MCAA 2003: Opportunities, faster gains, M&A vs. sales, listening

Lake Buena Vista, FL—Opening day at the Measurement, Control & Automation Association (MCAA, Williamsburg, VA) 2003 Executive Forum here included a variety of useful messages.


Lake Buena Vista, FL— Opening day at the Measurement, Control & Automation Association (MCAA, Williamsburg, VA) 2003 Executive Forum here included the following messages:

  • The downturn is over;

  • A clear, simple, consistent process will do more for an organization than only throwing money at information technologies;

  • Combining the best of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma disciplines brings benefits;

  • Through mergers and acquisitions, be sure to maintain consistent and frequent communications with sales channels; and

  • Two keys to better communication are listening proactively and taking responsibility for what we say.

Summaries of five sessions touching on these points follows.

Murry Death, president of InterlinkBT (Plymouth, MN) and 2003-2003 chairman, passed the gavel to the next chairman, William J. Zolner, president KEM Associates (Kingwood, TX), in the business session. Before doing so, Mr. Death used the power vested in him to proclaim: "I officially declare the slowdown in automation over," drawing laughter and applause from about 75 industry leaders, guests, and speakers. Opening comments included a request asking everyone to remember Jim Gray, from Invensys Foxboro, who passed away last year.

Among points made during the keynote session, Michael Ziesemer, executive board member of Endress+Hauser (Reinach, Switzerland), says that the circular product lifecycle process should be consistent through the organization and focus on the customer. Moving around the circle, stages are: marketing, sales, taking the order, logistics, production, more logistics, and services, then back to marketing again. "Doing things the same way saves money," he noted. "More important than IT spending is a clear and simple process."

One of three break-out sessions combined lean manufacturing and Six Sigma into "LeanSigma." Among tips were to list business processes; quantify who does what and how much time they take; then deciding what can stop or change, says Stephen Smith, managing director TBM Consulting Group (Durham, NC). Maytag, for instance, became more effective by having multiple smaller assembly lines rather than one long one, allowing any unit to be built on any day, to better meet demand, at higher quality. In another example, a manufacturer found it more efficient to have a small custom line for custom-order work. Higher pricing linked with faster throughput made the supplier and customer both happy, avoiding just-in-case inventory and longer lead times. One audience member, remarking about decision-making, noted, "It's amazing how often we shoot ourselves in the foot. It's even more amazing how quickly we reload."

In a panel session, "The Effects of Mergers and Acquisitions on the Sales Channel," wide-ranging comments from panelists and audience suggested that sales and marketing should be included in discussions prior to, or as soon as possible, during mergers and acquisitions. Financial ownership at the lowest levels helps improve performance. Avoid rigidity and set rules in working sales channels through mergers, and include one person throughout any acquisition. Mr. Zolner facilitated the session.

Scott Hunter, president, the Hunter Partnership Alliance (Irvine, CA), offered observations to use and improve how we listen and communicate with others. We all listen by filtering through the shared set of assumptions, or paradigms, that molds the scripts that run through our heads thousands of times daily. By realizing that we listen through these filters, we can listen less to ourselves (reactive listening), and listen more proactively to what others are actually saying. Methods include listening and encouraging the possibilities within others, finding the "gold" in others, listening with compassion, looking for "both/and," rather than "either/or" alternatives, and seeking ways to allow all stakeholders to win. The second point, taking responsibility for what we say, involves choosing to change our personal reality by what we say. Mr. Hunter says we have to "choose to wake up into a great world." What we say shapes our world, so keep it positive to ensure that "It's another day in paradise. It's all made up anyway, so make it up really good," or, as someone says, "Have a really great day, unless you have other plans." The concepts are simple, but putting them into practice is not easy. To find out more, go to .

The MCAA conference runs May 12-14, 2003. Next year's meeting is May 17-18, 2004, in Oak Brook, IL. For more information, contact MCAA at .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief

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