Data collection has taken many forms in the history of manufacturing, and now is the time to embrace the most efficient form yet - artificial intelligence. Guest speaker, Akshat Thirani, shares how he solved the software disparity between computer engineers and manufacturers and created a tool to enable manufacturing leaders to meet their goals as efficiently as possible. AI isn’t something to fear. Without change - nothing will happen in your business!
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Growing up in India, Akshat’s childhood was saturated in the manufacturing industry. All of his family and friends had some part in the local manufacturing and production business, and his father raised his children with a manufacturer's mindset. With manufacturing in his blood, Akshat set off for college at the age of 17, studying design engineering and computer software. It was at school that he first noticed the gaping disparity between what computer software engineers were utilizing and what leading manufacturing engineers were using - even though the manufacturers were handling some of the most complex and technical work in the world. Akshat knew he needed to create a tool that would enable manufacturers to work and live to their full potential - a tool that would help them track production time, maintenance, and the data produced by their machines.
Akshat understood that it was no trivial thing to join an AI tool to a machine and start collecting data. Many shops utilize both old and new machinery - making the job of AI more difficult. Akshat knew that the tool he was creating needed to be simple and able to read the “heartbeat” of each machine and distinguish what job was being completed.
The “heartbeat” of a machine is the signature electrical current that it produces. During his senior year in college, Akshat and some of his colleagues created the prototype AI tool he had dreamed of. It eventually became the answer to the machinist’s problems with efficient data collection. Instead of jotting down on pieces of paper or having to manually insert data about a machine or job into an Excel spreadsheet, AI can be hooked up to a machine and learn the heartbeat of specific jobs and functions. AI then transmits that data to a centralized, online platform through cellular data - allowing the manufacturing team to quickly read the pulse on their machinery and work.
Every individual on a manufacturing team has expertise that is wasted when they are required to spend time collecting, recording, and analyzing data from each machine. Instead of having the professionals do the busywork, AI can read, transmit, organize, and analyze the data outsourced by the machinery. Providing real-time data to team members, Akshat’s AI tools can record the speed of each machine being used, which machines need maintenance, the estimated timetable for a piece or job, and the reasons why a machine is not running at optimum capacity. Meeting the core manufacturing goals of simplicity and practicality, AI is something that the leaders of the Metal Working Nation need to be taking seriously and educating themselves on.
Every manufacturing business will have different long-term goals and immediate needs. Akshat encourages listeners to walk through their shops and talk with their team members to identify what needs to be accomplished through an AI tool such as Akshat’s. Calculating the cost of integrating AI into the system may be surprisingly less than what is being spent on manual data collection. Identify what you need to accomplish work more efficiently - and then make it happen. Because if you’re not making chips, you’re not making money!
With so many automation systems available, it can be hard to know which to use to meet your specific goals and needs as a manufacturing leader. Guest speakers Randy Jokerst and Brad Klippstein share how the THINC Developers Group enables the Metal Working Nation to perform at its best by solving manufacturing leaders’ problems through innovation.
Randy is the Director of Technical Services at Hartwig Inc. and one of the founding members of the THINC Development Group. Entering the manufacturing world by way of CNC engineering, he has used his gifting in engineering to amp up machinist’s efficiency by implementing automation systems into new machines. Also an engineer, Brad Klippstein is the Supervisor of the Okuma Product Specialist Group. His manufacturing journey began when he visited a machine tool fair fresh out of college and was asked if he wanted to program robots. Hooked, Brad dove into developing new technology and applications at the forefront of the programming world.
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Having trouble creating efficient processes or closing the skills gap of the next manufacturing generation? Founded in 2008, the THINC Developers Group was created to solve the issues of the Metal Working Nation and provide the cutting-edge applications needed to automate manufacturing systems. The THINC control for machining systems was originally PC-based, and while the developers understood how to navigate and decipher the data collected by the control, most users were unable to view what the control was collecting. The development group was created to enable customers to build their own control interface apps so that they could use the control system to meet their unique needs. The THINC group’s focus is on the communication between the machine tool side and the PC side - teaching people to write the apps to accomplish their machining goals.
Better efficiency is something manufacturing leaders are constantly working towards. One way to improve efficiency while also pouring into your team’s adaptability and performance is to automate the jobs that take away from time that your team can spend in their specific areas of expertise. Limiting distractions by utilizing automation systems to set and send reminders can also boost efficiency levels. Randy talks about how one of the U.S. mints had three separate operations that moved parts from one machine to the next to make the coin dies. Using an automation system developed by the THINC group, they were able to combine their operations into a three-machine/one robot cell that produced all the parts within hours instead of days.
Many of Okuma Inc.’s developments have come from the THINC Developers Group. Through the MyOkuma app, you can integrate the Okuma tools into your systems. Compatible with many different PC systems, the THINC Developers Group plays in the sandbox of the Application Program Interface (API), creating communication points between machines. The vision and goals of the customer are brought into being through the innovation of THINC and executed through their developments via the Okuma Sampling Path.
Brad explains that at Okuma, through the Okuma Sampling Path, they can read, write, and access thousands of data points within the controls of systems and machines. They can make the control do whatever the customer needs through the API. All of the solutions data can be viewed and interpreted by the customers so that they can make the best business decisions based upon the data provided.
MTConnect takes the guessing work out of machine data interpretation. Okuma machine tools and the Okuma control collect their machining data from MTConnect, which harvests data straight from the CNC machines, interprets it, and sends it to the Okuma control. Manufacturers have access to this data through their own Okuma controls because MTConnect is already attached to the control from the moment it hits the shop floor. MTConnect allows you to take all the information processed and pull it up via the data stream to your phone, tablet, or computer. With Okuma controls, there is no additional fee for MTConnect. Because it is sent via data stream to your devices, you can access necessary data even while offline.
Reading exuberant amounts of data can be overwhelming, which is why the THINC Developers Group created several unique dashboard bases to meet the different needs of manufacturing leaders and their teams. Streamlining your automation systems by utilizing a central dashboard for data collection and interpretation will enable you to view and make decisions more quickly. Instead of manually checking on the tools and machines being used and recording the health, run-time, and down-time of your tools, you can see all of that data displayed on a single dashboard. The idea is to create a condition-based, automated environment that allows you to be as hands-off as possible with the menial work required to run your business. Automation systems are all about keeping it simple and clarifying communication between your team and machines.
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Cobotics are a current hot topic in the Metal Working Nation. Innovation within the AI spectrum is opening new doors and possibilities for manufacturing leaders who are willing to embrace change. Guest speaker, Craig Zoberis, shares his “Aha!” moment when he realized cobots could help him create a more efficient and life-giving environment to his team. His passion for innovation and the power of the cobotic ecosystem led him to create his own cobotics production line - empowering the Metal Working Nation to perform at their absolute best.
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Growing up working at his father’s manufacturing business, Craig entered the industry as a college graduate with a wealth of knowledge and familiarity. Starting his own business focused on assembly, he eventually recognized the need for in-house machinery. Wanting maximum control of his own schedule as well as his team’s, Craig began researching the impact that cobots can have on improving efficiency and helping to close the skills gap. Encouraged by his team to pursue a future in cobotics, he began implementing them into his workforce. The impact was so powerful that Craig and his team at Fusion OEM were inspired to create their own line of cobotics.
Collaborative robots - cobots - are designed to operate around people and often with people. Not only can they help you eliminate the menial tasks that take up your team’s valuable and limited time, but they can also help keep integration and employee turnover costs low. Cobots are easily taught by those working in their space. There is no need for a cobotics consultant to train it in every new function. Using cobots to fulfill repetitive and menial work frees up your team to focus on areas of work that require their expertise - allowing them to grow in their knowledge and application instead of being bogged down by time-consuming tasks.
Craig explains that knowing where and how to utilize cobots can be overwhelming to those who are first installing them. He encourages listeners to focus on the jobs on the shop floor that are dull, dirty, or dangerous and to begin implementing cobots in those tasks. Cobots are especially helpful in highly repetitive work because they don’t slow down or speed up as a human would throughout the day. The consistent speed and functionality of the cobot allows for more predictable output timetables and eliminates the dull work that keeps your team tied. Deburring, polishing, sanding, quality inspection, sensing, and making/recording measurements are all tasks that a cobot can accomplish - freeing you and your machinists to focus on what really matters.
Training up the new generation of manufacturing leaders and machinists is incredibly important, especially when considering the huge portion of the current manufacturing labor force that is made up of baby boomers. Planning for the turnover that comes with retirements can be made smoother by implementing cobots into your workforce. While training new employees, cobots can cover tasks left by retired machinists and keep your output steady. Cobots also allow you to put more time and energy into training new employees and seasoned team members in new skills. The skills gap dilemma doesn’t have to slow your business. Using cobots can not only help you close that skills gap but make your production time more efficient while doing so.
Jumping into cobotics implementation and utilization can be intimidating. Craig encourages listeners to take small steps and to familiarize themselves with what the cobotic ecosystem is all about. Visiting manufacturing shops and production lines that use cobots will allow you to see for yourself what they can accomplish. Find easy wins for cobotics within your own workforce. Test out cobots on jobs that you know you could use them in. Cobotics is a paradigm shift, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Chip away at the automation transition and watch your business grow!
Change in manufacturing is an inevitable and exciting necessity that Jim and Jason are ready for the Metal Working Nation to embrace and experience. Even though the industry has a history of sticking with what has worked for generations, it is now time to invest in the future by equipping and inspiring manufacturing leaders and teams to educate themselves on the progress of technology and process. Guest speaker, Drura Parrish, the president of Xometry Supplies, shares his manufacturing story and how leaders can take small steps towards big change for their businesses.
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Growing up in the manufacturing world, Drura noticed that his grandfather’s business philosophy was built more upon hope in the future than on making that future himself with the manufacturing tools he owned. The machines that spent their lives unused - waiting for the “big deal,” caused Drura to question the processes in place. However, when he came back after college, he went to work for his grandfather and learned the important lesson of knowing when to ask why you are doing something before you set out to do it. Accepting a process because it has “always” been used isn’t a good enough reason to keep on using it. Be sure to listen to the episode for Drura’s personal experience in learning to ask “Why?”
It’s all about leadership. Drura explains that in many machine shops, the leader is often the one with the most expertise and experience in a specific field. But is that the way it should be? In today’s modern manufacturing world, everyone is an expert at something. People need leaders, but they don’t necessarily need a leader who is well-versed in every aspect of the manufacturing business. Instead, the leader needs to be the one asking questions - asking, “Why are we doing it this way?” Drura believes that it is the responsibility of the 21st-century manufacturing leader to instill in their team the mindset that the customer is always right and to provide the training their team needs to accomplish serving their customers well. Outdated software? Toss it out. Equip your people; instill in them a positive, service-minded attitude, and trust your people to produce a quality outcome.
Do your people know how to identify good technology? Drura explains that in a world that is saturated in options and new technology, it is vital that your team understand what makes good technology and what makes a good process. Jason and Jim both agree that while it is difficult to begin setting aside time in your business’s schedule for training and education of the team, it is essential to your company’s future success. Technology must be taken seriously in today’s manufacturing world.
What educating a manufacturing team looks like will depend on the individual business, the people, and the goals of the company. For smaller shops, it may be investing in one individual at a time instead of collectively training in new technology. For very large businesses, it could mean taking another, smaller shop under their wing and helping guide them in good business acumen. The idea is to promote in the Metal Working Nation an attitude of growth and effective change. When progressive change is made, take the time to celebrate!
Jim, Jason, and Drura all know that change in manufacturing can be a slow process. But small progress is better than no progress! Drura suggests setting aside 1% of your time as a leader and business to invest in education. As your team explores the latest innovations in their area of expertise, they will grow in their own skills - making your business more efficient. Spending time training actually saves you time as a business in the long run. Equip your people. Inspire them to always be asking “Why?” Start with 1%, and grow from there. Change is the pathway to future success.
Are cobots the future of your manufacturing business? Collaborative robots can share the same space with your employees and help you automate the processes and systems that keep tying up your team’s time and energy. Guest speaker, Elias Serruya shares his passion for innovative thinking and why a future of cobots may just be your manufacturing dream-come-true.
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Elias shares his story of pursuing the future in innovation and automation while climbing the ladder at his father-in-law’s manufacturing company, EJ Basler. Beginning as an engineering intern, he quickly learned the ins and outs of the trade and made note of where processes could be made more efficient. Always asking the question, “How could this be made better?” Elias found his passion realized in building and implementing cobots and robots.
Elias explains that the automation offered by robotics and cobotics is mechatronics - the combination of mechanical and electronic systems. Mechatronic automation covers all the bases for a machine shop by combining software, mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, the cloud, and electronics for a truly all-encompassing automated system. As manufacturing leaders understand, time is money - and the more time their employees can spend on the tasks that require their expertise and less on the menial busywork - the better.
Elias unpacks the differences between robots and cobots and why cobots are a financially savvy investment for your manufacturing business. Unlike robots, cobots don’t need their own designated space with safety lines and regulations. Cobots (collaborative robots) share the same workspace as your employees and interact directly in your employees’ environment. Because they don’t need their own floor or taped-off space, and because they can’t hurt humans in their operations, there is no need to spend money and resources on building a separate and safety-ensured space on your shop floor. Cobots are slower in their movements and don’t have the huge amount of velocity behind them that regular, mechanical robots possess. If you touch a cobot outside of the designated process, they turn off. They are built to work with you - not overpower you.
Are cobots for everybody? Elias explains that while the role of the cobots might change, they are useful in both low and high-production manufacturing businesses. A good strategy for both types would be to locate where you need to automate within the business. Where is time being wasted or being used inefficiently? What jobs - if freed up - could make room for greater growth and progress? Inspection and processing parts could be done by a cobot instead of your employees, allowing them to focus on work that requires their skill and expertise.
Elias shares the processes he uses to know where to implement automation within EJ Basler. Watching company costs is an extremely helpful way to see where your manufacturing team could benefit from the help of cobots. Taking a walk through your shop floor can also provide insight into identifying where processes could be made more efficient. If you are struggling with finding good hires, then using a cobot to make up the difference will save your team countless hours and headaches.
Cobots are trained by recording points in space - through logging specific conditions that build the logic of a certain job. Once all the steps have been taught to the cobot, it can carry out its task. For jobs that require unique grippers or handling parts, new grippers and tools can be 3D printed or made for the cobot. Even though cobots are serving in the role of automation, their workflow is in the hands of you and your team. Not comfortable with just one master controller? Use several for each part of the process so that you can have the flexibility of updating and controlling just one aspect of the job at hand.
Elias explains that automation is not only useful to your team - it’s attractive to your clients. When customers see that you are trying to keep up with the times, be progressive, and constantly improve, they will be more trusting and impressed by your diligence to keep on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology. The robotics industry is only growing, and those that want to keep up in the Metal Working Nation need to be thinking about how they can be progressive. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for examples of how Elias has used cobotics at EJ Basler and why cobots might need to be the next big step for your business.
Business automation can seem like an intimidating change, but the benefits are massive. Guest speaker, Paul Van Metre - president of Pro Shop ERP, shares how letting go of control can help grow your company and make it vastly more efficient. Automating your systems can help clear up communication, save you and your team energy and time, and help boost your profitability. Change can be daunting, but an automated system is definitely worth the cost.
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Some may think that there are too many barriers to push through to make business automation worth it. Paul explains that people fear what they don’t understand and what they don’t know. While such fear is normal, it shouldn’t keep manufacturing leaders from making the switch. The initial expense and time invested in uploading your company’s data may seem like a shock at first, but the efficiency that comes with automation is incredible. Letting go of control could be the best decision you’ve ever made.
The tools you use to automate your business are crucial to your success. Paul gives some examples of automation, including robots for the machine shop floor, apps, and entire manufacturing eco-systems - such as Pro Shop ERP. Paul shares that his company grew out of the need to solve the problems they faced as a start-up. No one offered the software they needed to automate their systems so that they could stay on top of their game and grow with their clients. Pro Shop ERP is the result of Paul’s team’s hard work and innovation. They wanted a way to tie all the details of their business together into one, centralized system. Paul encourages listeners to not be overwhelmed by the nuances of launching an automated system but to rather focus on the big picture: making chips so that you can make more money.
In every small business, there are going to be people who wear too many hats. Inefficiency isn’t something that growing manufacturing businesses can tolerate for long. Miscommunication, confusion, and extended lead time can all be results of outdated processes and the struggle of having to do everything manually - from customer onboarding to running machinery. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday chaos and not realize what could be easily solved through automation. Excel isn’t always going to cut it for logging your processes and keeping track of customer information and accounting. Before Pro Shop ERP, there was automating software to help with the accounting side of business, but there wasn’t anything that was built from the shop floor perspective. Pro Shop ERP offers that perspective in an automated format so that you can focus on what’s important to the growth of your business.
There are so many details to consider when running a manufacturing business, and tools like Pro Shop ERP help take the busywork out of the picture. Jim shares the improvements made to his company through the implementation of automation.
You can automate your sales process as well as your manufacturing processes. Jim shares that he uses Pro Shop even in the initial “interview” with new customers. Since quality communication is one of the pillars of Carr Machine & Tool, Jim likes to show new customers how well Pro Shop allows them to communicate as a team - both internally as a company and externally with their customers. He can also establish trust and openness by showing new customers the automated breakdown of pricing with Pro Shop so that there is no guesswork when it comes to quoting a price.
While there is a good bit of front-end work with uploading and customizing all of the data for an automated system, the end-product is invaluable to the efficiency of your manufacturing business.
Is your tech stack doing its job? Jim and Jason know how hard it can be to keep all the balls in the air and not become overwhelmed. As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, it is vital that the Metal Working Nation become increasingly efficient - and smarter. Guest speaker, Kaleb Mertz - the integrator and marketing team lead of MakingChips - dives into why and how you need to integrate your tech stack to boost your company’s efficiency and ease the load on you and your employees. Making Chips and making money doesn’t solely rely on the mechanics of the shop floor.
Take further steps to build your techstack and read Kaleb's article at www.makingchips.com/techstack
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Just as software-as-a-service (SaaS) has been used to streamline the software needs of businesses and organizations around the world, Xometry has created the manufacturing-as-a-service (MaaS) platform to serve the pressing needs of the Metal Working Nation. Jim and Jason discuss the inner-workings of Xometry’s impressive success with the vice president of the company, Michael Dickson, in this week’s exciting episode of MakingChips.
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As the largest manufacturing-on-demand platform in the country, Xometry makes parts for over 16,000 customers - including clients such as NASA and BMW. Michael explains that their ability to meet such high demands is because of their instant quoting engine, partner network, and through their online e-commerce site - Xometry Supplies. Michael shares that the passion and drive behind the company is to help manufacturers grow in their own businesses as well as helping the manufacturing industry thrive as a whole.
If you have a part that your shop doesn’t have the capacity to create, what can you do? Michael explains how Xometry’s instant quoting engine works to provide manufacturers and customers with instantaneous answers on how their needs can be met. Uploading a 3D CAD file of the part or project you need manufactured into the system allows the quoting engine to determine when the part or project can be made and delivered and by whom. The system allows users to select the type of tools they want to be used, custom finishings, and what types of inspections they want the project or part verified through. The instant quoting engine then calculates lead time and the deadline for a need. Payment is simple and savable for future orders. When there are extremely specific details needed to complete a project, the system prompts the user to insert PDFs detailing other needs. Xometry sends the orders to the proper manufacturer for completion. Carr Machine & Tool, for instance, could use Xometry in a partnership as a way to extend the business by fulfilling orders offered through Xometry.
Just as Uber doesn’t actually own any cars, but they are still the largest taxiing company in the world, the goal of Xometry is to be the on-demand portal for manufacturing. Their success is derived through their leverage of the workforce capacity provided through their numerous partnerships. Xometry is the coordinating portal of the Metal Working Nation - not the workforce itself. Michael explains that one of the benefits of such a company is that the customer doesn’t have to send out quote requests or conduct research on which manufacturing business is the best for their specific need. Xometry simply takes the order and delivers it to the best partner for that specific job. Because Xometry has built such a solid reputation, people trust the process.
Xometry has about 3,000 partners - including those who make parts and fulfill orders for Xometry and those who order from Xometry. The process to become a partner is an easy one. Anyone can join - once approved - and there is no partnership fee. There is an on-boarding period and a trial period. Once Xometry is satisfied, they will open the business to work within the network. While certifications aren’t required, they are heartily welcomed.
Feedback is one of the main driving factors for improvement of Xometry’s systems. Jason compares the improvement process to that of the housing market. If your house doesn’t sell within a few weeks, perhaps it is priced too high. If it sells in a day, perhaps you could have raised the asking price. It is the same with manufacturing parts. Supply and demand, feedback from customers and partners help Xometry’s instant quoting system to work at optimum capacity.
Michael explains that Xometry is an excellent source of growth for new manufacturing businesses or start-ups. Partnership can help cover the costs of starting a business and help provide a more steady stream of work. The goal of Xometry, after all, is to leverage the manufacturing capabilities in the US and to help their partners make more chips - so that they can make more money and reach their goals. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more about how manufacturing as a service can benefit you and your company!
Step up your machining game by utilizing tools such as trunnion tables and growing your manufacturing business through partnerships with other companies! Jason Zenger and Nick Goellner join Stan Martin - Kentucky entrepreneur and owner of Martin Manufacturing in this inspiring episode of MakingChips. Many call him “Stan the Trunnion Man,” and rightly so. Realizing how much time he and his team were spending handling projects and parts themselves inspired Stan to streamline the trunnion table for optimal performance - for his own shop and for the entire Metal Working Nation.
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Stan says that the reason he found himself and his team in the trunnion table business is because he is a lazy machinist. He knew that manually handling every part was wasting time and energy when it could all be done by a machine. Using CNC machines and trunnion tables, Stan began creating his own product line.
Stan explains that most companies still look at trunnion tables as only useful for certain jobs. While they are standardized to meet the specifications of certain projects and parts, it is rare that a manufacturing business will see a job only once or twice. More likely, they will need the same parts made over and over, increasing the practicality and efficiency of a tool like the trunnion table. Instead of having someone on the shop floor spending their time clamping, unclamping, reversing, and rotating every set of parts, you simply place the material onto the trunnion table and let it do the work for you. The result is a precise, consistent, and perfect job every time.
Stan understands the need to create an atmosphere of support, consistency, and ease for his customers. Instead of going straight to the larger work holding companies, he focused on meeting the needs of job shops first and coming alongside each and every customer. Stan and his team make it a priority to ensure that every customer understands how, when, and where to use their trunnion tables. Some are built to optimize vertical machinery, while others are built to compliment a rotary table. Stan explains that his team goes the extra mile to produce a ready-to-use trunnion table for their customers. If a customer sends them a rotary table, they will put work holding onto the trunnion, mount it, and hand it back to the customer - ready to make chips.
Partnerships not only supply you with the tools, resources, and skills that your own team doesn’t possess - they allows your business to grow. Partnerships can extend to supply chains, manufacturing partnerships, application engineering, sales, and so forth.
Stan believes that partnerships are vital. The only way to grow as a company is to not be selfish. Working with others creates a larger and more diverse pool of ideas and jobs. Collaborative efforts can be an excellent learning and growing experience for everyone involved. Obviously, you want to make sure that whoever you are partnering with is trustworthy and produces consistently excellent work. There should always be honest and open communication.
Stan discusses the need to continually evaluate the processes and tools you are using - and producing - within your business and partnerships. Customers want convenience and excellence, creating a full-time need for assessment and improvement. For Stan’s business, this meant creating standardized kits as well as offering custom lengths on their trunnion tables.
From a small manufacturing business to one of the leading manufacturing companies, Stan and the team at Martin Manufacturing understand the necessity for optimal machining performance, caring customer service, and allowing other companies to partner and spread the knowledge and resources they have to offer.
We often don’t think of a franchise and a manufacturing business as being an easy match, but systematizing your business according to the franchise model can vastly improve the functionality and profitability of your company. Tools such as an ERP system can help you boost efficiency and keep track of everything needed to streamline your business. In this episode, the co-founder and president of ProShop ERP, Paul Van Metre, shares the practical steps to take towards a more refined and systematized set of processes for optimal company performance.
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Paul explains that the goal of modeling your business after a franchise isn’t to become the next Subway or McDonald’s. Instead, the vision is to design a franchise prototype. Creating standardized systems for every process and goal within your company will help you create repeatability and redundancy for every task and will help you pinpoint problems - leading to continual refining. The goal is to have the same and reliable output as a franchise delivers - consistent value, low labor costs, impeccable organization, and documented workflow that produces predictable product.
Whether your company is growing by leaps and bounds or not - establishing systems that streamline your processes and help ground the expectations and values of your business will help take your customer experience and your efficiency to the next level. The goal isn’t to duplicate your business into a thousand perfect replicas. The goal is to run your company in the most efficient and proven method available - with a franchise mindset applied to the small business structure.
What processes do you apply to the franchise model? Paul says that the answer is all of them. Systems like ERP can help minimize the labor involved in documenting your processes for storing fixtures, programming, job descriptions, hiring, training, company expectations, and procedures for making each and every product. Paul explains that one huge step for his company was standardizing jobs. Making sure that every person in your company is following the same procedures creates reliability.
Jim uses the ERP system in his discussions with new clients, allowing them to view the numbers and procedures used to create the products they need. With a standardized system in place, every operation is itemized and trackable. All the details are available in one place - not scattered across different platforms and mediums. Documenting your systems in one location allows for a higher level of professionalism that makes everything black and white for your customers - and for your employees.
Paul explains that you don’t need to create brand new procedures in order to streamline your business. Begin by bringing your team onboard with the mission to document every process you already have in place. It’s a team effort - unless you are a one-man shop. Each individual is going to have specific knowledge that is vital to the tribe. So much more information can be documented with ease when it is all inserted into one place - such as an ERP system. While it may seem daunting at first, it becomes easier the more your team utilizes it. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for Jim’s story of how implementing an ERP system in Carr Machine & Tool helped him keep a clear and focused approach to company growth.
It’s surprising how many steps you can eliminate when you centralize all of your processes and procedures in one location. Eliminating needless or unprofitable steps creates greater efficiency, which leads to greater profitability. It also helps streamline your customer experience so that they know exactly what to expect and are met with quality time after time.
Paul shares the 80/20 rule of profitability. Once you have the systems in place to track the profitability of each product, order, and customer, then you can begin to see the 80/20 rule take place. 80% of profits are derived by 20% of your jobs, and 20% of your jobs cause 80% of your losses. With a systemized process, you can see which jobs are losers and which are profitable. Having a procedure for killing off the losers will help keep your company moving forward and allow for less wasted time and resources.
It’s important to analyze how you define job profitability and how you analyze the urgency of a request within your business. Streamlining your processes and procedures will lead to unearthed problems within your systems. Constant improvement needs to be an understood key-to-success by everyone on the team. Humility and honesty are vital to the improvement of a company, but leaders don’t need to be bogged down and notified of every problem that arises. Know, as a leader, how you will analyze and prioritize what needs to be addressed, when, and by whom. Jason shares his strategy of IDS (Identify, Discuss, and Solve). Encouraging your team to understand why a problem occurred and report it into a centralized system - like ERP - will help minimize the risk of the same problems occurring over and over again. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more insight into why a franchise model may be the next step you should take with your manufacturing business.
Excellent customer experience is vital to the success of your manufacturing business, and marketing automation solutions can help you not only sell your business but maintain your customer base as well. In this episode of MakingChips, Jim and Jason discuss the importance of utilizing marketing automation correctly with B2B consultant and advisor, Todd Hockenberry. Author of Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles and host of “The Industrial Executive Podcast,” Todd shares how to customize your marketing automation to your customers and how to map customer behavior so that you can provide the best service to each individual.
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“Marketing automation is using technology to facilitate conversations so that you can build relationships.” Todd explains that it all begins with the conversation between you and the customer. Many businesses aren’t even aware that the conversation is happening - how a customer found the business, what they were looking for, if or how they found the solution to their needs, and how they interacted with the people and media of the business. Without some type of automation system in place, you won’t be able to map out the journey that your customer is taking - and how you can best meet their needs.
The role of the salesman is changing in the fast-paced world that we live in. Automated marketing is a necessity, and it is extremely powerful - if done well. Just as no one has time to invite a salesman in to talk and show off a product, no one has time to participate in poor marketing. Todd encourages marketers to consider whether the tools they are using are achieving the results that they want. Email, free downloads, and website forms have all been automation staples of the past, but they aren’t effective at speaking to the customer. Emails go unopened, downloads go unread. Marketing isn’t about how you want to communicate with the buyer. It’s about how the buyer wants to communicate with you. Familiarizing yourself with how the buyer acts and what they want can help you better serve them.
Everyone processes information differently. Some people absorb a message better audibly, visually, or through actual hands-on experience. Your automated marketing strategy must take this into consideration and be customizable to the buyer. Todd explains that he uses a myriad of mediums to relay a message and provide opportunity for conversation. Personalized video messages, pop-up chat boxes, marketing personnel available to answer phone calls, texts, and emails are all ways to make that personal connection with the customer.
The key is to make sure that your customer needs are being met. Automated chat-boxes - or chat-bots - are a useful tool, if handled correctly. If customer questions are being answered then all is well, but if they aren’t being answered, how long does it take for the customer to reach an actual sales rep? Immediacy is vital in our fast-paced world of communication. If you do provide a phone number, make sure that there is actually someone there to answer it. Time is money, and people don’t want to wait for information. Todd gives some excellent insight into the importance of immediate gratification when it comes to your customer, so be sure to listen to the entire episode!
Mapping out the journey of your customer is an extremely helpful step in understanding how to best serve them. Match technology with the needs of your customer - don’t just go shopping for technology and implement it into your systems without knowing if it is what your customers need to better communicate with you and vice versa. People want a seamless, helpful experience that helps them achieve their goals. Being able to track what an individual has downloaded, what they have clicked on or opened in your website or emails, and what mediums they have used to contact you - if any - are all part of the map that helps you locate what to improve in your marketing system.
People want to see themselves when they go onto your website - but you also want to see your business values in your customer. All relationships are two-way, and Jim and Jason understand the importance of aligning company values with the customer for an excellent, long-term relationship.
Jim, for example, has set up filters that keep those he may not want to work with at bay. He doesn’t list his available machinery on his website - instead, he promotes the core values of his company and highlights what makes Carr Machine & Tool unique. His goal is to get people into a conversation with someone on his team as quickly as possible - whether that be through a chat-box, email, or phone call so that the relationship is built before anything is sold.
While there are numerous tools out there to help you track and map customer behaviors, you don’t need every bell and whistle to get started. HubSpot is a favorite of Todd, Jim, and Jason. Automated marketing is a continuous task, needing a high level of attention. HubSpot helps cut back on time spent logging information and allows you to see what each website visitor is clicking on, if they signed up for a newsletter, or if they have opened an email once, never, or several times. Being able to see what a customer is interested in will allow you to better market to them so that they are given only what they need.
CRM systems are also extremely helpful in building the relationship between you and the buyer. Don’t just use CRM systems as a place to drop email addresses to send automated messages to. Know the behavior of a person and send them the automated message that will speak to them personally. Keeping track of previous customers is another helpful aspect of a CRM system. If someone who bought your product a year ago is on your website again, then you know to reach out to them and update them on the latest and greatest that your company has to offer.
Jason and Jim both felt the need to fight against the perspective of nepotism within their family manufacturing businesses by proving their merit within their respective companies. Growing up in the family business had its perks, but it also came with the need to overcome the stigma that they were successful simply because of their bloodline. There was a lot to prove - to both themselves and others as they mastered the manufacturing business and took on greater leadership and responsibility. Guest speaker, Dietmar Goellner - Nick Goellner’s father - shares his own experience and insight into keeping nepotism out of the family business, while also mentoring his three sons within the company.
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Dietmar grew up saturated in the heart and soul of manufacturing. His father immigrated from Germany in 1958 and founded Advanced Machine & Engineering (AME) in 1966. Dietmar is now the president, CEO, and co-owner of AME - as well as the president and CEO of Henning Inc. Dietmar was raised to become the next leader within his father’s manufacturing business, but he himself has taken a different approach with his own sons. Dietmar approaches the family business as a business - putting the needs of the company and team ahead of any desire to put a family member in a job where they may not need to be.
“Being in the family might get you a job, but it won’t keep you a job,” he says. Having a managerial role in the company with shareholding and voting rights is earned by merit alone. It’s not a birthright. Dietmar never pushed his kids to follow his footsteps in the family business, but when one by one they said they were interested in pursuing their careers within the company, he took them in and placed them where the company needed them most.
Each of his three sons joined the family business with unique talents, skills, and passions. Dietmar recognized this and placed them strategically within the company - where their aptitude met their passion and the need of the business. The needs of the company must be met - and that should come above the wishes of any individual. Treat the business like a business.
It is easy to micromanage any team - but especially a team made up of family members. Dietmar discusses the importance of fighting against the micromanagement of family members within the company. Coaching and mentoring are far more productive and impactful methods of training. Dietmar warns against ever forcing or coercing a person into a position that they either aren’t wired to take over or don’t even want in the first place. Not all family members who want a part in the business are going to want a leadership role.
Mentoring begins with assimilation. Dietmar explains that with his sons, he explained the opportunity to be had by joining the company, but he also explained that they had to earn the right to vote and own shares. He did, however, include them in board meetings so that they could watch and learn what would be expected of them in the future. He also explained the importance of allowing family members to make mistakes and allowing for communication to be two-way. Whether you are the mentor or the one being mentored, you have a responsibility to communicate well. For Jim, that meant booking his dad’s schedule with a time-slot just for the two of them to go out and get martinis together and discuss business needs. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more great insight into what mentoring and coaching the next generation looks like and how to keep from micromanaging your business.
Core values are a key component of any company’s foundation. Dietmar encourages family businesses to communicate their stance against nepotism through their core values - and the determination to stick by them. At AME, the core value of servant leadership is vital. Anyone not displaying the humility that comes through leading by example is not considered for a place within the business - whether they are family or not.
Arrogance and ignorance are two attributes that Dietmar doesn’t allow on the manufacturing floor. While he recognizes that everyone has flaws and that no one is perfect, he understands the importance of a humble and knowledgeable leader. When considering whether to promote someone - whether family or not - he looks to see whether the individual embodies the characteristics of a servant leader and also displays the manufacturing skills necessary to take the business to the next level.
Dietmar explains that another aspect of a successful and healthy family relationship within a family business is respect. He warns against losing respect for one another over business issues and by not treating each other with professionalism in the workplace. Yes, you are family, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with disrespecting one another.
Having professionals come onto the board to help navigate succession plans and other business dynamics is hugely helpful. Dietmar suggests having an excellent attorney on board to ensure that you are getting it right when it comes to the details. Beginning the conversation early with family members about how the succession plan will work for the family business is important.
Dietmar reminds listeners that arguments and misunderstandings will occur during the succession planning process. Be okay with that. Go in knowing that there will be miscommunication. Hold everything loosely and operate under grace. Be able to ask for forgiveness and forgive. Building a strong family connection while also making the right decisions for the future of the company can be difficult. Dietmar suggests that if there isn’t someone in the family who wants to take on the business, then look within the company for someone passionate and capable who does want the responsibility. Open communication and honesty should be the foundation of any succession planning.
Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more helpful pointers on how to navigate the ups and downs of working with family in the family manufacturing business and how to keep nepotism at bay.
Jim and Jason both know the importance of fostering a great company culture within their businesses. Knowing where to begin and how to accomplish a thriving culture, however, can be daunting. In this insightful episode of MakingChips, Jim shares his personal experience building a company culture that won Carr Machine & Tool the Spark Award for Culture and Workforce Development.
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When your team embraces the core values of your company, the result is hugely impactful. Jim and Jason have both discovered that when manufacturing leaders take the time to pour into their team and employees, more is accomplished and business goals are not only met, but exceeded. Your people matter, and how you communicate the mission of your company to them is key. Jim explains that learning to listen to your employees and making structured room for conversation is the foundation for company culture success. The core values of your company should be honed down to just a few. They should act as the internal compass of your business and be the why behind what you do. When your people are united behind a common set of core values and know that they are each valued and have a voice, making chips becomes that much easier.
Every business should have a stated mission and vision. Jim took those building blocks and presented them to his team - with a twist. He sat down with his team and asked them what their mantra and motivation was. What was their why? He wanted to know what it was that inspired and motivated his employees to get out of bed every morning and come to work at Carr Machine & Tool. The process offered powerful insight that gave Jim the tools he needed to communicate effectively with his team and understand his employees on a deeper level.
Jim knew that not everyone would have the same why and not everyone would understand what the company does in the same way. Jim explains that people’s answers change over time as well. For instance, not everyone on his team had the same answer for how the business actually made money. Jim encouraged his team to voice their differing perspectives so that he could better understand what areas he needed to clarify and unify his team. Structured round table discussions and reviews of the company’s goals, structure, and mantra help Jim keep a pulse on the health and vision of his company culture.
Fostering a company culture where success is celebrated and failures can be discussed are aspects of investing in his employees that Jim deeply cares about. Group and individual successes should be noticed and celebrated, he explains. He also wants his employees to understand that mistakes will happen - and that is okay as long as everyone can learn something from them. “No one is perfect,” he says, and the culture he has built is one where everyone knows that someone else has their back when something goes wrong.
Having fun together is also an important part of the company culture at Carr Machine & Tool. Jim organizes field trips for his team to conferences, IMTS, or group BBQs. Learning together and sharing a relaxed drink together helps build community.
For Jim, the emotional and physical health of his employees is vital. He explains that when your people are healthy, they will be able to put forward their best effort. As a leader, he fosters emotional health by talking with his employees and encouraging open discussion. Sharing is key. As for the physical, Jim likes to supply healthy food options to his team throughout the day.
For more tips on how to build up your people and create a thriving company culture, listen to the entire episode!
Growing a company culture takes time. Jim utilizes professionals in the areas that he needs help. He organizes standups with financial advisors and makes sure that his team understands the systems, investments, and decisions that the company is making. Uniting his team behind common knowledge of the company’s net profits and sales keeps any guesswork at bay, and taking the time to discuss hiring decisions as a team helps build trust and unity.
But where do you start? Jim encourages manufacturing leaders to simply begin the conversation with team members and employees. Giving your people the opportunity to speak and share is the perfect starting point. Structured dialogue can help foster a thriving culture while also keeping the focus on core values and business growth. “Everyone has a voice,” Jim explains, “and every voice is valuable.” As a leader, stay true to the decisions you make, limit distractions, and make it clear to your people that you are invested in them. Listen to the full episode for more tips on how you can set the example to your company and keep the culture thriving.
Knowing when to start the conversation about family business succession planning can be tough. Jim and Jason understand that the dialogue surrounding the family business can be hard as it is - without throwing in who is getting what and when. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim and Jason share their personal experiences as well as some insightful tips to help the manufacturing leaders of the Metal Working Nation get the ball rolling and keep the business growing.
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While bringing up succession is uncomfortable, it is important to start planning as early as possible. The earlier you begin the dialogue, the better. Jim shares that he knew the conversation needed to be brought up with his dad when he realized that the woman his father was dating at the time may have ended up being his stepmother - and an inheritor of all he had worked hard to maintain and create in the family manufacturing business. Family situations can get sticky, which is why it is vital to start now. Navigating all the discussions that need to take place, the legal issues, and the development of a practical, workable plan can take time. For Jim, it took several years from the time he began the conversation with his father to the time everything was legally settled on paper.
Jason shares that while his family situation wasn’t as difficult as Jim’s, his dad still realized the necessity to begin succession planning early in case of unforeseen or unfortunate events. It isn’t only about settling who gets what and when - it is also about preserving the future of the business.
Jim knew that he didn’t want the amount of effort and energy he was putting into the family business to go to waste. It is important to understand and be honest with your family members about who has the greatest or equal interest in pursuing the future of the company and who is best equipped to handle the financial ups and downs. Jim shares that he didn’t want the business to be pulled out from under him by someone else when he was the one that had put the greatest amount of effort into the company and knew that was where his passion lay.
Similarly, Jason shares that while he and his sister both owned shares in the family business, Jason and his wife had sustainable future plans for the company and held a greater level of interest in its growth. Both Jim and Jason walked through the succession planning journey with their families, taking into consideration that it would be difficult and at least a little bit painful for everyone involved. The priority, however, always had to be the success of the business. Listen to the entire episode for details on how Jason and Jim helped their families walk the path of succession planning to cohesive decision-making.
Jim stresses the importance of seeking professional help when building a family business succession plan. Understanding which appraisals matter for tax purposes, payment plans, and divvying shares is vital. While conversations can create plans that seem doable, having everything put into a binding, written agreement is key. Having a business appraiser, attorney, and corporate account present can help you and your family make sense of everything involved and what needs to be done to make your succession plan a reality.
Jason explains the importance of understanding the fine print. You and your family probably won’t come to complete agreement on the first draft of the succession plan. Is what is being handed to you what everyone needs? Jason knew he didn’t want to be handcuffed in any way when he took over ownership of the family business, and so further work had to be done on the succession plan before he and everyone else was content with moving forward.
Get the conversation going - no matter what. Yes, it can be uncomfortable - whether you are the one giving everything away or the one receiving. Yes, it can give rise to rifts and pains that no-one in the family will want to feel. Jim and Jason stress, however, that the longer you wait, the worse it gets. They suggest networking with peers that may be going through the same thing and collecting thoughts and ideas on how to navigate the succession waters so that you don’t drown when you go in to start the conversation. The important thing to remember is that you do not want something such as succession planning to be a looming impediment to your family business. The growth and success of your business should always remain at the forefront. Because if you aren’t making chips - you aren’t making money.
Specific skills and savvy are needed to succeed in the manufacturing world, making a manufacturing startup difficult to achieve. Brandon Kane, however, knew he wanted hands-on work that made a difference in the world and began his own shop in the garage with his dad, Mike. Together, they have transformed a dream into reality through hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim Carr and Nick Goellner explore what makes or breaks startup business endeavors and what we can learn from Brandon’s entrepreneurial spirit.
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Entrepreneurship has many benefits. Most small business owners were inspired to create their own startup from a desire to work for themselves and be their own boss. Others had a passion they wanted to share with the world. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most startups don’t make it past their first couple of years. Jim and Nick share some surprising startup trends from the past few years. Most small business owners, for instance, are 50-59 years old - not young college graduates. The funding to start a business is often taken from the founder’s personal savings account, and family is usually a strong source of continued funding for the initial months of a small business. Learn more about the interesting statistics of startup businesses by listening to the entire episode!
Manufacturing is often seen as an industry that has a hard time inspiring the younger generation to follow in its footsteps and pave the way for the future. Brandon Kane, however, grew up watching his dad work in the manufacturing industry and fell in love with “hands-on” work. He attended a technical high school, learning skills that would help him late on when he decided to begin a manufacturing startup with his dad in their garage.
Brandon’s dad, Mike, settled into his role as the visionary of the business - having seen needs in the industry that weren’t being met by the larger corporations and companies. While time is money, there should always be excellence in production, and Mike felt that smaller orders weren’t being met properly by the larger businesses. Mike helped Brandon begin a small business - Manufacturing Solutions - that saw a need and began filling it.
Brandon’s love of design led him to experiment with CAM software on their first machines, creating a trigger for a firearm they use for hobby target practice. From there, the designs became more complex, and Brandon’s knowledge of software grew to produce prototypes, and he became more comfortable with different tool paths and CNC machines.
Jim and Mike talk about the differences in the ways that they learned manufacturing skills as opposed to how the younger generation - such as Brandon - have picked up the skills needed to succeed. While it used to be popular to learn through hands-on experience with the machines themselves - learning to feel and listen to the tone of a machine and metal to determine whether or not the design would come out - Brandon learned through CAD-CAM software first. He and Mike purchased a video series on how to work the tools with the software, but much of the learning was done through experimentation and from mistakes made along the way.
Mike explains that in a startup, you learn a lot through failure. He talks about the edge that modern technology can give a manufacturing startup by providing new software that can optimize a CNC machine to produce quality parts every time with a well-built design. Probing systems have also taken much of the guesswork out of machining, allowing for a more consistent product.
While there are many differences in the ways Mike and Brandon have learned the industry, they are united through the passion to produce quality products to fulfill a need and to inspire a positive atmosphere among manufacturing leaders. Much of their business's marketing has been done through word-of-mouth and through maintaining a strong social media presence on Instagram. Brandon loves sharing his day-to-day life with others, hoping that his business will inspire others to launch into their dreams with determination and hard work.
Realistic benchmarks are important to any business, and Mike and Brandon have built theirs around practical goals. They both know that they would prefer not to compete with large, corporate companies and have tried to maintain steady growth without growing too big too fast. Mike wants to hire another employee with the same passion for learning and sharing the manufacturing industry. Brandon wants to become a bigger influence on social media and hopefully begin coaching others while also building the business he and his father have built. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for the rest of the inspiring story of a manufacturing startup done right.
Life often gets crazy busy, and it can be hard to fight the stress that easily sneaks in and overwhelms the everyday. Jason and Jim unpack the causes of major stress and give practical insight and tactics for overcoming the stresses that keep leaders from performing at their very best. Speaking from personal experience, these two manufacturing leaders share their personal tools and explore the need to prioritize your priorities.
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Stress can come in quietly and pile up quickly. Life changes, bad news, distractions, and inefficient processes are only a few ways stress can overtake your work, family, and life. Businesses grow, teams expand, and life gets busy! Jason talks about a time when stressful business news impacted his health. Stress not only affects how you view and approach work, but it also affects your health, relationships, and effectiveness as a leader.
Understanding why you are stressed is the first step. The connectedness of the modern business world is one major cause of stress for many industry leaders. Technology has created the opportunity to be connected to everything and everyone at all times. Overstimulation can lead to incredible amounts of stress because there is never time to simply turn off and relax. How do you overcome the limitations of stress-induced scars and build a life of minimal distraction? Be sure to listen to the entire episode!
Jason and Jim share some of their personal tools for combating the stresses that permeate all of life - from work to family. Exercise, essential oils, writing out thoughts in short notes or lists, spending time with loved ones and friends, and taking the time to relax and laugh can all help reduce stress. Even spending time with a pet or taking the time to relax and drink a glass of wine at night can help mitigate the constant stimulation that your mind lives in throughout the workday. But what steps can you take to cut stress in the bud and mitigate its presence at work and as a leader? Jason shares seven tools for doing just that.
(7) Turn off notifications on your phone! It is easy to get caught up in group chats or conversations that could be had later or under better circumstances. Jason shares that he only leaves notifications on for family and team members vital to his current work. Otherwise, the conversation can wait.
(6) Use your calendar to plan ahead. Book out the next couple weeks so that you know what to expect and where you need to be and what you need to get accomplished. Knowing your calendar can also keep you from overbooking yourself. Have a plan and write it out ahead of time. Jim and Jason have also learned to be careful with which calendar invites to accept.
(5) Say “No” often. As a leader, you have a choice as to what processes, meetings, and jobs you need to be a part of. Know where to delegate and where to partake and be honest about how much time you have available for jobs and meetings that could be run and accomplished by someone else. Take responsibility where needed, but don’t overextend.
Jason and Jim explore tactics for fighting stress that require you, as the leader, to take a step back and take the time to dwell in objective observation. It is easy to become comfortable in the status-quo and not realize that things need to be changed. Jason and Jim share the following tools for creating that efficient and life-giving environment.
(4) Align yourself with great partners. Being willing to delegate the jobs that someone else can accomplish better than yourself is vital. Who on your team knows more than you about a specific job, or who do you know that has expertise where you don’t? Who has more time to give to a project? By delegating to the right people, you can grow your business by ensuring that everyone is giving their best work in their best arenas.
(3) Create a routine for yourself. Habits and a normalized routine can help keep the guesswork out of the workplace. Setting aside the time to accomplish what needs to be done while also creating space for creative work can help keep your day moving steadily forward.
(2) Take time to reflect on whether or not you have the right people in the right seats. Are your team members able to give their best in their current positions? Being willing to take a step back and observe whether or not a person, project, or conversation need to move forward as they are can be helpful. By simply moving a team member to a different position or by eliminating a project, you can create a more efficient path ahead for your business.
(1) Focus on the “ultra” important. Distractions can take away the energy and time you need to be channeling into what is truly important to you, the team, and your business. Being willing to utilize the tools above can help keep you from giving in to the distractions that riddle everyday life.
Prioritizing can be difficult - especially when you have so many vital priorities as a leader. The last tool Jason and Jim discuss is the need to focus. Jim explains the need for a leader to be flexible in his priorities for the day while not losing sight of the ultimate goal. Your checklist of to-dos will change throughout the day, and that is okay. What really matters is whether or not you are accomplishing the ultra important and moving steadily along the path to your personal and business goals. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for a more in-depth look at the tools and tactics listed above.
Everyone is different and will utilize unique stress-fighting tactics to overcome obstacles and distractions and create a healthy lifestyle. Taking the time to create in yourself the focus and endurance to combat stress will enable you to be a better leader. The important thing to remember is that, “If you're not making chips, you're not making money. And if you're too stressed, you're not making chips.”
LinkedIn expert, Wayne Breitbarth, is back with more excellent insight into LinkedIn strategies to promote and grow your manufacturing business! Jim and Jason ask the hard questions about the worth of a premium account, when and how to say no to offending taggers and salesmen, and when, where, and how to post the good stuff. Be sure to listen the whole way through for all the tips and tricks to boost your business and put you on the leading edge of the manufacturing industry!
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Is a premium account worth the cash? Wayne shares a helpful gauge to determine if it’s time for you or your business to bite the bullet for premium benefits. If you are running into what Wayne calls the “free wall,” then it’s time to pay. If trying to keep up with who has been viewing your profile is taking up all your spare time, then you may want to consider going premium. With the upgraded account, you can see the past 90 days of profile “stalkers.” Being able to go back and see who has been visiting your profile will help you determine who to reach out to and build relationship with.
Another way to tell if it’s time for that premium account is if you are maxing out your search allowance for the month. A premium account will give you a wider berth for searching out the perfect people to build your business and professional alliances. Wayne suggests the “Sales Navigator/Professional” premium setting as the perfect “rocket-ship” to carry your profile to the next level.
Jim and Wayne both get frustrated and feel offended when someone tags them in posts that have nothing to do with them. Some people use tagging as a sales tactic to take advantage of others’ many followers. Wayne suggests that if this happens to you, untag yourself from the post. If it happens again with the same instigator, direct message that person, and politely - but firmly - ask them to stop. If it still continues, disconnect with that person.
How do you respond when someone sends a connection request and within minutes of you accepting, direct messages you trying to sell you something? If there isn’t any effort being made to build relationship with you first, Wayne suggests disconnecting with that person. Learn why building relationship is important in establishing credibility before a sale and why pre-canned, automated systems aren’t the best tactic by listening to the whole episode!
Earlier in LinkedIn’s history, one could post an article, and all of that person’s connections would be notified that an article had been posted. Articles, however, aren’t as profound as they used to be. Wayne explains that the tactic originally worked because LinkedIn was trying to garner quality material within its platform. Over time, however, people began cutting corners on the quality of their articles and began only posting a sentence from a blog post or a small paragraph. LinkedIn pulled back from the promotion of articles as the material deteriorated in quality.
While it is important to include your latest blog posts and articles on your profile, make sure that your writing is of high quality. People viewing your profile will want to see professionalism throughout your material - including your writing. Excellent writing builds credibility. Wayne encourages the strategy of re-sharing articles that may be a month old and didn’t receive the attention it deserved.
What does a view or impression mean? Unfortunately, they aren’t as big of a deal as some might wish. Wayne explains that an impression or view is essentially someone sweeping by your post but not actually looking at it. The activity to get excited about is comments. Making sure you are active on your posts and promoting conversation is also helpful. A response to others on your own post still counts as activity that will help broadcast your post to even more connections.
Personal pages are often more powerful than company pages because of the greater number of connections often found on personal pages. While posting on both will help generate greater activity, Wayne encourages users to focus their energy on their personal page. For more insight and tips on how to create the best content and broadcast it to the greatest number of connections, listen to the whole episode! Growing your business through LinkedIn isn’t as hard as you think.
Gaining LinkedIn success is not as difficult as some may think. Utilizing the world’s largest database of professionals is key to marketing your manufacturing business and rising as a leader in the industry. Guest speaker, Wayne Breitbarth, is a LinkedIn trainer and shares his strategies and insights into the powerhouse of LinkedIn and how manufacturing leaders can effectively connect with other leaders, share their businesses, and expand their reach.
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LinkedIn is the largest database of professionals and business leaders that is available. As business leaders, LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can be used to market businesses, find competent employees, and connect with other influential industry leaders. An exuberant amount of time isn’t needed to establish yourself and your business on LinkedIn. Wayne explains that it is all about strategizing the processes and systems available on the platform and focusing on what matters to you and your company.
The essence of LinkedIn is not only found in the opportunities of such a large database but in the opportunity to form relationships. Relationships are the foundation of any successful business venture. Wayne describes what your relationship status may look like on LinkedIn depending on the size and purpose of your company. Sometimes more is truly more, and sometimes it’s not. If you are selling a book or trying to reach a wide audience with a new podcast release, then you may want to accept all those connections with people you may not know. If your business belongs in a more niche atmosphere, then your number of connections may be smaller - and that’s okay. It is important to understand, however, that the search engine algorithms that rule LinkedIn like to see a large connection base. Wayne suggests creating a social media atmosphere on LinkedIn that is saturated with the people of your industry, whether that be followers, customers, or other leading manufacturers. To learn more about how to create and maintain effective relationships, listen to the whole episode!
Succeeding with your LinkedIn profile can be achieved through strategizing the tools that LinkedIn offers. Keyword optimization is a large part of making yourself known and finding the people you need to help grow your business. Include specific terminology in your headline, stories, and description. Stay away from broad terms such as “strategy” in your skill-set and include specified terms such as “Podcast Host.” Show off your unique professionalism and offerings.
Your skill-set can be utilized through endorsements and recommendations. Search engines love using your list of skills as keywords. Make sure they reflect what you want to be known for. Wayne explains that recommendations and endorsements are gifts to you. Use them in business proposals and when sharing your business with others.
Posting can be a confusing tool, but Wayne explains that success in posting is all about velocity. Tagging relevant people in your post will expand its reach. Be careful to not “spam” others with overabundant tagging, but instead talk with the people you plan to tag and explain that it is a strategy to help promote and grow the business. Velocity is gained through initializing and promoting activity on your posts. Use hashtags and comment on a post that someone else tags you in to begin a conversation. LinkedIn algorithms look for how fast your post is being responded to and how much activity is being generated by your post. The more activity the better.
Beginning a profile or revamping a stagnant one isn’t hard! Begin by understanding your audience. Who are you writing and creating your profile for? Headlines should be short but descriptive. If you have five jobs, then list all of them in your headline and title. Create stories that are relevant and captivating when describing your job positions. Ask yourself, “How can my job experiences benefit others?” Promote your strengths and don’t be shy about creating an eye-catching profile. For more insight into what makes a great LinkedIn profile, listen to the entire episode!
Having the best workholding system is just as key as having the best tools! Jim Carr and Jason Zenger know the importance of keeping up with the game as manufacturing leaders. Growing up working the shop floor, guest speaker, Alvin Goellner, is the Business Development Leader of North America at Amrok Workholding. In this episode of MakingChips, he shares the latest trends in workholding systems and why you need to implement them for optimal efficiency and quality performance in your manufacturing business.
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The workholding process is all about how rigid you can make your setup - creating a solid foundation that will hold your material for optimal performance. Without a steady and rigid workholding system, your process will be riddled with chatter, less tolerance, and damaging vibration. While it is less of an investment to just keep upgrading your cutting and milling tools, it is still key to keep your workholding system up-to-date. The way your tool and materials are being held is vital to the outcome of the end-product. The workholding system must be rigid, robust, and competent at holding your material and efficient at resizing and holding different projects. Alvin explains that you can own the best cutting tools in the world, but without a competent workholding system, your product will not be the best on the market.
Alvin explains that over the years, he visited different manufacturing shops and studied the varying methods and machining solutions to the workholding process. He then went back to his own company - Amrok - and built the workholding systems that solved the problems he had found in his travels. The result was the 2-inch grid system, which has become an industry standard. While there used to be odd-sized grid systems with varying sized plates, Alvin found that most products can fit into the 2-inch grid plate. An incredibly efficient system, the hardened bushing, lock-tightened, slip fitted grid retains center distance tolerance because of its minimal clearance. 2-inch sub-plates are the common sub-plate, which allows for efficient adjustment of the numbers for varying projects. To learn more about the efficient and customizable applications of the 2-inch grid system, listen to the entire episode!
When projects become large a TRIAG modular vise system is the most efficient. With modular clamps that can fit almost any shape, the system boasts serrated base rails that mount on a standard, 2-inch grid and locate with dowel screws. This system enables the spindle to keep moving, thereby creating a more efficient process. The modular components can be loosened in seconds, and you don’t have to spend time indicating because of the dowel screw location. Listen to the full episode for more information on how the TRIAG modular vise system works and why it improves overall performance.
With so many options available on the current market, Alvin supplies three workholding systems that will instantly improve efficiency in the shop. First, optimize your foundation. Implementing a 2-inch grid system enables you to work with a lot of different system types, tools, and materials. Second, hydraulic, dedicated fixtures that automatically fit the part with a flip of the switch will save you time and energy. Third, introducing a low mix, high volume TRIAG system to your shop floor will prove invaluable. Center-less vises that mount on a rail are lighter and more efficient. Alvin explains that if you need to move from one sized part to another, the application is easy and fast, allowing you to produce more chips and earn more money.
The team at MakingChips knows how important it is for the Metalworking Nation to optimize efficiency and productivity. Having the right tools for the job is at the foundation of a leading manufacturing business. Guest speaker, Tom Senger, gives the run-down on the latest and greatest tools to utilize on the shop floor. Tom is the manager of the Vending, Integration, and Productivity (VIP) program at Zenger’s. Helping customers integrate new operations, realize new levels of productivity, and bring in greater revenue is his specialty. Manufacturing runs in his blood, and he understands what tools to use to get the job done.
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The tools you use can make or break the impact of your manufacturing business. Hosts Jim Carr and Jason Zenger know you need to be making chips. Being on the cutting edge of cutting tools is imperative to saving money. Tom gives several suggestions for what tools to use for what job and explains that several improvements are being made throughout the manufacturing tool spectrum. Consistency is one of them.
Small diameter, multifunctioning drilling tools have seen huge improvements in all-around consistency. It’s no longer the case that you need specialized tools for each part of the job. Not only do multi-functional drilling tools save you a ton of space in your collection storage, but they also get the job done with consistent quality and efficiency. Invest in one tool that can serve multiple functions.
Coolant through is being implemented across the tool board. This quality helps reduce wear and tear on your drill bits, improves lubricity, and saves you time and money on maintenance, especially with solid carbide spindles and bits. It also improves consistency. Tom shares about some of the utilization of coolant through on the shop floor.
Flat-bottom drills are excellent because they don’t have to be followed up by an end mill. They have replaceable tips and a myriad of products that you can place on the high-speed, coolant through, steel body. The flexibility of this tool enables you to save on carbide costs, and it is incredibly precise with diameters down to a millimeter and a half.
Coolant through is also improving the performance of turning and cutting tools, cut-off and groove tools, and milling tools. Fast and high-speed milling tools are seeing smaller diameters, indexable end mills, and dynamic milling processes with the help of CAD CAM software. Different high feed cutters are being utilized to create more corners, even up to 6, 12, and 16 corners with repeatable functions. Turning and cutting tools are being improved with higher feeds and a greater depth of cut. The coolant through allows for less load on the spindle. It’s much the same story with cut-off and groove tools. Tom explains that the coolant through allows for a cooler cutting zone, cutting the cutting time by almost half.
Be sure to listen to the full episode for all the details on how and why these improved tools need to become your next investment!
As Tom points out, coating is king. Products and tools are no longer simply coated in a layer of tin. Now, there are several layers of different materials being applied for improved performance. Post-treatment coating is especially valuable, coming over the top insert and applying a clear, shining, polished surface. The polish protects and preserves carbide function and strength, improving the shelf-life of the tool up to 25%.
Tolerancing is also an obvious ingredient of a great tool. Improved molding technology paired with coolant through enables tools such as the solid carbide spindle coolant drill to function with consistent quality up to a thousand repeatability.
Carbide is expensive, and the more you can save on the life of your carbide tools and bits, the better. Solid carbide end mills have been a staple, but Tom explains that many are moving away from solid carbide and choosing steel shanks instead. Different types of end mill heads can be applied to the shank, and many of them have been made smaller for improved performance. Investing in coolant through applications and the right coating can have a huge, positive impact on the shelf-life of your carbide collection, allowing you to work harder, longer, and better without the constant maintenance costs.
For more insight into the latest cutting tool trends, be sure to listen to the entire episode!
Understanding how to create an employee development plan can be difficult if your company is not striving towards constant improvement. Guest speaker Jess Giudici is back with the MakingChips team to discuss the importance of taking the time to focus on each employee’s goals and dreams and how to foster alignment between their goals and your company’s vision. Developing your team can help you better understand why people leave your company and why they stay. Listen to this episode for insightful advice on how to best strategize your development plan and build an ever-improving team!
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While a lot of people look at employee development as getting someone to the next level or role in a company, Jess encourages business leaders to view their development plan as a tool to foster continual growth in the individual. A good strategy is to diversify the development process. Don’t make your development plan entirely made up of formal meetings between you and the employee. While you should have planned discussions with documented goals and deadlines to meet those goals, you should also make an effort to informally engage in conversation on the floor. Learn about who they are and what they want from life, from work, from their skill-set. Jim and Jess agree that having a standard set of questions and procedures as a base to employee development is an excellent place to start - but allow space in the personal conversations you have as well. Documenting the conversations you have can help clarify future meetings, goal-making, and accountability.
Each person is unique and will be motivated in different ways. The goal should be to align the skills that a person is motivated to learn and their aspirations with the goals and vision of the company. Ask your employees what they are passionate about. Ask what they find challenging in work and how you can help them overcome those challenges.
What if someone doesn’t want to “move up the ladder” and take on leadership? Jess says that such an answer is perfectly okay - as long as your company can sustain the current position. The goal is to engage with your employees and make sure that they are feeling fulfilled in their positions.
Annual reviews are often a combination of performance review and pay review. Jess suggests that the two be separated and discussed independently of one another. While the pay may be influenced by performance, excellent performance doesn’t always mean a raise in salary. The focus should be on the employee, not the pay. This elevates the importance of performance and sends the message that you care about how the employee is doing and feeling in his or her job.
When dealing with individuals who feel they should be paid more while being allowed to stay in their current skill-set and position, Jess encourages company leaders to be frank and honest about the company’s expectations and salary caps. Supporting your employees is key, but be clear about the policies. Listen to the entire episode for more advice on how to evaluate your employee performance and foster a thriving company culture!
Understanding and evaluating retention and attrition can be confusing. Jess explains that employees leave for a wide variety of reasons, and you shouldn’t be surprised when you hear that someone is leaving your team. If you are surprised, then something probably went wrong in the development process. You should be self-evaluating your company’s processes to make sure you are doing your best at developing your employees and the company’s goals. Jess suggests having interviews with people who are leaving - as well as with people who love their work and want to stay long-term. Understanding why people want to stay can help you understand why some people may not be a good fit and want to go.
Creating a company culture where everyone has a voice is vital to a thriving and happy atmosphere and excellent work ethic. Jason points out that a great culture comes from truly loving and caring about the business and the people who work it. Jess reminds leaders to understand who they are as an employer and to take the time to understand their employees’ voice.
Streamlining and optimizing your company’s hiring and onboarding processes can be difficult and sometimes daunting. Hosts Jim Carr and Jason Zenger bring helpful and common questions to the table with guest speaker Jessica Giudici - manager of organizational development at Smalley. Jess gives practical and engaging advice on how to approach your hiring process and create efficient, job-unique procedures for finding the best individuals for your company’s needs. Learn how staying true to your company’s vision and values can help save you time in the hiring process on this episode of the MakingChips podcast!
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Where should manufacturing leaders start when assessing their company’s hiring process? Jess emphasizes that understanding who you are as a company is key. Branding isn’t just something that you talk about with the marketing team; who you are should permeate everything you do, including hiring and onboarding. Identify and establish who you are as an employer. What is your commitment to your employees and team members? Jess explains that when you understand who you are as a company and employer, it helps narrow down who you want to join your team and who will make a good fit.
Recognizing your identity is just the first step. The next is understanding who your audience is when marketing an open position. A cookie cutter approach to hiring won’t attract the unique candidates that you want to see applying for your specific job opportunities. From there, you can hone down which platform you will use to market the job. After you have identified who it is you need - and for what job - you need to walk through what the first conversation will look like. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and think about what they will find and feel when they walk through the door at the first meeting. Are your processes outdated? Is it all paper and work? Is it boring? Think again about who you are as a company and create an atmosphere that highlights your strengths, values, and vision.
Jess discusses why speed to hire must be executed within the framework of quality over quantity. You don’t need 10 or 20 candidates; you need one excellent candidate. Create an interview process for your company that focuses on finding the right fit. Jim and Jason agree, saying that making sure the candidate is aligned with your core values is essential. Jess recommends training your hiring managers to effectively engage the candidate and to listen to the entire team’s perceptions. She discourages the 2 on 1 interview, explaining that it is needlessly intimidating to the candidate, and it is easy for the emphasis of the interview to shift from the candidate to the communication between interviewers. To learn more about the best practices for interviewing and whether or not money should be discussed in the process, listen to the full episode!
Having an optimized onboarding process is just as important as having solid hiring procedures. Jess recommends walking through the goals and desired impressions of the onboarding experience. She reveals that it only takes about 45 days for a new employee to decide whether or not they wish to stay with a company long-term or begin looking for new opportunities. The first few months are vital! Training your leadership on how to engage effectively with new recruits will quicken learning and make for a positive experience for all participants. The focus should be on creating an environment in which the new employee can thrive as a learner. For more excellent tips on how to streamline your manufacturing company’s hiring and onboarding processes, listen to the entire episode! Jim and Jason encourage you to not become overwhelmed but to take things one step at a time, leading to effective success.
The word is out - the economy is changing, and you should probably start planning for a recession. MakingChips hosts Jason Zenger and Jim Carr help take the intimidation out of a looming recessional period by offering some practical advice based on their own personal experiences with leading manufacturing businesses during economic recessions. Learn how you can get a head start in your business and personal life by making just a few - and not too frightening - changes to your company’s lifestyle in this important episode of the MakingChips podcast!
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Jim and Jason explain that recessions in the economy are inevitable. While we can’t ever know for sure when or how harshly recessions will hit, we can take steps to prepare for the strike. There are difficulties in every season of the economy - even in the good times. Recessions simply provide a different set of challenges that can be weathered more effectively by those who plan accordingly. Jim and Jason point out that the manufacturing economy is at a booming national high, which makes now the perfect time to save and plan for a dive.
A looming recession raises numerous questions on how to best manage company and personal finances. Jim and Jason give helpful starting points for long-term effectiveness, beginning with the important step of keeping your debt low and under control. The probability of needing to cut job margins is high, and there will not be as much room in the profit margin to play with. Keeping debt thin will leave more room for necessary funding. Saving money is also vital. Jim and Jason recommend bulking up the savings account to create a buffer for yourself and your company for when times get tight. Saving now can help counter the possible need to cut employment levels. A third way you can take precautions now is to be prudent with your company and personal spending. Determine what you can cut out of your business and personal spending and make a budget. Learn how sacrificing now can save you later by listening to the full episode!
Don’t leave your employees and team members in the dark on what is happening in the economy and of the changes that you will likely need to make in your business when the recession hits. Encourage your team to not overextend themselves and to prepare themselves. Build up morale by explaining the cyclical nature of the economy. Recessions don’t last forever! Give them tools to help them prepare (such as this podcast!). Refrain from purchasing new machinery leading up to the recession and during. Invest in your current machinery by making necessary repairs and keeping up on maintenance. Today’s machinery will be tomorrow’s money-makers. Invest now while you have the monetary means.
Jim and Jason point out that opportunity is available in every season of the economy. Diversify your customer base now so that when things get rough, your company’s well-being won’t be compromised by the collapse of just one or two of your clients. Not all of your customers will be affected by the recession in the same way. When the recession does hit, don’t sit back and wait it out. Look for ways to build your business by observing what is available when other companies are struggling. An example Jim and Jason give is acquiring your competition’s businesses or bringing them onto your team. Look for ways you can help yourself by helping others. For more tips and tricks on how to lessen the pain of a recession and effectively prepare your manufacturing business for the coming times, listen to the full episode!
In this episode of MakingChips, Jason Zenger and Jim Carr introduce a new team member, Christine Schmitz - an experienced editor and writer who explains why storytelling matters to manufacturers and their businesses. Having long been connected to the manufacturing world through her husband, Dr. Tony Schmitz (featured in a previous episode), Christine has an intensely valuable viewpoint on how and why it is important for leaders to be able to tell good stories. “Communications is the foundation of who I am,” Christine shares. To communicate well, one must build relationship, and relationship is founded in the sharing of stories. Want to know what makes a great story and how knowing how to write one can boost your game in the manufacturing business? Listen to the whole episode!
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Just as in manufacturing, there is a process of writing a good story. Christine shares the process of how to take your story and vision and work it into a compelling and useful tool.
Christine points out that most people only think of themselves when communicating. To build a lasting and effective relationship, however, one must think of the other person - in this case, the manufacturing leader must think of his or her business, employees, customers, and possible recruits. All of these categories are readers of your story who want to know, “What’s in it for me?” It can often be difficult for manufacturers to share the story of their work, the challenge of their highly technical fields, or the processes they use. Christine reveals that relevance is key to building the bridge between writer and reader. “When it’s hard to explain what you are doing to another person,” she explains, “it dramatically impacts the relationship you can have with them.” To learn how to best create a shared vision through your story, listen to the full episode!
Tailoring your message to your audience is vital for the survival of your story. But how should you convey your manufacturing story to capture your audience? Christine points out that manufacturing is something that permeates everybody’s lives. Manufacturers produce something tangible every day, whereas most other people do not. People want to know how and why you create the things you do - as long as the application applies to them. Your audience wants to know what the problem is that you solve and how and why you solve that problem. Connect yourself with your audience by concentrating your story on the end result of your work.
Christine warns against the temptation to simply flood your readers and audience with information that they may not be interested in or need. Always take quality over quantity. One way you can ensure the quality of your writing is through an editor. While your professional expertise is needed to correctly tell the story, an editor can help you build the strongest and most effective bridge between your story and your audience. Also, realize that there is no one way to write. Find a process that works for you and don’t be afraid to change that process when it’s not working. To learn more about writing as a process and why storytelling matters to your manufacturing business and skillset, listen to the full episode!