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Improving Asset Reliability Is Like Investing in the Stock Market

Learn how to put your common sense to work to achieve real business value in your maintenance operations. The same maintenance strategies don’t have to be applied to all of your assets. You need a toolkit of various strategies to be applied appropriately.

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The Return on Investment Customers Receive from Maintenance

Consistently operating at peak performance and getting the most out of assets is a key objective for many companies. Implementing the right software solutions is how Best-In-Class companies are continuing to excel. Investing in a maintenance contract ensures that your company’s critical software is always at peak performance.

Considering software maintenance is similar to purchasing car insurance. The type of coverage you purchase directly correlates to the support and security you will receive in the event of an accident. Purchasing liability coverage will provide the minimum amount required by law, but that minimal amount may not be enough protection, which can result in a significant out-of-pocket expense. Purchasing comprehensive coverage may be costly, but you are protected should anything happen to your vehicle through no fault of your own. For example, if you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, liability insurance will pay to repair the damage to the other car, up to the limits of your policy; you will be responsible for any cost above that and for the cost of repairs to your own car. Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, would pay for repairs to both vehicles.

A software maintenance plan allows the same peace of mind as comprehensive insurance, the security of knowing that you have the necessary tools to allow your company to gain a general competitive edge. When customers think of maintenance, the first thing that comes to mind is access to technical support via phone, email, or the web support portal, but typically there is so much more. Customers who invest in Aptean maintenance have access to the Self Service portal, which provides access to a wealth of information. The resources include articles, support incident submission, management and reporting. The portal also provides educational recordings, product downloads and documentation, and a community base where customers are able to communicate with one another. Through the portal, maintenance customers have access to view and manage company profiles, access to industry and technical bulletins, and the access to subscriptions to receive updates about their products and Aptean.

For many of our products, Aptean also provides a full catalog of courses through Aptean University for all maintenance customers. Through the use of this resource, maintenance users will have 24/7 access to diverse video libraries that help educate and encourage employees to be well trained so that they have the ability to super charge systems and processes.

Maintenance also means having access to upgrades on solutions, which means that your company has state-of-the-art functionality to continue performing at their best. These upgrades include the newest releases, as well as any hotfix updates and service packs. Customers are able to receive access to new features and functionality that can help position your company to better meet your business objectives while implementing the latest technologies and best practices. Customers on maintenance contracts also have the ability to offer insight into the product roadmap. Customer advisory boards comprised of passionate hand-picked customers are able to provide their opinions for the direction of the product.

Investing in maintenance will ensure that your business has the coverage, support, and security it needs to operate at peak performance and ensure you are getting the most out your software solution from Aptean.

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August 09, 2017 Tola Begbaaji Jump to Comments

The Internship Experience at Aptean

The value of an internship is immeasurable. The experiences and connections you make throughout your placement can help pave the way for your career and lead to future job offers. Pinpointing a company that not only has an internship available in your field of interest but, also gives you the opportunity to grow your skillset is crucial.

At Aptean, we have a high-performance work culture built around top tier employees focused on driving for results and providing an exceptional customer experience. Our success-oriented and engaging business environment allows us to provide interns with the opportunity to gain meaningful experience in their areas of interest and exposure to other facets of the business as well.

During the summer, we provide opportunities in various departments to hard-working, motivated, and interested students looking to expand their experience outside school. While summer for many college students represents a time of rest and relaxation before classes resume in the fall, it can also be a time to broaden their skills and gain valuable expertise. Students who invest in an internship are able to gain real-world experience before returning to a classroom.

Being an intern at Aptean doesn’t mean running to get coffee, or performing menial tasks such as shredding old files. Aptean interns have the opportunity to learn and produce work that matters.

“You produce work that actually makes an impact on the company, I’ve worked at a large company before where your work doesn’t even matter,” Naveen Thiligan, a Research and Development intern, said. “I’ve also worked in a high-pressure startup company where it was always stressful, but at Aptean I really feel like I can produce quality work and that what I am doing is relevant in the company.”

Feeling that your work is of significance is an important factor to consider within an internship. The ability to produce meaningful work while also being able to add finished projects to your portfolio is what sets a great internship apart from a merely good one.

Aptean promotes collaboration as well. We believe that our greatest success comes from working together. Collaboration across borders, valuing everyone’s contributions, and giving as well as receiving constructive criticism helps to cultivate an environment of mutual trust and respect.

“The environment at Aptean is really my favorite thing about working here,” explained Cam Wilson, a Customer Marketing intern. “It’s an open and collaborative space where you feel comfortable enough to approach anyone to ask questions or learn more.”

An open environment has the potential to significantly impact the work you do and the connections you make while at your internship. A collaborative and supportive work space allows you to ask questions, make mistakes, and add your input while knowing that you have a team and mentors behind you that are invested in your success.

“Over the course of my internship at Aptean, I’ve had great mentors to help me with my tasks. Our bosses will delay their own work and projects in order to make sure we have all the knowledge to understand what we are supposed to be doing,” Alex Kandilarov, a Research and Development intern, stated.

Identifying the perfect internship is always a hard choice, and requires you to take multiple factors into consideration. The best internship will allow you to learn, grow, and gain experience and knowledge that you won’t be able to gain in a classroom setting. An internship that affords you the opportunity to grow and develop as a professional will impact and shape your view on all your future business endeavors.

“I knew interning at Aptean was the perfect fit for me because not only did it allow me to grow my skills, but it also allowed me to bridge the gap between what I read online about potential careers and how the professional world really works.” Thiligan explained.

To learn more about Aptean’s internship opportunities, contact us via info@aptean.com.

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Improving Asset Reliability Is Like Investing in the Stock Market

I am not a Wall Street wizard who regularly follows public companies looking for the best investments. If you are like me, we wonder where to invest our money? The conventional wisdom seems to be investing in products and services that you find yourself using. If you like it, and you see others liking it, then it is probably a good investment. I followed this advice a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself drawn to a coffee chain that I had not particularly noticed. After a few months of including this stop on my route to work a couple of days a week, I observed that it was more crowded inside, and there were long lines at the drive-thru. Some mornings I had to bypass it because the wait would cause me to be late to work. Then it dawned on me – I’m not the only one who has developed an affinity for this place, so the business must be doing something right. I bought some stock. It is up $2.43 in the 2 weeks since I purchased it. While admittedly not a rapid ascension to the top, it is at least up in value.

So what in the world does this have to do with maintenance? The answer is common sense. Things that usually make sense tend to be reasonable things to do. The trends towards predictive maintenance and asset performance management (APM) make sense, particularly in the age of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things.) It simply makes sense to use accurate data that easily gathered about any machine to inform and manage its status. We’re already seeing the Internet of Things in our homes. We have security cameras around our home for protection. Our cars alert us when an oil change is needed. Our lights and thermostats are linked to our smartphones so we can make adjustments to conserve energy. So why not apply the same concept in commercial facilities? Why wouldn’t we let a motor tell us when it’s running hot? Why wouldn’t we let a pump tell us that it is experiencing excessive vibrations? Why wouldn’t we let an oven tell us that its internal temperatures have been varying outside of normal tolerances over the last hour? Let’s not forget the human factor. Why wouldn’t we enable an operator to easily alert maintenance in the CMMS/EAM system that they notice an anomaly in an asset?

These things make sense in equipment maintenance, and the technology to reveal and take advantage of this previously unused information is becoming more accessible and thus ubiquitous in manufacturing. And it just makes sense to get started with using these technologies now. You don’t have to tackle the entire plant floor at once. Begin with just one line. Learn how to put your common sense to work to achieve real business value in your maintenance operations. The same maintenance strategies don’t have to be applied to all of your assets. You need a toolkit of various strategies to be applied appropriately. Look at where IIoT fits into that toolkit, and how it can be applied to the appropriate asset issues. It makes sense to empower your maintenance organization with a complete set of technology tools that they can apply to the right situations. It makes sense to invest where others are also finding good coffee drinks ….I mean finding good maintenance management solutions.

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July 12, 2017 Kay Jenkins Jump to Comments

Tags :EAM

Hidden Cost of Warehouse

Let’s face it, warehousing of product in essence should be relatively simple. The product is received, putaway, picked and then shipped with an occasional count to make sure everything is in order.

However the consequence of an inefficient and ineffective warehouse can be disastrous. Product that is built to exacting specifications in your pristine manufacturing operation that disappears in a warehouse “black hole” is never going to impress any customers. Bottom line, if you can’t find the product, you can’t ship it, or if it takes longer in labor costs to find it than the customer paid for it, then your chance of a long term profitable business are very slim. Your business is the sum of all parts and unfortunately the lowest common denominator usually thrives.

Nowadays many companies have a WMS or Warehouse Management System to help them manage all the people and processes within a warehouse. While a WMS can help control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process associated transactions, such as receiving, picking and shipping, even when used well, there are still many “hidden costs” that can have a major impact on the bottom line, customer satisfaction and overall business success.

Here are three “hidden costs” that can be addressed with proper use of a WMS.

TIME

Travel time is the second most expensive variable cost, labor being the first. It is virtually invisible and extremely expensive if allowed to go unchecked. Just as a manager would not want to see employees wandering around with nothing to do, equipment should not be crossing the floor unloaded, or traveling to the far corners of the warehouse to pick the product when the same product is available within eyesight. Three solutions available with WMS can resolve this issue.

Slotting is the placement of products within a warehouse facility, to maximize the use of a warehouse’s available cube space by improved storage and picking efficiency and reductions in warehouse handling cost, by optimizing product location and balancing workload. This strategy takes a number of factors into consideration, such as location, dimensions, and weight, to profile and sequence items down the pick path. Proper slotting leads to reduced picker travel, more stable loads, fewer accidents, and less product breakage.

Interleaving is a practice that uses WMS to assign tasks to workers in ways that make use of each trip that they and their associated equipment make during their work shifts. This practice typically can eliminate 25-30% of the machine travel associated with pallet moves.

Picking strategies are one of the easiest and more cost effective ways to maximize productivity and improve order accuracy. This operation is also in direct connection to customer satisfaction, as quickly and accurately processing orders is essential to the bottom line. Batch picking involves picking more than one order at a time. Using the WMS to help batch orders together in different ways, allows the workers to optimize picks and increase pick density, which reduces the number of times a picker has to travel through any aisle. Zone picking divides the warehouse into multiple zones and assigns workers to pick only within one zone reducing travel time. Orders are either picked and passed from zone to zone for fulfillment or consolidated at a point before shipping. Order picking is often the most preferred method of picking, but may not be the most effective. An order picker picks one order at a time, following a route up and down each aisle until the entire order is picked. This method may work well in an operation with a low number of orders, and a high number of picks per order; however, using this method in a warehouse with a large number of smaller orders would lead to excessive travel time.

INVENTORY

Inventory management is a balancing act. You can’t have too much, which could lead to shelves filled with expired or obsolete products; excessive expensive inventory holding or a larger facility than is really needed. You don’t want too little, resulting in product shortages, unfulfilled orders, and unhappy customers. You need just the right amount of stock. Companies can increase profitability 20-50% through careful inventory management.

Tracking inventory is essential. Product should be tracked and recorded during initial receipt, as bad practices at receiving only get worse later. Whether it is through the use of bar codes or radio frequency identification (RFID), a detailed transaction history of inventory flowing in and out of the warehouse can improve visibility and reduce errors. Real-time data in WMS means the system and the warehouse are never out of sync, ensuring better checks and balances with audits and cycle counts.

Shelf life and stock rotation can also have a major “hidden cost” implication. Warehouses need to now know where each lot is stored and when and if the product is set to expire. Most Warehouse Management Systems offer various controls to help control the shipping of these products, such as LIFO, FEFO and FIFO. Without these controls product will expire without ever being picked. The costs associated with this can be outstanding. There is the obvious cost of the manufacturing of these obsolete products but also expensive warehouse space has been used to house the product and costly labor to receive and putaway the product can also be incurred with no payback.

ORGANIZATION

The final area of “hidden” costs is the organization of the warehouse itself. Cost savings in travel time and inventory control can be lost if the warehouse is an incomprehensible maze. The first step is to determine how the facility will operate and develop a master strategy. Decide how space is used and think in three dimensions; rather than expanding the footprint, perhaps there can be better use of vertical space. Examine potential traffic patterns and storage locations. Consider how items will be picked, how they will be putaway, and how the stock will be replenished. Group products into families based on the results of this analysis, and configure the WMS to support this plan, building in exception protocols. Lastly, plan to work and work the plan. Without regular upkeep, a well-organized warehouse can quickly become disorganized and difficult to navigate

CONCLUSION

Remember, warehouses should never be rocket science. Having a strong WMS will help reduce costs, increase inventory accuracy and storage capacity, and improve customer satisfaction. This will at least allow you to survive against your competitors. Using a strong WMS effectively to manage all processes will help you drive out these additional “hidden costs”, giving you a tangible advantage against your competitors.

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June 28, 2017 Steve Adams Jump to Comments

Tags :WMS

Optimizing Patient Flow

Every hospital organization is unique and has attributes that separates them from others, these can include: number of beds, programs and services, budgets, patient population served, models of care and staffing models. However, there are many similarities – there never seems to be enough beds and inevitably patients have to wait for services, whether they be internal services or those provided by your community partners. Patient flow and patient throughput is a major focus in all hospitals. The question remains, how do we measure patient flow and what is the gold standard or benchmark for excellent patient flow?

Due to the uniqueness of each organization, there is no one metric or statement that can be set for all hospitals. The targets will continue to evolve and new goals should always be reached for. The key is to start measuring and continue to strive for better.

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT 

How do you know where to focus your efforts? That’s where Medworxx can help. Like the old adage says, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Medworxx data is already doing the measuring—you just need to start looking at the data and creating the internal benchmarks for your unique organization. Monitoring data to identify where process improvement efforts should be focused can include:

  • Admission day practices – are we admitting the right patients? Medworxx data on Avoidable Admissions will give you the insight into the data to understand who is being admitted and if those patients are appropriate for that level of care
  • Discharge practices – are we discharging or transitioning patients as soon as they are clinically stable? Medworxx RFD/T data will provide organizations with the number and percent of potential avoidable days, often referred to as the ‘low hanging fruit’. Even a small reduction in avoidable days can result in aiding significantly in daily bed flow challenges.
  • Focus on organizational (internal) barriers - Anecdotal information can help guide organizations to areas in need of process redesign. Are there clear referral processes to multidisciplinary team members and are diagnostic tests being ordered early enough in the stay of the patient?

TRENDS FROM PATIENT THROUGHPUT REVIEWS 

Through the work Medworxx has completed in the past year conducting Patient Throughput Reviews (PTR), we have documented the following patient flow trends in Admission Day Practices, Discharge Practices and Internal Barriers.

Admission Day Practices

Potential avoidable admissions ranged from 10-19% with an average of 13%
This number represents all patients that did not meet the clinical criteria for admission. What does this mean for an organization? Those patients occupied a bed but did not require that specific level of care. This prevents other patients that do meet clinical criteria for admission to come into hospital and obtain the required treatments and services. This creates bottlenecks and backlogs in all areas of the hospital. Organizations that measure and create strategies to reduce avoidable admissions will have a positive return on patient flow and throughput. 

Discharge Practices

RFD/T days ranged from 23% to 35% with an average of 31.5%
This represents the patients that were clinically stable but remained in hospital due to barriers, interruptions or delays in their care. Potential avoidable days is an important metric to measure as these are days that could have been saved and beds turned over for other patients that would clinically require the bed. Reducing these numbers is vital to creating capacity and flow in your organization. It also leads to greater patient and staff satisfaction.

Internal Barriers

Waiting for allied health assessments/treatments, medication treatments such as IV antibiotics and diagnostic testing orders/delays, are the most commonly documented reasons patients remain in hospital after they have been deemed clinically stable.
Understanding the precipitating factors that contribute to these delays is important. Data can help determine:

  • When are these delays occurring? Time of day or day of the week, could the issue be related to weekend or off hour coverage issues?
  • At what point in the patient journey are these delays noted?
  • Are tests and services being ordered late in the admission or could these services be provided on an out-patient basis? 

Objective data enables your hospital to create strategies for improvement. So remember, start small but think big and before you know it your organization will look back on your journey with a true feeling of accomplishment and the knowledge that slow and steady always ensures successful results.

OPTIMIZING PATIENT FLOW  

Benchmarking is key. Begin by getting a baseline to jumpstart your measurements. Start small and ask questions. Develop a culture of continued improvement throughout your organization by:

  • Engaging and communicating with staff
  • Developing a plan - start with something attainable and create a plan that strives to keep the finger on the pulse
  • Revisiting your data on a regular basis
  • Setting new benchmarks and goals monthly, quarterly, and yearly

These are just a few strategies that will get your started. Medworxx is committed to helping your organization realize its potential. Please reach out to a member of our team as we are excited to help you develop the plan that works best for your organization.

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Clinical Engagement: A reciprocal commitment from staff & their organization to improve patient satisfaction

Remaining in the hospital when a patient no longer requires an acute care setting puts them at risk for many reasons: nosocomial infections, physical deconditioning, and decreased mental status are some key examples.  The longer the Length of Stay (LOS) exacerbates these and results in poor clinical outcomes and dissatisfied patients and families. In hospitals we, the care providers, are overwhelmed and are often task focused, which prohibits us from not focusing on progression of care. We need to be go back to basics and put the focus back on the patient and providing quality care.

Clinicians and Care Providers

  • Engage Earlier - start engaging the patient and the family about their goals of care on the day of admission.
  • Make Care Coordination Patient Focused in Real Time - assign a target Estimated Date of Discharge (EDD) on the day of admission and continue to review it daily as the patients progress through their care journey to discharge. Discharge can be to their home or transition to an alternate care setting.
  • Be Proactive - discharge planning must be proactive not reactive.
  • Identify Barriers and Delays on a Daily Basis - focus on patient flow daily to identify any barriers, delays or interruptions in the patient journey. These barriers should be identified and acted upon daily in real time to ensure the patient is receiving the best care, the right level of care and having progress in their care path daily. Keeping patients involved in their daily care and hospital LOS goals with improved communication and collaboration puts the patient first and will improve patient satisfaction.

The Organization

  • Standardize Processes - hospitals need to standardize their patient flow processes, make them visible, and communicate across the organization. 
  • Encourage Collaboration - embrace a culture where every member of the Multidisciplinary team is involved in the care plan of the patient which includes the discharge plan. Although many hospitals now have discharge planners, social workers, patient flow coordinators to facilitate discharge plans, it is still the responsibility of all members of the care team. 

Care delivered must be a value-add to the patient.  We do not want our patients sitting around wondering what is happening with their plan of care.  Communication is key among the care delivery team and, more importantly, with the patient and their family.  

We have all heard the phrase "happy wife, happy life."  For clinicians out there, "happy patient, happy nurse."  

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Taking Human Error Out of the Hacker Equation

Think about the vast information you have stored on your phone; contacts, family pictures, passwords, emails, and your favorite apps. What would happen if that information was left vulnerable for hackers to obtain? What if the manufacturer sent out an update to protect your phone from potential hackers, but you did not to install it because your phone was turned off? All of your precious and personal information would be left vulnerable to hackers wanting to steal and use that data. This same scenario is what companies combat every day except on a larger scale.

Companies at every level have to combat the possible attacks of hackers. In today’s world, the potential of your company being hacked is not a question of “if” but of “when”. According to a 2015 study by Duke University and CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey, hackers have successfully infiltrated more than 80 percent of U.S. companies. Smaller organizations are more prone to breaches as they have fewer resources to allocate to potential threats.

Businesses are often more susceptible to these attacks because proper measures have not been put in place to effectively combat and protect against significant attacks such as malware or ransomware. In relation to the various attacks that companies may see, there are two major levels of cyber-attacks.

Breaking down what’s out there

Cyber-attacks can range from soft/medium grade attacks such as phishing or hackers receiving information from a disgruntled employee to hard attacks which requires hackers to get direct access to the information through breaking in or hacking the firewall.

There are specific gatekeepers to each level that can help identify and prevent potential hacks. All in all a lot of the responsibility comes down to how you manage your electronic lifestyle.

Soft/mid-grade attacks are the more common form of hacking that companies face. The gatekeepers for this level of attack include the employees and the IT department. With this type of attack, hackers are able to enter into a company database through phishing or exploiting a known password schema to gain access into the system. These attacks can also happen due to insider information from disgruntled employees given to hackers.

Forrester’s 2016 Global Business Technographics® Security Survey revealed around 49% of global network security decision-makers reported that they had experienced at least one breach over the past 12-months. Soft/mid-grade attacks can be avoided by the implementation of employee education such as online security courses that require a refresher every year. Other measures to stop such attacks include a vigilant IT, having a strong rotating password in place, and ensuring that any suspicious emails or activity is addressed immediately.

The second and more extreme level of cyber-attacks are known as a hard attack. Malware, Ransomware, and Denial-of-Service (DoS) viruses are examples. These attacks are more difficult to engineer as they require more leg work. Hackers are searching through code, looking for various security holes and may even necessitate physical access to company buildings in order to retrieve the information they need.

In a recent Forrester study found that software vulnerability is responsible for 42 percent of attacks. These threats can inflict significant monetary damage to a company. The majority of these threats exploit known software vulnerabilities. For this level of cyberattacks, it is vital to keep the company’s software updated. Immediate and frequent updates of security software, application of security patches, and better physical security are the best precautions a company can take to deter these intrusions. The immediacy of these updates can sometimes be the difference between a small or non-issue and a major issue; it is crucial that IT departments have the tools to update their software.

Becoming more proactive

Although educated employees and a strong IT department are crucial to keeping hackers out of the company’s data, these best practices and solutions, such as anti-malware, virus-protection, and firewalls, are useless without the proper implementation. The real security holes are found when IT cannot update or have not updated their equipment. Machines that are in a low power state are typically unreachable and, as a result, unavailable for an emergency security update.

Enterprise-wide, effective wake solutions are an investment that companies should make in order to ensure their networks are effectively executing software patching updates. Machines that are powered down will not receive or process updates sent out by IT departments until they are awakened. Implementation of wake software allows machines that are powered down to be awakened and alerted to the updates so that their systems can adapt and download the changes that help to lessen their cyber vulnerability. Power Management solutions that include enterprise-wide wake help solve the waking issue as a complement to their function. Companies using this technology have seen increased success in software updates, from about 60 percent before the implementation of the wake solutions software to about 95 percent success after the use of this software.

Being aware of the multi-pronged problems that arise as a result of software not being patched or installed is a major step in protecting yourself from an attack against your company and ensuring the security of your information.

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Social Media: Opportunity for engagement or cause for complaint?

Millions of people are using social media to network, sell products, to extend influence and inevitably, complain about poor service. A recent report on social media use reveals 1.59 billion people engaging with Facebook, 320 million with Twitter and over 100 million people on LinkedIn. Beyond these impressive numbers, do you really know the extent to which this activity impacts on your customer service?

Before the rise of social media, if you had an issue with the service you received you could complain face-to-face. Another option was to ring the company later, or write a letter and wait patiently for your issue to be resolved. All these pathways to customer service are still valid, though each has their own problems. Face-to-face conversations can be confrontational. With communication increasing via screens, confrontation is something many people shy away from.

A browse through Facebook or Twitter reveals a world where even the smallest everyday occurrences are shared publicly. For many people, it’s not even a conscious decision anymore to let your social network know what you’re up to. Any interaction with a business - good or bad - is likely to be highly visible. Can you really afford to ignore this trend? As an enterprise with ‘key stakeholders’ and ‘margins’, you really need to know what these people, your customers, are saying aboutyou.

Doing the right thing

While some share complaints immediately, many customers still choose to contact the company directly – via social media – to share their concerns and look for an appropriate resolution. Industry research reveals the alarming statistic that from January 2014 to May 2015 the use of social media for complaints had increased 300 percent.

That represents a lot of complaint traffic. However, there’s no reason for panic. Complaints aren’t new. As you already know how to provide great customer service – why shouldn’t you be able to translate it into excellent social media engagement? This is your opportunity to visibly do the right thing in a very public setting, to promote outstanding customer service and turn your critics into advocates.

Terms of engagement

To achieve an online presence that is proactive and customer-centric, requires precise targeting. Adequate software to capture complaints and analyze data is a must; as well as policies and procedures in place for colleagues to exemplify good practice.

Equip your customer service team with the right skills to respond. A badly-written response or negative tone may do as much damage in a public forum – if not more – as not responding in the first place. All employees should be aware of your company’s mission statement and objectives. All levels of the business, from the boardroom down, should be engaged and positive.

Ensure your customer service and marketing departments are communicating effectively. Empower your employees to make good decisions. Once they’re confident with their own judgement, you minimize risk. Technology is available to add layers of protection, if required.

Great customer service looks the same on all channels. Customers want the same things: they want a swift response; they want you to be honest and acknowledge your mistakes; and they want a satisfactory outcome.

Are you genuine?

Train your staff to recognize genuine engagement: let them use their own natural tone of voice; their own words; and their name to ensure that personal touch. Placatory comments without substance, or using obvious cut and paste templates should be avoided. One engaging, conversational response addressing the customer’s concerns directly, offering an appropriate solution, is much better than going through the motions. Reward colleagues who demonstrate the best you have to offer.

A public apology and transparent ownership of mistakes show customers you care. However, you could set a precedent for every customer to demand the same outcome. You might even encourage unscrupulous people to make false complaints if you offer public compensation. If you need to have a conversation about sensitive data, let the customer know that you will contact them privately. Avoid pushing the initiative back on to them to complain again elsewhere, especially via a different channel.

Technology answers back

Invest in software to analyze your presence and feedback on the main social media channels. It’s not just complaints - many people will share positive experiences too, or even seek the answers to basic service questions. Every customer who comments about you must be addressed; the one you overlook is the one that will escalate and damage your reputation. Technology can help you to catch negative feedback before it escalates. Have a system that alerts you to a problem and aim to resolve it within a set time.

Some people just want to cause trouble. Identifying trolls and dealing with them effectively is a key part of your strategy. Again, look to your processes – do your employees know what to do? Make sure you teach them how to handle potentially sensitive public situations.

A clear brand vision

Communication at all levels is vital. Align skills and knowledge about best customer service practice. Possess a clear vision that is shared throughout the business. Ensure marketing provides feedback and reports on social media analysis and that customer service craft responses that reflect this vision. If you have a separate complaints team bridge the divide by creating one team, or by improving connections.

Effective social media management helps to develop and maintain a healthy brand and improves relationships with your customers. Reinforce your vision daily and show it working publicly through social channels. As your customers are talking about you – you have nothing to lose, and much to gain – by giving them a platform to talk to you. Most importantly – you remain in control.

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From Guessing to Measuring: Relating Physics to Your Factory

Recently, I came across a best-selling book on the history of physics and was intrigued by the many stories of discovery over the centuries, but equally interested in the challenges of what we have yet to understand. In the 4th century B.C., ancient Greek philosopher Democritus postulated that the world is made up of atoms, particles too small to be seen, which are the building blocks of all matter. The next 2,300 years were filled with competing ideas about the nature of the universe, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that this “Atomic Theory” was finally confirmed.

The beginning of the last century was the dawn of a new revolution, unlike others before. Industries were developing methods of mass producing goods and delivering to market more efficiently to drive down the cost per unit. Governments were finding new ideologies, nations were preparing for war, and technology was developed to gain strategic and tactical advantages. It is clear that science was moving beyond millennia of observation and intuition into an age of experimentation and measurement. It was in 1905 that a young Swiss patent clerk’s ideas would fundamentally change the way we understand the universe.

This young man was Albert Einstein and, he did what no one over the millennia has been able to do: confirm that atoms in fact existed. Until this time, scientists could not figure out how to measure an atom, much less view one. Einstein’s solution was simple. He would measure the amount of wiggle that particles like pollen or dust exhibit while in a fluid. Basically, these molecules vibrate and drift while in suspension, and - by measuring this amount of movement or drift, you could calculate the size of an atom based on their collisions, thus confirming 2,300 years of intuition.

As a result of Einstein’s confirmation of the atom, photoelectric effect, and the theories of general and special relativity, quantum physics emerged as a new field with a focus on understanding sub-atomic particles. At this smaller-than-the-atom perspective, things do not occur intuitively. In fact, much of classical physics principals no longer apply, as observation and logic alone could not be used to understand this quantum level. Measurement and mathematics emerged as the best way to unlock further understanding.

Likewise, in the second half of the 20th century, Japanese engineers were developing methods to improve efficiency in their manufacturing plants in order to rebuild their war-torn nation’s economy. Lean manufacturing, as we know it today, is the combination of those techniques and the use of quantitative objective measurements by American engineers focused on understanding and refining manufacturing processes. Years later, Six Sigma methodology was born as an extension of these objectives to control variation in processes. In more recent years, advances in technology have provided teams of operational leaders with the tools needed to understand what is happening on their shop floors. Gone are the days of using intuition to determine whether or not you had a good day. Today, tools like Factory MES provide you with real-time metrics captured directly from your operation.

In order to remain competitive and continue to improve your complex manufacturing processes, it is essential that you have the data readily available to make informed decisions and drive actions. Now, when you want to know whether you had a good day, you simply pull up a report and, based on your predefined criteria, you no longer have to guess….you know. Intelligent, real-time action can be taken, problem solving activity can be launched, and countermeasures deployed, all with the use of data captured from your shop floor.

Let Aptean partner with you to ensure that your Factory MES application is optimized and providing you with the critical information you need. Over the more than ten years of working with Factory MES at customer sites across the globe, we have developed a gold standard of what system and user configuration looks like. We have examined what strong users are doing, developed modules and functionality where a need exists, and given attention to new and creative ways the application is being used. We want to hear your voice and engage with you and your team to make Factory work even better for you.  

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Initiate Change, No Matter How Small

According to industry analysts, there are many facets of asset maintenance that can be articulated and quantified as characteristic of best-in-class companies. There are also many consulting companies who can help you achieve improvements in your business. However you can make progress yourself by applying just three elements – persistence, focus, and data. While this premise sounds simple, its execution is not; otherwise there would be no unplanned downtime in manufacturing operations. Imagine being a maintenance expert, working only 9 to 5, with no midnight calls that the equipment has shut down operations. While that scenario may not be realistic any time soon, there is no doubt that it can become more so with these three principles.

Remember that progress seldom is easy, though is certainly worthwhile. Persistence is the hardest of the three disciplines, yet the most important one. Focus allows you to avoid distractions that can allay your initiative. Good tools are essential in supporting your persistence, once you push your initiative uphill.

Your persistence and focus in executing depends on obtaining, analyzing, and acting on good data. Data, and its analysis with clear visualizations, is vital to supporting any initiative you undertake. Without it, you do not know where you are, where you are going, or where any improvements are being made. Without that information, your desire to persist will wane, and with it, your initiative. You will then be resigned to a tale of “well, we tried that once but…”

We all have so many initiatives that we wish we could tackle, but none will happen with just thoughts and wishes. You can only achieve success one step at a time. So consider your most important initiatives and apply these three disciplines to impact your current results. I suggest starting with an initiative that has a high impact, and a high chance of success, so that you can see positive results quickly and feel encouraged to tackle the next one. If one asset in your facility quickly comes to mind as one you would like to throw out of the window because it causes you so much trouble, then consider focusing on improvements to it. Just that one asset. Remember that a high-impact initiative does not have to be a broad one; it only has to positively affect your work environment in one small way. Once you see success there, you will be energized and more confident in tackling the next one.

Mark Twain said that “the secret to getting ahead is getting started.” Decide to tackle one asset. Decide to organize and control one small area of the storeroom. Own it. See results. Sell your success to your colleagues and management. And watch it grow. And then brag to me about your success, because I would truly enjoy hearing about it.

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April 27, 2017 Kay Jenkins Jump to Comments

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