Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

One Good Idea

Years ago when I was part of what was then called the IPC EMSI Council, we used to end every meeting by going around the room sharing one good idea from each company. I still include time for that in the IPC EMS Program Management certification courses I teach because it always opens the door to new thoughts among the students. And, occasionally when I come across something I find interesting I do it in my blog.

The one good idea I’m sharing today comes from Concept2. They are an exercise equipment company that makes rowing and ski machines. I bought one of their rowing machines because they were top rated, had almost zero customer bad reviews and actually manufacture their equipment in the US (we can’t keep manufacturing in the US if we don’t make an effort buy US-made products). I discovered after I bought my machine that I wasn’t just getting a product, I was actually buying into a community of rowers. They sponsor global competitions and individual or team “challenges” several times a year. They have even partnered with a third-party software vendor to make it possible for rowers to virtually race each other.

The one good idea comes from their challenge schedule. Their end-of-year holiday challenge is for rowers to either row 100,000 meters or 200,000 meters between black Friday and Christmas Eve. Unlike their other challenges, where the reward is simply a certificate and a listing on an online Honor Roll, they donate money for each of rowers meeting one of the two challenge levels (the amount doubles if you hit the higher goal). So, in addition to motivating exercise during the holidays, folks that hit that goal are helping raise money for three charities. It is impossible to cheat because the rower “reports” your meters to an online log via a phone app or computer link.

I’ve noticed that several of my client companies have wellness programs and do company-sponsored food drives around the holidays for their local food banks–it is a pretty common practice in manufacturing firms. So, the one good idea I’m proposing is that if your company has both a wellness program and a food drive, consider finding a way to link the two by including a company donation tied to wellness program participants meeting set exercise goals. Its a win-win for both efforts. A few tips to make the program count:

  • Make sure the goal achievement payment promises will align with any budgetary constraints (it is demotivating to hear that goal achievement levels exceeded the amount the company is willing to donate)
  • Define the exercises that will qualify for the goal so there is no issue with what participants define as exercise and make it a broad enough list that people without access to exercise machines or a gym can still participate
  • Make sure the metric is easy for everyone to measure (time is a great measurement, since it is easy to check your watch)
  • Make it easy for people to log their hours as they happen in a central place (ideally an online spreadsheet)
  • Celebrate the accomplishment (a lunch, certificates, maybe an honor board).

Done right, employees have motivation to engage in healthy habits during a time when everyone typically overindulges, a local charity gets a little extra support and good “social responsibility” PR is had by all. It doesn’t get much better than that.

What is Your Brand?

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve started blogging for the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) at James Madison University. My latest post there relates to Establishing Your Brand as a professional. ICPM has a Certified Manager program aligned with the National Management Association (NMA). Their blog is composed of contributions from CMs on a range of management topics and is definitely a good read.

In my latest column in Circuits Assembly, I look at the challenges associated with establishing an operation in Mexico. The increased cost competitiveness of Mexico’s manufacturing, migration of automotive and aerospace clusters, and a lessening of the violence that has plagued the country for much of the last decade have incentivized a new wave of US-based regional manufacturers to look at the benefits of opening operations there as a the next step in their expansion plans.

That said, Mexico remains a country full of complexity when it comes to establishing a viable operation. There isn’t one right answer for best location or business structure. This month we look at some of the tradeoffs to consider when establishing a small operation in Mexico. Read more here.


If you are planning on attending SMTA International in Rosemont, Illinois mark your calendars for this Tuesday conference event that Mike Buetow from Circuits Assembly and I will be co-chairing:

Taking the Cost Out of EMS: Getting the Best Return for Lean Initiatives

Sept. 29, 2015

11 am – 12:30pm

In today’s world of variable demand and higher mix product, electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies need to be flexible and agile to respond to changing customer needs. At the same time, EMS companies also need to address efficiency and cost reduction in an environment characterized by razor thin margins. Does a more holistic approach to implementing Lean manufacturing philosophy hold the answers to best addressing these challenges? Join us as a regional EMS provider and supplier of manufacturing shop floor control solutions discuss how a Lean, yet agile EMS operation can be created by rethinking how customers, the supply chain, support functions and manufacturing operations work together in an interconnected Lean environment. Following the presentations, there will be a panel discussion with the audience focused on ways this type of holistic approach can eliminate the common constraints to effective Lean implementation found in the EMS environment.


  • Lean Flow on the SMT Factory Floor
    • Michael Ford, Mentor Graphics, Valor Division
  • Applying Lean Philosophies to Supply Chain Management in EMS
    • Wally Johnson, Firstronic
  • Panel Discussion

For more information and to register, visit

My Circuits Assembly article this month looks at the concepts of branding, marketing and selling. Like my recent Leader vs. Manager post, this is another area where words are used interchangeably to refer to very different concepts. Branding, Marketing and Selling looks at the ways these concepts interrelate and specific ways that electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers can capitalize on well thought out strategy in these areas. Read the full article here.

I’ve started blogging for the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) at James Madison University and have attached my first post focused on situational management styles and the differences between a leader and a manager. I’ll be doing posts quarterly. ICPM has a Certified Manager program aligned with the National Management Association (NMA). Their blog is composed of contributions from CMs on a range of management topics and should be continually updating with new material.

Manufacturing Matters

Recently, I watched my local City Council lecture a manufacturer looking to relocate about the fact that they didn’t feel his wages were high enough to receive incentives and it really got me thinking about how detrimental the current political grandstanding around wages is. Part of that reason is that we’ve been focused on becoming a service economy so long that many of our politicians simply don’t understand how transformational manufacturing jobs can be. A manufacturer paid for my Master’s degree back when I made $5/hour in my first job of out college–that was a great tradeoff that has paid dividends my entire career. In virtually every manufacturer I’ve worked for, I’ve watched other people increase their skills and earning power through the training, tuition refund programs and career advancement opportunities. I focused my Circuits Assembly article in April on that topic. Feel to send copies to any elected officials that you feel are in need of enlightenment about the contributions your companies make to our society as a whole.


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