Live from Chicago! It’s Lean 2008

All setup for Lean Tech’s first trade show.  At the Marriott in Schaumberg, IL for Lean Manufacturing 2008: Lean Tools for Maintenance & Reliability.  Here’s my booth!


Thanks to Tom Flynn of Lessing Flynn in Des Moines for the awesome booth design, Chuck Bloyer at Beeline and Blue in Des Moines for the booth printing and rental, and Jamie and Sarah Gyolai and Mike Kleis for their trade show insight!

For some reason the picture came out a little dark…may have to try another shot later without the blinding flood light on.

Everything gets going tomorrow morning.  First keynote is from Klaus Blache of General Motors.  See you in the morning!

By |2008-10-05T19:53:50+00:00October 5th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People, Tradeshows/Events|0 Comments

Congratulations Vermeer!

Thought I’d give a shout-out today to a local Pella business, Vermeer Manufacturing, which is celebrating its 60th Anniversary of being in business this year.  There is all kinds of Vermeer celebration-related activity going on around town right now, and I also stumbled upon this article about their 60 years in business.

Vermeer probably became famous from its round baling equipment (“Vermeer made the world go round”), but they also make construction equipment, other farm machinery, and trenching and trenchless equipment.  Vermeer is still family owned and is heading into its third generation of family members.  They’ve been on their lean journey since 1997 and could probably use our software…I need to get over there and peddle my wares!

By |2008-08-21T08:14:21+00:00August 21st, 2008|Business, Manufacturing|0 Comments

Tools for your lean belt and your tech belt

Rob Tracy at Intek Plastics (one of my customers) has written this excellent synopsis on Driving Lean through Your Supply Chain.  Aside from discussing how the breakdown of your supply chain can negatively impact you and your customers and including a supplier checklist for your use, he also talks about the incorrect assumption that going overseas for suppliers is the best way to improve your supply chain.

In the global economy, you often get a better deal by choosing suppliers in low-cost countries — assuming that upfront cost is your only consideration. Forward-thinking domestic suppliers combat this threat by using lean methodologies to define and maximize value from their customers’ point of view. This could include services such as part design, ready-to-use components, shorter lead times, zero defect products and stockless production.

This kind of thought (that cheaper overseas suppliers is the way to go) and the thought that US manufacturing is on the decline are myths that Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence has been working to dispel quite often lately.

Now, my tech tool for the day.  How did I come across the aforementioned Intek Plastics white paper?  I recently started using Google Alerts.  They are a great way to get current information about new stuff popping up around the net about your favorite topics.  I’ve been using it to get news and info about lean, technology, and even my customers.  Great stuff!

By |2008-07-28T14:56:34+00:00July 28th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People, Technology|0 Comments

Unto the least of these…

Surprisingly great example of how to treat customers (thanks to Evolving Excellence)…surprising because it is coming out of the airline industry.  Some true servant leadership is being displayed by United Airlines captain Denny Flanagan.  Imagine being stuck at the airport and having the captain buy you lunch?  (insert your own joke about pigs flying here).

An example of un-servant leadership (?) (disservice leadership?) was displayed here.  This is a situation that should have every business saying, "make sure we never put someone through this."  (it’s all about micro-interactions, right?)

And, for more info on how to succeed in providing a positive customer experience, check out this free pamphlet-book-handout thingy (only 12 pages): "The 6 Laws of Customer Experience: The Fundamental Truths that Define how Organizations Treat Customers".  One item author Bruce Temkin discusses in this booklet is the importance of everyone in an organization understanding customers:

Since many of the decisions that impact customers aren’t debated or discussed, they just happen, it helps for as many people as possible to understand customers.

And continuing my stream-of-consciousness, Bruce’s discussion reminded me of this white paper (Zero Time Thinking), which I read nearly eight years ago, about "zero-time" organizations, which are capable (empowered) to bring all necessary resources to bear on any situation to solve problems or customer needs.

How about that for an onslaught of customer experience thoughts!

By |2008-07-25T06:30:29+00:00July 25th, 2008|Business, Customer Service|0 Comments

Small is a weapon, not an excuse

Seth Godin posted that on his blog today.  It may become my new mantra.  When I first started Lean Technologies, I was nervous talking to people because of how small we were (are).  Eventually I realized how smallness is part of my advantage.  In fact, it was the "largeness" of other software companies that got me into this in the first place.  The "largeness" that: couldn’t give me personal service, didn’t know how customers actually used their product, couldn’t implement new features quickly, and couldn’t even understand the problems with their own applications.  All of these are things that are easily accomplished when you’re small.   I realize now how much my customers value these items.  If you want pre-packaged solutions with impersonal service, there are plenty of choices.  If you want someone to build an application who understands your situation, small may well be your best choice.  Check out these guitars, that Seth also refers to, for an example.

By |2008-07-15T09:19:28+00:00July 15th, 2008|Business, Customer Service, People|0 Comments

For the love of learning

I suffer from a problem.  I love learning.  And I love learning about anything.  Which puts me in the over-used category of "jack of all trades, master of none."  My knowledge probably generally goes very wide instead of deep.  At least not as deep as I would like.

I love programming and solving peoples’ problems with software solutions.  That’s why I’m in the business I’m in.  I love learning about marketing and sales.  I love learning about better lean manufacturing practices.  And now learning about those in practices in healthcare.  I love learning about the latest technologies.  The latest business trends.  I wish I had time to learn more.  There’s just not enough time to soak in all the good stuff that’s out there.

Here is some of the good stuff I read:

On business: Tom Peters

On sales: Bill Caskey (although really I listen to his podcasts more than read his blog)

On lean: Evolving Excellence, Get Lean and Prosper, Lean Blog

On technology and trends and more: Guy Kawasaki

On marketing: David Armano

I suppose I should add a "blog roll" on my page that includes these…seems to be the common way to give props to your favorite blogs.

By |2008-07-10T09:55:13+00:00July 10th, 2008|Business, Life, People|2 Comments

Micro-interactions with customers

David Armano has an excellent post on "micro-interactions" with customers on his blog.  I am often amazed how companies and/or people do not realize the impact their encounter with you, even a small encounter, will have on gaining your trust for further interactions.

My friend recently took a coupon to a franchise restaurant to buy his family a meal "to-go".  Although the coupon was valid for each paying customer, they would not honor the coupon because the rest of his family was not present (they were at the park waiting for Dad to bring the food).  My friend proceeded to cancel his order and will now not be eating there ever again.  Should remind you, on a smaller scale, of the Disney story above (go read it if you haven’t already).

On the positive side of things, I always take my car to Pella Car Care.  Why?  Because every time I call, they know when I’m calling what cars I drive…when I have my car serviced, they take detailed pictures of what they saw as they repaired my car and explain the service they have provided…and they smile when I walk through the door!

By |2008-07-06T21:05:53+00:00July 6th, 2008|Business, Customer Service, Life, People|0 Comments

Value your customers…and mean it

I just received an email in my inbox regarding a (complimentary) magazine subscription that states:

You have been part of a select group of senior IT professionals who rely on [Magazine Name] to bring them 50 issues per year loaded with unique editorial and in-depth analysis for business technology buyers.

Okay, so how big is a "select group"?  Let’s imagine it’s 100.  So is there really a company that’s willing to produce 50 complimentary issues of a magazine that is "loaded" with stuff for only a select group of people?  C’mon.  I will continue to subscribe to this complimentary magazine, but not because I feel like I’m in a "select group" of people who are receiving it.  If I were really in a select group, would I receive an impersonal email about my subscription?  Don’t associate the wrong kind of value with the message being delivered.  There is nothing "select" about being on an email blast.

If you truly value your customers, that’s great.  Then make sure the delivery method and message match appropriately.  A phone call makes me feel a little more select (unless it’s coming from a hired call center, of course).  If you are going to throw out a mass email, don’t try to persuade the recipient that they really are special with your words.

What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you are saying. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are an email, you’re not fooling anyone with your fancy wording!

By |2008-06-23T10:24:15+00:00June 23rd, 2008|Business, Customer Service|0 Comments

Eliminating Information Frustration

Getting closer to my mantra instead of my mission statement.  Guy Kawasaki often espouses the importance of having a mantra instead of a mission statement, and so does Andy Stanley.  For the longest time I struggled to put into a brief mantra what it was that I was really setting out to do.  I’m trying to decide if this is too generic and broad, but I think "Eliminating Information Frustration" is my new mantra.  It was my own personal negative encounters with information systems that has driven me to do what I do today.  And I encounter similar pain in the people I work with.  What are some of those frustrations?

  • Having to be trained and re-trained on the most mundane/routine tasks of using an application
  • Not being able to extract useful information back out of a system (as in, reports…why would I even put information into a system unless I hoped to gain some useful insight later to take action to improve my organization in some fashion?)
  • Not being able to quickly assess the information that’s relevant to me personally in my application
  • Software licensing…why do I always pay additional fees for another user’s access to the system…the information is the company’s info, why can’t we just have access to it?

I could go on.  But that’s what drives me.  Trying to eliminate information frustration.

By |2008-05-22T10:03:50+00:00May 22nd, 2008|Business, Information Management|1 Comment