Trustworthy Thermoforming… Trustworthy Manufacturing?

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describe the imageTrustworthy?  Is Your Company Trustworthy?  Are You?
We have recently released a Thermoforming Design Guide for engineers and designers.  It lists a lots of technical data about Thermoforming, Vacuum Forming, and Pressure Forming.  This is vital information that can make or break the successful manufacture of thermoformed plastic parts.

While reading through it yesterday, it occurred to me that there is a vital assumption upon which the design guide is dependent.  That characteristic is Trust. Continue Reading

A Thermoforming Budgetary Quote?

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We often receive requests for a budgetary quote.  On the surface it would appear that the client might be asking for a quote that fits within their budget.  So, it would be tempting to jestingly reply, “Be glad to give you one, what is your budget?” Continue Reading

Thermoforming Sales Success… And Now a Word About Sales in 2020

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Today’s “new normal” sales landscape has sales leaders scratching their heads, wondering about the best way to structure their sales organizations. Should they keep their expensive sales duo: inside sales AND field sales? Or just go with inside sales? Good question. Step into my time machine. When you step out in the year 2020, and the landscape may look quite different.

Ten Reasons Why Field Sales Teams Are Becoming Obsolete

The following trends indicate that field sales teams are becoming extinct. Here’s why:

  1. Inside sales teams continue to grow at 15% each year. The hybrid salesperson will emerge, and they will be technically, culturally, socially, and skillfully diverse and astute.
  2. The average cost of an outside B2B sales call is $215-$400 per call. An inside call, on the other hand, averages only $25-$75.
  3. It is expected that 85% of buyer-seller interactions will happen online through social media and video. Customers will not need a field salesperson to come on-site for a long lunch followed by a golf game.
  4. Today, we have 20 million salespeople. But that number is predicted to be reduced to 8 million by the year 2020. Why? Mainly because the customer won’t need to engage early in the sales cycle: 57% of the buying process is completed before connecting with a salesperson.
  5. Structuring a global workforce and creating geographic territories will be a thing of the past because today’s salespeople work virtually, socially, and inter-culturally. The increased sophistication of translation software will enable computers to quickly translate languages, reducing the need to hire reps who speak the native language.
  6. Virtual interactions will replace face-to-face field visits. Right now, Skype, web conferencing, and video are quickly catching on over face-to-face visits and traditional meetings. Some futurists predict the emergence of reality technology — we can watch 3-D holographic images of one another while simultaneously viewing documents on our desktops and laptops (or whatever replaces them!).
  7. Scheduling an on-site meeting with the committee of decision-makers will be almost impossible — especially because the committee of decision-makers now has up to 21 people in it, and most of them telecommute. As many as 100 million people are expected to telecommute to work by the year 2013. They will be calling from home or another wired office.
  8. A whopping 40% of the companies that were at the top of the Fortune 500 list in 2000 were no longer even on that list as of 2010. The first areas to go are field sales teams.
  9. Today’s automated/voice recognition technology will increase the verbal commands and recognition that will replace the human voice.
  10. Your most important customers (you know — the named accounts that the field usually manages?) won’t be so important in 2020. If your US business isn’t clued into the needs of emerging markets, China (not the US) will be the largest economy.

Posted on socialmediatoday on July 20, 2012 by Josiane Feigon

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Here is some great information for engineers to keep in mind from our friends at Today’s topic is an interesting one, and depends largely on personal preference. It’s something that comes up for engineers every day: Be decent at many things, or be the absolute end-all-be-all expert in one thing? Some might respond with, “Well, how about being an expert at everything?”

Aside: It sounds funny, but this should probably be the goal for every engineer. I got great advice from my first manager: create a skill matrix. It was essentially an organized goal table consisting of career goals, skills, techniques, subject matter to learn, etc. that I wanted to accomplish. Being an expert in all of them is optimal, but time and job constraints often prove this difficult. When it comes to the question at hand, many times engineers do not have much choice. Management will often make that choice for the engineer when they prioritize staff time and resources. But, let’s assume that there is a degree of freedom and the engineer can choose which-tech skills and/or design techniques on which he can focus. What should be in the engineer’s best interest for career advancement and job security? There are advantages and disadvantages to a broader skill set vs. a more focused one. Jack of all Trades The advantages to being good across many job functions are tied to versatility.

Frankly, the company can use you more ways, and this can be very advantageous during times of change at the workplace. There are more subtle advantages, too. With a more broad skill set, the engineer tends to communicate across multiple design groups. The engineer also proves to be more resourceful, finding answers on his own without the help of others. These skills translate VERY well to management. In fact, one could claim that technical managers are the kings of being good at many things (and hopefully experts in a few). Another advantage to working across groups are the personal connections. Knowing more people in the industry, and working on design successes together, always bodes well for future job prospects. Domain Expert: The advantages to being an expert at one job function are tied to indispensability. Engineers in this mode often can not be replaced within the company. This can also be a valuable position to be in during company changes. If no one else has the technical expertise to handle a specific design, the expert skills are invaluable to job security.

Often, these engineers have an increased sense of ownership or pride over designs, as their contributions are clearly vital to the success of the company. The increased focus and concentration that the engineer can apply to one section of the design is preferred by some as well. By not switching topics, starting new design flows with other groups, or reviewing others’ work, the engineer can really hone his skills to an expert level. Just as being versatile helps with connections, specific expertise can be an immediate job creator when other companies look for this targeted skill set.

Obviously, engineers would like to be experts across the board. Throughout our careers, I do think we should strive for this. But, with stringent time constraints placed by our corporate bosses to push-to-market and make profit, it often proves difficult to either a) branch out and learn something new, or b) focus as intently on possible on one function and become the expert. In your experience, which is better: Expert in one thing, or good at many things? Why?


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Seth Godin, the contrarian entrepreneur and business thought leader had some interesting thoughts around what is the hard part of managing today.  We thought your might enjoy this excerpt from his Blog: SURE, BUT WHAT’S THE HARD PART?

Every project (product, play, event, company, venture, non profit) has a million tasks that need to be done, thousands of decisions, predictions, bits of effort, conversations and plans.

Got that.

But what’s the hard part?

The CEO spends ten minutes discussing the layout of the office with the office manager. Why? Was that a difficult task that could only be done by her? Unlikely.

The founder of a restaurant spends hours at the cash register, taking orders and hurrying the line along… important, vital, emotional, but hard? Not if we think of hard as the chasm, the dividing line between success and failure. No, the hard part is raising two million dollars to build more stores. Hard is hiring someone better than you to do this part of the job.

Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.

Don’t tell me you want to launch a line of spices but don’t want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you are a great chef but can’t deal with cranky customers. That’s the hard part.

Don’t tell me you have a good heart but don’t want to raise money. That’s the hard part.

Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.


Your Production Team Might Be Top-Notch. Are Your Sales People?

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Let’s face it; you are in the business of satisfying your customer’s needs…Profitably. Are you? Or does you profit margin look like a grocery store’s… 1 or 2%?

This great recession has led many companies to win business by adopting a transactional sales methodology of selling on price and not on value by quoting such a low price to win the business that the revenue received will only fund a meager existence. The cop-out is “Well at least we have enough revenue to pay our bills”. How motivating is that to the owners who have invested their souls to build their companies? Squeaking by can never be very satisfying unless you are in the not-for-profit sector.

In order to win business that does more than pay the bills, sales managers must ask:
1. Is this opportunity real?
2. Can we win it?
3. Is it worth it?

Most sales people have not had to think about this until this recession caused them to realize that they have to win business that is profitable and will do more than “just pay the bills.” The problem is that they don’t know how to assess the opportunity.

They don’t know what questions to ask their prospects to determine the answers to these three vital questions. They only know how to say, “We will give you a quote you won’t be able to refuse”, as if they were on the payroll of Don Corleone.

A recent blog on the HBR Blog Network pointed out the huge shortage of sales talent today. Here’s a link to the article:

Of particular interest, as the authors point out, is the power of the Internet. It is now the buyer who is newly empowered. Buyers now have unprecedented access to the information that they used to rely on sales people to provide. And they trust it more because they have always felt that sales people were providing only the information they wanted the buyer to see. As a result, sales has become more about helping customers define the problem they are trying to solve and then by crafting a complete solution.

To do this today’s sales representatives must have access to a sales tool kit that enables them to help their customers define the problems they are trying to solve. This tool kit includes sophisticated analytics to identify real opportunities, determine if it is real, winnable, and if it will be worth it. One of these tools is Salespeople who are trained to use new tools like Occulus are able to resonate better with their customers, differentiate their products or services, and substantiate their claims. Unfortunately, most sales people today have not been trained to use these tools.

Salespeople who can do this are top notch and develop the solutions their prospects need that will help them win business on criteria other than price. Without these sales tools they have no real way to substantiate to their prospects that a higher price is worth it. So, why wouldn’t the buyer accept the lowest price? If the buyer does not see the justification for a higher price, you will continue to get by on grocery store profit levels. Can you stay in business long-term like that?

Talented sales people who can Resonate, Differentiate, and Substantiate are a rare breed. They are the secret to long-term success. Hire talent not product oriented peddlers and give them the selling tools that can help differentiate them from the competition.

Engineers and Designers Are Often Conflicted About…

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We often hear that designers and engineers find themselves in a quagmire trying to decide how to find inexpensive tooling for low volume part production.   They have researched the injection molding process and find the high cost of tooling does not amortize well with low volume runs.

Thermoforming is often the solution because the cost of tooling is about one third the cost of injection molding tooling.  Since the engineer wants to produce a lower volume of parts, thermoforming tooling savings pays off even though per part price might be higher than injection molding.

So, if you are an engineer or designer and are wondeirng how to solve that problem, you might give thermoforming a second look like so many medical device manufacturers, aerospace companies, and transportation companies have  when they need quality parts with an elegant look produced at a price they can afford.

The Goal

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We had the opportunity this past week to read The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox.

Mayfield Plastics is a manufacturer of custom made parts that have an elegant look.  The processes we use are thermoforming, vacuum forming, and pressure forming of heavy gauge plastic.

We manufacture parts for medical devices, radomes, telecommunications and aerospace equipment, and for many other types of industries also.   Our success is due in no small part to the processes we use to continuously improve our output.

While The Goal was written first in 1984 about a manufacturing plant, we find that the thinking  Goldratt and  Cox guide the reader through is completely relevant today.  This book is like a primer on how to successfully run a manufacturing facility.

The Goal is not a textbook.  Goldratt and Cox present their case in a fictional story about a manufacturing plant manager and the changes he must make to become profitable within the next 90 days or face the closing of his plant.   This story is believable and compelling and at times we found we could not put it down.

This book focuses on Throughput, Inventory, and Operational Expense by redefining those terms.  It presents a scientific way to understand what throughput, inventory, and operational expense are really all about and how using  previous definitions can actually cause a manufacturing facility to lose money instead of attaining the goal of making money.

If you are involved in any type of manufacturing and have not read this book, we urge you to do so.  It just might change your manufacturing processes and enable you to earn greater profits.