Blog posts from November, 2017

3 Factors Needed for Additive Manufacturing

November 30, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

Right Application – “Find the Niches, Find the Riches” Right Material – “BUT, it’s gotta be this material!!” Right Machine – “Compromise is for politicians” Has your company ever brought up the topic of additive manufacturing (3D Printing)? Or discussed how you could use additive manufacturing at your company? I asked MAGNET’s Dave Pierson this question to better understand why some companies have been able to successfully utilize additive manufacturing and why others have failed. According to Dave, there are only 3 things “foundations” needed for successful use of additive manufacturing; Application, Material, and Machine. The Right Application: Must include Mass Personalization and/or Mass Customization 3D Printing Red Lego Blocks = NOT a good application 3D Printing Red Lego Blocks with personalized names on each block = A good application The difference between the two examples is the mass personalization aspect. If you are looking to produce large volumes of the same product (Red Lego Blocks) use existing blow and/or injection molded technologies, but if you are looking to add a certain customization feature (names, sayings, or logos), maybe additive manufacturing might be right for you. The Right Material: Function of the material is what matters Humans are creatures of

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Reconsidering Resins - November 2017

November 27, 2017 by John Hattery

Much has changed in the resins market since we last considered it in early October. The market for plastics and resins has stabilized, with the disruptions to supply caused by Hurricane Harvey dissipating as capacity has or will very shortly come back on line. Additionally, reactive buying in the face of uncertainty of supply has been replaced by more proactive supply chain behaviors. Largely, buying behavior was bullish and aggressive in in the immediate wake of the storm, studied and reflective near the peak, and is now becoming more bearish. Given we are entering the second half of the 4th quarter, a period which usually brings tight inventory management, this bearishness is entirely rational. Buyers are balancing both “traditional” year-end pressures to keep working capital tied up in inventory to a manageable minimum with the potential for additional supplies the 3 new major resin plants starting to come to market. Domestic processors will likely work to limit their purchases while they wait for prices to fall back below pre-hurricane levels. Given these changing dynamics in the supply-demand balance, carefully consider large contracts in excess of immediate demand, as prices are likely to continue their softening trend, although with higher energy

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Don't Take Cybersecurity Lightly!

November 21, 2017 by John Hattery

Cybersecurity Compliance in The Age of Hacked Everything? Everyone hears about cybersecurity in the news, it seems with greater and greater frequency, touching more and more of our lives.  Equifax got hacked.  The Chinese purportedly steal intellectual property and military secrets from American companies on a massive scale.  Retailers regularly report breaches of their systems exposing millions of customers’ credit card numbers to the “dark web.” Right now, if your company is at all involved in a supply chain servicing contracts with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as a direct supplier or as a subcontractor to a prime contractor with DoD contracts, there is a clock ticking away.  Ticking very, very loudly. Your organization has until December 31, 2017, to become compliant with NIST SP 800-171. This is a requirement that is stipulated in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012.  Fundamentally, the Department of Defense is taking very seriously the risk of cybersecurity and cyberespionage, and have taken a very strong stance that compliance must be achieved by the end of the year.  If a contractor is not compliant, they will not be eligible for to bid on further business.  I know in talking to a number of

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Are You a Leader That Listens? Or a Leader That Hears?

November 16, 2017 by John Hattery

Leaders often ask their employees for input when making decisions big and small, and listen with great sincerity and intent. If workers are given the opportunity to provide input, they figure, workers will be more accepting of the decisions, committed to the process, and invested in the desired outcomes, simply because they feel heard. Not necessarily. The problem is that while asking for input is important, and actively and respectfully listening to what employees have to say is critical, often workers don’t grasp the “bigger picture” that the leader is trying to address. As a result, sometimes a leader reaches conclusions and implements actions that appear to be contrary to the input provided. As a result, employees aren’t likely to get on board, and are more likely to question both the process and outcome. Even worse, they may get angry and lose trust in the leader because they feel as if their thoughtful advice was ignored. If this becomes a frequent pattern of behavior, employees will come to believe that leaders are just pretending to be interested, gathering input primarily to keep people from complaining. Clearly, the answer is not that leaders should abdicate to mob rule and blindly follow

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When Ocean Freighters pull a Houdini

November 15, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

During the early 1900s shipbuilders and shipping companies worked hard to make ocean freighters faster AND more fuel efficient. To a large degree they were successful, speed was up and fuel consumption was down, however their economies of scale became progressively worse and they were losing money BIG TIME! The owners and managers of these large ocean freighters suffered a serious incongruity between expectations and results. They assumed that a majority of the costs were incurred while the freighters were sailing through the oceans. In reality however, the real costs of the freighter are incurred when the ship is at the port sitting idle. So no matter how fast and fuel efficient ships would become, the industry would continue declining! True innovation occurs when individuals are able to bridge an incongruity, which is what the industry leaders were able to do. Once they realized where the true costs were, the innovations were obvious. The shipping industry pulled a “Houdini” and began applying some of the best practices of the railroad and trucking industries. Those industries were utilizing roll-on and roll-off container ships for several years, something the shipping industry couple replicate. It’s important to note that it was a shift

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Ideation at MAGNET: The Process

November 14, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

Idea generation, or ideation as it is formally known, is an important part of the innovation process. MAGNET has a long history of helping manufacturers around the region ideate to solve specific challenges. Recently I sat down with Bob Schmidt, one of MAGNET’s Senior Growth and Innovation Advisors, to discuss the topic of ideation and to better understand MAGNET’s ideation process. First thing I learned….Not all ideations are the same MAGNET conducts TWO specific types of ideation sessions: 1. Technical – Technical Ideation Sessions are structured to solve specific “technical” problems…such as what manufacturing processes could be applied to develop a new product or developing design concepts for a new or enhanced product based on defined market criteria. 2. Growth – Growth Ideation Sessions are structured to solve business growth problems, specifically around market diversification. MAGNET and the client do a deep dive into the client’s core assets, current products/services, and market opportunities as a foundation for idea creation. Second thing I learned….There is a structured process in place at MAGNET for conducting each type of ideation session The MAGNET Ideation Process Third thing I learned…..”The Commonalities”. Regardless of what whether the ideation session is technical or growth oriented, there

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Clark Kent or Superman? The Decision is Yours

November 13, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

My message is simple, think BIG about your business. Ask yourself the simple question, “what business am I really in?” Your respond to this question can impact your business in a very significant way. Your answer will shape how you see your company, how your employees see it, how your competitors see it, and how your customers see it. If you think too small you run the risk of getting left behind. What do I mean by “thinking too small?” Take the railroad companies for example. For years they thought of themselves as being in the railroad business rather than being in the transportation business. This narrow view of their business allowed newer competitors in the “transportation” industry to take away their customers. The railroad companies serviced their customers only from a railroad perspective neglecting to expand into areas the automotive, aerospace, or telecommunications companies did. Let’s go back to thinking about your company. Are you in a larger “business” than you think? How can you think bigger to service more customers? Check out the examples below: • Hollywood – Movie Business or Entertainment Business? • Lifetime Fitness – Gym or Fitness Center? • Sheetz – Gas Station or Full-Service

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Back to Life! Bringing back old motorcycles using Additive Manufacturing

November 09, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

Birmingham Alabama is home to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, also known as, the worlds “best and largest” motorcycle collection. The museum opened its doors to public in 1995 with the goal of showcasing the engineering, balance, and unique design of each motorcycle under its roof. To-date the museum is home to over 1,400 motorcycles that spans over 100 years of production. Bikes from over 200 different manufacturers are represented in the museum’s collection. The museum staff takes pride in conserving and restoring motorcycles to running condition, and in some cases, to competition-ready shape. Their motto is to make the museum a “living museum”. Turing the museum into a “living museum” sometimes isn’t always that easy. When vintage bikes come into the museum (like a 1903 Harley Davidson), and need restored, the parts for the bikes are no longer being produced by the manufacturer and the museum might not be able to locate the needed parts in the market. When situations like this happen, what does it do? The answer is simple, it calls on additive manufacturing expert Dave Pierson for help. Dave has the knowledge and resources to reverse engineer the parts that no longer exist and directly print

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Why Does a Well-defined Job Description Matter?

November 08, 2017 by Donna Rhodes

"A well-defined job description is important for increasing individual and organizational effectiveness." Have you ever seen a job description that read something like this? How likely do you think your new employee will be successful based on this description of expectations? There is a direct link with the cost of hiring and turnover to your company’s bottom line – as much as 5x’s an employee’s annual salary. Unclear job expectations can lead to job dissatisfaction, low morale, absenteeism, low productivity, and a constant churn of employees in and out of your organization…and that costs! So why wouldn’t you want to get this aspect of your business solidly nailed down?! Your employees will perform better when they know what you expect of them and those expectations are clearly defined. The job description describes the work to be done by outlining the essential duties, competencies, qualifications, authority for decision-making, and impact of a given position on the organization. Therefore, it helps employees understand their duties and responsibilities and how their job fits within the mission and objectives of your organization. The job description should not only describe what outcomes should be achieved, but also how to achieve the outcomes. Job descriptions can

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Failure is great, it gave us the Ford Mustang

November 06, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

No one wants to fail (most normal people at least), we want to be WINNERS! Sometimes, however failing can be a good thing. An unexpected failure may be an equally important source of an innovative opportunity, at least it was for Ford. In 1959 Ford introduced the Edsel to the market, a carefully designed car that would help Ford complete its product line, making it competitive with General Motors. Despite all the careful planning, market research, and design Ford put into the Edsel it completely bombed, sales were far below expectation. When analyzing the situation, Ford realized it had been segmenting its customers all wrong. Instead of segmenting them by income group, they should be segmented by their “lifestyle”. The new segmentation strategy resulted in a restructuring of how Ford produced cars. Seeing a need to appeal to the “Sports Guy” it soon designed and manufactured the Ford Mustang in 1962 and the rest is history! Have you ever turned an unexpected failure into an innovative opportunity? This story covers one source of innovation, “unexpected occurrences”. For more information on this topic check out the full article here: The Discipline of Innovation by Peter Drucker.

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