May, 2007

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Article Index

E-Manufacturing Lean
Article by: Justin Dorsey
Five years ago, Tom Harold heard a story detailing how electricity was being used to heal blindness. He coincidentally was seeking new manufacturing opportunities after stints as an executive with General Mills and Pillsbury.
The Real Reason Change is Hard
Article by: Lynn Moline & Mike Braun
Unfreeze, move, refreeze. That seems to be the theory of change we subscribe to in our organizations.
Are You Aware? Creativity and Innovation Begin with Awareness
Article by: Rod Greder
As you begin this article the know-it-all voice in your head scrutinizes every word. It takes over your consciousness and...
COMPLIANCE NEWS NOTES: FIRE SAFETY INSPECTION
Article by: Vija Kelly
With the warm weather having arrived early, this is a good time to take a walk through and outside of your building to make sure that potential fire hazards or fire code violations have not appeared during the cold weather months.
Minnesota Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss
For the month of April 2007, reported May 1, 2007. For the first time since January, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index dipped.
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E-Manufacturing Lean
Five years ago, Tom Harold heard a story detailing how electricity was being used to heal blindness. He coincidentally was seeking new manufacturing opportunities after stints as an executive with General Mills and Pillsbury.

He began researching how electricity was being used in this innovative manner. The deeper he looked the more convinced he became that there was something to this idea. He decided to manufacture a product that would capitalize on this possibility.

The device he envisioned would be able to correct the heretofore incurable macular degeneration, of which 30 percent of the population over age 64 has to one degree or another, as well as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, and other ocular diseases.

However, as is almost always the case with these kinds of stories, Tom had a problem. Cash. After conceiving of a prototype design using micro-amps of various frequencies, he found an Asian manufacturer who would build the micro-amp device for free in return for manufacturing the product. Thus, Scyfix was born (see www.scyfix.com).

Yet, hurdles still needed to be overcome. Lots of them. To begin with, Tom was unhappy with the quality of his prototypes. He assembled a domestic team from design to full production. Along the way, he has gained interesting insights from the experience.

He says, "I learned that different people have different skill sets for different stages of development. In simple terms, a prototype designer isn't necessarily the right person to oversee mass production. By being virtual, I found that I could pick best-of-class for each project. I also found that being virtual actually brought a clearer focus to the process. That is, because my 'team' was scattered all over, we adhered to a strict schedule of weekly telephone/internet meetings. No exceptions. And the result was a tangible focus that was very different from staff meetings I used to oversee in my previous manufacturing experiences. Always, the goal was to work through how not to miss deadlines, meaning how to make the timelines, rather than discuss why certain ones were going to be missed."

Today, Scyfix has several products undergoing FDA field trials. And, its products have been used in and approved by a number of foreign countries - including Canada. If anything, Tom's "passion" has increased.

He says, "We're exploring truly meaningful territory. How do you not feel moved by a mother who calls crying to say that her son can see and catch a baseball for the first time?"

When asked about the fair amount of Minnesota medical device manufacturers already working with electrical stimulations (Rehabilicare, Empi, Medtronic, etcetera), Tom said, "When you consider that every human cell has an electrical charge, the real wonder is that more work has not been done in this area."

The lean approach to manufacturing has helped Scyfix stay in the game:
  • timely work schedules

  • regular and consistent communications

  • changing out resources as needed

  • leaders of each team review every functional work area, so everyone is familiar with the other's work and responsibility

  • each individual is accountable for timelines

  • holding true to the meeting times, internet and otherwise.
But Scyfix is essentially a virtual company - so why join the Manufacturers Alliance?

Tom says, "I have the highest need for the MA's guidance for the very reason that I have no actual facilities. Because of that I absolutely must know what to expect from my team in terms of lean expertise. So, the MA is my standard of the industry for my suppliers. In an interesting perspective on lean, Tom added, "I have learned the dollars-and-cents value of 'time.' That is, while longer time frames usually means higher costs, or more dollars, I have learned that properly allowing longer lead-times can translate into lower costs. So, I have learned to use it to my advantage."
Justin Dorsey, Director of Sales & Marketing, Advanced Capital Group located at 50 South Sixth Street, #975 Minneapolis, MN 55402. call (612) 230-3009, email jdorsey@acgbiz.com, or visit www.acgbiz.com.

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The Real Reason Change is Hard
Unfreeze, move, refreeze. That seems to be the theory of change we subscribe to in our organizations.

We act like change happens once and then it's done. Some impetus forces us to overcome past practice but then we settle back into comfortable stability until the next impetus comes along. And sometimes we don't even really change that much. We move just a little bit and refreeze.

But is that good enough in the world in which we live? Can we afford to freeze at all?

Whether or not we can afford to freeze is beside the point because we do freeze. The trick for leaders is to figure out how to keep things fluid.

This struck me as an "aha" while attending a workshop to brush up on my consulting skills. The speaker described "covert processes" that impede change. These processes include politics, aspirations, emotions, beliefs and assumptions, and unconscious psychological defenses. Often, leaders try to keep things fluid and overcome resistance by telling people the what, why, and how of the change, and then getting them involved in making it happen. This constitutes dealing with the rational aspects of change, and it's necessary, of course. But the covert processes must also be recognized and addressed or they will short-circuit real change. They are like the part of the iceberg that's below water level.

These processes are below the water because people are fearful of revealing something that seems inappropriate, or because they are unaware of their own assumptions and blind spots, or because some of the defenses are deeply rooted in the unconscious. But the processes play out in a variety of forms, ranging from procrastination to excuses to arguments to downright hostility.

Suppose you believe your organization needs to phase out an old product and develop a new one. You give people all the logical reasons for doing so, and your vision for what could be. But few seem to hear or understand, and some overtly or tacitly resist. What's going on?

Look for the covert processes. Create a safe environment to help people move their minds. Ask about their views and their visions. Ask what they think about the situation and how they believe it should be addressed, including organizationally. Ask them their concerns. Ask them to reflect on how things are done now and why.

In doing this, the leader thaws frozen mindsets. Real and sustained change happens only when people's hopes are engaged, their emotional reactions are released, their ways of thinking are modified, and their anxieties are assuaged. Only then will they be willing to be fluid.
Lynn Moline, owner of Lynn Moline Associates, Inc., is a consultant and trainer who specializes in executive development, executive team alignment, and planning. Mike Braun is a partner at CLG, a company that provides behavior-based strategy execution and performance improvement services.

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Are You Aware? Creativity and Innovation Begin with Awareness
As you begin this article the know-it-all voice in your head scrutinizes every word. It takes over your consciousness and...

attaches meaning to each phrase and makes snap judgments about whether this intrusion into your neo-cortex will be a pleasure or a nuisance. "It" may decide the latter and convince you to open a new browser to check your stocks to see if you can afford to retire early, or it may tell you to go back to your inbox, with a sigh of resignation, and tackle the next message. You are unaware that "it" is in control. You are not aware of how you think until you"think" about how you think.

It all begins with awareness. We are on autopilot most of our lives. Some of us are as asleep as Rip Van Winkle -- at least he woke up after 20 years! We are locked into our habitual ways of being. Our biases, prejudices, and habits have us under their unconscious control. William James said, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

David Bohm, the well-known physicist and philosopher, said, "Most people have well-formed thoughts about most subjects. When that subject comes up people go through the same thought pattern as always without really thinking."

What does this have to do with product development and innovation? If we want to be creative and innovative we need to become keenly aware of the world around us. We must see the world and people in it as they are and not as we are. I heard a sales presentation from a consultant recently, in which he cited the "three top needs" of entrepreneurs. I disagreed with his choices. Then he mentioned the three services that he provided. You got it! He saw the world based on what he was selling. If all you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.

Scientists say the mind takes in billions of bits of information every second, but we consciously process only about 2,000 bits. This means that we are much less aware of our interaction with the world than we know. Don't believe it? Be conscious of all the points where your toes touch your socks inside your shoes. There are thousands of touch points. Before this exercise your foot was the farthest thing from your mind (literally and figuratively). "It" was processing out all the things "it" deemed unimportant. Do you really want to give over control to "it"?

Priming Your Mind for Creativity and Innovation. Follow these steps to become more aware of "its" effect on you and begin to "see" the world as it is.
  1. Start by being present to more of the sensory information coming to your brain. Use your non-dominant hand to write, comb your hair, and type. Feel your legs in your pants. This will force you to connect with your body.

  2. Quiet your mind. Be aware of "thoughting." It is that torrent of thoughts that rumbles across your consciousness without you even knowing it. Try to be aware of the "dead air" between thoughts. Lengthen that time. Recognizing that emptiness is awareness.

  3. Accentuate your breathing to relax and open the portal to the world. Acknowledge the space between breaths.

  4. Let your chosen innovation challenge (a new breakthrough product, a higher level of service, a system to slash costs) drift into the emptiness you created. Use tactile and other sensory triggers to "feel" the problem. We feel before we think. What do you feel?

  5. Jot down all the thought fragments and feelings that float into the space as possible solutions.

  6. Be intentional. As you consider solutions to product and service problems direct your thinking down different pathways. Use defined processes.

    • Recognize differences among options. What makes one better?

    • Identify similarities among options. What is a common theme?

    • Look for changes that you can make to the options. How can you twist them?

    • Change levels from macro to micro as you evaluate options.

    • Change points of view. How would R&D and manufacturing look differently at the problem/solution?

  7. Repeat a day later so your subconscious has a chance to kick around the options.

  8. Be aware that "it" will try to reinsert itself at any point, take control, and get you thoughting about other things. Be resolute and stay in control.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel Prize winner in the physiology of medicine,
said, "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought." Use the process above to think what others are too asleep to think. Incidentally, this same process also is a pathway to personal peace and joy.
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.

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COMPLIANCE NEWS NOTES: FIRE SAFETY INSPECTION
With the warm weather having arrived early, this is a good time to take a walk through and outside of your building to make sure that potential fire hazards or fire code violations have not appeared during the cold weather months.
  1. Are the open valves of the sprinkler system on the outside of the building clear? We remember one instance in which a bird had built a nest inside one. This would certainly cause the sprinkler system to clog up. A cap for the valve is appropriate.

  2. Are the emergency lights working?

  3. Has stored material crept into the electric room? This is not allowed. Also, signs for electrical panels must be on the these areas, and "caution" striping must be on the floor for thirty-six inches leading up to the front of the panel. This area must be kept clear.

  4. Aisle space to all fire extinguishers should be clear. Fire extinguishers need to be kept clean. Filthy fire extinguishers may not be safe to use.

  5. Ground fault interrupter outlets should be put in areas in which the outlet is near water use (microwave in kitchen area, tumbling department).

  6. Rags (oil soaked or solvent soaked) must be kept in closed containers.

  7. Extension cords on fans: OSHA requires that fans used in the workplace be hard-wired in. Also, cords should not run across aisles, be strung over nails, be missing grounding prongs, etcetera.

  8. Cleanliness is an issue around the air compressor. Also, the air compressor is not to be used as a storage rack. The air compressor needs to be hard-wired in. Electrical panels by the air compressor need to be labeled.

  9. Parts washers need to be covered when not in use.

  10. Bench lights need to be hard-wired in.

  11. "Exit" signs must be illuminated at all times.

  12. "Exit" signs need to be visible.

  13. Welding gas cylinders need to be chained upright. There must be a barrier between acetylene and oxygen tanks.

  14. Fire extinguisher signs need to be visible.

  15. Fire extinguishers need to be mounted within easy reach.

  16. There should be no unmarked barrels–the fire department also needs to be able to identify hazardous materials on sight for the firefighters' own safety, if called upon.

  17. Many fire departments require the National Fire Protection Association diamond on shop doors. Make sure that yours is current and still legible.

Taking these precautions will help facilitate a continuing lovely spring into summer.
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/vijakelly.jpg"align="left">Hazard Management is a consulting and training firm specializing in occupational safety and hazardous waste management. Call Vija Kelly at 651-697-0422 for more information.

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Minnesota Economic Outlook
For the month of April 2007, reported May 1, 2007. For the first time since January, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index dipped.



The index from a monthly survey of supply managers and business leaders declined to a still healthy 55.8 from 56.3 in March. Components of the overall index for April were new orders at 59.6, production at 61.7, delivery lead time at 52.1, inventories at 51.1, and employment at 47.9. "While the Minnesota economy has experienced positive growth for the first quarter, that rate has been below the regional average. Based on our survey, I expect positive but somewhat slow growth for the second quarter of 2007 with Minnesota adding 12,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticking up one-tenth of one percent. The downturn in the housing sector and U.S. auto industry has slowed growth below that of the rest of the region," said Goss. April 2007: Prices-paid index, 74.5. April 2006: Prices-paid index, 85.7.
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.

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