Jul 15 2016

First Impressions May Be The Wrong Ones


This afternoon, Linda Carroll, our accountant, has been out of the office and I find myself answering phones like in the old days. It is unbelievable how many cold calls we get – almost 10 an hour! About a third of them are from robotic dialing machines with automated voice prompt (who answers these?). The rest of the calls are from poorly trained people with little interested in helping us. Every time I answered the phone, it was a reminder about how our customers and prospect must feel. They are probably getting 80 calls a day (or deleting 80 voicemails a day). This is on top of the 100+ email solicitations they must get each day. How can we help them?

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Jun 14 2016

Some Things Are Not What They Appear to Be


Some Things Are Not What They Appear to Be

Earlier this week we got a surprise call from Ron. We had not heard from him in a while and so we reached out to make sure everything was OK. His company makes their own sheet metal, which means they are slow if we aren’t being contacted. As it turns out, there was a 200 pc job coming out of engineering and could we please quote for him. Engineering at his company usually means quick turn and poor documentation. To our surprise, there was a 6 week lead and a complete drawing package. S, why wouldn’t we quote?

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Jun 09 2016

Is ETM a Plain Vanilla Sheet Metal Fabricator?


Is ETM a Plain Vanilla Sheet Metal Fabricator?

The other day we reached out to a customer we worked with many years ago. It was great to hear Andy’s voice and even better to hear “Oh, yeah, I remember you.” Lately we have been reaching out to former customers to understand their perception of ETM Manufacturing and what we could be doing better. My belief is that old, former customers are the best source of blunt, honest feedback. Andy did not disappoint. “Yeah, I think of you guys as a plain vanilla sheet metal shop and I don’t really need that.”

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May 17 2016

Spring Shortages Bring Summer Stress?


Spring Shortages Bring Summer Stress?

Every spring our neighborhood is flooded with handyman trucks, lawn care trailers and HVAC vans. And every year I think I can call “my guy” and he’ll be right over to work on a never ending list of “too big to fail” projects. Every year I am shocked to find out how hard it is to get a hold of him and how long it takes for him to respond. Then it dawned on me – supply and demand. In the spring, we are outside around our houses and we see the winter damage better. We also have to compete with all the new home sellers who need a lot of work done quickly. I find the same is true in business and have 3 suggestions to reduce your summer stress.

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May 06 2016

Is Your Supply Chain As Secure As You Thought?


Is Your Supply Chain As Secure As You Thought?

There are 2 times a year that are worrisome for supply chain executives – spring and end of year. Every spring two things happen – corporate taxes are due and year-end bonuses are paid out – both of which can be devastating. When corporate taxes are done, some companies decide to close shop. This month a large shop is closing its doors leaving many OEMs to scramble for another suppler. Bonuses are also paid out (or not) and key executives decide to change companies. This happened to us last month and we are now looking to fill an Ops Leader role, but we see this with OEMs as well. The same phenomena occurs at the end of the year. Here are some things to know for you to be prepared:

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Apr 27 2016

Oh The Places We Go, You Don’t Want To Know


Oh The Places We Go, You Don’t Want To Know

We make hundreds of frames that fit into freight trucks – exactly. The welded assemblies, stacked end to end, can only be off by 0.250” over a 144 inch span. For those of you who don’t know, welded assemblies like to move with the welding heat. Sometimes the internal stresses of the metal are relieved and dimensions change. Other times, the amount of weld wire (or amount of heat) can cause dimensional changes. We know how to address this with fixtures and controlled welding parameters for each job. So what happens when all these things are controlled and our frames are not meeting spec.?

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Apr 12 2016

Improving Service Quality in Sheet Metal Fabrication


Improving Service Quality in Sheet Metal Fabrication

Most of us are familiar with service quality, aka customer service, in how we encounter every day life. Did we get that double mocha from the barista the same way and at least as fast as last time? Did the grocery bagger put the right things in the right bag quickly? Did the server bring the ketchup with the fries or after you asked her? When you are an original equipment manufacture in New England, the questions might sound more like “Will they still delivery on-time despite the blizzard?” or “Will they send their quote before Patriots Day?” But seriously, how does service quality apply to a sheet metal fabricator like ETM Manufacturing?

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Apr 02 2016

Great Sheet Metal Customers Get More For Their Money


Great Sheet Metal Customers Get More For Their Money

Matt is an engineer at a local robotics company and we got a pleasant email from him this week. He was working on a new design, one that wasn’t released yet, and he needed to know how quickly we could build a prototype once the design was released. You would think this is an everyday occurrence, but it isn’t. Matt’s ability to think ahead and ask for help will get him (and his company) much more for his money.

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Mar 18 2016

Celebrating a Long Life and a Good Death


Celebrating a Long Life and a Good Death

Yesterday Bessie died. I had known her since I bought the business almost 10 years ago and she’d been with the company since 1997. Today we are celebrating a long life – filled with lots of great memories. She delivered thousands of parts (and a few households) without a single complaint. In the end, she did almost 300,000 miles on an old GM V-8 engine. While I only filled in when our driver called out sick, she was a great truck for our sheet metal business.

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Mar 11 2016

How To Save 30 Minutes Every Hour


As I get older, I have realized the one thing I can’t make more of is time. We can make more sheet metal parts, more money, more capacity, but we can’t make more time.  That is until I saw this fantastic video from Jeremy Sullivan at the Lean Workshop forwarded by Lesa Nichols, my lean mentor.  Lesa has been helping ETM re-think lean manufacturing for years, but finally this video helped me see more about information flow. Like most of us, you work in an office, flooded with emails, meetings, paperwork and phone calls – not a factory floor with machines, WIP, and production schedules. How can our lean manufacturing efforts help you with your information overflow?  How can we help you save 30 minutes every hour as Jeremy mentions? Lesa, and the folks from the Lean Enterprise Institute, have helped me see that there are 2 value streams in every operation – material flows and information flows. Most often manufacturing companies work on material flows because it is so easy to see the waste in transportation, storage, overproduction, etc.  With information, particularly digital information, it is harder to see the wasted time in sending too many emails or having too many meetings, the queue times waiting for information or the over documentation that might be occurring. To help reveal the information waste, I’d like to take Jeremy’s example from the video and re-interpret it for information flow. Think of a report that you and your team generate.  It could be a production report, or a financial report or a market report.  It could be a report you generate alone or one that you generate with other team members.  In a typical scenario, you break the work to do the report into several pieces.  Maybe you assign some of the pieces to others.  Maybe this is even a weekly report where everyone knows their roles. In traditional batch mode, you collect all the information for the first part of the report, then all the information for the second part, then all the information for the third part and continue until the report is complete to draw your conclusions. Using Jeremy’s batch example, each bit of information takes one minute and passed through 5 steps before the final report is done or 50 minutes for the report.  What would it look like if we took 1 piece of information and passed it along to be processed before waiting for all the other pieces to be completed?  Using Jeremy’s model, the 50 minute report would take only 14 minutes to prepare. But it can’t work that way! My argument is that we don’t think that way but it can work that way.  From a very early age we are taught to break a complex problem into pieces and solve each piece to solve the complex problem.  Then we need help and add more people to our problem solving team.  Some of them aren’t available immediately, so we wait.  Some others are available, but overwhelmed with requests so they process information slower than others.  And still others don’t hear your requests correctly and solve the wrong problem!  All of a sudden our “14 minute solution” now is a “50 minute solution” or to put it another way, we now have batch information processing. What if you got the team together in a room, turned off the distractions and passed one piece of information to the next for “processing”, who passed it to the next, and so on until the report is completed? Everyone would be available so there would be no stalled information.  The overwhelmed folks would stand out as soon as they worked on the first piece of information so we could get them help.  The folks that heard the request wrong could be corrected on the first piece, not at the end of the report.  Most importantly, everyone would feel connected to the team, knowing everyone was committed to the quality of the report as well as the pace of producing that report. What if?

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