The Future of Manufacturing Is Bright: Harvey Mudd Takes 1st Place in Global Student Case Competition

November 15th, 2019

As President of APICS Inland Empire, one of my favorite activities is encouraging students. We encourage students from all of our local universities to participate in plant tours, symposiums and student case competitions to learn about manufacturing and supply chain, as well as to expand their professional network. Our Board of Directors has been proud over the years to see multiple teams from Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona and Harvey Mudd win regional competitions to compete in the Association for Supply Chain Management International Student Case Competition. And this year, our student team from Harvey Mudd College took home the gold!

Harvey Mudd placed first, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Case Western University. As an audience member during their presentation to the Board of Directors of the case study company, I can assuredly say that my clients would be thrilled to hear this sort of presentation to their Board and it gives us high hopes for the future of manufacturing. There are no limits with students of this caliber! And, as a former co-leader of a highly successful Western region student case competition, I can definitely say a big thank you goes to their academic advisor, Kash Gokli as well as mentors and exemplars that have aided their progress along the way.

Harvey Mudd College facilitates students’ involvement with manufacturing companies as a part of their Clinic program so that students walk away with practical, hands-on knowledge and the company walks away with bottom line results. Another Harvey Mudd team won the Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire‘s Innovation By Students Award earlier this year for working with manufacturing company, Laguna Clay, to improve processes and drive performance improvement in their manufacturing process. Gone are the days when top notch students think in theory.  Instead, practical manufacturing work experience is the norm and we have many top notch engineers going into manufacturing again!

Additionally, I would be remiss not to recognize that earlier this year another student team from Cal Poly Pomona won the regional competition for the Global Student Challenge and went to the Netherlands to compete in the global competition. There is no doubt that if we provide the tools and education, the future leaders of manufacturing will achieve goals we can’t even imagine at this juncture.

What are you doing to support our future leaders and to encourage the pairing of fresh ideas with solid experience? When paired successfully, it is an unbeatable combination with both the new employee and the tenured employee gaining new ideas and excitement from the process. Take a step back and think about how to make 1 + 1 = 64. And, please refer your friends and colleagues to our APICS Inland Empire chapter as there are numerous opportunities for student involvement and growth.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:
Manufacturing Summit Recap: Innovation & Top Talent
What’s Ahead for People?



How to Keep Your Team Engaged

August 31st, 2019
Every client is concerned about how to engage the team. Some executives are thinking about how to ‘keep good people’, others are thinking about how to enable ‘smart people to share what they know’, and still others know they need engagement to ensure customers are happy and bottom line business results occur.
According to Gallup, there is some positive news in that engagement is on the rise and is at an all-time high of 34%. With that said, there is such a long way to go to fully leverage already existing assets – our people! Time and again, the most successful companies actively engage employees in their work. The actively disengaged is down to 13% while ‘not engaged’ is 53%.
A few ideas to consider:
  • Tie each person’s work to the result (for the company, customer etc.) – Wouldn’t you like to know WHY you are doing something?
  • Take each employees’ ideas into consideration – Simply asking can go a long way if you truly care about the answer.
  • Don’t treat each employee the same – don’t we each have different goals and interests?
  • Are you developing your employees? – a little investment into your employees can go a long way.
  • Do you address poor performers? – one of the biggest issues we see if letting poor performers carry on. Everyone knows it and is less motivated. Why not just proactively address? Provide an opportunity and swiftly address if necessary.


Who Are Your Stars?

July 21st, 2019

In our 14 years of consulting experience and almost 30 years of working experience, we have found that 80% of executives spend the majority of their time with the 20% of employees who do not achieve results. Unfortunately, this means they don’t have time to spend with the stars who achieve 80% of the results. Do you fall into this trap as well? As executives commented in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. If you aren’t paying attention to your stars, they will jump ship to someone who does pay attention.

People don’t leave companies. They leave bosses!
As an executive, stop to think about what questions you are asking. Do you ask your direct reports about their stars? Could you identify the future stars of your organization? Or are you just addressing issues as they arise? Key customer issues. Board questions. Performance problems. Etc. If so, undoubtedly, you are receiving information from stars or they could be working behind the scenes, invisible to you. We find that these stars can be easily overlooked because they might not like the spotlight or they are likely to be the person to bring up unpopular topics. Does your culture support these stars or encourage them to stay hidden?

Here are ways to find your stars:

  1. Pay attention to who your leaders go to in order to get information. There is always a star behind the scenes who has the information when you need it. It is likely this person could be several layers below you and so you’ll need to pay attention.
  2. Have you asked old-timers for information or ideas lately? Ask employees who have been around a while. If they feel overlooked, they aren’t going to offer ideas and information until asked. However, when valued, you just might be surprised with some amazing results. We have had countless numbers of clients with this sort of hidden gem! Typically there is at least one person like this in every organization.
  3. Look for someone who might be unpopular in meetings because they’ll bring up issues. Frequently, there is someone who is willing to speak up about issues who becomes unpopular because the rest of the team doesn’t understand or think the issue will occur. This person is also seen as delaying the process. Sometimes, these folks are just problem employees but often they can be your stars. Stars are willing to speak up about issues, and if you listen to them, they will save you from all sorts of problems. Of course, if it was only that easy! Typically these folks might not be the best communicators, so they aren’t seen as stars by their managers. You’ll have to look hard.
  4. Look for the influencers. Although not typically in a position of power, the masses will follow them because they trust their judgment. This isn’t obvious because leaders aren’t involved. Look for who employees go to with questions or look for who they will go to if issues occur.
  5. Ask each employee about his/her ideas and/or create small group discussions. Once you gain trust, you’ll rapidly identify your stars.

Since your stars are responsible for 80% of the results and are the go-to people for any project worth doing, there is a dramatic ROI in finding your stars and embracing them. It certainly seems worth the effort of checking in on a few employees each time you walk through the office. Don’t stop and talk with your favorites or those with which you have common interests. Instead, stop at the first desk that wouldn’t part be part of your routine. Be interested and listen. We’ll bet you learn compelling ideas rapidly. Let us know how it goes and what strategies you find the most successful in finding your stars! We are always interested in this vital topic.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars

People Rule!



The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!



People & Robots Can Co-Exist Successfully

May 23rd, 2019

We held an engaging executive panel discussion at our APICS Inland Empire spring symposium on the topic: “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots? There is quite a lot of hoopla in Inland Southern California as this geography is larger than all but 24 states (and soon will take over Lousiana) with a strong manufacturing and logistics base.  Yet, the threat and opportunity of automation is close at hand. According to a University of Redlands study, most large metropolitan areas are subject to losing 55% of their current jobs due to automation. In Inland Southern CA, that number expands to 62%. What will this mean? Disaster or opportunity?

According to a robotics expert with a background in industry, Carnegie Mellon and Harvey Mudd, the CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), a Director at Honeywell and a recruiter and practice lead at Aerotek, we can rest assured that people and robots can co-exist successfully. Of course, this assumes we are proactive in thinking about automation, retraining and educating our workforce and providing the insights and collaboration opportunities such as the executive panel event.

We had some probing questions from the manufacturing and distribution professionals in the audience, but it was unanimous that a solution exists. We also talked about Middle Harbor which is a high-tech area of the ports. This has proven more challenging as negotiations have put some people out of a job yet still getting paid for it. With that said, there were many examples of success with business growing 3-fold while the company doubled the workforce and more. Hiding under a rock is definitely not the route to success. Instead, be a part of the collaborative effort.

As a Board member of IEEP and a supply chain expert, I am helping to lead a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics success to address just this topic (resulting from the Brookings study research). If you are interested in staying in the loop with updates, please email me. I’ve created a special interest list for this topic.

The students from Harvey Mudd presented some exciting robotics research they are conducting with industry on how to successfully navigate cluttered workspaces (as most manufacturing and distribution clients require). Much progress is being made.  And, robots aren’t going away. There are many positives in terms of consistency of quality, replacing competitive motion tasks, reducing workers compensation and labor risks in addition to cost savings. With that said, there are also some challenges to overcome such as what happens when technology goes wrong (like with the Boeing 737 Max). There is always risks to mitigate and people who are overlooked. The panel discussed the Challenger disaster and the employee who warned ahead of time to the technical glitch.

What are you doing to evaluate technology from a strategic standpoint? Will you be left in the dust? Grocery stores might have been a bit complacent before Amazon bought Whole Foods. Are you complacent? On the other hand, please don’t follow fads. When everyone thought outsourcing was great and Boards insisted on following the trend no matter the total impact, several companies outsourced and were sorry later when service went down and costs weren’t saved. If you’d like an assessment, contact us.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:

Profit Through People
The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?
The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Resilient Employees?