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Most Recent Articles

Building a Sound Product Development Process for Small Manufacturers – Part II

Last month, we published Part I of this article, where we talked about making that transition from “freewheeling inventor” to “process-driven listener”. Basically, it is about being more systematic in how you collect the data and insights that lead to more relevance in your new products. This is hardest for the business which was started from a single brilliant idea that succeeded, because it is not uncommon for the small manufacturer to not really understand WHY their initial product succeeded. Play-Doh, the ubiquitous colorful molding clay of everyone’s youth, was originally created in the 1930’s as a wallpaper cleaner. Success is great, but if you started out intending to be an innovator in the cleaning products business but all of your customers are under five years old, where do you go next?

Topics: Planning Process Improvement Manufacturing

Practicing What We Preach – Meet Jason Williams, Operations Director

Over the years you’ve seen a lot of material coming from us about using “Lean” Manufacturing and using Lean techniques in other areas like distribution and logistics. As a manufacturer ourselves, we have always strived to take our own advice, but like many of you, we also learned in the process that while the reward is great, the work to get there can be HARD.

Topics: Lean Manufacturing Efficiency Manufacturing

Speeding Up Delivery and Service for the Holidays? It’s Time to Make Your Move - Now.

With inventories bulging from summer shipments coming in for the holidays, Distribution Centers everywhere are gearing up for the peak retail season. Historically the last four months of the year generate about 60% of a typical retailers’ annual sales, which also means this is the season where many businesses earn their real profit for the year. But how do you make sure all that inventory get out the door as planned and you are not stuck with overstock at the end of the year?

Topics: Retail Distribution Center Shipping

Water Spider: Tiny Insect or Production Floor Game Changer?

With heightened competition from the global economy, a dwindling workforce as a result of the labor shortage and increasing demands from customers—it’s never been more important for manufacturing facilities to focus on efficiency. Of course, many operations managers turn to lean techniques in an effort to streamline and increase production, but how can facilities take things a step further? 

Topics: Process Improvement Manufacturing Lean Manufacturing

Building a Sound Product Development Process for Small Manufacturers – Part I

If you’re like many small manufacturers, you started your business in one of the following ways:

  1. You saw a gap and had an inspired idea that you turned into a successful product
  2. You worked for another manufacturer and saw a better opportunity to become their supplier.
  3. You cashed out of your first career success to fund your dream startup.

And if you are a 2nd or 3rd generation business owner, then your family likely started one of those ways too, and they did well enough to make it successful for over a full generation.

Regardless of how you started and what you started with, everyone has the same problem:

Topics: Planning Process Improvement Predictions

Investing in Staff Retention Takes Many Forms – Including Big Ass Fans

(Or, we just wanted  to use the word “Big Ass” in a serious business article.)

While we’ve seen the topic of staff retention in warehouses and manufacturing plants  come up more frequently than ever, most of the discussion until now has been focused on compensation and skill training. While there are legitimate needs to address stagnant pay, lack of career paths and insufficient training, in many cases retention is much more about creating a great work environment.

Topics: Staffing Process Improvement Trends ROI

The Hard Facts and Data on Your Space Management Issues

In our annual customer satisfaction survey, “Space” and “People” continued their five-year run as the top two issues that keep facility managers up at night. But what specifically is it about these issues that weigh so heavily on the minds of every type of customer we have – big, small, high-tech, simple, etc. An annual survey by FLEXE, a warehouse services group that runs a marketplace of over 800 warehouses provides some insights into the specific aspects of space management that are a concern for so many customers.

Topics: Inventory Control Research Warehouse Management

How to Streamline Material Handling During Receiving

Receiving in a manufacturing environment is an overlooked process area that can be the start of numerous bottlenecks, accuracy errors and wasted motion. A few simple tools that have transformed receiving in the logistics world can be leveraged in a manufacturing environment to radically change the outcomes and improve your metrics in this critical process area while achieving a positive ROI in less than 12 months.

Topics: receiving Manufacturing Process Improvement

How to Reduce Turnover and Improve Productivity on the Manufacturing Floor

There’s no doubt—manufacturing is a tough industry to work in. With tight turnaround times, increasing shipping demands and the need for immaculate quality, it’s a challenging space for a business to grow and thrive. To further complicate things—administrators are finding it difficult to attract and retain talent.

Topics: Staffing Process Improvement Mobile Power Manufacturing Lean Manufacturing

How to Prioritize New Technology Acquisition

Whether you are in a manufacturing environment or a distribution center, there is a long list of technologies that may be on your wish list, ranging from “must-have ten years ago” to “nice to have someday”. But when budgets become available for upgrades, getting everything you want isn’t always a good idea. For example, bringing in a new software tool might be a good idea, but upgrading two or more of them that are linked together or through another system (like your ERP) could be a recipe for disaster. Troubleshooting and debugging may be plagued by the potential conflicts between two new systems instead of one.

Topics: Warehouse Management Cost Reduction Process Improvement