September 24, 2019 at 10:03 AM

Decision-Making Model Part 1

We’ve talked before about decision methodology.  In brief, the theory we follow for manufacturers is that to stay competitive, you must always make your decisions based on the information currently present.  Collecting more information could be helpful, but spend too much time here, and you have analysis paralysis

The basic tenet of the model is this: review the current landscape of the situation and make a decision based on prior experience and present details.  This is a delicate balance.  Rely too much on experience and you may be blind to what’s currently sitting in front of you.  Ignore the past and you may repeat something you’ve tried that doesn’t work.

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August 27, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Weather You Need Production Control (And We Did Spell That Correctly)

Update 09/03/19: today, as we post this blog, Hurricane Dorian is sitting over the Bahamas.  Little is yet known about how much damage has been done at this time.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. 


Whether you believe in global warming or not (we do try to make these blogs historically relevant without being political statements), it’s difficult to watch or read the news without seeing stories about smaller icebergs, deforestation and shifting weather patterns.  We’re not going to talk here about what’s causing those.  We’re more concerned with the idea that things are always changing, even those things that you rely on for stability. 

What do you do when the things that you count on being constant shift?  

Weather is one of those constants in our lives.  Depending on where you live, you expect the patterns of the seasons, water and temperature, to be consistent from year to year.  Everything you buy and do depends on it.  At work and at home, you rely on the weather to be relatively even from day to day, week to week, season to season, year to year.  It would be safe to say that you probably never have created a plan for what to do when the weather shifts dramatically from its current pattern.  It’s something you count on.

What do you count on in your business?  What items are there that you assume will be the same from period to period?  Do you always assume that your sales will be stable or rise?  Do you figure

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August 20, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Curiosity in Manufacturing

As people, we are inherently curious.  Even as we age, that yearning for something new causes us to travel, meet new people, maybe even wander a bit.  Curiosity is a part of human nature.  We all read studies (and see the evidence) of how curious children are when they are born.  We also see the results of traditional educational models in curiosity.  Driving children to conform to a single norm of sitting in straight-line desks and file in lines works for teachers in that in helps to control the chaos of the classroom, but if you were like me and many other entrepreneurs, conforming naturally bucked the curiosity you felt about issues that weren’t on the schedule for the teacher today. 

In a recent Harvard Business Review article on Why Curiosity Matters, Francesco Gina explores curiosity and its results on business specifically.  While most breakthroughs come from curiosity, she cites all the ways that business kill it in their workers.  Critical to this center of thinking is the notion that “it will increase risk and inefficiency.” 

Ms. Gina lays out the benefits of curiosity in work.  Confirmation bias is first on the list.  We’ve talked about this before.  Expecting what you’ll see and seeing it, whether it’s there or not.  This shows up in manufacturing all the time.  We hear it called “tribal knowledge.”  Many companies tell us that their workforce just “knows what to do.”   That only works if you never want to change how they do it. 

In training your workers to “just know,” you are eliminating the possibility of anything new.  My mind immediately goes back to the days of early automation.  Whether that conjures a picture of Lucy trying to wrap chocolates on an assembly line in “I Love Lucy” or assembly workers at the early days of Ford, this is not the way work is done today.  In the era of click and swipe, no one wants to do a job the same way all the time. 

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July 30, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Why Pictures Matter in Manufacturing

Pictures solidify messages.  Science tells us that we forget most of what we read.  (This doesn’t speak well to what you might remember about this blog, so be sure to come back and read it again.)  We remember context.  That could be the place you were when something happened.  Smells.  Visual elements of the world around you.  The writing on the page. 

The last time that you went to a bookstore (you have been to one recently, yes?), do you remember picking up a book because you liked its cover?  Maybe a magazine’s front picture drew you in?  These are images that recalled something in your mind.  They caused you to have an emotion which made you lean in.  If you opened the book, do you remember liking the text, the way it looked on the page?  Or not?

These emotions related to what you see help you to remember the content as well.  Without a connection between seeing something and an emotion, chances of you remembering it shrink drastically.  Studies (and Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience) show that 10% of people remember what they read but 90% of what they do. 

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June 11, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Why Manufacturing Will Never Live in the Cloud

You wouldn’t allow your competitors to walk your floor and rifle through your files, so why allow strangers to access your data by placing it in the cloud?

Last week SalesForce, one of the most widely-used CRMs on the planet, inadvertently opened access to its Pardot repository leading to a full shutdown. This locked out thousands of users, for more than 15 hours. Not only did this failure result in private data being made available to the rest of the user base, it meant sales teams around the world were hamstrung from doing their job for multiple days.

The amount of potential revenue that was lost is incalculable, but many businesses feel so locked into their contracts and sales processes that they wouldn’t dream of moving onto a new platform. Mistakes happen and Salesforce will learn from this glitch making it even stronger moving forward… right?

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April 16, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team - The Calibrator

Part 6  |  The Calibrator 

Now that you’ve found your Visionary, Connector, Implementer and Definer you’re nearly ready to start your project. What your team still lacks is the person responsible for external research and communication. They know where to go, which questions to ask and have the resources and diligence to get the job done.

This week we discuss the Calibrator.

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April 9, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team - The Definer

Part 5  |  The Definer 

The surest way to take the wind out of the sails of a project is to realize a requirement has been misinterpreted by your key decision makers. If the confusion relates to a key piece of the project, it can set work back months, hold up go-live and create rifts between departments. The only way to avoid this devastating scenario is to assign ownership over the recording and defining of those critical points to a single member of your team.

This week we discuss the Definer.

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April 2, 2019 at 10:54 AM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team - The Implementer

Part 4  |  The Implementer 

To follow through on a successful selection and implementation of your next production control system, you need to assemble the right team with the right skill set. Some roles require social or political acumen, others require an understanding of process or corporate structure. You may even find multiple qualified candidates on your staff to fill those roles well. In the case of this absolutely critical team member however, our mantra of “talent over title” is more relevant than ever. 

This week we discuss the Implementer.

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March 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team - The Connector

Part 3  |  The Connector 

In addition to the steadfast guidance of your Visionary, your team needs a lead to be the hub through which information flows. They will be responsible for understanding the mission laid out by the Visionary and communicating the independent requirements of the various departments involved in the project. Without a dedicated team member receiving and translating those requirements, your project runs the risk of late additions that create conflicts with established functionality.

This week we discuss the Connector.

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March 19, 2019 at 1:30 PM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team - The Visionary

Part 2  |  The Visionary 

The first step in any successful manufacturing system project is to assemble the right people around the table. As we discussed in “Assembling Your Production System Project Team”, it’s more important that you focus on talents than titles. Throughout March we will be focusing on the specific roles that will make up your team and ultimately propel your project to success.

This week we discuss the Visionary.

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March 12, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Assembling Your Production System Project Team

Part 1  |  Who Should Have a Seat at the Table?

You need to assemble the right team, both internally and externally, to select, implement and support your manufacturing system. Manufacturers can’t expect IT alone to understand the needs of production just as IT wouldn’t expect QA to understand integration connections to/from your ERP. That type of departmental decision-making leads to narrow systems that rarely make it to implementation.

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February 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Why Other People Quitting Their Jobs Matters to You

The Workforce is Changing. Are You Ready?

The latest jobs reports have come in and the findings have an impact on how you hire, how you invest in your current team and how you plan for your future.

Wage growth has increased over the past 12 months, the average earnings increasing to $27.48 and, even though manufacturing jobs grew by 32,000 in January, the ISM (Institute for Supply Management) index dropped by 5% in December. This shift illustrates a lack of confidence in the coming months for manufacturers across industries [Schneider NPR, 2019].

Today's blog focuses on what the changes in the economy mean for your business and how production systems like Quantum help you keep your most valuable Operators engaged in the face of difficult trends.

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February 19, 2019 at 9:00 AM

The 5 Critical Requirements When Researching Production Control Systems

Which ERPs Can Manage Production? | Part 2 of 2

In part 2 of our ERP for production series, we cover the critical factors to understand when researching production systems. To learn more about requirements based on your size revisit Part 1 where we discuss the difference between “Growing” and “Influencer” sized manufacturing needs.

Regardless of size, every manufacturer needs to keep these 5 factors in mind when selecting their next production control system:

  • Demand clear upfront pricing (including implementation and customization)
  • Request a live demo
  • Never fall in love with gimmicks
  • Know your shop’s needs
  • There is no such thing as simple production 
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February 12, 2019 at 4:17 PM

What the Size of Your Shop Says about Your Production Needs

Which ERPs Can Manage Production? | Part 1 of 2

I’m going to save you some time and get straight to the point; there are really only 4 ERPs that are designed to manage any element of live production.

If you’re a smaller shop (5-15 Operators) then Shoptech or JobBoss are potential fits. They’re inexpensive (comparatively) but offer limited functionality without expensive customization and are restrictive to growth.

If you’re a larger manufacturer (300+ Operators) then reaching out to systems like INFOR or IQMS are a good place to start, but expect a long install and high cost of entry.

*Note: For shops between 75-300 Operators, there are answers. Just not in the form of an ERP.

Here’s the catch.

Unless you already have these ERPs implemented you’re looking at 3 years (minimum) to rip out your existing system and replace it with the new ERP just to get to the functionality that these systems consider secondary to their front-office tools.

ERPs were designed for the financial, HR and ordering segments of your business, so the production functionality has likely only been bolted on to their product in the past 5-10 years.

So let’s refine the question. It isn’t, “which ERPs can manage production?” but rather, “which system is the right fit for my shop?”. 

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February 2, 2019 at 3:00 PM

How am I going to pay for shop floor improvements?

Federal Award Programs Designed for U.S. Manufacturers

You are too busy to surf through the internet hunting down government grants. Production is backing up, you had another experienced Operator retire that needs replaced and your calendar is booked with meetings of people trying to convince you to drive your prices down even lower just to compete with overseas competition. 

The stress of just keeping a small manufacturing business afloat is overwhelming.

If these are your reasons for not seeking federal funding, then you’re exactly the kind of plant the government’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) was created to support.

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