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Let's get to it:

One of the realities of the business world is that if you're not winning the battles, you're loosing the war. Companies that see no need to change or are afraid of change and consequently, continue to do things the old way, almost 
always lose market share to their competition and end up with products that cannot produce healthy profit margins.

In the competitive business world of today, it is imperative that a company and their people continuously improve their ability to deliver value to their customers. We need to focus on the battles of speed, quality, costs and customer satisfaction. These battles can be won only through the strain of change.

At your company, it is important that your people never close their eyes or minds to new ideas and methods that could improve business processes. They must be ready and committed to trying out new ideas, tools, techniques and systems in the continuous improvement of their day-to-day activities. On the job creativity is the most powerful resource that a company has in its pursuit of a sharper competitive edge.

Our lead article today "Maintaining Your Competitive Edge" identifies four activities that customers consider important in their selection of business partners. Be sure to share it with your people. Price Pritchett is back with another article on teamwork, "Turn Diversity to the Team's Advantage." Our third article provides an insight into, "Which Employees Will Work Through Change." Price Trends fills out the fourth slot and "12 Questions that Matter" is our closing article.

You are welcome to print and share this newsletter with your business associates. We have indexed and archived this and all previous newsletters for your reference. Copying the below URL link to your browser and clicking 
on "GO" will display the archive's "point and click" index: 

This newsletter has reached your desk because I think we share a common objective---to help manufacturing teams avoid "burnout" while achieving their full performance potential. If this is not the case, simply send us an e-mail with "Unsubscribe" as your subject and you will be removed from our e-mailing list.


Bill Gaw

~ OCTOBER 2001


Lean Production for Winners

    by Bill Gaw

Visits from key customers usually provide some important insights into what is important in maintaining your company's competitive edge. Be sure that you not only communicate with your customers but encourage them to 
visit. In my experience, customers will discuss in detail the following activities that they consider important in their selection of and continued relationship with business partners.

Technology: Innovate or be made obsolete. In this day and age it is not possible to survive long on past inventions and patents. Innovation must be an on-going process and carried out in a time sensitive environment that is responsive to customer needs. Marketing windows open and close quickly in today's world, suppliers must pick opportunities wisely and execute product 
development programs effectively.

Quality: A supplier's ranking is determined to a large extent by the quality of its products and services as perceived by its customers. There is little opportunity for competitors to sell their products to a customer that is convinced he is currently buying from the best quality supplier. A sure way 
to maintain one's market share is to earn recognition as the best quality producer.

Customer Service: Excellence---in after the sales service---is the first step toward repeat sales and a key to closing the doors to competitors. Quality spare parts delivered on time, timely execution of upgrade programs, responsive maintenance and repair and providing product enhancements in line with customer requirements are crucial to new business development.

Price and Deliver: Manufacturing companies must continuously reduce their product costs to assure that products are price competitive. Only when pricing and quality are optimized does a company establish a foundation of healthy company growth and individual security.

An ever-present challenge in the manufacturing business is the necessity of being able able to meet tough customer delivery requirements. The ability to produce quality products "inside of standard lead times" is a must---if manufacturers focus only on the easy jobs, they'll lose their competitive 
edge and say good-bye to their leadership position in the marketplace.

Being the best when it comes to balancing speed, quality, cost and service is a challenge that each person in the company must address in the execution of their day-to-day activities. Actions carried out in daily work routines should promote team dynamics that optimize this crucial balance.

I think that most people are motivated by competition. Maintaining a competitive edge must be an important company, quantified objective---it must also be transformed into exciting team and personal goals. The future success of any company as well as its people will, to a large degree, 
be determined by how well they step up to the challenge of their competitors.

How can you contribute to improving your company's competitive edge? Review the above critical concerns of customers and determine where you can apply your skills and talents to improve your company's performance. 
Remember, it's not the "big play" that produces a competitive edge---it's accomplishing the daily goals and objectives with a high level of excellence that separates the winners from the also-rans.

Lean Production for Winners

    by Price Pritchett

You have to question the wisdom of putting together a "cookie-cutter team" made up of look-alikes, think-alikes, and act-alikes. Differences can add depth. Create strength. Broaden the group and bring balance.

A dozen drummers couldn't create much of a musical group. A six-person team of people with the very same opinions, values, and viewpoints has less capacity for crafting good solutions than a more diverse group could. Teams perform best when the teammates bring a variety of abilities, experiences, personalities, and problem solving approaches to the table.

Remember, for diversity to bring value, you have to take advantage of it. You have to respect and use those individual differences to round out the team.

So don't sideline the person who is "different"---whether that person happens to be you, or somebody else. All too often people pull themselves out of play. Maybe because they feel like they don't fit in. Or maybe because they look, 
think, or act differently from the rest of the bunch. Do your part to help the team identify and benefit from its full set of people resources. 

Also, if you happen to be in the minority, don't use that as a crutch and hit your teammates over the head with it. Team play takes a beating when someone decides that being "different" means he or she deserves special treatment.

Diversity can make teamwork seem more difficult at first, but it produces a more powerful unit. Do---honor people's differences. Make a conscious effort to use the unique talents of everyone on the team.

Lean Production for Winners

    Adapted from Hay Group News

Enacting change in your organization is a lot easier when you know which employees are most likely to accept it and which ones are worth trying to persuade.

Here's some help on that front from the Hay Group, a worldwide human resources firm whose research has identified four types of employees, based on how they adapt to change.

The four types, along with tips on how to handle them: 

a. Superstars: Do what ever you need to do to keep them: rewards, compensation, choice assignments.
b. Open-minders: Offer coaching, formal training and development, and rewards for improved performance.
c. Skeptics: Once you've identified who's worth developing, invest heavily in mentoring and coaching. Clearly state your expectations and tie their rewards to changes in attitudes and behaviors. 
d. Resisters: Concentrate on developing the other three groups. Your only choice may be helping them to move on.

Lean Production for Winners

    from Bottom line/Business

          Mixed Or Weak

  • Aluminum: Slow demand is putting downward pressure 
    on prices---with ingot expected to remain in the low $0.66 - 
    $0.68/lb. range. That's $0.04/lb. below first quarter levels.
  • Data Storage: Sharply reduced purchases of the 
    hardware and software that manage and store digital 
    data point to continuing steep price declines.
  • Ethylene: This key chemical-manufacturing ingredient 
    now sells for only $0.28/lb.---off $0.06/lb. from February 
    levels. Reason: Lower demand and rising capacity.
  • Microprocessors: Prices for Intel's Pentium III and 
    Celeron chips are dropping by up to 38%. Reason: 
    Intensifying competition between Intel and AMD.
    Natural Gas: Expert further price declines (above the 
    year-to-date 70% drop)---as inventories jump more 
    than 10% above year-ago levels.

    New Products
  • Videoconferencing: Picture-Tels new model---a compact 
    15" x 12.7" system---starts at $6,995. That compares 
    with prices upwards of $10,000 one year ago.

    Heading Higher

  • Copper Prices: Currently in the $0.68 - $0.70/lb. range, 
    could edge up by year-end. And advances to the $0.80/lb.
    - plus range are likely in 2002.
  • Motors and Drives: Higher manufacturing costs are 
    pushing up prices by 2% to 5%.
  • Trucking: Some less-than-truckload carriers are 
    boosting rates by 5% to 6%. Reason: Higher operating 
    costs. But no change is seen in the fiercely competitive 
    truckload segment of the industry.

Lean Production for Winners

    from the Gallup Organization

If you want to build the most powerful company possible, then your first job is to help every person generate compelling answers to 12 simple questions about the day-to-day realities of his or her job. These are the factors, argues Marcus Buckingham and his colleagues at the Gallup Organization, that determine whether people are engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged at work.

a. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
b. Do I have materials and equipment that I need in order to do my work right?
c. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
d. In the past seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
e. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
f. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
g. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
h. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?
i. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
j. Do I have a best friend at work?
k. In the past six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
l. This past year, have I had the opportunities at work to learn and grow?

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