June, 2013

A publication brought to you by the Manufacturers Alliance

Subscribe | Join MA
MA Announcements

LinkedIn

Connect with over 1,600 peers online through the Manufacturers Alliance LinkedIn group. Learn More



Leaders Alliance

If you want to look beyond your four walls for best practices and leverage the experience of your peers as your own, consider joining a Leaders Alliance peer group.



Wage Survey

The 2013 Manufacturers Alliance Compensation and Benefits Survey is now available to purchase. This survey was designed with input from local manufacturing companies to provide comprehensive total cash compensation data for making important pay decisions in this ever changing economy. Learn More



New and Renewing Companies

Decimet Sales
Starkey Laboratories
Advance Corporation
Tennant Company
Kelby Ergo Design
McArdle Business Advisors
Sifco Minneapolis
Graco Inc
Great Northern Corp
John Roberts
Twin City Die Castings
Atlas Manufacturing
Ritrama Inc
Precision Gasket
PouchTec Industries
MnTAP
Minnetronix Inc
WIPFLi
Determan Brownie Inc
Exlar Corporation
INCERTEC
Boeckermann,Grafstrom & Mayer
Precision Inc
HLB Tautges Redpath Ltd
MGK Company
Veracity Technologies
Johnstech Inc
Star Exhibits
Turck Inc
Juno Inc
HID Global
Miller Manufacturing
Dalsin Industries
Uponor
Amesbury Group Inc.
Talon Innovations
Eaton Corporation
Cummins Power Gen
Polaris Osceola
Control Assemblies
TSE Inc
Code Welding & Mfg
Visions
Robinson Rubber Products
Plymouth Industries
North Anoka Control
General Dynamics
MGS Machine Corporation
Johnson Screens Inc
Intek Plastics Inc
Pentair Technical
Banner Engineering
Brookdale Plastics
Medtronic Cardiovascular
Mate Precision Tooling
Baxter-Synovis Surgical
Hutchinson Technology
Upsher-Smith Labs
Reviva Inc
Smiths Medical ASD
Rice Lake Weighing
Travel Products



Diversified Plastics is now FDA CDRH Regsitered

Diversified Plastics, Inc. has announced they are now registered for medical device production with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA).

Annette Lund, vice president of Diversified Plastics adds, “We see this registration as an opportunity for us to continue growing in the medical device industry. It shows potential customers we have the capability to do the type of work that requires FDA approval.”



Upcoming Events

February 7th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader Online

February 8th 2023 08:00 am
- Creating Process Maps

February 9th 2023 08:00 am
- Sustaining Lean Culture Through Leadership Changes

February 14th 2023 09:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems Supervision Fundamentals Certification

February 15th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader

February 16th 2023 08:00 am
- Conflict, Communication and Collaboration

February 21st 2023 08:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems 6 Sigma Green Belt Certification

February 21st 2023 09:00 am
- Leadership Style & Versatility Online

February 22nd 2023 08:00 am
- Root Cause Analysis

February 22nd 2023 09:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems Supervision Fundamentals Certification

Article Index

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

Minnesota:  For a sixth straight month, Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index remained above growth neutral. The index from a monthly survey of supply managers in the state dipped to 55.2 from April’s 55.7.


Book Review- Switch- How to Change Things When Change is Hard
Article by: David Haynes

I like the Heath brothers. I really do. They're funny, perceptive, tell lots of great stories, and have a particular knack for synthesizing a lot of research and ideas into metaphors that seem simple and accessible – even when it's not certain exactly what they're talking about.


Minco Learns to Listen So People will Talk
Article by: John Hehre

Some pretty amazing things are happening at Minco these days. Sales people are seeing opportunities that weren’t visible a few years ago. Former customers are taking another look. Work in process inventory has steadily declined. Scrap is down dramatically. More products are going out the door with few additions to headcount. There is more vacant space on the production floor. And the list goes on.


Collecting the Dots to Win at Innovation
Article by: Rod Greder

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."


ADVERTISEMENT
MN Economic Outlook

Minnesota:  For a sixth straight month, Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index remained above growth neutral. The index from a monthly survey of supply managers in the state dipped to 55.2 from April’s 55.7.

Components of the index from the May survey were new orders at 53.8, production or sales at 55.4, delivery lead time at 54.5, inventories at 55.7, and employment at 56.6. “Durable goods producers, including metal manufacturers, report strong business growth. On the other hand, nondurable goods manufacturers, except for food processors, detailed upturns in economic activity for the month,” said Goss.

Dr. Ernest Goss of Creighton University, used the same methodology as The National Association of Purchasing Management to compile this information. An index number greater than 50 percent indicates an expansionary economy, and an index under 50 percent forecast a sluggish economy, for the next three to six months.

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Book Review- Switch- How to Change Things When Change is Hard

I like the Heath brothers. I really do. They're funny, perceptive, tell lots of great stories, and have a particular knack for synthesizing a lot of research and ideas into metaphors that seem simple and accessible – even when it's not certain exactly what they're talking about.

Chip Heath is a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has a BS in Industrial Engineering as well as a PhD in psychology. His brother Dan is a Senior Fellow at Duke University's CASE center and has an MBA from the Harvard Business School. The two of them have written two other very successful books, "Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" and the recently released "Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work."

The underlying premise of "Switch" is that there are "hard changes" and "easy changes", but ultimately all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving differently? The Heath's argue that successful change efforts share a common pattern and that if you understand the often counter-intuitive ways all of us tend to interact with each other and with our local environments you can use this pattern to effect significant "hard changes".

The metaphor posited in "Switch" – their description of the successful change pattern - has three main parts. You won't be surprised to learn that their book does as well: the rider, the elephant, and the path – more on them in a moment.

 Part of the reason change is difficult is that most of us don't understand human behavior very well and thus often design our change efforts in the way most certain to assure they won't be successful. If you're reasonably well-versed in the arena of behavioral change you'll recognize much of the underlying research and antecedents upon which "Switch" is built – from Dan Ariely to Kerry Patterson to Carol Dweck to John Kotter, and many others just as influential. In fact, this is a book where the "Recommendations for Additional Reading" and "Notes" sections are just are important to read as the book itself.

The format of the book walks you through the three main components of influencing change: directing the rider (the rational), motivating the elephant (the emotional), and shaping the path (the environment) using many actual examples of successful change initiatives. Within each section are more specific descriptions of techniques you can use to direct, motivate, and shape.

These are not, of course, independent efforts and part of the challenge of applying these lessons is that while the after-the-fact insights of the book's case studies seem clear and obvious, the in-the-moment insights of the people involved were clearly not.

The Heaths make a point of highlighting Carol Dweck's work in her book "Mindset", which might be a good place to head next if you feel that your organization is dragging its collective feet on important change initiatives. (See Malcolm Gladwell's reference to her work in his essay "The Talent Myth" from the New Yorker magazine.)

The book is not about what to change or even why to change. The truth of the matter, according to John Kotter, is that "All too often people and organizations don’t see the need for change. They don’t correctly identify what to do, or successfully make it happen, or make it stick."

"Switch" is an engaging and inspiring synthesis of current behavioral research and stories of impressive change successes. The authors are big believers that good stories are more important than spreadsheet justifications in creating memorable lessons. You'll remember the rider, the elephant, and the path, long after you've forgotten all about "ego depletion" and "positive deviance". Read it and start creating your own stories.

Chip and Dan Heath Published 2010 by Broadway Books

David Haynes- Owner of Lean4All LLC providing consulting services in influencing change: aligning strategy, IT, process improvement, and organizational communication. David may be reached at david@lean4all.com

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Minco Learns to Listen So People will Talk

Some pretty amazing things are happening at Minco these days. Sales people are seeing opportunities that weren’t visible a few years ago. Former customers are taking another look. Work in process inventory has steadily declined. Scrap is down dramatically. More products are going out the door with few additions to headcount. There is more vacant space on the production floor. And the list goes on.

People familiar with Lean and Six Sigma will recognize these as typical results from successful implementations. Minco’s situation is unique as they only started down this path in earnest two years ago. Their rapid success is partly due to the usual suspects – lots of lean training, application of familiar lean tools like value stream maps and 5S, a keen focus on eliminating waste, lots of Kaizen events, and strong support from company leadership. Equally important to their success are the cultural changes being made throughout the organization.

Significant change requires a forcing function to get started. Difficult economic conditions, increasingly demanding markets, global competition, and a workforce that had lost its focus led to a significant restructuring followed by a deep and painful reduction in force. The company used this event, along with other very visible examples (they filled an entire long hallway with scrap) to drive home the point that change was essential for the company’s continued growth and survival.

Leadership took a three-pronged approach to Lean implementation. Material Lean, the most common form, covers the flow of materials through the factory. Transactional (Office) Lean is concerned with the flow of information through the organization, such as improving the quoting process. Finally, Cultural Lean is about changing the culture of the organization to create a strong and sustainable continuous improvement environment. The success of this third component has clearly enabled the rapid success enjoyed at Minco.

To begin, top management added new leaders from outside the company and all started talking to as many employees as possible. These discussions helped form the basis for change. For example, many employees thought the hierarchical functional organization was less effective than the divisional structure that had been in place years before. As a result, the new organization features business units with Product Management, Engineering and Production aligned with three product categories. The business units are supported by centralized Sales, Quality, and Customer Service departments. The organization is much flatter and more responsive as a result of the changes. Employees began to realize that their ideas could make a difference.

At the same time, the “Voice of the Customer” became a very important driver of change. Independent sales representatives were replaced with a direct sales force responsible for the company’s entire product line. Customers now have a more direct connection to Minco engineering and production areas and that direct customer input drives many of the improvements.

Leadership’s ability to listen has helped the company move forward, but not everyone is good at listening and many people don’t want to talk. Realizing this, the company implemented initiatives that play an essential role in the cultural transformation. A new and creative suggestion system was implemented.  Employee surveys resulted in actions. Quarterly All Employee Meetings are held and questions and comments are encouraged. An acronym, “icare” was introduced that defines the company’s value system. It stands for Integrity, Communication, Accountability, Respect, and Energy. Slogans may be dangerous, but Minco incorporated icare into its performance review process so everyone is evaluated against the five characteristics. Merit pay increases and bonuses for salaried personnel are tied to these evaluations which give icare weight and credence. Walking the halls, you see employees proudly wearing icare shirts, quality shirts, and other company apparel.  Managers all attend leadership training, and the program is expanding to include others as well. There are many opportunities for people to provide regular feedback. A new favorite is “The Waste of the Month” where one of the seven wastes is posted and employees are encouraged to identify examples of that waste and suggest solutions. Actions taken are reported on, and each month the people who offered ideas are entered in a drawing for a gift card.

The best way to keep people talking is to act on what you hear. One of the strongest symbols of this new culture is a plaque each leader in the company has in their work area with their signature on it. It reads:

As a Minco leader, it is my responsibility to consider all ideas for continuous improvement at Minco. I will earn your trust by treating you with respect, recognizing your energy and effort, and acting on your ideas appropriately. If I do not, please hold me accountable and tell me or my manager.

This short, but powerful statement was developed to encourage employees’ contributions, and more importantly, to set clear expectations for managers.

From the outside, Minco’s transformation is amazing, with cultural initiatives standing out.  Internally, everyone is proud of their accomplishments but realizes that continuous improvement is an ongoing effort. Sustainment is a challenge.  More training is needed.  Traction and implementation varies by area.  Additional internal champions need to be developed.  Visual metrics and Standard Work need to be expanded. The Quality Management System needs to become more efficient. While it may seem like a daunting task, the early work on the cultural foundation for continuous improvement, the willingness to listen to employees, and the commitment of the team at Minco set the stage for continued accomplishments.

Minco is a mid-sized private company with about 600 employees throughout the world. They work closely with their customers to design and manufacture flexible circuits, sensors and instruments and heaters – and combine these technologies with expert engineering services to provide comprehensive solutions for their customers in Medical, Aerospace and Defense, Rotating Machinery, Semiconductor and other demanding applications. The company enjoys a strong and loyal workforce where the average tenure of employees is 14 years.

John Hehre is a senior operations executive and provides interim management and project based consulting to mid-sized private companies in need of transformative change. He can be reached at jhehre@cprocess.com.

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Collecting the Dots to Win at Innovation

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."

~ Steve Jobs (1955-2011), American entrepreneur and inventor, former co-founder, chairman and CEO, Apple Inc.

Our brains are very good at making connections. In fact, our roughly 100 billion neurons have trillions of connections between them; one estimate puts the number of connections at 1000 trillion. That’s even more than the national debt!

Creativity arises when new neural connections are made in our brains between objects, experiences, ideas, and thoughts. It can be driven by ‘qualia’ which are our subjective conscious experiences about how we feel about things. We can intentionally try to connect seemingly unrelated things but that only goes so far.

Creativity also comes from insight or intuition. These connections occur at a subconscious level. Connections are made between things or dots that we don’t even know we know.

Connecting the dots has become more challenging as things are more complex now, and there are many more dots to collect – even more than the neurons and neural connections in our brains can probably handle.

The greatest challenge is that we can’t connect what is not there. If you have one dot what do you connect it to? If you have two dots you make one connection. As you add dots the number of connections increases geometrically. The possibility of a useful connection that leads to meaningful innovation also increases. It’s a numbers game.

 A wise colleague once said “The organization with the most dots wins.”

You must collect’em before you can connect’em. You need to expose yourself to gobs, chunks and tidbits of diverse experiences and ideas. Don’t judge and discard them too early. Just load them. File them. Allow the subconscious to go through the connections. Give insight and intuition an opportunity to churn and link these data points.

Attend conferences where you will hear about products and services outside your industry. Most breakthrough innovation occurs in the white space between industries. Take classes that are outside your expertise. Read articles from other areas. Talk to bright creative people about the world, about life. Indulge in new experiences.

This ‘collecting the dots’ strategy has benefits beyond innovation. It’s just flat out fun and exciting. It’s also good for your brain. The best method to stave off cognitive decline as we age is to fill our lives with experiences and our heads with lots of information that forces us to continue to make connections. Neuroscience is showing that we can stay sharper as we mature by actively engaging with the astounding diversity of the world. And, we can increase our odds of connecting the dots that lead to radical innovation.

Rod Greder, Ph.D. founded Breakthrough Forum, an innovation dialogue and accountability group, for product developers and marketers to tap the collective intelligence of their peers who have been there and done that. rgreder@improveproducts.com, (763)443-1531.

Back to Top


Copyright © 2011 Manufacturers Alliance. All rights reserved.
Thank you for reading the Manufacturers Alliance E-Newsletter.