Tuesday, May 19, 2015

California’s Secret Sauce—What’s the Recipe?

In addition to being chairman of the California Manufacturing and Technology Association Executive Committee, I have the honor of serving on the National Association of Manufacturers board of directors. During the spring board meetings of both organizations, there was a general sense of optimism for the state of manufacturing in our country and California. Nationally, the manufacturing base has grown by 7.5 percent. Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in February for the 26th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 69th consecutive month, according to the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business.

Twelve of the 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in February in the following order: paper products; printing and related support activities; furniture and related products; primary metals; nonmetallic mineral products; food, beverage and tobacco products; miscellaneous manufacturing; fabricated metal products; machinery; transportation equipment; electrical equipment; appliances and components; and chemical products. The three industries reporting contraction in February are: textile mills; apparel, leather and allied products; and computer and electronic products.

All the data is good, but why am I optimistic about being a manufacturer, especially one located in California? I travel a lot, so people in foreign countries tend to ask where I’m from. If I tell them the United States, I tend to get a nod—maybe a smile. Usually they ask further, “Where in the US?” When I respond “California,” their face lights up and they’re excited to speak with me. In some ways, the response I get makes me feel a bit like someone famous. There is a worldwide awe about my state.

I say “my state” because I am a rarity: a California native. My father’s grandmother traveled in a wagon to California from Missouri in 1853, got here in 1854 and settled in Healdsburg. I love my state. I am passionate about all that is good about my state. It is truly the land of golden opportunities. But why? What elements make up our state’s “secret sauce?”

1. Resources
California is large and holds vast natural resources. A jaw-dropping coast line, forests, water, sun, wind, fertile ground, agriculture, minerals, oil and on and on.

2. Environment
We have great weather. Need I say more? A temperate climate spurs productivity and prosperity.

3. Education
We are blessed to be a state with so many world-renowned public and private colleges and universities. We also have a great supportive network of community colleges. There is an incredible depth of knowledge we are cultivating and inspiring within our state.

4. Innovation
Our state has been leading the country and the world with innovative ideas since the beginning. Silicon Valley and all it has generated is just the latest manifestation of that trend.

5. Technology
We are a state of early adopters. A fertile ground for fostering the acceptance and exploitation of technological advances. This is especially true in the manufacturing sector. I can’t wait to see how the internet of things and big data will change the face of manufacturing. I know California will be leading the way.

6. Glamour
Hollywood. We are home to creating dreams, be it on the big screen or TV. We have Disneyland, the original home of making dreams come true for children and adults.

7. Money
California as a state has the eighth largest GDP in the world. We are effectively a country unto ourselves. Money attracts money and we have a lot of it here. We are also home to some of the biggest VC and angel funds out there.

8. Diversity
Our state is a melting pot of people. The rich diversity of people who come to California to make their dreams come true continues to fuel our state toward prosperity.

9. Spirit
It is a state of pioneers. As with my family, many who have come to this state took great risk to do so. They came on the belief of a better life, of the belief this state was a place they could make they dreams come true.

So maybe that is what I am seeing in the faces of those I meet. Is that we are a place where dreams can and do come true. What do you think? Did I identify all the ingredients? What did I miss? I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We’re a Lean, Green Manufacturing Machine!

Several years ago I wrote about being Lean and Green. I asked the question – “Is it hard to be 'green' or is it really just more the discipline of looking at how to run your business in a more efficient way?” One that improves your bottom line as well as reduces your impact on the environment; not regulated by government, but regulated by common sense to use the least amount of resources (lower costs) to produce your product.

So with the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day I felt it was timely to go back and think about this topic once again. Now let me just say I am not talking about “green” to the level like my state of California is mandating with AB32 or the Green Chemistry Initiatives.
Bishop-Wisecarver Green Infographic

I am talking about common sense, how do I run my company to the best of its ability and make my product for a profit and impact the environment as little as possible? I understand that there are some companies that won’t make changes unless mandated, but let me just live in a world, for a few minutes, where people are responsible for their actions and feel a responsibility to run their companies for the good of the bottom line, as well as the environment.

At Bishop-Wisecarver, we realize the best way to appreciate our planet is by doing something to help every day and we have implemented “lean manufacturing” practices throughout the company that reduce waste of all kinds.  Whether it’s time, material or talent, lean manufacturing aims to maximize efficiency in numerous ways such as smartly allocating resources, maximizing space, recycling old material and applying employees to job’s best suited to their skills.

This sounds admirable, but what does it mean in reality for our customers and planet?  For one customer, it meant better utilizing their current space and not having to purchase, or build, an additional site. Our engineers provided product solutions that saved them space and kept them fully productive in their current location.

For another customer, it meant implementing our DualVee® wheels and racked track into their machinery.  It saved at least 10 hours per week that had been spent shutting down production to wipe down rails and belts. And you know those employees who had to wipe down the rails are happy to be doing something else with their time! Bishop-Wisecarver also provided special parts machining for a customer so they didn’t have to purchase equipment or space to manufacture it themselves. It also allowed the customer to order only as needed, thus reducing extra inventory storage costs or concerns.

Lean manufacturing is a solid, cost effective business philosophy, but we want it to be more than that – we use it to innovate and design smarter solutions for our customers.  And, in doing so, we are helping conserve, and best utilize, our planet’s resources. We think that’s the best way to truly celebrate Earth Day – everyday. What do you think?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pi Day 2015 – Combining Math & Food for a Celebration of the Century

Pamela Kan, President
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
Full disclosure, math is not my best subject, in fact it ruined my chances at becoming a pharmacist, but when 3.14.15 comes around only once in a century, we need to celebrate!  While I may not be stellar at math I love STEM and making sure our kids are getting a great STEM based experience in school. So we combined two of our favorite subjects – math and food – and built the first ever Bishop-Wisecarver Pie Making Machine in honor of Pi Day 2015.  You won’t find it added to our sales catalog just yet, but you can check out what products we used to build it in a list I’ve included below.

Who says manufacturing, math and technology can’t be fun?  We made pies, had a pie eating contest and then threw, smashed and “gently placed” pies in the faces of our colleagues.  No matter what method was used, the pie made its mark. You can’t fake this kind of fun and you can check out the results in this short video.

We had fun with this historic event and made a big deal of this at our California headquarters – specially designed bright blue Pi shirts worn by all, towels filled with whip cream from wiping faces and lots of laugher echoing on the plant floor. I think I had red icing in my eyebrows for a day! Sounds like a kindergarten class, but that’s what I love about our company – we know how to work hard and play hard together.   

Our Pi Day 2015 event highlights two of the many reasons I love leading the Bishop-Wisecarver team. First, we enjoy what we do and the people we get to work with on a daily basis.  We spend a lot of hours, days, months and years with some colleagues and these relationships help us get better personally and professionally, as individuals and as a company.  When I look at our silly video, I see the smiling faces, but I also see the “stories” of each of the people represented. I know when they started working at Bishop-Wisecarver, the projects they’ve helped make successful and the extra hours they’ve put in to helping a customer realize success.  We don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say we are like a family here – that connection makes a positive difference in everything we do.  And, it’s why we can smear a pie in someone’s face and then go enjoy a beer or a round of golf together.
The Bishop-Wisecarver Family
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography

Brian Burke, Product Manager
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
Secondly, this event is just one of the many ways we try to show students that subjects like math and science, and industries like manufacturing, don’t equate to a boring career.  Learning how to build a pie making machine wasn’t part of my high school curriculum, but when I tell students about our machine, or they see the video, it will open up possibilities and ideas they hadn’t considered.  Helping students understand the opportunities in our manufacturing world is one of our top priorities at Bishop-Wisecarver. We talk in classrooms, welcome tours of students, mentor in a variety of programs and sponsor local science and engineering events as well as several FIRST Robotics teams locally. We are very proud to also sponsor FIRST robotics at the national level.  We do all of this as a way of serving and educating the students of today who will be the employees and inventors of tomorrow. And tomorrow is coming faster and faster all the time! So we made pies, made a mess and celebrated our love of food and math.  Pi Day 2015 was truly a celebration for the century!

Pamela Kan, President
Scott McClintock, VP of Marketing & Technology
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
The automated pie making machine is based upon a LoPro® Linear Actuator. The primary linear axis is a lead-screw driven LoPro with a rotary axis made of HEPCO Motion PRT2 360-degree ring. Both axes are driven by servo motors via LabVIEW development software. The machine also has independent mechanisms for applying whip cream and frosting. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Teamwork Cooks Up Superior Satisfaction

I had the extreme pleasure of dining this past week at Per Se in New York City. Many thanks again to my most gracious hostess Shelly Sun of Bright Star Care LLC.

I was in NYC for my Women Presidents’ Organization Platinum meeting. I look forward to these meetings because I always come away with great ideas for growing my business. I’m a foodie and I love a great meal but dining at Per Se transcends eating to a whole different level and it truly is an experience that one will remember for a long time to come. While the food is phenomenal what makes the experience so exceptional is the service that is wrapped around the food. At a basic level serving food is a commodity. Creating a world class experience that makes customers rave about you sets you apart. From the moment I stepped into the room for our meal I was treated like the most important person in the room.
Teamwork in the kitchen of Per Se in New York
The level of communication between the staff was fabulous. I have several food allergies. Not a problem, and once communicated the rest of the night was flawless with everything being put before me, regardless of the server, being void of the allergy foods. Even with the passed hors d’oeuvres a special version was created for me, without asking, several times. Course after course was delivered with flawless timing. Though a long meal, the pace was consistent and well timed. It was like watching a well-run machine.

The French Laundry kitchen streaming video at Per Se.
After our meal we were treated to a tour of the kitchen and that is where you can see the real teamwork in action. It is an amazing system of communication and timing. There is also a transparency to the operations happening in the kitchen. The Per Se kitchen is linked by video to the French Laundry kitchen in Yountville, California.

Allowing both kitchens to view the level of performance occurring at each location. We also learned that everyone starts at the bottom and must work every position as they work their way up the ladder. This allows every employee to know the process of making superior food and delivering a world class experience from every position. Everyone can talk about the food being served in-depth.

This last point is interesting because in America we built a superior level of manufacturing excellence through the use of apprentice systems. Like Per Se, a well-planned educational process was offered to workers, deepening their skill-sets and making them that much better as they moved on to the next classification of their job. Economics, and to some degree technology, has eroded this system. I think we have done our employees and our economy a disservice. We are now feeling the effects with an increasing shortage of skilled labor for the manufacturing sector.

I thought about my own team at home. They are awesome. They build a superior, high quality product. Often with short lead times. Often to a customer's special request. They take great pride in what they create. We receive high marks on our net promoter score surveys.

I can only hope we are creating raving fans like the team at Per Se though it may be hard to be as excited about guide wheels, linear motion systems and complex assemblies! We can’t transport your taste buds through the sublime silky delight of a taste of foie gras but we can deliver phenomenal performance for our customers applications, often in the most critical and extreme environments imaginable.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What is Creativity?

I have given this word a lot of thought lately. I have recently read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and have started the habit of writing “morning pages”. It really has not been a struggle to adopt this practice since I have kept a journal on and off my whole life.

What is new for me is to think of myself as a creative human being. I have never really thought of myself as artistic. But this book focuses on the word “creative” and the change of term is thought provoking to me. Traditionally, I always think of the two words being synonymous. Someone who is creative is artistic. But does creativity have to be expressed solely though artistic expression?

I find that this morning habit is deeply reflective. I have learned a lot about myself and the stories I run consistently through my brain; some true but most not. But what is most interesting is that I have never thought about how much stuff I actually create.

Is the creation of a strategic plan and a corporate
vision creative? Is coming up with a new recipe for dinner being creative? Is designing my own thank you card on Tiny Prints creative? Is writing a pithy tweet creative? Is planning out an agenda for a meeting creative? Is pulling together synergistic ideas and forming a new strategy creative?

I think it is very true that we are all creative beings. It gets expressed in a million different ways every day. What is exciting to me is how technology is speeding up and easing the ability for us all to express our individual gifts.

We have citizen journalism with the rise of web 2.0, we have Instagram and Flikr for budding photographers; blogging for wannabe writers, and Pinterest for those that love to gather and organize ideas and data, to name just a few.

What is sad is that we don’t embrace and revel in our creativity enough. Maybe that is why we have had a period of innovation stagnation in our country. Too many people were trying to tell us what innovation is and how it can be created and planned in a meeting. A culture that embraces and nurtures creativity creates fertile ground for “black swan” events. The world is ready and in need of big creative ideas. The technology is there and growing at exponential rates to support big step changes. If everyone in the world saw themselves as creative beings how exciting would that be?!

How will you be creative today?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Women Supporting Women – Time to Pass the Torch

Last year I had the great honor of being one of the inaugural recipients of the STEP award. These awards are presented by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte, University of Phoenix, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in honor of women in Science Technology Engineering and Production (STEP). I was completely surprised when I was notified of the honor and looked forward to the awards ceremony.
Kudos goes out to the Manufacturing Institute for spearheading such a phenomenal program. It really surpassed all my expectations. I must admit that I really felt a sense of pride to be in a room of hundreds of women who were receiving this award. The fantastic part was the broad scope and range of the women being honored – from CEOs to plant managers and engineers.

I was interviewed as part of the
STEP Awards 2013.
I was even further humbled to be a part of the video that was shot to promote and memorialize this event. I realized then what a special award this was to receive. It is great to see that women really are starting to impact manufacturing in the United States as well as the world. We are changing the face of manufacturing – literally. And I truly believe the world will be a better place because of those changes.

There’s a long ways to go. Women make up only 1.1 percent of durable goods manufacturing CEOs in the U.S., only 13.7 percent of boards of directors, 10.4 percent of executive officers, and 24.4 percent of the manufacturing labor force, according to Deloitte Development and Manufacturing Institute. Just 30 percent of the 14 million Americans working in manufacturing are female. We need more women to join our ranks. We need their leadership, their vision, their expertise and ingenuity as the field becomes more advanced and requires a diversified set of talents. Karin Linder, founder of KARICO, wrote about this for the Huffington Post.

Women are starting to becoming driving forces
in manufacturing in the U.S. and internationally.
The STEP award comes with a year of programming that was first rate and endeavored to help increase the skillsets of all STEP honorees. A continuation of this will be in October at the Women in Manufacturing event in Dearborn, Michigan.

But now it comes times to pass the torch and submit for the next class of STEP honorees. I encourage you to nominate those women you know who are creating an impact in the way manufacturing is happening in your company or your town. We owe it to the next generation of women for them to see the tremendous opportunities that can lie ahead of them if they chose to have a career in the manufacturing sector.

Manufacturing is alive and well in the USA. It is on the cutting edge of changes occurring in technology and it provides and exciting and vibrant career path for both men and women.

Take a few moments to nominate a candidate now. Click here for the nomination form – the deadline to nominate is September 1.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Disney FAILED to be the Happiest Place on Earth

Credit: laughingplace.com
I was recently down in Anaheim for the ATX West trade show. I took the opportunity to bring my husband along and go to Disneyland. It had been decades for both of us since we last visited and he had been bugging me to go for a while, so I figured it made good sense to take advantage of us being in the area.

Prior to going, I spoke with several friends with kids who tried to teach me how to maximize my Disneyland experience.  I purchased my tickets online. Disney is great at collecting data and tries every way possible to get you to stay multiple days and “upgrade” your experience. Of course, all these options cost you more. In preparation, I loaded the apps and waited with anticipation for the big day.

On the morning of our visit, during breakfast, my phone came alive. The Disney app fired up welcoming me to the park and helping us get prepared for our visit. WOW! I thought, that's pretty impressive. Great use of customer data. Score one for Disney!

We then boarded the shuttle to the park with great anticipation. Upon reaching the security entrance, we were greeted with a handmade sign listing all of the rides closed for the day. Huh? More than half of these attractions were FastPass rides (the most popular rides). I was now not so happy that I ponied up $125 per person for an incomplete experience. I had bought my park tickets only days before our visit. I find it hard to believe that Disney had no knowledge that they would be servicing some of these rides. I would have appreciated that knowledge at the time of purchase. Maybe Disney could have adjusted the price of park tickets for the day? Sounds fair to me.

Once inside the park, we looked at the app then headed into California Adventure for Soarin' Over California. We stood in line (what you do more of than anything else in Disneyland) and after a 20 minute wait, enjoyed our 4 minute and 51 second experience. Well OK, glad I didn't wait any longer for that experience.

We soon learned it is all about collecting FastPass tickets. Unfortunately, Disney provides little education as to how this system works. While you may think these passes would be handed out at the ride, no, you are wrong. Kiosks are located at random locations, usually in another area of the park.

We strolled through the park and took in the special show for Chinese Lunar New Year. It was a nice added touch and I tweeted it out. Minutes later, I got a response back from Disney. Ah… so the Disney team is listening. Good to know.

My trusty app showed the wait time for the Cars ride – Radiator Springs Racers was growing quickly. We decided to bite the bullet and stand in line. When we got to the entrance, the sign stated it was a 45 minute wait. The app stated it was a 75 minute wait. I asked the attendant if the posted wait time was correct. He promptly chided me that Disneyland wait times are extremely accurate. So, being a fool, I believed him and we headed into the line for the ride.

Tick tock, we waited, 45 minutes passed, and the ride was still nowhere in sight. Now 75 minutes passed and yup, you got it, we are still waiting. It was interesting that as I watched everyone else waiting, the vast majority were praying to their mobile devices. Wow, I thought, Disney has a captive audience, bored, waiting in line and yet they don’t do anything with that opportunity. Now 90 minutes passed; we can at least kinda sort of see the end of the line. So Disney’s accuracy in wait time isn't really all that accurate after all. But why isn't it? Many apps predict accurate traffic times, why isn't Disney using that same technology to keep the masses informed and happy?

Then what every Disney visitor dreads… the Cars ride broke down. Does Disney provide any actual data? Nope. Instead, the information provided is as vague as possible, making the decision to stay in line or leave a total gamble on the visitor's part. So, like idiots, we waited another 30 minutes. Finally, I had had enough and I pushed up to the front of the line to speak with another not so happy attendant.

“So can you give me a ballpark estimate of when the ride will resume?” With complete disdain the attendant replied, “Ma’am, I cannot give out any information.” I felt like I was on a jury stand. “Sir, I can neither deny nor confirm that statement.” Oh come on!

After pleading I would never ever hold him accountable for any information that would pass from his lips to my ears, I finally got him to admit that the current riders had not even been “evacuated” from the ride and that maintenance had yet to show up. Plus, once maintenance did show up, it took at least 45 minutes "on average" to get a ride going again. Gotcha! So Disney does have data. Liars, liars pants on fire!

Meanwhile, back in Twitterland, my tweet asking for information must have drifted into a black hole. Silence was my only response. Oh yeah, I asked the attendant if Disney provided passes for those who had waited (now more than two hours) to get priority once the ride was back up. I was informed that was not a Disney policy. Hum, I am now REALLY not happy with my $125 ticket per person. So then, crazy me asks, “Do you tweet or at least post to your app when the ride is fixed?” Blank stare, chirping crickets, and he then says, “Ma’am, we don’t do that here.”

Needless to say, the rest of our day did not go much better. Several more rides broke down and it was not often reflected on their app, and several were rides we were on (which stopped working repeatedly). It was not a happy experience and I have to say I will most likely never return.

Companies cannot use BI/BD (business intelligence/big data) to only get more money. Especially if you are in the business of providing an experience that is labeled as being, “The happiest place on earth."  Whether Disney will actually respond to this blog is doubtful but they should. They have the opportunity to lead the world in their use of BI/BD and the creation of a world-class experience. Yet instead their viewpoint is myopic and self-centered. Disney, you just created an epic FAIL of an experience in my book.