident Response
· Maintenance
· Media Protection
· Personnel Security
· Physical Protection
· Risk Assessment
· Security Assessment
· System & Communications Protection
· Systems & Information Integrity

In each of these 14 areas, there are specific security requirements that contractors MUST implement by year’s end.

Remove the weak link.

Companies with fewer than 100 employees generally are very capable in the manufacturing and/or fabrication of products. However, they often lack resources in information technology and physical security, particularly associated with cyber-attacks that clearly pose a threat to the viability of small to mid-sized manufacturers.

According to the Ponemom Institute, the average price for small businesses to clean up after they have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for middle market companies, it is more than $1 million.

Cybercriminals target small businesses because they are easy, soft targets to penetrate. They steal information to rob bank accounts via wire transfers; steal customers’ personal identity information; file for fraudulent tax refunds; and commit health insurance fraud.

In addition to the fundamental financial threat of cyber-attacks, small to mid-sized manufacturers now face the double threat of losing their respective government contracts should they not conform to the NIST 800-171 standards by December 31, 2017.


Don’t risk losing business. The Center is your best defense.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has launched a new cybersecurity practice area designed specifically to meet the needs of the state’s small and mid-size manufacturers. Our team of cybersecurity experts will assess a client’s vulnerabilities and tailor a plan specifically for each company’s internal capabilities, budget and time sensitivity. If you have questions about cybersecurity standards, contact our experts at cyber@the-center.org or visit http://www.the-center.org/Our-Services/Cybersecurity.


Additional Resources

Defense Cybersecurity Requirements: What Small Businesses Need to Know 
(U.S. Department of Defense) http://www.the-center.org/getattachment/Our-Services/Cybersecurity/Cybersecurity-and-Small-Business.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations (NIST) http://www.the-center.org/getattachment/Our-Services/Cybersecurity/Protecting-Controlled-Unclassified-Information.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US


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, January 6, 2017

Customer Service Matters: 10 Ways to Give Your Clients 110%

By: Tricia Onesian

The New Year is a time for goal setting and learning from (and correcting) past mistakes. It’s also the perfect time to re-evaluate how you can improve your customer service. A positive experience will leave a lasting impression. Start 2017 off in a memorable way—by giving your clients the red-carpet treatment. Here’s how:

Tricia’s Top 10 Customer Service Tips

10. Ask for Feedback – Whether you collect feedback from a survey or a phone call, you may be surprised what you learn from your clients. Take time to regularly review the feedback and determine areas needing improvement. Make specific changes when necessary.

9. Be Responsive – When clients ask for more information or need to resolve an issue, there’s nothing worse than non-responsiveness. Always follow-up in a timely manner (no exceptions).

8. Be Respectful – Customer service often can involve emotions, so it's important to make sure your interactions are both courteous and respectful. Never let your emotions overtake your desire to have a satisfied client.

7. Say Thank You – Gratitude is memorable, and it can remind your clients why they chose your company in the first place. Saying thank you after each meeting (via phone or in-person) is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate positive customer service.

6. Listen to Problems – The best way to learn is to listen. Encourage your clients to openly express their concerns and problems about their business.

5. Recommend – If you’ve taken the time to get to know your clients, you can effectively gauge the type of products and/or services they need the most. For example, use your customer service expertise to the best of your ability by recommending a training class or a new service offering. Your clients will appreciate the suggestions.

4. Put Your Clients’ Needs First – How can you help your clients? Ask. Start a conversation because you care about helping—not because of a sales quota.

3. Build Relationships – Your clients want a trusted advisor who is looking out for their best interests. Remember, it takes time to build, cultivate and maintain successful relationships.

2. Know Your Products/Services – To provide the best service possible, you need to thoroughly understand the value of your company’s products and/or services and be able to clearly articulate that value to your clients.

1. Smile! – Customer service should always start with a smile. When you’re in a face-to-face situation, a warm greeting should be the first thing your clients see. Make a point to smile over the phone, too, because it comes through in your voice.


MEET OUR BLOGGER

Tricia Onesian
Inside Sales Representative

Tricia became passionate about working with clients more than 25 years ago in various customer service and management positions at paper manufacturing and warehousing companies. Since joining The Center in 2016, Tricia has been enthusiastic about sharing how Michigan manufacturers can enhance quality, improve efficiency and propel growth. She is currently certified in ISO/TS 16949 Internal Auditor Training and as a Lean Manufacturing Champion.  
To read Tricia’s full bio, visit http://www.the-center.org/About-The-Center/Our-Team/Business-Solutions/Onesian


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.