Most companies know that if they only had a magic innovation wand they could do great things for their business. Who wouldn’t like to have innovation springing up and creating new and differentiating products, services and processes? What a difference it could make in the success of the company! While no one that we know has a magic wand that creates innovation, there are proactive and intentional ways to foster it so that it is not an accident that innovation happens.
The first place to start is to create a company culture that sets expectations for delivering more than the status quo. Acme Industries does that with its value promise of Beyond Precision and its Formula 1 pledge that commits all employees to the following four tenants: Rigorous, Customer Focused, Collaborating, and Learning. If the company’s team embraces and lives this culture, then their antennae are always up looking for ways to improve what customers are asking for or how the internal processes of the company produce its products and/or services.
Innovation may seldom produce a home run for a customer like the one described in the Product Innovation Increases Market Opportunity case study (link to case study). In this case, innovation occurred because Acme’s team was aware of the limited life of its customer’s product and taking the initiative to develop a product innovation that would significantly improve its life. Working with customers that are willing to collaborate can produce other cases like New Company Launches Through Joint Product Development Process (link to case study) or Product Development Ensures Critical Delivery Performance (link to case study). At the product development stage there are many great opportunities like these where Design for Manufacturing principles can be applied if a customer collaborates with its supplier/partner. Costs can be optimized while still enhancing the functionality of the products being developed.
Almost all companies have fertile ground to plow by encouraging their employees to generate and implement ideas on how to improve the company’s internal processes. Expectations can be set with employees so that it is understood that this is part of everyone’s job. The results of these efforts may only produce bunts and singles but they can all add up to making a company more efficient and cost effective. Formalizing a Lean Manufacturing program can help make continuous improvement another part of the company’s culture and provide the road map needed to gather data for problem solving and the metrics that can help insure that results are being obtained and tracked. Successful projects like Customer Gains 6-12% Cost Reduction from Acme’s Lean Manufacturing Benefits (link to case study) can produce savings that can either be passed on to customers or used to improve profit margins.
Until we find that magic innovation wand, we can do our best to commit to our customers that we will exceed their expectations with value promises like Beyond Precision and then delivering what we promise.
We are pleased to announce that Acme Industries has acquired Bley LLC, of Elk Grove Village. The combined companies will continue forward under the existing name of Acme Industries, Inc. As a result of this acquisition, we are pleased to welcome approximately 50 former Bley employees to the Acme family effective 6/3/2014.
Combining these two companies will provide existing customers a broader portfolio of capabilities and services. Both companies bring a combined 100+ years of manufacturing excellence to the industrial marketplace in North America.
The company headquarters will be located at Acme’s current main address of 1325 Pratt Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL, with additional facilities located at 777 Chase Avenue and 700 Chase Avenue (formerly Bley). The combined operation will now encompass over 270,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space in these three facilities.
We will keep you updated during the integration. For the current time, your daily contacts will remain the same. At any time, please feel free to call us if you have any concerns or questions. We are looking forward to growing together with you.
Why is it that when business is good we think that it won’t turn down and when it is slow we think it won’t pick up again? Let’s face it, business cycles are here to stay, and we would do well to anticipate them and run our businesses to make the best of the up cycles and to cope with the down cycles. While these thoughts are primarily aimed at others with manufacturing businesses, the primary issue is pretty generic. None of us have infinite capacity, so how do we most effectively flex our capacity or influence the demand so that they are relatively closely matched?
There are many ways to adjust capacity and if the business cycle is deep enough, we need to employ all of them. If there is a lot of capacity available then using a one shift operation may meet the demand requirements, although it may not provide good utilization of the plant equipment. Adding another shift or two increases both the sales output as well as plant utilization. The maximum output and utilization can be gained by setting up a 24 hour a day, 7 day per week operation. Using overtime is the best governor for adjusting capacity because it can be increased or decreased on a daily basis if necessary. Another methodology for not over capacitizing is to develop strategic partners or suppliers that can help shave peak demand spikes or even permanent demand increases that are not strategic to the business. The best arrangement, although somewhat rare, is to work collaboratively with a customer to share the investment required to increase capacity to meet market opportunities.
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For many of us who lead our companies, it is a challenge to see much past next month, let alone three to five years into the future. We may feel that we are doing well just to put together a plan with objectives and a financial budget for our next fiscal year. Unfortunately, if we are totally occupied on a day-to-day basis or only looking ahead one year at a time, it is unlikely that we will chart a course that will optimize the future of our businesses. If we are going to have a truly successful business, we need to find a way to grow in spite of a natural attrition of customers or projects that is an ongoing reality in today’s business world.
We need to pause periodically and plan strategically. While this can be hard work and requires both time and money, it is necessary to bring a brighter and more vital future into focus. The objective of a strategic plan is to build a market and project road map that will not only extend historical and market strengths, but also broaden the portfolio of opportunities.
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Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute recently reported that an estimated 600,000 skilled positions in advanced manufacturing are going unfilled. Few would view this reality as anything but a threat to American Manufacturing. There is good news to report, however. America has now awakened to the seriousness of this situation and many different groups are starting to address it. Once a major obstacle to the health of America’s livelihood is visible and recognized as critical, the energy and resolve by its citizens to address it can accomplish great things.
It is encouraging to see what is happening in the Chicago area. The absolute necessity of enlarging the availability of a skilled workforce has been embraced and many different entities are engaging in ways to deal with the two main facets of the problem: attracting people to careers in manufacturing and providing them with the skills needed to fill available positions. Many of our high schools, community colleges, trade associations, and other training institutions are enhancing their curriculums in manufacturing and offering certification credentials to students preparing for careers in manufacturing. Manufacturers are collaborating with these training institutions to identify the appropriate skills required to meet their needs. Manufacturers are also committing to hire interns during their training period with the opportunity to place them in jobs once the interns complete training. More than 20 Chicago and Illinois area community colleges are now collaborating to seek government grants to enlarge their facilities and establish programs to address the workforce training requirements for the future. Discussions have also begun about how to focus resources to provide more sophisticated equipment in training facilities and ensure that it is shared and utilized more efficiently.
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