Archive for General-Business-Commentary

Let’s Raise the Standard Together. Are You with Me?

As a new year comes into being, thoughts of what’s next come to mind. What does the new year hold, will it be better (or worse) than last year? How will we deal with the inevitable disappointments and challenges that come our way throughout the year. How will we celebrate the victories?

Personally I am not into New Years Resolutions, many are not fulfilled as the year comes to a close 365 days later. Much less surviving the first month of the year. I am into goal setting with a defined program which takes the goals from a spark in the mind into reality. Regardless of that, any plan is a plan to improve. And improvement creates opportunities to Raise the Standard.

So how are we as a company going to raise the standard? Very simple. By helping you raise your standard. Throughout the year, we are developing our company’s culture on the basis of one word: Help. We are interested in growing our company and it is through helping you with your company that we will grow our’s. It is not in gimmicks or self absorbed trickery to make you buy something from us. There are a lot of companies that will sink to that level. Not us, we are working to Raise the Standard.

I have seen a number of areas which improvement is needed both from ourselves and our customers. We are working on ourselves, but we can help you. Let’s Raise the Standard Together. Are You with Me?

Very shortly, we will be rolling out a new program which will be designed to help our customers. Stay tuned.

Our Global Technology Partners have been working on new innovations, processing solutions that will help your company. Some are tightly under wraps. In some cases, I have had a sneak peek. It is exciting what is coming and I am looking forward to showing these to you throughout the year.

WireProcess has over three decades of experience to offer our customers. Companies who understand the Benefits to the Cost of Quality and The Cost of Action. Come leverage our expertise as we Raise the Standard Together.

Terry Curtis

WireProcess Specialties.

Counting the Cost of Quality: The Cost of Inaction 

Every Decision has a cost.

Continuing the series Counting the Cost of Quality,  we turn from the Cost of Action in Part One to the Cost of Inaction.

So what happens when you do not act? Maintain the status quo.  I acknowledge that there are some times in a company’s history when a short term “pause” is needed. Due to uncertain economics or other external conditions. This is different from big picture inaction. In the case of quality, there is no time that a company should pause from improving quality, quality systems or understanding the changing dynamics of quality processes.

… there is no time that a company should pause from improving quality, quality systems or understanding the changing dynamics of quality processes.

In the end all decisions to act or not rest with management. And the implications of the decision (or non decision). Here are a few possible considerations and implications of not acting.

First, not taking the step of understanding the changes in quality processes and the standards that industries are using to validate and monitor quality. This can be as damaging as knowing and not acting.

Some industries are leaders in quality. And what they adopt often become best practices which other industries adopt in whole or in part. They were created for a reason. Not investigating new practices and reviewing the potential use in your organization can be a lost opportunity to become a leader in your industry. For example the Automobile Industry are widely using cross section analysis to validate, monitor and improve quality of connector crimping. With the cost of these systems coming down, it makes sense for non-automotive companies to start adopting cross section analysis.

Not investigating new practices and reviewing the potential use in your organization can be a lost opportunity to become a leader in your industry.

What if your competitor seized the opportunity to implement new quality processes? And their quality improved when they used these new tools. And they broadly publish their new capability to the world. Prompting companies (including your customers) to take notice. You are at a strategic disadvantage when your competitor gets a jump on your company.

You are at a strategic disadvantage when your competitor gets a jump on your company.

Inaction due to the cost of processing tools, systems and training ignores the long term benefit from reduced cost of processing. Scrap and rework costs can eat into profitability. A focus on quality improvement can also help to improve production efficiency.

Employees are watching. Engaging personnel in the process of quality improvement can be positive and beneficial. But when personnel see management not acting, they soon follow and productivity declines. Personnel on the factory floor are looking for individual benefit in the case of working conditions and some level of assurance the company is going all out in their efforts to maintain and grow the business.

Customers are also watching. With domestic and international competitors on your customer’s doorstep, can you afford to not consider new quality systems? And implement them into the company’s culture.

With domestic and international competitors on your customer’s doorstep, can you afford not to consider new quality systems?

Looking at the negative side of this topic is something companies do not enjoy doing. Simply put, ignoring the world changing around you or knowing and not acting is not a good business strategy. And can be damaging or fatal to a company in the long term.

The good news there is always an opportunity to turn the ship around, no matter how big the ship. Today would be a good day to seize the opportunity and start acting!

 

Make or Buy: It’s your choice

To produce your sub-assemblies in house or purchase them from an outside vendor. That is a question that OEM Manufacfturers ask themselves constantly. Is there a clear answer? Not really, read on..

The topic of this post states “It’s your choice. As part of the decision making process have you considered all of the factors in your decision?  Each company and situation is different but the factors used to make a decision are fairly common.  So let’s uncover them.

Buying Sub-Assemblies: The Advantages

Buying from an outside vendor does have it’s advantages.

  • No Capital investment.
  • Application specific expertise from Vendor
  • No raw material inventory to maintain.
  • No direct labor required.

Making Sub-Assemblies: The Advantages

Making your own sub-assemblies also has clear advantages

  • Production Flexibility
  • Not waiting for Vendor lead time.
  • Preserve raw material in a non-processed state and producing lower quantities as needed.
  • Not paying overhead cost and profit margins as part of the Vendor price.

Simplicity vs Complexity, a sliding scale.

Most decisions are made based on a number of factors. In general our observation is there is a sliding scale of complexity which when all factors are combined, provides a clearer decision making process.

Processing steps: Simple one or two step assembly to complex multi step assembly. For example, measure, cut and strip being one or two steps and terminal crimping being another to form a single wire lead. More complex assemblies include terminal block loading, heat shrink or convoluted tube covering over multiple wires. Producing a complete wire harness.

Capital Investment: Single (cut, strip or crimp) or two stage (cut and strip) processing tools are fairly low cost. Adding additional processing steps like the above mentioned block load, heat shrinking adds additional capital cost. Leasing processing tools through lease to purchasing programs can spread the cost of the capital investment over time.

Volume: Low volume assemblies are easier to make in house as they do not take up a lot of resources, high volume is easier to move to an outside vendor to preserve resources.

Floor space: A few small bench top machines do not take up a lot of space. But consider space for raw materials (wire, terminals, tubing etc..). As the processing steps and volumes increase, additional space may be required.

Labour: Do you have sufficient labour resources to set up, operate and maintain equipment required? Also do you have or can you acquire the assembly knowledge to produce quality assemblies. Are your labour costs higher (or lower) than an outside vendor?

Longevity: What is the life span of the product? Is it sustained long enough to recover the capital equipment costs? Can the equipment be used in a next generation project?

All of these factors can be placed on a sliding scale. For example Capital Investment on assembly processing equipment may be low in relationship to the volume. Floor space may be at a premium as well as labour shortage or required processing knowledge may not be available. If the longevity of the product is high then it may make sense to bring the assembly in house. Conversely if the Capital cost is high in relation to the product life span, it would be better to utilize the existing Capital of an outside supplier.

As said in the beginning, there is no easy answer to this question. But if you consider all of the above factors and place them on a scale from simple to complex, then an objective decision can be made.

 

Methods of Processing Wire Assemblies.

Business conditions are more competitive than they ever have been.  Global sourcing has placed extra price pressure on companies. Competitors domestic and offshore are lobbying for business which was once secure. Profit margins are slim with little or no margin for error. Manufacturing in North America has unique challenges and those challenges are especially acute within the wire processing industry.

Regardless of the region a company is based, there is one common objective each company has.  That is finding the best processing solution that will optimize their production efficiency while lowering overall processing costs. And making the best use of people resources. The purpose of this article is to outline some of the processing types, offer examples of those processing types related to wire processing and guidelines for application.

Manual Processing Tools.

ae-header

Manual tools are the most basic of processing types.  One person and one tool process a single step in an assembly process.  Manual assembly is used in low volumes assembly, where access is restricted or where the tool needs to be brought to the work. Worker fatigue can be a factor in the use of manual tools.  This can affect overall output and quality as volumes increase. Excellent processing solutions for companies who process low volumes in a high value added production envirnoment.  Examples of manual tools include hand crimp tools, heat guns, wire strippers and wire cutters. High production flexibility with manual tools. Minimal set up and maintenance time. Acquisition cost is low.

Single Process Bench Tools.

FLG2

Single Process Bench Tools extend the manual process to a bench processing machine. One person and bench processing machine process a single step in an assembly process. Output is moderately higher than a manual process, but operator fatigue is much lower and quality is higher due to the power assist and repeatibility of these units.   High flexibility with single process bench tools, minimal to moderate set up time especially with newer motorized units.  Minimal maintenance time. Examples of single process bench tools include wire cutters, wire strippers, wire crimping (loose piece and reel mounted contacts) and heat shrink processing machines. Acquisition cost is low. Ultrasonic wire splicing and laser wire stripping are other example of a single process bench tool but the acquisition costs for these solutions are higher.

Multi-Process Bench Tools

97A

Multi-Process Bench Tools combine two or more processing steps into one machine type. One person and processing machine process a multiple step in an assembly process. Output is much higher than with more than one assembly machine processing the same steps. Processing time and labour content is lower than with manual or single processing bench tools. Set up and maintenance skills are higher while operator skills are moderately higher. Examples of multi-process bench tools are wire and tube measure to length and cut, wire measure to length cut and strip, coaxial wire strippers and terminal stripper-crimpers. Acquisition cost is moderate.

Wire Processing Automation

Megomat 2000

Automation combines many processes into a single automation system.  One operator monitoring output and unloading finished leads.  Output is generally designed for high volume global production.  Due to quick change press applicator bases and programmable motorized machine motions, set up is quick so lot sizes can be reasonably smaller.  Set up, operation and maintenance skills are high.  Examples of processes which are typically automated include terminal crimping, wire doubling (two of the same wires crimped to one terminal), wire twist flux and tin, ultrasonic wire tipping and weather seal insertion. Acquisition cost is high.

Installation, training and ongoing support

In all categories, proper training services are critical.  The first 30 to 60 days of an installation are important especially in the automation category as the business adapts to the new installation and personnel get used to the operation of the equipment.  A good supplier commits to ensuring the installation to operation period and beyond goes smoothly and they resolve routine questions or issues as they occur.

WireProcess Specialties supplies wire processing solutions from our Global Technology Partners Group.  We have over 3 decades of service to our valued customers. Connect Your Way to find our how WPS can support your processing requirements.

Sales In/Efficiency. A Response.

As a sales representative for over three decades, I have dedicated my career to ongoing learning and the practice of the sales profession.  Recently I noted a posting in the Cable Assembly group in LinkedIn called Sales In/Efficiency.   This posting refers to a recent blog posting on huntbigsales.com called: “For CEO’s Only: Not Making the Sales Cut” by Tom Searcy (click to review article).  This article states roughly one third of your under performing sales team need to be eliminated and outlines the fears (resistance) to get rid of them and what should be done on the front end in the hiring process.

I do agree with the premise of documented expectations in the hiring process and eliminating those who over time demonstrate a lack of performance in growing sales in their designated territory.  The wrong person can affect sales growth.

However I do believe there is more to it than just hiring expectations and firing practices.  The reality is sales is not a one person activity, especially in key accounts.  Relationships with a customer should not be limited to the customer facing person, customer relationships need to comprised of multiple touch points/people so you reduce the dependence on one single relationship being the sole customer contact.

Usually the bottom third performers are a mix of people who were once in the top third and those who are moving up to the next or top third. The responsible leader will review and determine why they are where they are and if they require additional training (or re-training). I agree business is not a social experiment and sometimes leaders have to act to reduce loses from under-performing sales people.  The same thing can be said for other job positions in the organization outside of sales.

It is the CEO who sets the tone, and (at a macro level) ensures resources are in place for top performance, hiring the right people and communicating expectations.  And to ensure that sales leadership is in place to motivate the sales team, evaluate performance and ensure training resources are deployed (at a micro level). Here is a great article on sales training from Inc: 5 tips for training new salespeople.

 

 

Is any Company too small for a Branding Strategy?

You see it everyday, companies working to get your attention. Companies like Coca-Cola, IBM and McDonald’s are recognized brands.  Some products such as Aspirin have been so successful that they become the name for all products within a specific product category.  Companies spend millions of dollars every year to protect and grow their brands.

Companies that are more recognizable for their brand presence are large multi national corporations with a high level of  resources.  Resources beyond reach of most companies. But what is large now, once was small.  Their branding activities established their company and grew it to what it is today. So the question is: how can small companies establish their own brand.  And is establishing a brand presence valuable to a small company.  For that, we need to reach behind the logo and understand what goes into a branding process.

Branding is comprised of a number of factors common in all companies.  These factors are the DNA that make a company what it is and how it is viewed from other companies and individuals.

Core Values: Core values are the company beliefs and are typically formed by company ownership or management.  Core values are expressed in a values statement. Other statements which can express a company’s beliefs and direction are vision and mission statements.  In addition a code of ethics provides information on how the company acts when relating to their customers.  Publishing these statements provide provide prospective customers insight on how they would be treated should they do business with you,.  But when they are published companies are fully accountable for their actions and measured against their statements.

People: Each individual that works for the company contribute to the company brand. That contribution can be positive and negative.  Selecting the right person for a specific function especially customer facing staff is critical.  Good personality and a teachable attitude is very important. Equally important is personnel training.  Most skills can be learned and those include communication and customer relations.  When feedback from customers is received be that complimentary or critical, listen carefully and act promptly.

Marketing: We live in a fast paced virtual world where information on every product including those of your competitors are available around the clock.  Companies and their associated brands can be easily forgotten in the ongoing flood of marketing messages that reach us everyday.  As a side note, one other reason it is so important that every customer interaction is a positive.   There are multiple marketing channels in use today.  Having a presence in multiple channels is important so you are able to ensure your marketing message is heard and covers a wider scope.  However focus your efforts on a few core channels which your customer base access regularly.  You can achieve good marketing exposure with a balanced approach to product and brand promotion.

Web and Blog Sites: a well structured website with current information on your products and services is anecessary tool in your efforts to promote your brand. A website which is not kept up to date and is difficult to navigate shows negatively on your company.  A blog page or separate blog site provides detailed information on your products and demonstrates expertise in your industry.  It takes some time to set up and maintain but pays long term dividends and is well worth the effort. There are many low or no cost hosting sites like Word Press that can be used.

The effect of a shifting market on a Brand: Market shifts are sudden and sometimes dramatic.  What once was the industry’s buzz is now yesterday’s news.  The effects can set a company back months and years in its effort to maintain market share never mind growing it.   Today’s news is full of companies who are suffering from a shift in buyer’s preferences and not reacting in time.  These companies are fighting an up hill battle to regain their company’s brand presence.  Some will survive and some will not.

A Brand’s future value: The efforts to build and grow a brand often do not show tangible results for a long time, months and sometimes years.  But if the evidence shows your product has a viable market now and in the future, if you are willing to do the work needed to build and promote your brand and be flexible as markets shift, then your investment will show the results you are looking for.

Can these points be applied to companies large and small? Absolutely.  But these points need to be part of a daily routine so your personnel and customers see the effort and invest their resources in your products and services.

Building a brand takes time and effort. Stating your core values in print does make the company accountable for actions of individuals representing the company and actions of the company as a whole. Brands are perishable and can be affected by situations external to the company. Any investment in a brand strategy does have a long term return, patience is critical.

Connect Your Way to WPS for more information on how Wire Process Specialties is applying these principals to our operations.

Size Really Does Not Matter!

Ok do I have your attention?

Companies exist in all shapes and sizes.  Companies rise and fall in all categories from small single person facilities to large multi-national corporations.  And we have seen over the past number of years the effect on a country’s economy when companies large and small fail and put hard working people out of work, filling up the unemployment rolls.

Large corporations do have their advantages.  They provide economies of scale in product sourcing which can mean (at least on the surface) lower cost to their customers.  They have vast resources to offer their customers in product selection and information.  But as the saying goes “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”.  In the case of financial institution struggle and failures since 2008, the individual and corporate fallout can be extensive and have far reaching implications.

Small and mid sized companies provide something their larger counterparts cannot. Flexibility and rapid innovation.  Larger companies are set on an established path and it takes much longer to change course to adapt to a change in market.  Smaller companies are much more maneuverable and can adjust direction much quicker. Despite the perception of economies of scale, larger carrying costs are required to support a larger company which can drive up the cost of their product offering.

It is evident the support services for business have evolved and are targeting smaller business.  Cloud based information services and new business technology mean the advantages larger companies had in communication and technology infrastructure are no longer there and the playing field is leveling.  This means more opportunity for small companies to respond to their customer’s needs as they change with less overall cost than ever before. For example, the availability of virtual servers to store data and operate business software independent of a business’ physical location means lower cost (in hardware and IT personnel) to maintain information vital to the company.  New production technology is geared towards smaller batch sizes with rapid change over to reduce down time between production set ups.

Innovation is key to survival in the economic climate we are in.  Finding newer and faster ways to respond to customers changing requirements is a critical necessity and fully communicating with customers and suppliers. When innovation and exceptional communication are used, new opportunities are found and implemented to reduce customer processing time and cost.

Wire Process Specialties has always been a small sized company. We like it that way. And more companies seem to be embracing the smaller is better business model. Our Global Technology Partners are small to medium sized businesses themselves. We are an extension of their organization and vice versa.  Our competitors, most whom are much larger than WPS, can take longer to respond and generally focus on their larger customers to the exclusion of their smaller clientele.  Customers of all sizes require their needs to be met and we have learned to listen carefully to ensure we understand what our customers are saying. And responding with a solution.

We are innovating in all areas of our company, from our web and social media presence to our product selection and inter-relationship to all aspects of our product line. Our drive to be a totally paperless company began over a year ago and continues to take shape.  This I must admit has been the hardest transition I have undertaken at WPS in years.  But it will benefit us greatly.  Our communications infrastructure is state of the art and meets our needs in and out of our facility.

Truly size does not matter, what matters is how you treat your customers.  On an upcoming post, I will be discussing Personal Motivators in Business which deals with this topic.

In the meantime, Connect Your Way to WPS to hear how we can partner with you and your company to achieve even greater things now and in the future.

Our Vision Explained – Part Two

In part one,  I outlined some of the basic factors required to achieve the vision “To earn the privilege to be our Customer’s Natural Choice of a supplier of Assembly Solutions.  In part two, I am covering innovation.

Webster’s dictionary defines Innovation as: 1 : the introduction of something new 2 : a new idea, method, or device.

Constant Innovation is one of the core values of Wire Process Specialties.  Innovation at WPS covers our internal processes and product offering. Internally, we are focused on ways we can be more efficient in communicating to our customers, making information easy to access

At WPS we are not standing still, we believe there is always a better way to work, finding new ways to add value to the relationships we build with our customers.

Is this vision a guarantee of suceess in every case? No it does not guarantee success. Not every company values this focus. It is our objective to make each customer exchange mutually beneficial. Demonstrating the value of high trust relationships is very important. When trust is earned, our value as a partner with our customers is enhanced.

Our vision is part of our vision, value and mission statements our commitement to our customers which can be found on the  company profile page of WireProcess.com.

Our Vision Explained – Part One.

“To earn the privilege to be our Customer’s Natural Choice of a supplier of Assembly Solutions.”

The words in this vision statement have framed our way of doing business for almost three decades.

To be your customer’s natural choice?  A little lofty given the competitive nature of our business today right?  Not really. Our vision keeps us focused on the job ahead of us.  The real action is in the first phrase “To earn the privilege”.  Far too many companies large and small take their customers for granted, feeling a sense of entitlement in some respects.  When this happens, the original customer/supplier partnership is affected and opens up the opportunity for new competitors to enter and replace your company as a primary supplier – and trusted partner. As the incumbent supplier this erodes market share.

So how do we start to “earn the privilege”?  First remembering that this is an ongoing process with no end date.  In the pursuit to earn the privilege, there are several factors we consider:

  • Trust is the first step.  This is not something you immediately achieve, it takes time.  When starting with a new customer, small steps to gain trust are critical.  Often it is being relegated to a secondary supplier role. Stating our values, mission and code of ethics in writing provides some accountability to our actions.
  • Adding value to the relationship.  We are constantly looking for ways to reduce cost, improve efficiency. Anything that directly or indirectly improves the customer’s bottom line.
  • Be available.  Nothing hurts a business relationship more than taking too long to respond to an inquiry.  Someone else will be ready and able to respond quicker if they are given the opportunity.
  • Understand our customer’s concerns.  Helping to solve even a simple problem with a cost effective solution goes a long way to solidifying a customer relationship.

In part two, I will cover innovation as a key factor in making good business relationships even better.  And taking us one more step towards our vision of being your Natural Choice of a supplier of Assembly Solutions.

Our vision is part of our vision, value and mission statements our commitement to our customers which can be found on the  company profile page of WireProcess.com.

Introduction to Wire Process Specialties

Wire Process Specialties is pleased to offer WireProcess.info on the launch of the new WireProcess.com website.  In addition we are expanding our connection methods to our customers with the introduction of our Facebook page which can be found at Facebook.com/wireprocess.  This is in addition to our Twitter link (Twitter.com/wireprocess),our Linkedin page and YouTube channel (YouTube.com/wireprocess).  These “WireProcess” social properties will compliment our newsletter “The Wire Process Connection”, WireProcess.com and this news channel.

A recent survey from Semplice Research showed 72% of manufacturers and suppliers in the industrial sector plan to use Social Media to promote their presence at trade shows, up from 57% in 2011.  This trend will continue as companies adopt Social Media as methods of communication between customers and suppliers.

We will be showcasing real life case studies from our customers, new product introductions and profiles from our Global Technology Partners and general commentary on economic conditions and our company.  Our news feed from wireprocess.info will also be linked to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.  Connect your way to Wire Process Specialties to get the latest information on the World of Wire Processing.

Please contact me personally at 905-642-6186 to hear more about Wire Process Specialties and how we can serve you.

Terry Curtis

President