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Archive for the ‘Discussion Questions’ Category

Happy New Year

Like many folks who consult in the marketing realm, I put client needs ahead of my own marketing efforts (hence, my habit of clustering blog updates a few times a year). That said, I have kept up with writing and publishing articles over the last few months, so there are several new posts that link to those articles.

I’m proud to say that I kept all my New Year’s Resolutions in 2016. One particularly challenging one was participating in every challenge my Concept2 Rower manufacturer ran that year. I’ve logged over a million meters keeping that one and am in much better shape for having done it. That said, this year my resolutions are back to a business focus. The most relevant one being post more frequently in this blog (ideally a few times per month rather than once a quarter). So, if you enjoy the articles, expect to see new material much more frequently and feel free to add comments on topics you’d like to see covered.

What is your stretch goal for the New Year?

The STEM Challenge

Several months ago, I attended a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event in El Paso, TX. Two of my electronics manufacturing services clients provided me with video, photos and sample printed circuit boards to use in a display about manufacturing. IPC and SMTA also provided materials. My October 2015 article in Circuits Assembly asks the question: Are manufacturers engaged enough?

This is an area I continue to question. With the cost of college, I honestly believe that it is very important for students to walk into to college with a good idea of the job options related to their chosen degree program and a roadmap for internships and/or co-op programs that can help them build a network  during college that leads to job offers once they get a degree. Not everyone agrees with me. The educators I’ve discussed this with tend to feel that students should not be this focused. One even went so far as to say that it isn’t the university’s role to train students for private industry. To me, that shows the magnitude of the disconnect. My thoughts on focus and employer engagement weren’t that a university should be training people to the whims of employers, but that students paying $40-$60K for a degree should have a reasonable expectation that they were leaving college with marketable job skills and hopefully a path to a job that doesn’t involve a hairnet and French fries.

What do you think? Feel free to leave comments.

Leader Vs. Manager: The Value of a Situational Style

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.

One Good Idea

Back when I used to be a member of what was then called IPC’s Electronics Manufacturing Services Industry (EMSI) Council, we used to end each meeting with a round robin session called “one good idea.” Each member would share something his/her company was doing that had saved time or money or solved a common challenge. When I teach IPC’s EMS Program Management Certification course, I usually include that round robin discussion, as well.

Today, I’d like to try an online version of it. Normally I don’t promote my clients in my blog, but one of them had a good idea that is simply too good not to share. A number of folks over at Screaming Circuits are fans of Nikola Tesla, so much so that they commissioned a t-shirt to commemorate Tesla’s contributions to science and technology. The t-shirt also contributes to the preservation of his history by donating all profits to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe directly. The t-shirt, designed by Portland, Oregon area artist Kyle Devore, offers supporters of Tesla a way to give back to the organization as well as receive a piece of memorabilia. View more about the t-shirt on the website:

And, while fundraising for the Tesla Museum (or any museum likely to inspire future engineers and scientists) is a great idea; from my perspective, the really interesting idea was the business model used by Teespring, the crowdfunding site that has created the t-shirt. Its model lets organizations fund raise through t-shirt sales with virtually no financial risk, excess inventory risk or logistics headaches. And, that is a great idea worth sharing.

Got a great idea you’d like to share? Feel free to add it to the comments section.


Does Reliability Have a Place in EMS

In my December Circuits Assembly column, I looked at the growing area of reliability analysis software and its relevance to EMS providers. This grew out of discussion at the Contract Manufacturing session held at SMTAI in October. There are pros and cons, since it can increase a contractor’s liability risks. This article looks at potential sources for the software, trends in the way it is already being used in EMS and some of the potential legal issues. If you work for an EMS company, feel free to participate in the poll below. The results will display after you enter your answer.

Nearshoring Panel at APEX

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on Nearshoring: Addressing the Sourcing Equation as part of the Real Time at IPC APEX video series. I also did several other interviews, which I’ll link in other columns.

Gary Burnett, President and CEO of Burton Industries; Curtis Campbell, VP Sales West Coast Operations, SigmaTron International; and Mike Baldwin, VP, Spectrum Assembly, Inc. share their views on Nearshoring both domestically and in other parts of the world in this video clip.

Nearshoring: Addressing the Sourcing Equation

Nearshoring: Addressing the Sourcing Equation

Work Ethic and Opportunity

Scottish author and reformer Samuel Smiles once said, “the spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual.” I strongly believe that and in my August Circuits Assembly column discuss the model the late Olin King used at SCI Systems, Inc. to foster a culture of opportunity for those willing to put in the extra hours to take advantage of those benefits.

While there is room for debate on King’s management style, I suspect that if back in the 80s entrepreneurs at more large manufacturing concerns had worked as closely with their local and state resources as King did, we might have better trained workforces, education systems that worked and a lot less government bureaucracy tied to job creation. The tuition refund program described in the column would be impossible for any company to afford now that universities have grown into bloated bureaucracies more worried about achieving academic or athletic bragging rights than educating students at an affordable cost. Similarly, many public job creation initiatives require companies to spend inordinate amounts of time on paperwork for relatively minor cost offsets, have multiple approval cycles that create unworkable lead-time or worse offer funding that unexpectedly runs out.

That said, I recognize that some EMS companies still find ways to offer employee benefits for self-improvement, in spite of the industry’s slim margins. I periodically write columns that highlight that point and given the fact that “outsourcing” is now a political wedge issue, will likely focus on the contributions EMS companies make to their local communities in column in the near future. So, if your company has a benefit program designed to increase worker skills (whether job-related or just for pure self-improvement), feel free to drop me an email or comment on this post. I’ll get back to you to discuss it in more detail before I write that column.



Discussion Question: Are You Exploiting the Value of Chat Sessions–Why or Why Not?

Yesterday I did a chat on EMS Program Management at Printed Circuit University. We had four people asking questions. But, afterwards I learned that we actually had 377 unique visitors during the hour-long chat. I found that data interesting . While the chat was free, viewers had to register to get access. In short, asking a question didn’t reveal more about the user than the act of registering to view the chat  had already done.

I thought this might be a good topic to drive a little discussion in my blog because it seems to me that the advantages of chat aren’t being exploited. The disadvantage of chat is obvious. Typing questions and waiting for answers is about as exciting as watching grass grow. But asking questions and checking back later to see the answer, is actually quite productive. PCU has created an environment where subject matter experts are available at specific times to answer questions on set topics. The chat logs from the conversations are available 24/7 after the chat. Basically, each chat is opportunity to tap free knowledge on subjects that interest you. However, the overall value of the chat is dependent on quantity/quality of the questions, as well as the quality of the answers. I can understand why someone would choose not to visit a topic that was not of interest. But, it is harder for me to understand why someone would visit a topic that interested him/her but not ask questions (particularly given that questions can be asked anonymously in that forum).

So, my discussion driving question of the day is: are you exploiting the benefits of chat sessions by asking questions? And, if not, why aren’t you asking questions? These answers don’t just need to apply to my chat session–I’m interested in learning more about what people like and don’t like about this type of forum. Inquiring minds want to know.

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