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Boring. Entry level. But rarely done well. Quit looking for silver bullets, at least until your organization has mastered executing the basics every single day. Don’t look for Big Data until you’ve got your small data under control. That means data governance fully defined and executed such that your internal data is timely and accurate. Don’t look…
 
Manufacturing in early 2022 faces a number of challenges, varying by location and industry. But the one most of you share is the inability to attract and retain high potential employees. Recruiting is not a perfect process, and don’t assume that yours is even well-designed. Hiring is an equally imperfect process. Why do I say that? Look at the hiri…
 
While 2020 and 2021 tossed us all around with unexpected changes, 2022 may well offer much the same. But none of us can afford to be victims. It’s time to identify that one thing contributing the most to holding you back. Every company has unspoken assumptions. You know, those ideas that are so obvious to people that there is no need to speak them.…
 
This week between Christmas and New Year is commonly wasted by US manufacturers. I get the holiday spirit, and that people need to relax and have personal time. But can your business afford to lose 2-3% productivity every year-end? Heijunka is a part of the Toyota Production System thinking system; most of us think of it as a tool. But that importa…
 
The end of the calendar year is just that. Nothing more, nothing less. We behave as if the turning of the calendar page marks a huge turning point for our organizations. Is January 1, 2022 really a critical day in the future of your company? Is December 31 less critical? For public companies, the end of the month, the quarter, and the year are fals…
 
No one wants to be micromanaged, and no leader wants to be called a micromanager. But if leaders are not following up with their teams regularly, misalignment and ineffective prioritization are predictable. Casual conversations in the hallway, a comment in a meeting, or a sentence in an email may be understood as an order by the subordinate, and as…
 
Is the time you sell to your employer time well spent? If it puts food on the table, shelter over your head, and clothes on your children, then it is. But could it be, and should it be, spent very differently? Most companies have mission statements; the majority of those look inward and inspire little. We may not be able to change that, but we can …
 
If ambiguity is a major problem within your manufacturing organization your leadership likely demonstrates cognitive dissonance with regularity. Hypocrisy at its most obvious, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that arises from holding two opposing views at the same time. If your leadership team doesn’t suffer that discomfort but your people ca…
 
You face numerous external obstacles to success, and those you identify and address. But your internally generated obstacles are often overlooked entirely. Surprising to many of you is the fact that low expectations is one of the most common. When John F. Kennedy established the goal of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely home, no on…
 
No manufacturing organization can become successful, much less enduring, without a leadership team and culture that is disciplined. We all know that variability negatively impacts quality, and that’s true not only for products, but for communication, decision-making, processes, and more. As a leader it is your responsibility to ensure that employee…
 
Entirely too many leaders refuse to lead. The evidence? They refuse to sequence priorities and share the reasoning of that sequence with all employees to use in making decisions. If leaders don’t make the hard decisions, they abdicate them to those with less information and vision. Afraid if you sequence them the lower ones won’t get done? Well, th…
 
Most everyone is declaring the importance of innovation and an innovative culture to future success. And many claim to offer both now. Not true in most cases. Yes, there have been significant innovations in technology and materials. But can your business honestly claim that its market now receives new and innovative value from doing business with y…
 
Energy around the world is now expensive and in many places unavailable. The transition from carbon-based to renewables is coming, and brings with it complexities that many of cannot even imagine. Storage and transmission, the current state of our grid, changes to the grid that are required, and more stand between us and smoothly available power th…
 
Full transparency is coming to your manufacturing business. People are demanding it. Technology is enabling it. The 2021 supply chain disruptions demonstrated the need for it. So what does that mean for your manufacturing business? If you’ve always been open and trustworthy, it becomes a competitive advantage. If not, either change your behaviors o…
 
To endure a manufacturing business must continually metamorphose into an organization delivering increasing value to all of its constituents. Why? Because the competition is not only not sitting still; new forms of competition are sprouting up where it is difficult to envision them. Your value must evolve as the wants and needs of your constituents…
 
Snow storms and federal government shutdowns introduced the concept of “essential workers” decades ago. COVID-19 not only brought it front and center; the pandemic completely redefined the term. Consumers have choices on what, when, and how to buy. In 2020 and 2021 they have demonstrated considerable flexibility in those choices that surprised many…
 
“May you live in interesting times.” We certainly do. Supply chain shortages like we’ve never seen, an international pandemic that continues to mutate, and strong consumer demand. Oh, and a labor shortage faced by most every manufacturer. Resist the temptation to hire warm bodies. They are never what you need. What you do need is reliable people wh…
 
Organizational structure is a strategic choice and should not simply default to “what we’ve always done.” Companies are often organized by skill set or primary tasks, not by authority or decision-making responsibilities. Structures rarely are designed to instill core values or magnify human potential. Does your current structure develop personnel, …
 
It wasn’t difficult to see this coming. This podcast from 2013 explained how chasing cheap labor was very short sighted and doomed to fail. The addendum, just added, explains how companies that recognize the value of talent and their responsibility in investing in it can endure, while others cannot. Don’t let a line item on your P&L fool you into s…
 
I want to discuss with you disruptive technologies and specifically additive manufacturing. I have been a volunteer with the association for manufacturing excellence for about 15 years. AME puts on an annual international conference and we have done that for 25 or 30 years. Attendance is typically between 1000 and 1500 people, representing about 20…
 
Fear can paralyze; risk can be managed. The Delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading primarily among the unvaccinated. We are currently facing supply and demand uncertainties that have crippled many manufacturers, but it’s time to turn our eyes to managing specific risks. You know how to deal with many of the uncertainties — like how to produce safel…
 
My book Manufacturing Mastery: The Path to Building Successful and Enduring Manufacturing Businesses will be available September 1, 2021. For pre-orders, I am offering benefits that will help you build your enduring business. The benefits offered differ for quantities from ≧ 3, 7, or 25. Check it out at www.mfgmastery.com and choose which works bes…
 
With labor, plastics, chips, cans and many other global shortages, demand is far greater than supply for many manufacturers. The question is: How best do we handle that? Allocation is the term for allocating your limited supply. It should always start with a strategy — 100% to top customers, or split among markets or customers, or something else. O…
 
It’s one thing to focus on eliminating problems between shipment and delivery, the typical point of supply chain visibility. It’s quite another to discover there is a small facility in some backwater country that is integral to your entire supply chain. Visibility into the high level participants in your end-to-end supply chain is an important comp…
 
It’s not shipping on time that matters; it is receiving on time. That is true for you, and for your customers. That means manufacturers can no longer accept the black hole of logistics and last minute challenges. Supply chain visibility refers to a system of real-time relevant data converted to information that is utilized to identify and solve nea…
 
Industrial Internet of Things is the digitization of important variables, with that data converted into information that creates faster and better decision making. Business leaders often believe the software development part is the most challenging, but that’s far from true. In fact, programming is the easy part of IIoT. The business decisions, the…
 
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is by definition about the digitization of factors important to your business operations that is not currently captured as data. It could be temperature, speed, humidity, wear or any number of other factors. Digitization creates data, which must be converted into information if it’s to be worth the time and …
 
Saying your mission is to be the best at whatever it is that you do, using whatever technology you use, is meaningless to the outside world. Do you think anyone states that they want to be mediocre or lousy? So how would that empty statement really excite others to join and support your journey? It doesn’t. A case study: Over a recent lunch we disc…
 
Mission, vision, and core value statements were once considered serious. And then fluff, because companies had them, but didn’t live them. Thank goodness we’re never too old to learn! I have come to realize that Mission Matters! So do vision and core values. Together they attract the people and partners you want, or chase them away. They provide a …
 
CEOs, COOs, and consultants like myself do NOT know everything. We shouldn’t pretend to, nor expect ourselves to. We do need to constantly focus on learning, thinking, and applying what makes sense. We all too often overemphasize the differences and underestimate the similarities of our operations with that of others. Becoming skilled at recognizin…
 
Inconvenience and risk are present in our manufacturing businesses every day. Some should not prevent us from moving forward now; others represent to much potential risk — probability and/or severity — and require delay as we better understand and plan. You likely do much of this in your head daily, but may not realize that all your employees do th…
 
Last week’s podcast exposed my frustration with executives and journalists who claim to understand lean but obviously, to me and my opinionated thinking, do not. Today I will share a few of the critical distinctions that underlie my passion. First, when I hear the word “lean” I immediately think of the Toyota Business and Toyota Production Systems.…
 
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are fact-based high-quality newspapers. Each has acquired ‘political leanings’ in some of their writing, but for business articles they are widely respected. Each has recently published a poorly researched and factually incorrect article about the impact of the current supply chain upheavals on the pre…
 
When I was growing up in manufacturing a primary point of friction between leadership and production workers was “quality or quantity.” Leaders did not understand what was so irrational about their expectation; the two should not be mutually exclusive. The production workers, however, who worked with existing processes, couldn’t see why management …
 
I wish we would all quit acting like everything was “normal,” implying steady and predictable, before Covid. It’s like we’ve all decided to recall “the good old days” the way octogenarians do. What has really happened is that we were comfortable with the types of ongoing constant change, something unexpected happened that impacted all of us around …
 
As manufacturers are searching high and low for employees, it is crucial that we not make bad hiring decisions out of a sense of desperation. A warm body is not what you need. Today we’ll dig into how to attract candidates who can help you create a future that you can’t even predict well right now. Technology is the future of manufacturing, yet we …
 
I hope you have a mission for why your manufacturing company exists, and that you have some kind of vision for what it should look like in a few short years to ensure you’re closer to accomplishing that mission. Your business is somewhere right now. You haven’t accomplished the mission so where you are now is insufficient for where you intend to be…
 
Today’s topic is “how fast should your company improve?” While the bottom-line answer is the same for most all manufacturers, it is worth first looking at the question by size of company. Small manufacturers face a challenge just getting orders in and out and all too often don’t focus on making significant improvements. That last part is why so man…
 
People want what they want when they want it. That’s hardly a crazy concept; just one most manufacturers don’t believe applies to them. But it does. The JIT concept has been saying that for a long time, but again, many manufacturers didn’t believe their customers really wanted or needed that. Here’s the thing: No one cares how hard your business is…
 
While the integral role of supply chain, which includes inventory decisions, has become more obvious to everyone, and college degrees in supply chain are increasing, many manufacturers still see it as a renamed purchasing department. Effective procurement is an important profession, but it does not define nor integrate inventory strategies into the…
 
Well, you’ve certainly had a chance to see just how strong your supply chain is, as well as how well your organization can plan and execute shifts in volume and mix. More importantly, you have likely seen weaknesses in the multi-level understanding of the supply chain, including towards the customer. As you’ve gained 12 months experience dealing wi…
 
In a recent webinar, attendees responded to a poll by answering that uncertainty around Covid is one of the biggest concerns about 2021. It shouldn’t be! I started with responder poll results. I found the responses to this question: “My biggest concerns for 2021 are…” intriguing. The number one response was “continued uncertainty around Covid” whil…
 
Since IBM’s Watson, many have hoped that Artificial Intelligence, or AI, would be able to rummage through a pile of data, pick out what is relevant, and create some new learning that matters. That hope has been proven futile, at least with our current thinking and capabilities. That doesn’t mean AI is useless; we have learned through trial and erro…
 
I believe Operations should be responsible for customer retention and customer service. Marketing creates awareness, Sales brings in new customers, and it is operational performance — or lack thereof — that keeps them happy and wanting more. But regardless of where you locate the responsibility, it must be somewhere in your organization! Too many m…
 
If your manufacturing business is not designed to ensure robust processes within speed, cost, quality, and agility parameters; if your business is not designed to endure for decades; if your business is not designed to thrive through ambiguity, then by definition, it is not designed to be profitable. That would seem to be a significant weakness, do…
 
Manufacturers typically fall into three categories: those with proprietary products sold under their brand names, those who contract manufacture for others, and those who do both. Those who do both often provide private labeling for customers of products very similar to their current proprietary offerings. If you only offer what you’ve always sold …
 
An exception to our 6 minute limit, this 30 minute podcast addresses “what are current supply chain conditions internationally?” “What is the challenge with vaccine distribution?” and “what is China’s role in the supply chain now?” Australian, Irish and North American experts discuss these topics from their “feet on the ground” perspective. The ins…
 
Now that approved vaccines for Covid-19 exist, why is it so difficult to get them from the manufacturers into the hands of those who inject, and then into the arms of those who want to be vaccinated? For those of us with years in the supply chain profession, it is maddening. Yes, there are complexities to this challenge, but so what? Nothing that w…
 
Some insist that “electronic Kanban,” an alleged “pull” system, and increased ERP responsiveness replace the pull of a visual gemba-based kanban. Not true. Whether push or pull, or something else, the goal is to have the right stuff in the right quantity at the right place at the right time. AND TO SEE AND ADDRESS PROBLEMS THAT KEEP THAT FROM HAPPE…
 
There are those who say problem solving looks backwards and innovation looks forward. I would argue that sometimes effective problem solving requires innovation and sometimes creating a different future can benefit from leveraging problem-solving methodologies. To problem solve the future, begin to focus on the gap between “what is happening” and “…
 
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