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How Ordinary Management Can Become Extraordinary Leadership

May 18, 2017 by Michael O'Donnell

Ordinary management is crucial. The ability to step into a situation, understand the complex web of intertwining relationships, and manage the people and resources to accomplish a goal are critical skills for all executives. According to Mike Chitty in his article, “Ordinary and Extraordinary Leadership”, management is the efficiency-based, improvement-oriented focus on the present situation. Ordinary simply means the implementation of well-known principles to a situation that is relatively black and white. He makes sure to note that ordinary is difficult, and should in no way be undervalued, with even the best managers needing years of practice to master it. Leadership, while not mutually exclusive of management, is the visionary focus on the future. Extraordinary applies to the implication that the solution to a situation is not clear, that there is disagreement and absolutely no guarantee that the steps taken to solve a problem will succeed. The greatest executives within a company must be both managers and leaders. According to Mike Chitty, the set of skills common to all extraordinary leaders includes: Creativity and political/emotional intelligence, confidence, and the ability to work through disagreement. An extraordinary leader will apply an iterative process of hypothesizing, testing, measuring, learning, and trying again.

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Grow Your Top Line Through Marketing and Innovation

May 15, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

Think about this scenario: You are a contract manufacturing company that has been in operation for 20+ years offering your customers the great quality and customer service, at a low price. You have a long list of customers that seem more than content with the services and capabilities that you provide. You were able to survive the Great Recession of 2008-2009 with minimal losses to your customer base; however, over the past 2-3 years, sales have been declining, and some of your trusted markets (like oil and gas) haven’t been as lucrative as before. You know you need to do something new to produce the results you want, but where do you start? Start with marketing and innovation. According to the late Peter Drucker, “The purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” Think about it from another perspective, no one in the market knows how good your product or service is until after the sale, so before they buy, they only know how good your marketing is.

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Companies optimistic about Northeast Ohio's manufacturing future, survey finds

May 09, 2017 by Liz Fox

Most manufacturers in Northeast Ohio are optimistic about what the future holds for them in the next year, studies show. MAGNET recently partnered with Kent State University, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America to conduct a regional survey that addresses the priorities and concerns of local manufacturers of all sizes. Nearly 300 companies responded, spanning various industries and geographic locations. Of those manufacturers, 74 percent comprised C-level executives and general managers, with 89 percent of all respondents representing small and mid-size companies (businesses up to 250 employees). These responses indicated the following: Manufacturers remain confident about their sector. 57 percent indicated they anticipate some economic expansion, and over 50 percent expect their companies to grow over the next 12 months. Small and mid-size manufacturers with 26 to 250 employees were most optimistic, roughly expecting 80 percent growth. Conversely, 41 percent said they expect a flat economy, while another 3 percent are bracing themselves for a recession. Small manufacturers expect revenue growth, while larger companies predict additional capital expenditures. 42 percent of small manufacturers surveyed expect more than 10 percent revenue growth (compared to just 14 percent of larger companies); however, 57 percent of mid-size and 48 percent of large manufacturers

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Northeast Ohio students reap rewards from Arconic Foundation Grant

May 04, 2017 by Liz Fox

MAGNET has recently completed work on a grant award by the Arconic (formerly Alcoa) Foundation. The grant, designed around activities for middle and high school students, centered on increasing awareness of viable career paths in advanced manufacturing through plant tours, presentations, and other work-based learning activities. Over 350 children from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Olmstead Falls City Schools, Polaris Career Center, and Strongsville City Schools participated, with educators and students being introduced to professionals from local companies currently serving in technical or engineering-oriented positions. Initial feedback indicates that tours and presentations made a positive impact on views of manufacturing as well as career decisions. Of the students surveyed, over 83 percent would consider a career in manufacturing, 91 percent would recommend the activity to other students, and 80 percent said the activity furthered their understanding of how science, technology, engineering, and math (collectively known as STEM fields) are used in a manufacturing environment. Comments from students including the following: • “I enjoyed the information about careers and the future that manufacturing provides.” • “I learned that manufacturing opportunities are available whether you go to college or a career-tech school.” • “I liked learning about technology works from different people.”

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Managing the Probability of Your Pipeline

April 06, 2017 by Tim Nevin

Vetting your pipeline is a game of chance; it’s taking the time and energy to figure out which leads have a higher probability of turning into sales than others. So how do you calculate this probability, and thus confidently forecast your monthly, quarterly, and annual sales? Well, you have to start by understanding all of the variables that go into developing your pipeline. You have an existing customer base with the potential to place new orders, and you have an existing pipeline of customers in the current markets that you serve, but there are countless potential customers you might not even know about yet, and even if you do know of them, you might not have the necessary information to reach out to them in a meaningful way that will earn their trust and ultimately their business. Outside of the number of prospect customers, you also have to consider the size, variation, and time commitment of each potential order. Now, although this may seem daunting at a high level, there are solutions. Depending on the size of your company, the first step is to prioritize the time you spend on companies that either have the highest likelihood of closing a

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A New Look at Lean Manufacturing

March 21, 2017 by MAGNET Ohio

It’s been more than a quarter-century since The Machine that Changed the World was published, in which Jim Womack and colleagues presented the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean thinking to the Western world. A strong majority of manufacturers have adopted this methodology, and its principles have since spread from production to all functions (front office, finance, R&D, etc.) as well as to healthcare and other service industries. Some manufacturers have flourished within new lean cultures. But many other firms — maybe yours — have achieved some results from their lean efforts, but perhaps not as much as they had hoped. Or maybe your company is among the one-third of manufacturers not yet using lean or TPS. Whichever describes your organization, it’s time to take a new look at lean — and at five keys to implementation that will make lean work for you: Embed lean in your organization’s DNA: Lean isn’t about tools or techniques, but about changing how you think. Truly lean manufacturers have workforces — from the CEO to the janitor — in which every employee looks for problems (not blame), thinks about how to fix them, and then solves them. It’s critical that a leader (i.e.,

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"What Skills Gap?": How Employee Benefits Can Help You Find the Right Talent

March 06, 2017 by MAGNET Ohio

We hear it all the time: Manufacturers can’t find machine operators, maintenance staff, frontline workers, tool-and-die makers, etc. National statistics support these claims: the cumulative skills gap in manufacturing — positions that will go unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers — will grow to 2 million by 2025, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. What’s a growing company to do? First: relax. It’s important to remember that macro trends don’t necessarily determine micro (i.e., company-specific) results. In fact, a closer look at plant-specific data suggests that engaged leaders can find the talent they need — if they know how to attract and retain it. It turns out that many skills gaps are self-inflicted by companies that offer uncompetitive wages, limited opportunities for career growth, and unsatisfactory work conditions. For example, many plants don’t offer common employee benefits and programs, such as paid vacation days, paid medical benefits, a formal safety/health program, or paid sick and/or personal days. In fact, only 53 percent of manufacturing plants offer all four of those programs. Who wants to work at the other 47 percent?   HR Practices and Programs in Place % of plants Paid vacation days 86% Paid medical benefits

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How to Solve Your Top Workforce Challenges

February 27, 2017 by Michael O'Donnell

According to a 2014 study conducted by Oxford Economics and SAP, two-thirds of manufacturers have made only slight or moderate progress toward meeting strategic workplace goals. This is due in part to a number of obstacles, including a shortage of workers and lack of resources to help foster better employee engagement and retention. Companies in this study, which totaled around 2,700 and spanned multiple industries and regions, also noted that engaging young people and attracting skilled employees were among the top issues they face – hardly surprising, as nearly 3.5 million positions will need to be filled by 2020. Are there ways for manufacturers – regardless of company size, industry, or amount of revenue – to tackle these challenges head-on without compromising assets or sacrificing talent? Absolutely. The following are examples of tips and tools capable of guiding you toward a healthy, sustainable pipeline of workers, which ultimately spells success for you and your company. Engage employees… and become more productive as a result! While time should definitely be invested in getting new, skilled workers in place, your existing workforce is just as important. Keep your employees engaged by offering them choices and opportunities to participate in operations and company

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5 Ways to Reduce Your Company's Risk of Cyber Attacks

February 20, 2017 by Bob Baxendale

As manufacturing technology grows and spreads, cybersecurity is essential to your everyday operations. While IoT infrastructures, digitized machinery, and other systems help make your company more efficient and connected, they also carry a risk, as your equipment and data can become susceptible to outside viruses, malware, and ransomware. This is especially true of outdated equipment, as its lack of support for new software opens doors for unauthorized access of essential data. Due to high-profile breaches like those of Target and Yahoo!, one popular misconception is that small companies are less susceptible to cyberattacks. However, they are actually more vulnerable due to not having the right software or tools for protection; in fact, the average cost of a data breach for small companies in 2015 was more than $38,000, and it’s estimated more than half of companies that experience a cyberattack go out of business within six months. There are many solutions to prevent this from happening… but where do you start? Identify and assess your existing procedures. Think about how data is currently being accessed. Who can open confidential documents or vital information about your business? Is the data stored on a secure platform? Do you have it backed up

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4 Guaranteed Ways to Recruit Millennials for Manufacturing Jobs

February 13, 2017 by Michael O'Donnell

Standing at more than 80 million people, millennials are among the largest and most-studied generation to date. Studies, blogs, and other media have touched on their tech savviness and what seems like an innate ability to multitask… but not a high level of engagement in traditional jobs, especially in manufacturing. In fact, according to a 2015 Gallup poll, a mere 28 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 considered themselves engaged at work. This is due to a number of factors. The perception of manufacturing is often negative, associated with unsafe equipment and old-fashioned assembly lines like that of the early 20th century. This also contributes to the myth that employees are often stressed, overworked, and treated poorly in a factory setting. While businesses and community organizations are now taking the next steps toward quashing these misconceptions, your company may benefit by changing the way you approach young workers for prospective employment. The following are steps you can take toward getting a younger, more sustainable pipeline and attracting today’s young people to jobs in manufacturing: Create a clear and compelling picture of advanced manufacturing. Because most millennials are digital natives, technology is a cornerstone of their way

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