We spoke with the Jolly Old Elf earlier this year to try to learn what he had in store for us…

While Santa didn’t give us any clues as to what he had in his bag for our shops, I have consulted with some of his  economists -uhh- favorite elves-  to try to get a sneak peek, as well as some sensemaking from our own Business Trends Report. Our Business Trends Report has been reporting an 8% or more higher level of sales and shipments for our industry all year- we and our favorite economists see that continuing in 2018 first half for sure…
Here’s what I think Santa has in his bag for you going into 2018:
New Technology – Yes, we know that you can’t find the additional people that you need to run new machines. THAT IS ALL THE REASON YOU NEED  to try to automate everything that you already have, so that you can free up the talent that you already have to move up to their highest and best use. That highest and best use will be on the newer equipment you will need to stay competitive in the strong markets ahead. Also, reconsider your approaches to tooling and accessories for what you have now. Cheapest cost per tool makes economic sense (maybe) in a slow market and hunker down economy. When your shop is so busy that you are routinely scheduling overtime and are at the limits of your capacity, tooling and accessories that reduce set up time, operate longer between adjustments, and provide additional benefits such as tighter tolerance capability are  an investment that leads to maximizing income from the capacity that you have available. Talk to PMPA’s Tech members to see how their tools, accessories, software, specialty materials and metalworking fluids can help you wring more production out of your current capacity in less time.
Training, Training, Training – The talent already on your team is your strongest asset. Training them to perform at their highest and best use creates a win win for them and for your shop. The best people that will be in your workforce in five years are probably the people that are already on your team today. Whatever you can do to improve their skills will pay dividends all the way around. PMPA has created an online training program called PMPA MFG to help you upgrade the knowledge and competencies of your new hires as well as existing performers. Check it out here: PMPA MFG Workforce Training or give Sterling Gill, III a call at PMPA HQ to get a personal demonstration.
Increa$ed Working Capital – If you really intend to take advantage of the strong demand for manufactured products in the next year, you will need to look at your working capital and adjust accordingly. The economists  – uhh- Santa’s Helpers-  that we follow have walked back their “recession in 2019” forecast and are now talking about a much more likely “soft landing.” Continuing strength for our shops through the first half for 2018 and a slight slowing in Q3 and Q4. The capital needs of a business  in a strong and growing market are much different than those needed when we were all in “hunker down mode”in a barely tepid economy. Our Business trends shows that the market for our products has shifted to a new higher level, and we see that strength continuing in our immediate and actionable future. Plan for success. Talk to your banker.
Fewer Regulatory Surprises – Regulatory surprises have been the basis for my personal economy and full employment  since the 2008 election. The current administration’s noticeably different approach has allowed me to focus my attentions to other areas of compliance, improvement, and member service. However, we are now on the lookout for  Trade and Tariff storms which could suddenly disrupt the markets and demand for our components (By forcing Santa’s sleigh to pull over until they pass.) On the regulatory side, as shop owners we need to continue to be diligent, train, document, and audit our systems for safety and compliance. If we do this we will both intelligently manage our risk, and also allay any fears of finding a stocking full of coal…
That’s what I caught a sneak peek of when I met with Santa. I hope that you consider these points and take appropriate action. It is up to us to respond appropriately to the strength in demand and markets. PMPA members looking for further details are welcome to contact me at PMPA.

Here are 4 questions to help you evaluate the value of your work.

-Is what I am doing needed?

Is this the simplest and best way to do it?

-Am I using the time, tools and materials effectively- and at their highest and best use?

-Am I proud of what I am doing?

Mirror, mirror on the wall...
Mirror, mirror on the wall…

If you answered “yes” to all of the above, congratulations to you.

Whatever it is that you are doing, you are rocking it.

If you didn’t say yes to all of them, well, now you have an idea on what to start improving…

What questions would you add, if any, to these 4?

Deploying what we have- our people, our talents, our assets- to their highest and best use maximizes their return and maximizes everyone’s satisfaction. Change happens in our lives, in our families, in our organizations. 

When change happens, it provides us an opportunity to reassesss our assets and redeploy them to their new “Highest and Best Use.”

Wonderful memories of holidays, birthdays, and special occasions.

The Family Silver

My parents married in 1950. My mom was Canadian, and she shopped at our local Loblaw’s, which was a Canadian grocery chain that had stores in Ohio. A familiar taste of home in her new country.

Today we have frequent shopper cards, frequent flier miles, and  store perks. In the 1950’s, they had S&H Green Stamps and Loblaws also had “PC’s”- Premimum Coupons. You could purchase these premium coupons based on the dollars you spent on your groceries. You could redeem those coupons for ‘Premium Merchandise.’  My mom stretched her budget and maximized her buying power with Loblaw’s PC’s which she redeemed for this 8-place setting of Rogers Silver flatware in 1953- just in time for Christmas!

Before there were frequent shopper programs there were other ways to reward customer loyalty.

The silver  and the fancy plates came out for every holiday, birthday, and happy family gathering.

Until my folks retired. They retired to Florida, half a continent away from the Ohio branch of the family, and the silver never again saw the light of day – or of candles on the table. It too was retired.

A few years ago, I helped my dad move into assisted living back in Ohio. I helped him clear out his home. He asked me to take “Mom’s Silver” and put it to good use.

But my family was already dispersed- both daughters married and out of state; my son at college. When they returned home  for holidays, we were so happy to spend time with them, that what is now the  “Family Silver” was the farthest thing from our mind.

Highest and Best Use

What is the highest and best use of this asset we now call the Family Silver?  For us, the joy of still having it connects us to memories of happy days of a different era. But our entertaining is mostly behind us. The silver is a wonderful trophy, not to the victors, but to the survivors. It is just a trophy. What  higher and better use could it have?

My oldest daughter and her husband have a great start to their careers. They have many friends, and do a lot of entertaining. They have a life ahead of them of holidays, birthdays, and other happy occasions. What is the ‘Highest and Best Use’ for “Mom’s Silver?”

Her sister is deployed out of country, she does not need more ballast from home at this stage in her life.

I think that its highest and best use will be with my daughter as she builds new traditions, and memories with her husband and their friends in their home in Wisconsin.

Change happens.   It happens to families. It happens to companies too.

Loblaw’s no longer has stores in Ohio. When my brother moved to Canada he met Bob Loblaw, of the Loblaw family. Bob Loblaw was designing left handed surgical tools for left handed doctors. I’m not sure how that worked out, but it is a far cry from the retail grocery business.

Change happens to families. When it does, we need to ask, “What is the highest and best use of our assets? Are they adding value to our lives? Creating lasting memories and helping us achieve what we want to with the people we love?”

Organizational Effectiveness

What about our companies? Are we deploying our company’s assets, both technical and human, at their highest and best use?

Like the family silver, they may be assets on the books, but if they are not being utilized effectively, if they are not deployed at their highest and best use, what are they really to us?

As a guy with more years in manufacturing and quality than I would care to admit, I would say this: They are a loss. A loss to society, a sub-optimum arrangement that prevents your company  from achieving its highest and best.

This story about the ‘Family Silver’ isn’t just about the family silver. It is a lens to help us understand that the idea of ‘Highest and Best Use’ is the way to maximize our effectiveness.

What ‘Family Silver’ do you have that is effectively retired? Sitting out of sight and out of mind? Not just machine tools, processes, materials. What about your people? Are they each operating at their ‘Highest and Best Use?’

Jim Collins talks about having the right people on the bus. Then on the right seats on the bus. Assuring that your people are operating at their ‘Highest and Best Use’ is another way of getting at the truth behind Collins’ point.

I hope that you are operating at your highest and best use. And that the people and processes under your authority are too.

Highest and best use. It is the key to happiness, success, effectiveness and satisfaction.

Oh- if you read this post, please don’t tell my daughter… we’d like it to be a surprise when she visits next.

Thanks to Tim Waters via LinkedIn Goups for the great thought-starter Question!

Paying for performance or engagement?

1) Be sincere and respectful when employees engage you.
2) Determine their PASSION, then allow them more degrees of freedom and discretion in that area.
3) Join them in their world. Have huddles in their space. Be present where the action is.
As managers and executives it’s easy to listen to an employee’s ‘issue’ and think- “Well that’s about the most unimportant thing that I have heard and I’m not going to waste my time on it.” But in the employee’s world that issue or need  just might be the speed bump that keeps them from running the process profitably. Listen and respect what they have to say to you, if they have taken the time to share it with you, it is important to them.
How can we not trust someone with what we know is their passion? Letting someone operate at their highest and best use is win-win-win for all involved. It’s what the folks in the Pentagon refer to as a “Force Multiplier.”
Being a presence on the shop floor means that you have more and better information. And that you are approachable, that you care.
WARNING: If you are in our space and aren’t wearing the Personal Protective Equipment that you make us wear, you will lose our engagement because of the hypocrisy.  Show us that you are one of us by your actions, not just your words.
Employee engagement is powerful. What tips would you like to share to help us better engage with each other at work and in the shop?