October, 2005

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Article Index

E-Mail: Useful Tool or Worst Enemy?
Article by: Lynn Moline & Mike Braun
E-mail has done to business communication cycle-time what lean practices have done to manufacturing cycle-time. Today, we send proposals, close deals, exchange data, make reports, schedule meetings, and complete hundreds of other communication functions in the time it takes to type the message. Importantly, we can also copy an unlimited number of people worldwide in real time on every message.
Medicare Part D Notification and Subsidy
Author Unknown
Federal legislation recently expanded Medicare beyond Part A and B. The new Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage to people who are in either Medicare Part A or Part B. Part D becomes effective on January 1, 2006.
The World's Largest Independent Tool Maker Is in White Bear Lake
Article by: Justin Dorsey
Set off inconspicuously alongside Highway 61 a few miles north of White Bear Lake sits Wilson Tool. Wilson Tool likes its low profile. In fact, it works hard to preserve it. But its low-profile exterior belies a state of the art manufacturing hub of 350,000 square feet.
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E-Mail: Useful Tool or Worst Enemy?
E-mail has done to business communication cycle-time what lean practices have done to manufacturing cycle-time. Today, we send proposals, close deals, exchange data, make reports, schedule meetings, and complete hundreds of other communication functions in the time it takes to type the message. Importantly, we can also copy an unlimited number of people worldwide in real time on every message.

Great, right?

Not so fast. E-mail's very power makes it problematic. Because it is so fast and easy, users sometimes hit the "send" button before rereading or reconsidering the message. Consequences range from the comical–such as the writer who told a valued supplier that he was sending "a plague in the mail in gratitude for good service"–to the litigious and libelous. Consider Martha Stewart's young stock broker or the now-jobless deputy in Red Lake who sent a "private" e-mail to friends and family describing the school shooting crime scene.

Also consider the nuisance factor. Many of my managerial clients report they routinely receive scores, even hundreds, of e-mails daily, many of which are not relevant to them to begin with.

Problems with e-mail are easy to avoid if users follow three simple rules:

1. Think before choosing e-mail; it's not always the best medium for every message. If the message requires dialogue or is emotionally charged; if the writer is angry; if the issue is complex; if immediate response is required from a receiver who may not have constant access to e-mail; if the subject has already produced a long chain of responses, some other communication method is probably better.

2. Write as carefully as if you were writing a memo. Because e-mail feels so personal and casual, people treat it like a phone conversation. But unlike a phone conversation, it's impossible to use voice inflection, there is a permanent record of everything written, and the message could be sent on to anyone. To prevent the embarrassing and even costly problems this can cause, get in the habit of treating every business e-mail you write as a memo on letterhead.

3. Never write anything in an e-mail that you'd be embarrassed to have anyone, anywhere, see. If the message is sensitive or confidential, pick up the phone instead or write a formal letter or report and send it via snail mail.

Finally, brush up on your writing skills in general, and learn to use a compelling subject line in conjunction with an informative opening to draw your reader's attention.
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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Medicare Part D Notification and Subsidy
Federal legislation recently expanded Medicare beyond Part A and B. The new Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage to people who are in either Medicare Part A or Part B. Part D becomes effective on January 1, 2006.

All employers–even those who do not provide retiree coverage–must address the Medicare Part D notification requirements. This is necessary because all employers provide some form of medical coverage that includes prescription drugs.

The primary Medicare Part D Notification requirements are as follows:

• Medicare Part D coverage is for anyone age 65 and over, for those receiving Social Security Disability, and for those with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Considering the extent of these categories, the employer may not know who is Medicare eligible on its medical plan. It follows then that notification should include not only employees, but also their dependent spouses and children. It is recommended that all employers follow the Medicare Part D notification requirements.

• ALL employers, regardless of plan size, are subject to the Medicare Part D "creditable coverage" disclosure notice requirement–even if they have no retirees or employees over age 65 enrolled on their plan. Social Security Disability or ESRD would make employees under age 65 eligible.

• By November 15, 2005, employers must provide a "creditable coverage" disclosure notice to all employees and their dependents and to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) describing whether the employer's prescription drug plan design is "equivalent to" or "not-equivalent to" Medicare Part D coverage.

Regarding the drug subsidy:

• By October 31, 2005 (originally September 30, 2005), an employer, if interested, must apply to the CMS for the Medicare Part D drug subsidy. The application must include an actuarial attestation of the employers plan.

• The drug subsidy is an annual event and requires an annual application. If an employer does not apply for the drug subsidy in a given year, the employer can still apply in a subsequent year for the subsequent year's subsidy. An actuarial attestation must accompany each application.

Keith Kupcho is Corporate Relations Coordinator for Corporate Health Systems, a firm that provides employee benefits consulting, management, and administration services to corporations. He may be reached at 952/939-0911 x22.
Author Unknown

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The World's Largest Independent Tool Maker Is in White Bear Lake
Set off inconspicuously alongside Highway 61 a few miles north of White Bear Lake sits Wilson Tool. Wilson Tool likes its low profile. In fact, it works hard to preserve it. But its low-profile exterior belies a state of the art manufacturing hub of 350,000 square feet.

Started in 1966 by Ken Wilson, Wilson Tool manufactures tooling for the turret punch press, press brake, and hard tooling industries. Mr. Wilson, who is now in his 70s, is still involved in the business today but to a lesser extent. His story is a classic American success story starting from humble beginnings to the world's largest independent manufacturer of turret punch press tooling. The intensity with which he has attended to every manufacturing detail to gain a competitive advantage is quite astounding.

In terms of tooling innovation, the most intriguing examples of Wilson's trade are its adjustable tooling designs, coatings, precision ground press brake tooling, tool steels, special tooling and the "Wilson Wheel" family of tools. Its wheel tools are a great example of their innovative spirit and are still unparalleled in the industry. Previously, turret punches simply punctured sheet metal with a variety of shapes and sizes or put simple forms in the sheet. But the Wilson Wheel Tool can be used to form a large embossed surface or to make a long slit in the metal. Moreover, the rolling tool can make these impressions in straight lines and in curvatures. The result opens up a fundamentally new way to use a turret press.

While its tool making is trend setting, what goes on before the tools are finished is equally interesting and differentiating. Specifically, how Wilson Tool addressed the issue of hardness speaks volumes about its commitment to innovation. First, it took the time, trouble, and expense to develop its own proprietary tool steel. Second, it also undertook the time, trouble, and expense to formulate a heat-treat process for the proprietary steel. Wilson has its own in-house heat treat facility, but because of the quantity of steel it consumes, it also utilizes the services of several local heat treat facilities.

Wilson Tool has also developed proprietary coating processes for increasing the surface hardness of the steel, increasing the life of the tool. The short explanation of this proprietary process is to say that it bombards the surface of its tools with Titanium, carbon, and nitrogen. But how it does that almost belies description. The result, seen through a portal in the oven's door, looks like an eerie science-book illustration of the Earth's original formation, with raging electrical storms in a swirling fog-like atmosphere.

Generally, high impact steel has a Rockwell C scale of about 60. But Wilson's proprietary coatings process ultimately raise the surface hardness of its tools to a Rockwell of 95-enough to extend its tools' useful life seven to ten times.

The foregoing illustrations of its attention to fundamental manufacturing details set the stage for its support processes as well. First, Wilson Tool has fully embraced the Internet as a way of speeding up the process of ordering parts by funneling them directly from the Internet to fulfillment and tool making. Second, and perhaps most intriguing, two of its lines' engineering and sales departments are on the shop floor. While partitioned behind glass to reduce sound, the toolmakers, engineers and sales people literally look at each other during the work day. In the manufacturing world, which usually separates these functions into different floors and sometimes buildings, this is a radical way of doing business. The camaraderie that results has been extremely productive.

Lean manufacturing is a mainstay at Wilson Tool. Today, nearly 100% of its standard tools (which number in the thousands) are shipped within twenty-four hours. In fact, 70% of them are shipped same-day. Even special orders are mostly (70%) shipped within 5 days. Special orders once routinely took three to four weeks. Wilsons lean journey began by merging its standard and special parts departments. An unexpected benefit was that its toolmakers could then share ideas. The result was a workforce that has increased its knowledge base and flexibility.

Wilson Tool has also opened a manufacturing plant in China, not so as to import tooling to the United States, but to access China's own manufacturing demands as well as other countries in the region. Wilson refined its approach to manufacturing for a local market years ago when it opened a plant in England to service the European market.
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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