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Graphel Carbon Products’ Blog Nationwide

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At Graphel Carbon Products, we know that you’re concerned about the latest industry trends and products worldwide. That’s why we have a blog about graphite and EDM solutions. Take a look through our articles down below to learn something new, then contact us with questions.

Every Day Should Be Manufacturing Day

american manufacturing

This past October 7th was National Manufacturing Day, 2016.   A day set aside as a celebration of modern manufacturing, meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.  Although Manufacturing Day officially occurs on the first Friday of October, I think that every day should be National Manufacturing Day.

Do you remember when you had shop class in Jr. High or High school?  It was a chance to work with your hands and create something.  And, it was a break from abstract book study and allowed you to work with materials and think outside the box.  It also showed kids how an idea could become a commodity they could sell, and showed them that their ideas could become reality.

With US Manufacturing being the cornerstone of our economy…and around the globe for that matter, I think the time has come for us in the manufacturing business to start lobbying for the re-emergence of vocational training in our high school systems.

Today:

  • Manufacturing supports more than 17.4 million jobs
  • For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, $1.48 is put into the economy
  • Nearly 12% of the nation’s GDP is from manufacturing

Viewing vocational programs as second rate is one of the most corrosive problems in education today.  In the real world, our communities and economies depend on an enormous diversity of talents, roles and occupations.  The work of electricians, carpenters, mechanics, engineers and even hair stylists is vital to the quality of all of our lives.

Due to standardized testing, our school’s priorities have shifted to focus on college readiness, and vocational programs have taken a back seat.  I think this is doing a tremendous disservice to our kids and our economy.

Not everyone needs to go to college.   In fact, almost 40% of the students who begin a 4 year college program don’t finish. With the mounting college debt crisis, and increasing skills gap in placing qualified people for manufacturing, I think it’s time for our society to change its views on college. And it is up to us in manufacturing to lead the charge.  We need to encourage kids to make balanced career choices.

I think every day should be Manufacturing Day.

Perception is Reality when it comes to Manufacturing Quality

perception

Modern manufacturing has come a long way in employing rigorous quality initiatives, but when a defective part slips past the quality initiatives, customer perception can make the situation go from bad to worse very quickly.

It isn’t always easy to get quality right given the current manufacturing environment. Shorter delivery times, increasing competition and elevated customer expectations; it is no wonder that quality is once again front and center.

Customer expectations matter, more so than ever. The new view of quality has expanded. Quality has always had two sides one could argue: actual quality and perceived quality. Often the latter takes longer to detect and is harder to change, so manufacturers concentrate on real quality. Actual or “real” quality is what most manufacturers have focused on using a parade of alphabet soup approaches like TQM, SPC and Lean Six Sigma.

Perceptual quality analyzes customer sentiment with customer “listening posts” to gather and evaluate perceptions of the brand, product or service. It then allows the manufacturer to analyze and define potential drivers of the perceptions and suggest alternatives to address the problem and the perceptions.

The equalizer of these two measures is managing customer expectations. A company can integrate these measures by communicating in advance the expectation of the quality at the beginning of the process. Where does this tolerance really need to be? What is the real delivery date? How many parts do you really need on a specific date?

Perceived quality comes into play when all expectations are not met. Often a product that is not delivered as expected lacks quality in the customers mind.

What will take organizations into higher elevations of customer satisfaction and perceived quality? A comprehensive approach to customer-driven quality for both real and perceived quality, all of which can be implemented with readily available information technology:
• An up-to-the-minute, unified view of all relevant data.
• Tools for collaborative, proactive analysis and action.
• Availability of knowledge to all stakeholders.

Today’s organizations need a single, integrated version of the truth that spans the organization’s processes – from inputs to outputs, ideally from upstream suppliers to downstream customers. They need a way to not only assess what was, but predict what will be. And they need a way to share these insights across organizational and functional boundaries. Companies must realize that quality is not just a necessary manufacturing program but is, in the end, all about the customer.

Customer Service is important for all Departments

Customer-service

In today’s social media environment, an organization needs to include in their mission statement that all who work for the company are a part of their customer service team. Every department and every person should understand how they are serving the customer, or servicing someone who is serving customers.

We are all aware of the critical nature of customer service. Customer service is important for all departments, and should not be limited to one department. In our business, our core customer service department often needs the help of other departments. Unless other departments realize the significance of customer service, it would be tough for them to provide the world class service required to keep our customers happy. No company can survive without customer service, so it makes sense that every person in the company has a customer service responsibility. In fact, customer service is mentioned in every person’s job description within our company.

After all, departments like engineering and quality are in fact doing internal customer service every day when they support the customer service team and others within the organization. Much of their work is designed for customer use, which means they have a huge impact on the overall customer experience as well.

A company that embraces an overall culture and focus of customer service is able to consistently provide high levels of service, which in turn will ensure repeat business from customers, high praise through social media and referrals as well. Making customer service key to every department will always have its benefits and pay rich dividends over time and for long term growth.

Customer service is not an easy job – in fact is it perhaps one of the most challenging and stressful jobs within an organization. Managing orders, needs, personalities and problems is never easy. All departments must appreciate the demands of customer service to ensure the customer receives all the support they need. Keeping the customer happy is everyone’s job.

6 Time Management Tips for a Growing Company

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In today’s workplace, there is more demand on us than ever before. We have to accomplish more in less time, with fewer resources. This puts a lot of pressure on us to be able to manage our time more efficiently so we can get more done, be less stressed and have a feeling of accomplishment. If we aren’t doing a great job of managing our time, then we probably aren’t able to deliver projects on time. In order to help us better manage your time, here are six valuable tips below:

1. Start with a list of easy tasks that can be completed quickly. By organizing a list of easier tasks first, you can get the smaller projects out of the way and give more of your attention and effort to the bigger projects. Also by doing this, you won’t have to worry about those smaller tasks that could end up getting in the way of the ones that really matter to you and your organization.

2. Break a large task into smaller tasks. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you have a major project to complete. To confront this, you should take that project and break it down into a few smaller tasks that you can do without much stress.

3. Start creating your to-do list for tomorrow, today. Before you go home from work, the last thing you should do is to create a list of things you need to do for tomorrow. This way, when you head into work tomorrow, you are ready to go!

4. Use a calendar to keep track of everything. I use my calendar to run my life, I put everything in there. If there’s someone I know I should call in two months, I’ll mark down the call. This makes life much easier and you end up not forgetting anything, making you more efficient.

5. Ignore distractions as best as you can. There are so many things that can get you off-track. You get phone calls or instant messages, or emails to distract you. Try to ignore as many distractions as possible and stay focused on completing your to-do list. Consider blocking off a half hour each day to focus on the distractions.

6. Try not to multitask if you can. We all try to do multiple projects at once and end up not getting anything done at all. Research shows that multi-tasking actually decreases productivity. If you focus on each individual task separately, you will be more effective in all that you do.

In today’s challenging business climate, time management is essential. There is more demand on us than ever before.

Leverage Synergy but Maintain Best Practices – Part I

Synergy

Synergy – Two heads are better than one.

Synergy is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. But it doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a process, and through that process, people bring all of their personal experience and expertise to the table. Together, they can produce far better results that they could individually. Synergy lets us jointly discover things we are much less likely to discover by ourselves. It is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three, or six, or sixty–you name it.

When people begin to genuinely interact together and they’re open to each other’s influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.

To grow a business in today’s challenging economy, management needs to be flexible, have good planning and organizational skills as well as synergy among employees. To grow a business, it’s important to keep continued focus on some of the solid practices that made the company what it is today.

1. Maintain the Company’s Mission
When synergy begins to take place within an organization, it is really easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of the company’s real mission. Make sure to maintain the strategic direction of the business. Keep changes to a minimum in order to stay focused on the good planning and ideas that got it where it is today.

2. Build Solid Business Processes
As synergy evolves, and processes begin to change, it is important to stop and take the time to define the working processes in an appropriate level of detail. Don’t let the new ideas overtake the processes that are working well. It is a must to outline business processes and practices.

3. People Work for People, Not Companies
Don’t forget that true loyalty comes when employees believe that the organization and its leadership team care about them personally and professionally. A loyal and well-trained workforce will help the business grow and stand up strong against the competition. Don’t let the synergy allow management to forget about its people.

4. Hold Employees Accountable
While synergy is taking place, you have to hold employees accountable for their individual tasks and responsibilities. In the short run this can be painful as processes change. In the long run, the process allows them to become better employees. But don’t forget recognition and awards for those who go over and above expectations.

5. Never Lose Focus on Quality
In our current challenging economy, synergy sometimes leads us to think about cutting corners. However, customers will recognize a quality decrease and possibly consider your competition. Keep in mind the difficulty of acquiring loyal customers. It is very easy to lose one quickly if you’re not meeting their quality expectations.

In today’s challenging business climate, developing synergy among your employees is essential. It is a habit of creative cooperation – finding new solutions to old problems. But it doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a process, and it is important not to lose solid practices that helped your company grow in the first place.

Increasing Productivity in EDM Machining

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Much attention has been focused on increasing productivity in EDM machining operations. Electrical discharge machining has undergone rapid improvements in capability, economical operation, speed and flexibility. New applications are continually emerging as shops discover the technological advantages becoming readily available for this processes.

Due to major advances in speed, geometric complexity, accuracy, ease of use and customer support, EDM has solidified its dominance in tool-making and is increasingly being applied to parts production.

EDM is no longer “non-conventional” or “non-standard” machining. In fact, EDM is now the fourth most popular machining process, selling more than all other processes except milling, turning and grinding, with EDM sales increasing from about 0.5 percent of the 1960 machine tool market to about 6 percent of the 2014 market.

So how can a shop increase its productivity with what has become a standard technology? I believe by improving upon the technology itself.

Accuracy has improved from about 0.001 inch for the first electrodes to about 0.00005 inch on electrodes produced today. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the operator skill needed to achieve 0.0002 or 0.0001 inch accuracy came down dramatically. Developments are responsible for this improved accuracy with less effort. The new technology assures that cuts follow programmed geometry very accurately. Today’s technology is three to five times as accurate.

The biggest advantage for most applications has been the improvement in nominal cutting speed, that is, the cutting speed obtainable under ideal conditions. Speed increased from about 1 square inch per hour in the early 1970s to approximately 30 square inches per hour in the mid-1990s. The reasons for the speed increases are primarily the technology that allows optimization of settings. As the speed increased, the number of jobs that could be cut per hour or per day increased proportionately.

Ease of use of the machines has both improved economical operation and allowed shops to spread fewer skilled workers over more machines. Adaptive control systems automatically adjust systems as needed. A typical system allows the operator to do all programming at a personal computer and simply download the information to the machine. This automation eliminates the need for the operator to adjust these variables when cutting into parts or sections of varying thickness.

So, how can we improve on this already improved technology? I believe by increasing the complexity of the electrode. Most electrodes are manufactured to burn only one cut at a time. Electrodes are manufactured to customer specifications usually to be used as part of a series of burns to complete the task. A lot of the time though, our customer’s needs are so complex that their engineers aren’t sure how to get what they need as far as complex geometry and even more complex hardware goes. This is where my team of very experienced engineer’s comes into play.

Between myself and two engineers, we have over 60 years EDMing and graphite electrode manufacturing experience. It is now the “norm” for our team to either go to our customer’s facility or have them come to our facility months ahead of a project – to collaborate while they are still in their design phase. We generally work alongside our customer’s design team in order to assure that they get the exact burn that they need from the fewest electrodes possible.

By configuring the electrode to perform multiple burns accomplishes a couple of goals for the customer:
• Less burning time for the customer, less labor
• Reduced material cost in the form of the electrodes
• Cleaner cuts

Many electrodes are becoming more complex in terms of geometry, length to diameter ratio and material composition. Of course all manufacturers do not have the engineering capability nor the manufacturing talent to pull off a complex electrode. But, I believe the future of the EDMing process will have to accommodate complex electrodes. Graphel Corporation is meeting this challenge head on be investing heavily not only in people, but in the latest CNC machining technology.

Nathan Buchanan
Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Graphel Carbon Products

Customer Expectations Are Changing

Whats-Keeping-You-From-Meeting-Customer-Expectations

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the world is changing. Industrial customers are demanding their manufactured goods faster, less expensive and more precise.

As the United States becomes primarily a service driven economy, the expectations surrounding manufacturing transactions are changing. The US has more people employed in services today, than in manufacturing, and subsequently we consume more services than any time in history.

Customer expectations are evolving with this change. As information has become more easily accessible with devices such as our smart phones, our customers expect to receive the data they need, quickly and at their convenience. They expect manufacturers to deliver complex business services along with their manufactured deliverables.

But manufacturing and service industries are two completely different animals – there are many significant differences between service and manufacturing organizations:

• the tangibility of their output
• the need to maintain inventory
• customer-specific production
• labor-intensive or automated operations
• the need for a physical production location

But, in practice, service and manufacturing organizations share many characteristics. Some manufacturers offer their own service operations and both require skilled people to create a profitable business. These common characteristics offer the astute manufacturer the opportunity to create a unique service experience – mainly through increasing the visibility within the process to the customer.

Goods

The key difference between service firms and manufacturers is the tangibility of their output. The output of a service firm, such as consultancy, training or maintenance, for example, is intangible. Manufacturers produce physical goods that customers can see and touch. Consider offering your customers touch points along the production cycle that increase the visibility of the tangibility. This can be accomplished through the use of technology enhanced production systems.

Inventory

Service firms, unlike manufacturers, do not hold inventory; they create a service when a client requires it. Manufacturers produce goods on order, for stock, or with inventory levels aligned to forecasts of market demand. Consider offering your customers visibility to your inventory, or in the case of customer produced inventory, their specific inventory levels. This is easily accomplished with interactive technologies.

Customers

Service firms do not produce a service unless a customer requires it, although they design and develop the scope and content of services in advance of any orders. Service firms generally produce a service tailored to customers’ needs. Manufacturers produce goods on customer order or forecast based on customer demand. A manufacturer can exceed customer expectations and greatly increase customer satisfaction by accurately forecasting customer demand.

Labor

A service firm recruits people with specific knowledge and skills in the service disciplines that it offers. Service delivery is labor intensive and cannot be easily automated. Manufacturers can automate many of their production processes to reduce their labor requirements, although some manufacturing organizations are labor intensive. A manufacturer can exceed customer expectations by providing access to professionals such as engineers, artists or quality personnel. This can be accomplished through many different mediums, online conferencing, Skype, or a simple email.

Location

Service firms do not require a physical production site. The people creating and delivering the service can be located anywhere. Manufacturers must have a physical location for their production and stock holding operations. This has always been a challenge for manufacturers – where to locate key facilities to exceed customer expectations. But with the enhanced distribution systems that are available today, manufacturers can exceed expectations by offering services such as next day delivery.

In the 21st century, customer expectations are changing. Information is becoming much more valuable, more easily accessible, and our customers expect to receive the data they need, quickly and at their convenience. The astute manufacturers can exceed customer expectations and drive customer satisfaction by delivering complex business services along with their manufactured deliverables.

Consider Setting A Hard Goal

After you set your SMART Goals
Consider Setting a Hard Goal

A SMART goal is a goal that you can realistically and consistently reach and one that provides you with real motivation toward that goal.

SMART goals are great for long term situational change, but for the short term consider adding a HARD goal.

Based on Mark Murphy’s book Hard Goals – The Science of Extraordinary Achievement, HARD Goals discusses why some people achieve so much while others seem to just spin their wheels and get nowhere. When you analyze the science of achieving big things, you’ll find super achievers set themselves HARD goals and then go out and work towards achieving those goals with passion and intensity. It’s the setting and achieving of those HARD goals which drives their achievements.

A HARD goal is comprised of the following elements:

H – Heartfelt
A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value – you’re not going to let anything get in the way.

A – Animated
HARD goals are so vivid and alive in your mind that if you don’t reach them, you would feel like something’s missing in your life.

R – Required
Hard goals allow you to convince yourself that the goal is a necessity, not an option.

D – Difficult
You want to set goals which are so hard they will force you to tap into all the talents that you possess so you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

If you really don’t care about your goals, there will not be much motivation for you to achieve them. To achieve more, make certain you’re going after what you want more than anything else. A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value than any other goal – therefore you’re not going to let anything get in the way of making it happen.

SMART GOALS – Why Everyone Should Set Them

 Aileen Crass

Marketing Manager

Graphel Carbon Products

 

 A SMART goal is a goal that you can realistically and consistently reach. It provides you with real motivation.  The goal can be personal or professional.

According to research, goal setting is the single most powerful motivation tool in a leader’s toolkit.  Goal setting operates in ways that provide purpose, challenge and meaning.  Goals are the guideposts along the road that make a compelling vision come alive.  Goals energize people.  Specific, clear, challenging goals lead to greater effort and achievement than easy or vague goals.  By setting a “SMART” goal, you can keep track of where you are in relation to achieving your goal.  It is easily measurable and allows you to accurately gauge your progress.

So, each year our managers and employees are encouraged to set SMART goals when we develop our KPIs.

To be a “SMART” goal, the goal must have the following elements:

S – SPECIFIC

Your goal should include the 5 W’s who, what, where which and why.

M – MEASURABLE

Your goal should include targets and milestone measurements to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

A – ATTAINABLE

Your goal should motivate, not frustrate.  Ensure your goal is achievable and won’t overwhelm you.

R – RELEVANT

Your goal should make sense and be relevant when measured against what you are trying to achieve. If you achieve it, it should make a difference.

T – TIMELY

Your goal should be time-bound for each step of the process.

Start the New Year by setting at least one SMART goal.  It will help motivate you toward accomplishing more for yourself and your family in 2016

Customer Service is Key

By Lori Strange Customer Service Leader Graphel Carbon Products   Customer service is key element in keeping customers happy for the long haul. Providing excellent customer service requires knowing your customers. Not all of your customers require the same amount of service in order to satisfy their needs.  In order to improve service, you need to consider segmenting your customers so that you have different propositions to accurately meet their specific requirements.  Across any group of customers, you are likely to have between 5 and 10 segments, each requiring different approaches. Within Graphel Carbon Products, for example, we have segmented our Tool and Die customers into five key segments with unique characteristics: the relationship segment, the deal segment, the price segment, the logistics segment and finally the transaction segment. The relationship segment customer values expertise and precision but insists on specific delivery instructions and expectations. These customer will typically not use online resources for sourcing, they work primarily on a relationship basis through our sales department.   They are usually long term customers that require a high touch from both our sales and customer service teams. The deal segment customer values knowledge and service but insists on value for money and will actively split business between distributors. These customers will pay for value-added services but will still comparison shop. As a result, they will use online channels to do research, but still want the service provided by a knowledgeable outside sales team. In contrast, price-focused customers don’t necessarily need or want salespeople calling on them. They want to compare prices and research companies that can save them additional money. The price-focused customer is often a repeat customer, but is working on such a close margin that price is everything.  Graphel Carbon Products keeps its’ cost low to serve these customers, knowing they don’t require the high touch of our sales team. The logistics customer is often one who is not as concerned about spending a few cents extra, but is working their business so tightly that they always require their materials quickly and reliably.  This is often a small business that is heavily reliant on product availability and delivery speed. For these customers, Graphel Carbon Products offers same day or next day shipment. Finally we have the transaction customer.  This customer is usually not concerned about price and delivery, they are just concerned about getting the correct item in a timely manner. They are not looking so much for the assistance of a salesperson, as the value of a concerned, helpful and responsive customer service person. Our customer mix varies across the]]>

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