FIX WHAT BUGS YOUR CUSTOMER – Getting LEAN beyond the manufacturing floor

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During a recent visit in Rhode Island, a customer and friend of our organization complained about the features of our WiFi thermostat and Iphone App. He just didn’t like the interface with the control application. He struggled with understanding if the HVAC equipment was running and he didn’t like not being able to program the system settings directly from the Iphone App. Our phone interface bugged him. What happens when our customer’s get repeatedly frustrated with experiencing our product, services or people? You know the answer. They’ll be gone.

frustrated

We have been learning and growing in our LEAN journey at Cambridge. My key learning has come in the form of exposure to the energy and passion of our Operations staff for documented improvements in our plant. I’ve been drawn into the LEAN vortex in operations because of our people and their commitment to improving things every day. Unfortunately, the passion for LEAN has not translated to the same awesome level of enthusiasm and commitment beyond the factory floor. Like many in the sales, the customer service and the marketing departments, I have struggled to document meaningful process improvements. My focus on fixing what bugs me has yet to yield the transformational improvements that are possible for me and my team. While transformational improvements are not our stated objective, I find myself feeling reluctant to put forth additional 2-second Lean improvements. Others in my organization have shared similar frustrations. Paul Akers, the author of the book 2-Second Lean, details that every organization hits plateaus in LEAN and persistence is needed to push through to another level.

My perspective on LEAN shifted during this Rhode Island trip to VIBCO, a family owned U.S. based manufacturing organization. I want to share my perspective shift in hopes that it might unlock more people regarding how LEAN practices can propel all of us forward into closer relationships with our customers. I am shifting my thinking from fixing what bugs me to fixing what bugs my customer. Over the last year, I have spent the majority of my time looking at my processes, my environment, my efficiency, my organization, my wasted time and energy.

As I reflect on the power of our Customer Service team, I believe their stellar reputation in the HVAC industry is built upon this hard wired philosophy of helping customers solve problems fast. They strive to support the customer quickly. Both on the phone and on site, our customer service squad supports solving issues that bug customers. Within our technical advisory team, they support our Reps and contractors with information, analysis and design to make their customers more effective with their customer. They have a guaranteed 24 turn around commitment to their customer and typically deliver in less than 4 hours. LEAN beyond the manufacturing plant dock doors is all about fixing what bugs customers.

happy

I’ll report back on the progress we make creating our own LEAN Sales Vortex. We are building our 15 minute daily stand up meeting agenda now. It will include building and fixing customer issues and new ideas for customer improvements. We will be discussing our “Go and Watch” plans for cross functional team learning and customer centric improvements. Finally, we will be outlining our Revenue team external exposure plans so that we can provide an environment to unlock everyone’s genius for fixing what bugs our customers.

Is it not true that what bugs the customer, likely bugs us the most?

TEN SALES LESSONS FROM GOLF

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I really enjoy golf.    I love how the game brings people together from all walks of life and stages in life.   Being outdoors for 2-4 hours in a world of offices and meetings is great for friends, families and business associates.  Golf teaches several life lessons that help anyone seeking to improve performance.

golf

 

 

 

 

 

TEN SALES PERFORMANCE – GOLF LESSONS

  1. Learn/Practice: Sales people are made.  They are not created.   Just like the best players in the golf game, those that commit to practicing and learning their craft, fare better than those that are winging it.
  2. Have Fun: If you have passion and energy for something and can enjoy the experience, you are going to return to it again and again.   If you don’t feel the special calling, do something else.  We must be inspired.
  3. Expect to Win: Just like seeing the putt role in the hole or the approach shot rattle the pin, expect greatness and great outcomes.   Visualize the best outcome without worry of the worst.  The best outcome is just as likely as the worst.   Focus on the best.
  4. Slow Down: Forget all the prep, all the practice, let your instincts work with all the preparation you’ve done.  Focus on the here and now and be present, with awareness of your surroundings.  Rushing towards the next move is not required.   Live in the now.  Your customers will love the way you listen to them.
  5. Develop a Rhythm: I often rewind PGA tour swings on my DVR and it drives my kids crazy.   I love the tempo and the rhythms of the PGA tour professionals.   Think about Ernie Els swing for a moment.   Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual rhythms are vital to our success.   What are you cementing into process that demonstrates a consistency and a rhythm?
  6. Ease Up: Don’t be your own worst critic.   Every pass doesn’t have to be flawless.   Hitting better bad shots is the objective.  The flawless ones, the pure ones will come when they come.  Work on making the misses more on target.   Keep taking shots and moving forward with positive attitude.   Be too hard one’s self and watch how joy and results follow.
  7. Focus on the process: This probably borrows from #1 and #5, however, I like it for the message around regarding one’s focus on the process and not the result as the worthy endeavor.   When we can commit our process to paper or in very succinct clear language, then your process is crystallized.   Thinking LEAN, or 2-Second Lean (author: Paul Akers), I might say that a written best practice approach on process is appropriate.   In golf, one’s putting routine process or tee box pre shot ritual or the very swing itself reminds us that process matters.   The result may look different each time.  Focus on process.  Nail process.
  8. You don’t know where it’s going, but you can’t stay here: It is hard for us to be humble and accept that change is needed.   Change starts with humility and an acceptance that we are not yet fully adapted and evolved.   Embrace change not for change sake, but for the continuous improvement mindset.  Hope is about a better tomorrow in all things.
  9. Respect Others: The golf game etiquette we are all taught as we learned the game reflects life lessons regarding the value of others.  Thinking beyond ourselves to listen and accept the ideas and perspectives of others.   Just like we don’t walk in someone’s line or speak in their backswing, we don’t walk on someone’s perspective or speak over them in conference.
  10. Let It Rip: Commit and go do it. Activity builds momentum.  Perpetual planning and plan revision thwarts pace.   Take 1 less meeting per week and make 1 more appointment or networking appointment each week.

 

Thank you for continuing to follow us here at “The Fresh Air Stream.”   I would love to hear from you regarding valuable life lessons that have impacted your success.  Please like this post and share it with other golfers in your lives

Is it “Heating & Ventilating Technology” or “Ventilating and Heating Technology?” That is the Question!

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As our clients navigate HVAC system design for high bay facilities such as distribution centers or industrial manufacturing plants, they are often asked to recommend a design that accomplishes 3 key deliverables.

1.) Meet variable ventilation requirements
2.) Meet heating requirements / (Consider air load and conductive load and comfort requirements)
3.) Evaluate redundancy to eliminate production and/or service interruptions

Warehouse

As a manufacturer of high efficiency heating technologies (S-Series, SA-Series, Infrared) and ventilating technologies (M-Series, M-Series w/Cooling) we first seek understanding regarding how the building will be operated in order to recommend a heating platform, a ventilation platform, or both. While the core technologies are both 100% outside air, direct fired gas heaters, there are differences in system performance that will impact EE (energy efficiency), thermal comfort, and system installation cost.

When there is a high level of CFM being exhausted due to processes inside a manufacturing facility, making up that building air loss with mechanical ventilation or inbound CFM is critical to balancing the air load of the building. Direct Fired Make-Up air systems with variable air flow capabilities utilizing a Variable Frequency Drive help to ensure better indoor air quality, better thermal comfort, and in some cases reduce safety incidents caused by negative environments and back drafts with non-powered combustion devices.

When high CFM needs are identified (VENTILATION DRIVEN APPLICATION) due to process exhaust in either a manufacturing facility or distribution facility, engineers will first seek to design a VENTILATION (M-Series) system to bring the building to a neutral or balanced position with proper relief. According to the International Mechanical Code and the International Fuel Gas Code Section 611.7

Relief opening – The design of the installation shall include provisions to permit non-recirculating direct-fired industrial air heaters to operate at rated capacity without over-pressurizing the space served by the heaters by taking into account the structure’s designed infiltration rate, providing properly designed relief openings or an interlocked power exhaust system, or a combination of these methods.

Depending on the application, achieving a neutral or even slightly positive pressure can be advantageous to keep natural infiltration in check and to avoid severe over pressurization, or adding to the required air load in the building. ANSI/ASHRAE Standards 62.1 is the recognized standard for minimum ventilation rates to meet acceptable Indoor Air Quality. As the complexity of a building’s air load increases with variable exhaust due to intermittent processes, variable ventilation solutions are required to maintain fresh air and neutral to slightly positive pressure in the building.

Now that the ventilation is addressed in this high CFM building scenario, the designer then seeks to understand the heat load of the building and evaluate if the ventilation solution carries enough BTUS to cover heat requirements on design days. The warehouse or manufacturing facility in this case is built to FIRST satisfy the ventilation requirement and then “stack” any supplemental heating technologies to cover the heat load (air load + conductive load = total heat load.) In order to maximize efficiency, the designer can utilize a low CFM, high BTU heating technology to build the comprehensive system if the ventilation technology does not deliver the needed BTUs on design days for that particular city or location. In this scenario, designers would utilize the M-Series ventilating and heating technology and consider supplementing with S-Series (low CFM, high BTU) heaters if necessary to deliver efficiently, any remaining BTUS required.

When there is not a significant process call for CFM or ventilation beyond basic ASHRAE 62.1 requirements for indoor air quality, High Temperature Heating and Ventilating (HTHV) technologies like the Cambridge S-Series offer the most effective solution. These offer the highest btu/cfm outputs of any make up air technology in the industry. In a HEATING DRIVEN APPLICATION, the designers seek to understand the heat load for the building and design a system that accounts for infiltration and brings the building to neutral, but does not over pressurize the building again addressing proper relief per the IFGC.

This leads me to my last deliverable. Reliability and redundancy of ventilation and heating systems in an industrial manufacturing plant is central to productivity, output and plant productivity measurements. Failure of systems or lack of redundancy of system design is not an option. Deploying systems that are designed to exacting specification, that are built to last, that are reliable and that are easy to service are minimum expectations in the plant production arena. Designers choose quality manufacturers and consider redundancy in their designs to meet the unique demands of these applications.

When designing a ventilation and heating system or a heating and ventilation system for your high-bay building, explore the advantages that two different equipment platforms may provide you in the areas of thermal comfort and operating costs (or EE.) Cambridge Engineering, Inc. manufactures both MAU (Make Up Air/Ventilating) and HTHV (High Temperature Heating & Ventilating) types of equipment. While we are most known in the industry for our HTHV heating & ventilation technologies, we have been delivering outstanding product, design service and post installation support within the MAU space for over 15 years.

Let us know how we can support you with your system design. Is it a ventilation or heating requirements based system design? Please share your thoughts on your design approach or system considerations as you navigate the nuances of heating and/or ventilating high bay buildings.

Move from Presenting to Selling for Improved Sales Results

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Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You go to a meeting ready to engage in a discussion and you wind up listening to a presentation that includes a massive data dump. I’ve heard it called “death by PowerPoint.” Entering into a customer meeting with your presentation deck provides the presenter with a comforting safety net but often times misses the mark in allowing one to build real momentum in understanding the customer’s core challenges and their primary need for the solutions that you and your firm can provide. In an effort to provide the attendees with as much information as possible, we often times miss the opportunity to truly engage with our customers on the topics that are most important to them.

selling photo

Presentations are great when you are engaged in an educational session and your audience is seeking educational content especially as it relates to new concepts, new product categories and ongoing educational agendas with your listeners. Educational sessions lend themselves well in these types of situations.

Presentations are dramatically different than selling situations. Selling situations require an entirely different approach by sales professionals. Our customers are served better when we “Lose the PowerPoint.” Drop the presentation. Don’t even bring it with you. Instead, enter the meeting with a note pad and a pen with a desire to help your customer identify their challenges and a determination to understand whether or not you are able to assist them. Enter your customer meetings with an honest desire to capture your customer’s input. Enter the meeting, prepared to ask the right questions necessary to gain understanding of your customer’s struggles. Where there is struggle or complexity, there may be a need for you and your company’s solutions.

ESTABLISH RAPPORT QUICKLY
Getting a meeting started with positive energy requires your confidence and comfort level. Honestly believing deeply that what you have to offer can help your customer achieve a better life for themselves and their organization provides you with a calm, clear head. You are not seeking to sell anything. You are seeking information. Your success in the meeting is based upon your desire to help. You are here in this meeting today to determine if you can assist the customer. You are in the meeting to diagnose complexity, complication and struggle. Where there is a struggle, there is an opportunity.

UPFRONT CONTRACT – ASK UPFRONT FOR A DECISION AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEETING
At the conclusion of the meeting, I’d like for our customers to decide if we should continue working together on potential solutions, be they products, services or both. The key to the upfront contract is that it is okay for the customer to say no. No is an acceptable answer. It prevents the unnecessary customer chase we can often find ourselves in with customers that are not ready to engage you and your company. The customer is in control.

30 SECONDS of AUTHORITY – We help mechanical contractors improve their operating margins on space heating and ventilation applications in warehouse & industrial manufacturing facilities. With over 35,000 installations and over 2 billion square feet served, CEI has a wealth of application specific installations to assist mechanical contractors in delivering solutions for their customer. For 53 years, we have supported our mechanical contractor partners with heat and air load analysis basis building conditions and have recommend inherently safe, highly, energy-efficient and lowest total installed cost equipment for their building’s HVAC designs to help contractors win projects.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

1.) Understand the Past – What have they tried in the past? How has it worked for them? What do they like about it? What do they not like about it? What, if any, challenges have they had with their past approach? Based on their experiences what could be improved upon?
2.) Understand Their Present Situation – What are they doing now? Are they currently reviewing other solutions? What are you looking at and why? Are they open to additional alternative solutions? What additional challenges or obstacles are there now that we need awareness of?
3.) Envision the Future & A Successful Outcome – What would the customer like to change/fix? What does success look like for the customer? What is the financial impact of a successful outcome? Can the customer quantify the value of the solution? Who benefits from a successful outcome?

The best sales people ask the right questions. They resist the urge to sell products and services prior to learning about the customer’s specific challenges. The above list is by no means the best questions to ask in every situation. Each person must work on these with their own teams for alignment.

Rather than going in armed for bear with information decks, formal presentations and the latest marketing brochure, consider going in completely bare with your own desire to help. Lose the presentation and build confidence through a probing conversation. Try not to prescribe the medicine until you’ve done the thorough diagnosis of the conditions, the challenges, the problems that customer is facing.

I would welcome your feedback and your list of key questions that you feel promote great conversations with your customer base. We can all benefit from improving our own line of questioning to unpack the value that the customer is seeking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic with our subscribers.

People Comfort – How Does It Effect Your Bottom Line?

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For the last 3 years my team has been traveling North America visiting with Cambridge Engineering’s, Sales Representatives to spread the word about options available to Building Owners, Building Operators, Design Engineers, Contractors and Utilities when recommending and selecting heating and ventilation solutions for their building or retrofit projects.

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We have been attempting to call out 3 core concepts for the key influencers when considering improvements to their buildings.

1.) Safety – Use of 100% outside air, direct fired HTHV and MAU technology is inherently safe. Ventilation and Heat are provided by the same blower that cannot be separated. These technologies can improve indoor air quality. Ventilation is the key to safety, preventing the buildup of products of combustion.
2.) Energy Efficiency – HTHV technologies provide the highest btus/cfm ratio thus creating more net useable btus or heat to satisfy the air load and the conductive load in high bay warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities.
3.) Lowest Total Installed Cost – HTHV technologies deliver 3 system in 1 piece of equipment. HTHV technologies deliver A.) Heat, B.) Fresh air ventilation and C.) Even temperatures throughout the building. This 3-in-1 system reduces total equipment cost and the installation costs associated with connections necessary to install multiple pieces of equipment. Engineers may call this a cleaner design.

During our recent Contractor Advisory Board, an influential Design Build Contractor, Paulson-Cheek (Atlanta, Georgia), called us out on our failure to identify THERMAL COMFORT as a primary value in his selection and use of HTHV equipment in his high bay building designs. I’d like to share a brief video from Marshall Cheek regarding his comments on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zamSuuJmlHc

Marshall’s callout on Thermal Comfort was very insightful. We often undervalue the importance of building occupant comfort in a cost competitive new construction or retrofit building environment. Understanding the importance of creating a safe and comfortable working environment for people engaged in the real physical activity such as: warehousing, distribution center and manufacturing facilities, compels us to add this 4th leg to the table.

 

safety

Are people more productive when their workplace is comfortable? One ergonomics expert, Chris Adams, who in addition to being a Human Factors Engineer & Industrial Designer, has been providing human factors engineering to NASA, states that: temperature has a major impact on productivity. According to one of Chris’s articles, 71.5 F is the optimal temperature for 100% productivity. His report details the following information:

As temperature increases at:
• 77 degrees fahrenheit we’re about 98% productive
• 82 degrees fahrenheit  = 95%
• 87 degrees fahrenheit = 90%
• 92 degrees fahrenheit = 85%
As temperature decreases at
• 66 degrees fahrenheit we’re about 98% productive
• 63 degrees fahrenheit = 95%
• 59 degrees fahrenheit = 90%

Soliciting solid Building Owners and Building Operators’ input during the design phase of one’s building project makes sense, according to this report. Adding personnel comfort level to our discussions and being able to articulate the impact that consistent temperatures may have on people’s productivity is beneficial.

Inherent Equipment Safety, Energy Efficiency, Lowest Total Installation Cost and People Comfort are all important topics of discussion when discovering what is most important to owners and operators. People Comfort is high on my list of questions. What does a 5% gain in productivity mean to an organization in real dollars? Answer this question and compare it to an investment decision and it makes for better decision making in an equipment selection.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end here. How important have you found thermal comfort to be in your conversations regarding HVAC design? Does the same hold true for people working in the warehouse? Should it? 71.5d egrees fahrenheit sounds good right now as it’s 100 degrees fahrenheit in St. Louis as I write this blog post.

Your Customers Define Your Value; Customer Advisory Boards provide the framework to listen

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Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital.

value concept handwritten on blackboard

value concept handwritten on blackboard

Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them?

Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization.
1. Deepening Relationships with Customers
2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language
3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps

Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum.

Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language:
We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process.

Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away.

Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success.

Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

LEAN Sales Cycle – What are you doing to apply LEAN principles to your sales process?

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Our Senior Leadership team recently returned from Japan where they were on an educational journey to bring back ideas from Japanese businesses that had been working on LEAN initiatives for many decades. Their trip included a visit to Lexus, the luxury car maker and part of the Toyota family of brands. As they were departing for their trip I asked that they solicit feedback from the Japanese companies regarding LEAN and it’s applications to sales organizations.

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STEP ON THE GAS! Accelerate Your Distribution Center Energy Efficient Retrofits By Picking Great Partners

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I was recently visiting with a large major multi-national, multi-site corporation and discussing their progress in capturing energy reduction results across their enterprise’s more than 80 distribution centers. They shared with me the significant progress that they have made across their organization in lighting initiatives to drastically reduce their operating expenses utilizing best in class distribution center lighting technologies. They likewise had made progress inside their facilities in material handling equipment, shelving layouts, work flow designs and time saving technologies to expedite the touches inside the distribution center. As our conversation turned to HVAC system improvements, there was a noticeable pause. “Office HVAC system improvements and specifically cooling energy improvements inside the office have been a major focus area for years,” they shared.

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Growth Starts With Humility

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Our organization has embarked on an employee engagement path that has literally caught fire throughout the company. Several Cambridge Engineering, Inc. production managers embraced the LEAN philosophy espoused by Paul Akers in his book, 2 Second Lean: How to grow people and build a lean culture. Our production team’s focus from the beginning has been on training people how to think differently. Many sophisticated books have been written on the LEAN topic. Paul’s book is not one of them. Paul details a path towards employee engagement that everyone can understand. As leader of the sales team, I have watched the trans-formative power of a LEAN mindset with our Ops team and have been inspired to apply this thinking to my life.

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The Cheapest Can Be The Most Expensive

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We are all consumers. We love the opportunity to get a great deal on a product that we value. Whether driven by a specific need or just a desire to improve our lives in some fashion, we want to make sure that we get the lowest price we possibly can balanced against the key value points we are trying to obtain. Without a clear definition of what is valued the most in a product purchase, cheap pricing carries little weight in evaluating our alternatives.

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