Training Article

Gene Russell’s picture

By: Gene Russell

Without a basic grasp of financial concepts at the C-suite (executive) level, small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) may be limited in their ability to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. This is why financial literacy is near and dear to my heart.

As a former manufacturer myself, I understand how SMMs affect the way we live, work, and play. As CEO of Manex Consulting, I work with many SMMs through California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), which is part of the MEP National Network. Your local MEP center offers a powerful combination of knowledge and resources, with connections to expert consultants like me.

Building your financial literacy, beginning with your C-suite financial vocabulary, is a great way to increase your competitive edge. Here, I will illustrate the importance of financial literacy in manufacturing, including some of the most important concepts that affect your business operations.

Rich Nobliski’s picture

By: Rich Nobliski

Ask anyone higher up in manufacturing today—like Brian Coglianese, the quality manager and management representative of Helander Metal Spinning Co.—and they’ll tell you a similar story: Recruiting top talent, especially younger post-high school students, is increasingly difficult.

It’s known collectively as the manufacturing skills gap. A recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute estimates that some 2.1 million U.S. jobs could go unfilled by 2030 if something isn’t done to reverse the trend. The cost of such a shortfall is staggering, ballparked at $1 trillion. To put that figure in perspective, $1 trillion is about the same as the 2021 gross domestic product of Indonesia or Netherlands. (Or the equivalent of two Irelands or two Thailands if you’re keeping score.)

The reasons behind the skills gap are varied. But the primary drivers are:

• Demographic shifts as the baby-boom generation continues to age out of the workforce faster than new talent is replaced

Susan Robertson’s picture

By: Susan Robertson

When you think of famous visionary leaders, you often think that they have something, know something, or do something that the rest of us don’t have, don’t know, or can’t do. The truth is, they don’t. The only thing they have is an intuitive understanding of how to open their minds and consider new ideas. 

When you’re thinking about new ideas, you’re often thinking of the divergent phase of the brainstorming process—where you generate many new ideas.  

However, the convergent (or deciding) phase is equally important—to ensure that those new, fresh, and interesting ideas conceived during the divergent phase actually get considered. Due to some basic neuroscience principles, it’s all too easy to instantly reject any truly new ideas. The very human tendency is to select the ideas that make you feel the least uncomfortable. In other words, even if you managed to generate some really unique and innovative ideas, you’re actually fairly unlikely to decide to use them unless you do some overt things to help overcome instinctive fears of anything new. 

Jessica Rector’s picture

By: Jessica Rector

Do you have a Negative Nancy (NN) or Toxic Tim (TT) that you’re keeping longer than you should? Would you let them go if you weren’t so short staffed? One Negative Nancy or Toxic Tim infiltrates the whole company, and their attitude spreads throughout, affecting everyone.

Think of it like this: You attend a meeting that NN was in. When you leave, you approach Positive Polly and share with her, “It’s so frustrating dealing with NN. Why is she still here? All we do is constantly listen to her babble and unhappiness.”

Before you know it you become a Negative Nancy, and Positive Polly sees the effect the original NN has had on you and the team. It only takes one person thinking negatively to bring down the whole environment, culture, and team. In order to help you, Positive Polly shares the following.

According to research from Fred Luskin of Stanford University, you have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 80% of them are negative. These come in the form of doubt, worry, and stress, and are linked to poor attitudes, declining engagement, and poor performance.

Mike Figliuolo’s picture

By: Mike Figliuolo

If you have a new business idea, I’m excited for you. If you ever want to get it off the ground, however, be sure you have a problem. A real problem. I know that sounds cryptic. Allow me to explain.

When I hear a new pitch, the first question I ask is, “What’s the problem?”

You would be surprised how many times the response to that question is a look like a dog noticing a ceiling fan (dazed and confused). If you want to be successful as a new startup, you must have a problem. If you can’t articulate what problem you solve for the world, there’s a low likelihood you will sell anything. “Pull” selling is exponentially more powerful than “push” selling. When the world has a problem, they will pull your solution. Don’t have a problem? Then you’re pushing your solution on the world.

Allow me to offer some examples, then some guidance on how to think about this issue.

Katia Savchuk’s picture

By: Katia Savchuk

Since generative AI went mainstream in 2023, it has inspired an equal measure of hype and fear. Boosters of tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E predict that they will transform our economy, while skeptics worry about their potential to produce inaccurate or harmful results and ultimately replace workers. But until recently, no one had tested what really happens when companies unleash generative AI at scale in real workplaces.

The first such study, released as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper in 2023, found the best-case scenario: Providing workers with a generative AI tool similar to ChatGPT can lead to more productive workers, happier customers, and higher employee retention.

Researchers studied nearly 5,200 customer support agents at a Fortune 500 software firm that gained access to a generative AI-based assistant in a phased rollout between November 2020 and February 2021. During support chats, the generative AI tool shared real-time recommendations with operators, suggesting how to respond to customers and supplying links to internal documents about technical issues.

Matthew Barsalou’s picture

By: Matthew Barsalou

A root cause analysis (RCA) should be empirical; however, this can be difficult when dealing with human error. A typical human failure is a missed operation, such as when a process step isn’t carried out. This could mean a part wasn’t installed, a bolt wasn’t tightened, or a server didn’t deliver a food item that had been ordered.

The simplest answer in such a situation is “the employee forgot.” Perhaps, but there’s often more to the situation than simple forgetting—and forgetting isn’t so easy to evaluate empirically. We can’t ask somebody who assembles hundreds of parts a day, “Did you forget to tighten a bolt four months ago?” We have only the evidence, in the form of an untightened bolt, and the untestable hypothesis, “employee forgot.” Fixating on the untestable hypothesis does little to identify the cause of the problem so that adequate corrective actions can be implemented. This is the point in supplier quality where the supplier often submits an 8D report listing both the root cause, “employee forgot,” and the corrective action, “employee retrained.” Such actions do little to prevent a reoccurrence of the failure.

Adam Grant’s picture

By: Adam Grant

Nano Tools for Leaders—a collaboration between Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management—are fast, effective tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes, with the potential to significantly affect your success and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.

The goal

Discover and enable the collective intelligence of your team with the right leadership practices, team processes, and systems.

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

By: Akhilesh Gulati

The first day of the conference was over, and most of us congregated for happy hour, relaxing, networking, and furthering our connections. We reminisced about the day, commenting about the good, the bad, and the ugly: events at work, travel, organizational policies, you name it.

Interestingly, the conversation turned to the conference speakers and the new knowledge and great ideas we’d heard and planned to take back to our workplaces. The general feeling was that attending the conference was definitely worthwhile.

However—and there is always a however—a common concern was that although the ideas were terrific, and we all wanted to implement them at our workplaces, everyone was either “running to meet their sliding deadlines” or intent on moving to the next project lest it fall behind. When would we have time to turn these ideas into reality?

Sadly, this is nothing new. When do folks get to really sit down and think through complex problems to not only get to the root cause but also find real solutions? This is something that stresses people out.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Have you ever felt like you’re speaking into a void in a hybrid meeting? You’re not alone. The shift to hybrid workplaces has introduced a unique set of challenges in communication and collaboration. The goals? To make the office worth the commute, and the virtual connection minimally distant from the physical one. To do this requires investment in high-quality hybrid conference rooms.

Consequences of ignoring hybrid meeting challenges

Turning a blind eye to the complexities of hybrid meetings isn’t simply a minor oversight but a critical business misstep. The ramifications of neglecting these challenges are multifaceted and can ripple through an organization, affecting its core dynamics and long-term success.

When employees feel unheard or unseen in meetings, it doesn’t just frustrate them; it diminishes their sense of belonging and value within the organization. This lack of engagement can quickly translate into lower morale, which in turn affects productivity and creativity. In a hybrid setup, ensuring that remote participants feel as included as their in-office counterparts isn’t just about technology—it’s about conveying respect and recognition of their contributions.

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