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womenqs.jpgA motivated employee can move mountains. A disgruntled employee creates havoc. Which do you have? As results are critical to success, I thought it was worth pursuing how to motivate employees; however, as important as results are, retaining top talent in today’s marketplace will put you on top.

1. Let’s start with a “not” – money. Although the lack of fair compensation is a de-motivator, money itself is rarely a motivator.

2. Instead, explain each person’s value – how does each person contribute to the company vision, goals and priorities? Yes, it takes time to translate each person’s value but it will achieve immeasurable results.

3. Diversity – remember, not everyone is the same. Each person has different interests and motivations. Listen and find out what they are, and then modify your behavior to what works for each person.

4. Leverage strengths – I haven’t found anyone who wants to fail (even the miserable, negative ones). Forget about weaknesses that aren’t causing significant issues. Instead, build on each person’s strengths, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

5. Trust – do what you say you’ll do, and don’t commit to things you know cannot be realistically delivered (even if it is what people want to hear at the moment). As simple as it sounds, it’s not simple to do. Yet, trust can have a profound effect on motivation.

6. Reward performance and take action with non-performers – one of the most overlooked, yet critical leadership action items. Many times, this is #1 for your top performers. It is critical to note that BOTH are required to truly motivate your top performers. Do not put it aside for a day when you have “time”.

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© 2014 LMA Consulting Group

apicslogo.jpgAs I discussed in my Skills Gap research report, there is a significant disconnect between what companies need and what they have.  It is worrisome for our future if we cannot find a way to close this gap.  Of course, I have suggestions stemming from retention to hiring to training & development which I discussed in my recent Skills Gap article. However, what do we do about the fact that manufacturing and distribution careers don’t seem to attract top talent?

Certainly, if you ask a college student about exciting and high-paying careers, most will talk about what’s reported on the news as the latest up-and-coming career path. How do we move manufacturing and distribution careers UP that ladder? How do we create the buzz? It will be essential if we wish to attract the best and brightest – whether students or executives, we must make these roles more compelling.

My APICS Inland Empire chapter has assembled a panel of executives from top local firms to fortune 500 companies to debate and discuss this topic on May 3rd at Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona. At our 3rd annual Executive Panel & Networking Symposium on “Filling the Skills Gap: Putting the “Spark” Back in Manufacturing & Distribution,” we’ll have an expert from a company who has achieved amazing results with their lean journey, another who has created strength in exports, a third who is a leader in logistics innovation and a training and development guru who is also the APICS Chair-elect.  Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to learn and network with your peers. For your convenience, you may register here.

For those of you in other states (as I’m sure anyone near Corona, Calif. will attend in person), we won’t make you miss out completely. I will summarize the highlights and key points in future newsletters, so please sign up for our monthly Profit Through People™ Newsletter if you aren’t already a subscriber. As always, I welcome your input and ideas as this is a vital topic which will affect our long-term success.


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The Skills Gap

US Manufacturers Face Shortage of Skills – How Can That Be?

Lean-300x277.jpgI have always been a process consultant, typically focusing on those processes which are the most relevant to making rapid improvement with the specific manufacturer or distributor I am partnering with.  Yet, I find that processes alone are useless as they have to be married up with the “right” people, the “right” systems and aligned with the strategy.  However, people rarely come to me to find the “right” process improvement initiatives for company success; instead, they ask about “quick fixes” and sometimes Kaizen or lean events.

My answer is always, “Why?”  If the requestor thinks a lean event will deliver “motherhood and apple pie” for them, I push back, as a three-day workshop alone will not provide the long-term benefit they desire.  Lean benefits arise from significant culture change!

On the other hand, lean is valuable in the “right” situations, and it provides a nice set of tools for improvement.  After spending time with the experts of the experts, I still contend that lean is simply “uncommon common sense”.

A few of the tenets of lean which I consider “uncommon common sense” include the following:  1) Start with customer value.  2) Eliminate waste.  3) Involve the people.

1.  Start with Customer Value:  Similar to business in general (if you ask just about any business owner or CEO), you must start with your customer.  What do they value?  What are they willing to pay for?  That’s an intriguing question – take a step back and think about what you are willing to pay for.  Expedited service?  I seem to frequently request quick Amazon deliveries for my parents.  Atmosphere?  Would you pay more for a nice Italian restaurant vs. a McDonald’s?

What is becoming more or less important to your customers?  Is price key?  Of course they all will say that price is king; however, in 80% of the clients I consult with, so long as they are in the ballpark in terms of price, the customers care more about quality, service, product variety, the experience, etc.  Do you know which is important to your customers?  If not, you better find out!

The key is to design your processes with your customer in mind.  Of course, every business has TONS of non-value added steps in their processes.  Don’t despair as it isn’t a black or white situation – significant improvement while moving in the right direction is fine.  I’ve found that if you think logically, you’ll be in great shape vs. the masses.  Do you take the time to see if what you are doing makes sense?

2.  Eliminate Waste:  Again, what could be more like common sense than to put a stop to waste?  My good friend’s sharp-as-a-tack 96 year old dad used to be an investment banker/ turnaround CEO combination with a 100% success rate.  When I asked for his secrets to success, one of the top ones was to walk around a facility, look for waste and eliminate it – uncommon common sense!  Rarely followed but not rocket science.  Very few clients see the vast waste in their operations and back office processes.  We become such great fire fighters that we forget about doing it right the first time!

To give you a flavor of what to look for, I thought a quick recap of the three types of waste might be helpful:  1) Muda (more resources are used than required) – there are many types of muda (non-value add) including defects, waiting, and inventory.  Purists say all inventory should be considered waste; however, I suggest we go back to common sense.  What is needed to cover for volatility, uneven demand and lead time gaps while addressing the root causes?  2) Mura (unevenness) – certainly it’s rare to find “even” requirements in real life.  The idea is to utilize just-in-time and create a pull system to address mura.  3) Muri (overburdened) – in this case, the factory or machine cannot possibly catch up with the current staffing, equipment capabilities, non-standard processes etc.  A frequent occurrence to be sure!  Standardized work is significant in resolving muri.

3.  Involve the people: It certainly seems like common sense to involve the people affected in the design of the work process; however, it rarely occurs!  Doesn’t it seem strange that we have to schedule Kaizen events just to ask people for their input?

For example, when redesigning how an order management or planning process will work, do you involve the people who “live” with the process on a daily basis?  In my experience, those who are closest to the process have the best ideas for improving the process.  Wouldn’t you consider this “uncommon common sense” though?

There is much to be learned from The Toyota Production System and Lean; however, it’s easy to go overboard.  I’ve found that those who follow “uncommon common sense” are vastly more successful than their counterparts, including those who perform frequent Kaizen events.  What are your plans for instilling common sense thinking in your workplace?

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Lean: Fad or Vehicle to Bottom Line Results?

mfg.jpgOnly those manufacturers and distributors who want to thrive in 2014 will join in, collaborate and be a bigger part of the community! In todays’ increasingly complex world, seemingly touchy-feely topics like collaboration and community are a must. Who can know “all the answers” as to how to improve operational performance, decrease customer lead times, create customer loyalty, accelerate cash flow, quicken the product development life cycle etc.? No one I know; however, the “right” team of people do. Thus to be successful, it’s becoming more and more critical to seek out opportunities to join with your colleagues (and even competitors) to learn and collaborate. The APICS Inland Empire’s executive panel and networking symposium on May 3rd is one of these rare opportunities.

The Inland Empire Chapter of A.P.I.C.S., the national association for operations management advancing productivity, innovation and competitive success, is igniting manufacturers and distributors with its 3rd Annual Executive Panel & Networking Symposium: Filling the Skills Gap: Putting the “Spark” Back in Manufacturing & Distribution on May 3rd. With manufacturing making a strong comeback, there is an even greater need to attract new talent and build more employee skills for manufacturers and distributors. Through breakfast networking and panel discussion with Noel Massie, UPS Southern California, Roy Paulson, President of Paulson Manufacturing, Alan Dunn, Founder of the Manufacturing Executive Institute and Dwane Lamb, Director of Operations with PEG Grand Terrace (Wilden Pump), attendees can look for new ideas to bring some energy back to their companies.

The Symposium brings together manufacturing and distribution-minded professionals to exchange ideas and hear from business leaders on what they are doing to recruit, engage, train and motivate their workforce.There will also be a focus on how to kindle ideas on recruiting new talent to look at manufacturing as a career choice and how to train new employees so they are work-ready right out of school.

The 3rd Annual Executive Panel & Networking Symposium: Filling the Skills Gap: Putting the “Spark” Back in Manufacturing & Distribution will be held Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona, Calif. Fees to attend the event from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM are $15 for members, $25 for non-members and students are free. Breakfast buffet is included.

apicslogoRegister here or cut and paste the following link into your browser:;jsessionid=54ABE5B0DCE6DD7D05A8E901393304A8.worker_registrant?llr=pd7pgykab&oeidk=a07e8xj5pcxbb7daad4.

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There has never been a better time to create a customer service edge! Gone are the days of picking up the phone with easy orders on the other end! Although we’ve emerged from the recession and are typically profitable, growth is still a challenge. As baby boomers retire, there is less consumption, and with less consumption, demand is stagnated.

Not only is growth harder to come by but service expectations are elevated due to the Amazon effect. Mega-distributors like Amazon have had a significant effect – consumers certainly expect rapid delivery, Sunday deliveries etc. Even manufacturers and distributors are seeing lead times squeezed if they wish to remain in the game.

In my 20+ years of experience as both a former VP of Operations of a mid-market manufacturer and as a business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve found that those companies who leverage these types of hidden opportunities leapfrog the competition.How can you stand out from the crowd and provide loyalty-endearing service with rapid turnaround times? Create a customer service edge.

How do you create a customer service edge? 1) Engage employees. 2) Involve your supply chain. 3) Provide tools & support.

1. Engage Employees: Have you ever seen unhappy employees with happy customers? Me either! You have to start with your employees. Have you provided them with a compelling vision? Do they feel that they are involved with a company that is making a difference in some way? Do they know how they contribute to the vision? How do they add value? Are you providing feedback? Appreciating progress? Engaging them in key projects and ensuring they feel they are a core part of the team?

You’d be amazed as to how the most unlikely employee can contribute to creating a customer service edge if included in the process. In my experience, I’ve seen engineers close a sale, I.T. leaders create customer intimacy, and supply chain employees create a customer service edge. The common ingredient is engaged employees. How important is service to you?

2. Involve your supply chainNow that your employees are on board, you cannot afford to stop there. A customer service edge can only be created by involving your entire supply chain – after all, how will you shorten lead times and improve on time delivery if your customers consistently change their mind at the last minute and your suppliers provide an unreliable delivery lead time?

For example, in one company, we implemented a vendor managed inventory program with our #1 customer, and we went from unreliable service levels to winning the coveted supplier of the year award. We involved the entire supply chain in that we determined how to fulfill our customer’s distribution centers to ensure 98-99% service levels by becoming more intimately involved in the complete supply chain – utilizing our customer’s customers’ demand data, involving our carriers as partners to ensure delivery performance within shipping lanes, and partnering with suppliers through a collaborative forecasting process.

3. Provide tools and support: Last but not least, the best strategies fail in execution; thus, what can we do to ensure we beat the odds and create a customer service edge? Focus on execution – blocking and tackling. Don’t just dictate a customer service priority. Explain its importance. Provide coaching. Support the process with systems.

Build customer service into the performance management process. Celebrate success. With a clear strategy and the appropriate support, customer service will thrive.

In today’s new normal business environment, every company is searching for the “magic formula” of sales growth. Don’t follow the pack; instead, stand out from the crowd with a customer service edge, and leverage the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

Join the conversation on variables affecting customer service by participating in the Amazon Effect Survey. I’m looking for your input on trends in online ordering, customer expectations and changes to the supply line. Pleasecomplete the survey or cut and paste the folloeing link in your browser .



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The Amazon Effect

Stand Out From the Crowd and Delight Your Customers!

Customer Service

Why Customer Service Must be #1


I’m seeing that only those clients who collaborate thrive.  More and more, customers are demanding dramatically improved service and shorter lead times.  Mega distributors like Amazon are elevating expectations.  A few of the key areas to focus on for collaboration include:

1. Pick up the phone – some of the largest successes I’ve seen result from simple yet critical conversations. It can be as simple as calling a customer to discuss current business and to stay in touch.

2. Win-win – remember to look for win-win opportunities in your conversations / meetings with your customers. Two heads are typically better than one – take advantage of already existing relationships to find win-win opportunities to increase business/ profitability.

3. Watch trends – although elaborate forecasting programs can result in increased business and/or improved efficiencies throughout the supply chain, watching and proactively managing to a simple trend line can many times be just as effective.

4. Joint programs – there are many opportunities to develop programs with your customers to share freight/ transportation costs, improve service to your joint end customers (if applicable), collaborate on packaging opportunities, improve efficiencies, tightly manage inventory, etc.

5. Think about value – instead of focusing on selling, think about how to provide value to your customers. How can you add value to your customer’s business? Focus on providing value and you’ll likely end up with win-win results.

I am conducting a research study that measures the impact of the Amazon effect on customer expectations and delivery of goods. I welcome you to participate and share your observations and insights on how delivery and service standards are changing as a result of Amazon. Please take the survey here or cut and paste this link in to your browser

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The Amazon Effect

6 Pitfalls to Program Management Success for Manufacturing Leaders


The Strongest Link

Posted by lisaanderson Apr 8, 2014


I recently was the subject of what’s called a “member spotlight” question and answer session about my business. Knowing my business centers on the supply chain, my interviewer asked me to draw a picture of a supply chain. It’s always a good place to start as there are countless definitions of what people mean when they said “supply chain management”.

In my case, I drew a web of interconnected points spanning from your supplier’s supplier through manufacturing and distribution to your customer’s customer. Afterwards, my interviewer asked me, “Why do you always start with the end of the diagram – going out from the manufacturer to the customer?” I never realized I did that before she asked the question; however, it makes sense. Success begins and ends with “your customers”.

There are many ways to think about your customers – some a waste of time and others will lead to tangible results.  A few strategies which have proven successful include: 1) Understand your customer. 2) Who is Customer Service? 3) Collaboration.

1. Understand your customer:  First, it’s essential to know your customers. Do you know what they want in terms of quality and service requirements? Of course, everyone wants “the best quality with more for less, delivered quicker”; however, what does your customer value such that he/she would be willing to pay for it? Those familiar with the Toyota Production System or Lean might have heard this before; however, I consider it uncommon, common sense – find out what your customer wants!

In addition, the most successful executives not only understand their customers’ quality and service requirements but they also understand what their customers’ career and personal goals. People do business with people they know, like and trust. You must start with “know”.

2. Who is Customer Service?  I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least a short paragraph in making this point. EVERYONE at your company is a face to your customers. Don’t leave it to Customer Service alone. With social media and the extensive webs of relationships which are common in today’s marketplace, you must consider all employees as being the face to the customer.

3. Collaboration: In today’s business environment, there is nothing more important than thinking “collaborative”. Undoubtedly, my most successful clients are collaborating on forecasts, orders, market strategies, new products, etc. Those thinking win-lose negotiating are being left in the dust.

For example, it is common to collaborate with customers on placing orders. These programs have many different names ranging from vendor managed inventory to consumption based ordering to auto replenishment yet they all boil down to the same base process: The supplier figures out what to send to the customer’s distribution centers at what time in order to keep the customer at the desired service level and inventory level.

Thus, there is an opportunity for a win-win as the supplier can optimize its inventory and efficiencies while providing exceptional service for the customer. The benefits don’t stop there – as the supplier and customer partner together, frequently the business grows to boot. For example, with improved service and product availability, the customer’s business increases. Additionally as the partnership strengthens, the supplier typically gains additional business.

There’s no reason why the benefits have to stop with collaborative orders. If you start with a strategy of collaboration, there is no end to the opportunities. Consider collaborative forecasts. If suppliers have a better idea of what is likely to be sold, they will be more successful with service and costs. The best partnerships will share in collaborative benefits, thereby creating substantially more value.

Think about collaborative logistics programs. Where are your distribution centers?  What are your lead times? What about your customers? Can you leverage each other’s networks to create a win-win? Can you coordinate to optimize pallet footprints, truckloads, packaging etc.? I recently saw one of my first mentors who said I used to say HUGE a lot. I don’t remember it, but this seems an appropriate time to honor him…..HUGE opportunities exist.

Have you considered collaborative R&D and product development? How about collaboration with your customers and suppliers? This will bring your supply chain closer together?

In every strategy, project, quarterly goal etc., start by thinking of your customer. My most successful clients do not let customers get anything they want; however, they treat customers as true business partners. How important do you consider your customers?


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Stand Out From the Crowd and Delight Your Customers!

Customer Service

Scorecard/ Metrics – How to Make a Difference to Your Bottom Line

Why Customer Service Must be #1

don't prioritize strategize to reach business goals.jpg


As much as I talk about priorities, I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind by saying “don’t prioritize”.  Possibly; however, there is a time to throw out priorities!

What do you need to accomplish to support your strategies? How about your key customer needs?  I’ve seen too many clients “reshuffling chairs on the Titanic”. Who cares about priorities if you are drowning!

There comes a time for radical thinking. For example, if you have significant levels of past due orders where your current level of staffing will yield only 50% of what you need, prioritizing will end in frustration. So, why does everyone stick with prioritizing? Not only that, I find that we create elaborate systems to help us prioritize yet rarely ever increase our capacity or capabilities. Eventually every order or every customer becomes a priority and so no one is priority. Instead, you’ll need to find a way to increase capacity rapidly.

The key question is how you’ll know if you are reshuffling chairs on the Titanic. It is surprisingly hard to recognize at times. Take a step back and it will become clear. I find it is valuable to set aside time every day to remind yourself of your strategy and ensure you are aligned with it and working on the “right” items.

Are you reshuffling chairs on the Titanic too?

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