Modern Machine Shop

NOV 2017

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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40 MMS November 2017 mmsonline.com COMPETING IDEAS Columnist Let's say you just achieved your lifelong ambi- tion and now either own or are running a small or mid-size manufacturing company. It is likely you already know something about the company, but now you have overriding responsibility for current performance and future growth. Where to begin? The answers to this question are prob- ably as varied as business itself, but it is always a good idea to star t with the basics, and the following questions can help re-acquaint you with some of those basics within your company. 1. Who are your customers, and what are t h e i r ex p e c t a t i o n s? You c annot go wrong starting with customers. After all, they are your company's lifeblood. Without them, you do not have a business (at least, not for very long). You need to know as much about your customers as possible. Are they concentrated in just a few areas, either geographically or industry-wise, or are they widely varied? How are your sales dis- tributed? Do just a few customers account for a large portion of those sales, or does no single customer represent more than a small percent- age? Have your customers been with your com- pa ny fo r a l o n g tim e, o r d o yo u h ave a h i g h turnover in those you service each year? What are your customers' expectations? What drives them? Is it all about price, or do they value the other services you can offer? How do your customers feel about your company? (See my June 2017 column, "Do Your Customers Promote You?," at short.mmsonline.com/customers .) Is there anything that "bugs" them about what you do or how you do it? What was the last legitimate complaint you received from a customer, and did you handle it to that customer's satisfaction? What would cause you to gain, or lose, business from your customers? There are really no best answers to any of these customer-related questions, but it is important to ask them nonetheless, because the more you know (or discover you do not know), the better equipped you are to meet customer expectations. 2. Is your company a safe place in which to work? What is your track record on lost-time ac c id e nts? D o you tra in e m p loye e s o n s afe working practices and then practice what you preach? Do you track "near misses," and com- municate both safety incidents and these near misses to all employees? Are safety audits done on a regular basis? Does a safety team exist to conduct these safety audits and take appropri- ate action when unsafe conditions are uncovered? Do all employees feel safe in their work areas? 3. How do you know how you are doing a s a c o m p a ny ? T his come s dow n to basic company metrics. What do you measure, and how do you perform against these measures? Here, you must be willing to be critical and ask the tough questions. Do you focus strictly on dollars, giving attention only to booking (incom- ing dolla r s) a nd shipme nt (ou tgoing dolla r s) metrics? Do you measure your commitments to customers in terms of on-time deliver y? If so, how do you calculate on-time deliver y—using your promise or your customer's request? Prom- ise date may be good enough, as it measures what you said you would do, but it may be affect- ing business with customers who believe com- mitment means meeting their deliver y needs. Where to Begin Answering fundamental questions can help you figure out how effectively your company is running. WAYNE S. CHANESKI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CENTER FOR MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

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