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Posts Tagged ‘continuous improvement’

How To Become Irreplaceable To Your Customers

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

In asking GAWDA members about the best business books they’ve ever read, Jim Collins’ book Good To Great is one that comes up time and time again. Perhaps there’s something alluring about being “great” to companies that pride themselves in service. If you ask Jim Collins, very few businesses can be called “great,” and many business owners aren’t even interested in getting to great. This sentiment, touched on in the video above, is echoed in Collins’ recent interview with Inc. Magazine.

Good To GreatSo what does it mean to be great? In the interview, Collins distinguishes between inputs and outputs. For example, some companies have very strong culture, but Collins says culture is a contributor to greatness and not the end result. Great service, the pride of GAWDA members, would also fall under the inputs category.

In determining if your company is great or not, Collins poses the question, “If your company disappeared, would it leave a gaping hole that could not easily be filled by any other enterprise on the planet?”

Think about it for a second: Is your company replaceable? Would your customers’ business be worse off if you weren’t around? It follows that becoming a great company (and a great leader) means becoming irreplaceable to your customers.

Reading the interview with Collins jogged my memory back to the First Quarter issue of this year, when we took a page from Collins and asked GAWDA distributors what they would have to do to become great in 2012. Members offered some great answers, like “Help customers figure out a better way to do their jobs” and “Train employees in the time-honored art of fundamental problem solving.” These certainly have the makings of irreplaceable companies. You can read the responses of 43 different distributors in the 2012 Business Forecast.

Assuming your company has room to improve, what can you do to become irreplaceable? Collins offers 12 questions a business owner must reflect on if he or she is truly committed to becoming great. Do we have the right people on the bus and in the key seats? What are the core values and core purpose on which we want to build this enterprise for 100 years? “The challenge is not just to build a company that can endure, but to build one that is worthy of enduring,” says Collins. These questions are certainly a good start to becoming irreplaceable. The full list of questions appear on page 4 of the article.

On his website, Collins also offers some other tools to help businesses on their way to greatness, including the Good To Great Diagnostic Tool and the Vision Framework, which helps leaders articulate their organization’s vision. Access these tools here.

Do you agree with Collins’ definition of what makes a company great? In what ways do you (or can you) differentiate your business to become irreplaceable to your customers?

How Good Are Your Best Practices?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Now's as good a time as any to reflect on your business practices.

A recent article about traditional sales territories versus market segmentation has been garnering a good deal of discussion that has carried over into Twitter and LinkedIn as well. One commenter writes, “Your article has sparked discussion on whether or not segmentation would make sense in our world and, if so, if/how that could be accomplished to best suit all parties.”

On the surface, the article is about whether one sales model is better than another. And I can confidently say that no single model is best for every company. For some companies, market segmentation just doesn’t make sense, either due to territory size (more windshield time), small number of markets or other varying reasons.

Underneath this surface of the article is another question: do you follow business practices because they are the best practices for your company, or do you do things a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always been done? It’s great to see comments like the one above showing that GAWDA members are challenging themselves with this question.

Many GAWDA members have formal programs like Continuous Improvement, in which they identify and remove wasteful practices. Formal program or no program at all, it never hurts to take a look at your process and see if they are the most efficient, most productive and—most of all—if customers appreciate the effort, or even notice it at all.

What business practices have your reflected on and changed at your business? Share by leaving a comment.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

Tracking Employees With RFID? How It Translates To Cylinders

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Many GAWDA members are using bar code or RFID technology to track their cylinders. Tracking cylinders is great way to keep tabs on what’s coming in and out of the plant, but what if it could do even more?

In a recent study of RFID capabilities, tracking technology manufacturer Queralt used RFID to monitor employee movement throughout the plant, measuring productivity, times employees arrived and left, and how much time was spent on lunch. Readers at various locations detected when workers were nearby, allowing for the company to track the employees’ actual movements.

I’m not suggesting that you start monitoring your plant employees; rather, I think this suggests a possibility of advanced cylinder tracking. Maybe the flow of the plant is such that cylinders have to be moved excessively, and it is resulting in wasted time and labor. Advanced RFID tracking could provide an actual measure of unnecessary handling to determine the value of reorganizing the flow of the plant.

Or maybe RFID readers could register cylinders as a delivery truck is pulling up to the dock with empties, before the driver even gets out of the cab and opens the gate. This could save the time it takes to scan a bar code or RFID tag manually. Once registered by the RFID reader, the system could call on the data associated with each unique cylinder ID and alert plant workers as to any need for requalification, etc.

These are only a few of the possibilities. It seems to fit into the ideas of continuous improvement as well, something that a lot of distributors embrace. What else can you envision being done with cylinder tracking? It may seem like science fiction, but look at where we are today.