Young Employee Profile – Chuck

As part of a preparation for a local High School Open House (Kane Area), I put together profiles of all of our employees under 30 years of age.  I never expected how much I would learn about the employees who represent the future of PC Systems!  I couldn’t resist sharing these profiles on our blog, so our customers can get an idea who is actually building their product.

In no certain order, I’ll put a profile up of all the employees.  This post will focus on Chuck, who is a 1st shift “Jack of all trades” for us.  After speaking with our General Manager, we cannot seem to come up with a concrete title for Chuck.  We can count on him to be a Production Setup on Monday, run the Rectifier department on Tuesday, build Production Harnesses on Wednesday then finish the week with some Engineering Samples and Wire Cutting.  He is a very talented employee with a special gift for understanding mechanical systems, so he is very valued.

Chuck has been working at PC Systems for over 6 years and has held many different “jobs” within the plant.  He understands all of our processes while also maintaining a keen sense for cost and manufacturability.  I often find myself bouncing ideas off of him while I am out on the floor and I trust his intuition as much as I do my own.

Chuck is famous (maybe infamous?) in the plant for having a dry sense of humor and carrying a facade that he doesn’t care much for the work that he does.  If you look a little closer though, it is obvious he has a lot of pride in the work he does.  He makes sure that he understands the customer requirements and application, closely watches his control limits, and is a hawk when it comes to wasted resources and capital.  You would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated employee, although he would laugh at you if you told him that.

When we asked Chuck what his future goals were, he said he would like to own and operate his own gun shop.  He is an avid outdoorsman and has the mechanical/business skills, which would make him an excellent candidate to do just that.  He currently has various side jobs, including backyard mechanic, which I can personally vouch for.  Working at PC Systems provides a unique opportunity since we are still a private company and Chuck is exposed to some of the pros and cons of owning your own business.

All of the profiled employees were asked to give some advice to future high school graduates.  Chuck said simply “College is not for everyone.”  This is coming from someone who I personally know has the intelligence to succeed at any university, so I think it is clear that you need to define your expectations before you take the plunge on a four year degree.  Chuck’s success without attending college provides evidence of that.


Why I wear a tie to work everyday!

Somewhere around the turn from 2011 to 2012, I had a slight epiphany.  Kevin and I had decided that we had too many ties in our closet to only wear them when we were wearing suits.  He had a good excuse, he went to a Catholic High School requiring ties.  I guess I am just hard to buy for when Christmas comes around.  What started as a little bit of a joke and we called it Tuesday/Thursday Tie Day turned into a daily routine for me.  That wasn’t because I had too many ties (I had to go buy some more), rather, I realized that I was sending the wrong message.

You don’t see people in the office wearing ties anymore, especially in Manufacturing.  I realized that I would often throw a jacket and tie on when I was meeting with external customers, but you could find me in a polo or open collar shirt any other time.  What kind of message was I sending to all of my internal customers?  They weren’t good enough me to put a little more effort into how I looked?  I figured it was about time to rectify that and decided I would wear a tie everyday (almost).

There are some problems with my methodology, which I will admit.  First, I don’t have the discretionary funds to buy a bunch of sport coats and suits, so I often look like the kid at Blockbuster selling videos in his baggy shirt and tie.  I hope it isn’t so much the “look”, rather the “effort” that is recognized.  Also, it is a safety risk.  I am around moving machinery often when I am out on the floor.  Most times, I will temporarily take the tie off if I am out there.  Finally, it serves absolutely no purpose other than decorative, which really drives me nuts.  If I could define “waste” in clothing, the necktie would be it.  To combat this and make myself feel better, I occasionally wipe smudges off of my safety glasses with the back of my tie, which I find is a great solution.

So there you have it, that is why you’ll find me in a tie most days when you walk into the office.  It is really about sending a clear message to both internal and external customers that they are worth dressing up for.  I am keenly aware that how I am perceived is directly linked to how I can motivate and lead, so I try not to make it an afterthought.  What kind of non-verbal messages are you sending?

Young Employee Profile – Charlie

As part of a preparation for a local High School Open House (Kane Area), I put together profiles of all of our employees under 30 years of age.  I never expected how much I would learn about the employees who represent the future of PC Systems!  I couldn’t resist sharing these profiles on our blog, so our customers can get an idea who is actually building their product.

In no certain order, I’ll put a profile up of all the employees.  This post will focus on Charlie, who is currently our 2nd shift supervisor.  I would list Charlie’s responsibilities, but they are endless, and he does a pretty good job of doing them all well.

Charlie has been working at PC Systems for 5 years and has steadily increased his level of responsibility.  It didn’t take us long to realize after he started that he was very efficient with his hands, but also had great problem solving skills.  I am starting to get used to coming into work in the mornings with a note from Charlie detailing his latest idea to “do it better”.  For you LEAN folks, he is close to the Gemba and he often comes up with some of the best ideas.

It would do Charlie a great disservice though to speak only about his ability to produce parts and ideas, because his true talents are his ability to lead and motivate others.  He has a “servant” leadership style that is very difficult to teach.  He deals with issues with honesty and fairness, regardless if it is bad or good news.  You would be hard pressed to find an operator that had a cross word for his leadership style.

When we asked Charlie what his future goals were, he said he would like to receive some more education with regards to Automotive Customization.  We recognize that we have opportunity to help him with that here at PC Systems and will make an effort to improve that skill set for him.  At PC Systems, we also recognize how much potential Charlie has and are very grateful that he has chosen to work here.

All of the profiled employees were asked to give some advice to future high school graduates.  Charlie said “Research every school thoroughly.  Find one that meets your need and apply for as much financial aid as you can.”

Young Employee Profile – Allyson

As part of a preparation for a local High School Open House (Kane Area), I put together profiles of all of our employees under 30 years of age.  I never expected how much I would learn about the employees who represent the future of PC Systems!  I couldn’t resist sharing these profiles on our blog, so our customers can get an idea who is actually building their product.

In no certain order, I’ll put a profile up of all the employees.  This post will focus on Allyson, who is currently working in the office, taking care of administrative duties such as Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, among many other tasks.

Allyson is a really neat story for us.  While she was getting her Accounting/Business Administration degree, she worked for us in the Harness department.  Although she has only been working in her Administrative role for a little over 4 months, she is definitely not a stranger to PC Systems.

When we asked Allyson what her future goals were, she said she hopes to continue working within her degree that she now has.  I am not sure if she dislikes entering timesheets into our ERP enough to go back to building harnesses, although it isn’t one of her favorite jobs.  She is doing a great job for us and we hope that PC Systems remains part of her future.

All of the profiled employees were asked to give some advice to future high school graduates.  Allyson said “Definitely get an education – High School and College.  When choosing what to study in college, make sure it is something you enjoy and it is something that interests you.”

If you call into PC Systems, you most likely will get to hear Allyson’s voice before she redirects your call.  Don’t be afraid to quiz her some on the product, she knows it!

Halfway through 2012 at PCS

Wow!  That went really fast.  It seems like we were just setting our 2012 Goals and writing our Performance Plan Appraisals, and now we are at the 6 month review mark.  This is the first year that we have documented goals for all departments (not just Engineering), so I am excited to see where the teams are at.  In the Engineering department, we will be reviewing our PPA’s as a group and I am happy to say we are making steady progress.  There is a lot to be said about putting your goals on paper.

Things are feeling a lot more normal now at PCS.  Our Harness department is as busy as ever and we were able to double capacity with some LEAN improvements (without needing to increase footprint).  Our customers gobbled up that capacity before we were even finished, so we are continuing to look for improvements in efficiency.  We are still waiting on some approvals for our Lead Free product for the Automotive customers, but are confident that we have found a cost effective solution.  Fortunately,  it seems our customers are back in full swing as well, so unfortunately Engineering time comes at a premium.  Finally, we have had a couple new product launches in our Molding department, with a really cool R&D project underway which we hope will greatly reduce low volume tooling costs.

In the beginning of July, we officially stopped running dual ERP systems, and went “Live” with Epicor 9.  There was a considerable effort from Andy Gahr to get us to this point, and our customers should start to see the value in this new system.  You should start seeing improved leadtime predictions, better pricing (via improved costing), and a more streamlined approach to accounting.  So far, the feedback has been very positive!

We hope you are having just as good of a year as we are.  We are starting to see many more opportunities to come in via the web, so we encourage you to use the Contact Us portion of the website.

ISO 9001:2008 Surveillance Audit Results

Waiting for us upon our arrival back from the Christmas holiday, was the audit report from our registrar’s (SAI Global) 12 month surveillance audit.  The report was a well-earned Christmas gift as PC Systems successfully passed surveillance audit with only one opportunity for improvement identified.

Over the past few months, the PC Systems’ management team has been working very diligently to streamline our design and development process.  We documented the design and development process with a process flow diagram to show the critical steps and interactions of the engineering, product management, quality, sourcing and customer service department throughout the process.  We also development new design review forms to easily identify and record the design inputs, design outputs, design changes, validation and verification during the design and development phases.  This hard work paid off as in the auditor’s report, he highlighted the improvements to the design and development process.  Other areas of PC Systems’ quality management system which was highlighted in the auditor’s report were the 63 closed continuous improvements and preventive actions complete in 2011, the training matrix and the internal audit program.

As we look forward to 2012, we will continually improve the quality management system at PC Systems.  Our focus will be on improving the corrective action process, improving process yields and better understanding our process capabilities.  PC Systems will continue to use the ISO 9001:2008 standard to better our quality management system and not just to be certified.

Copy of the PC Systems, Inc. ISO 9001:2008 Certificate found here.

TE Connectivity (Tyco) acquires Deutsch

Here is some connector news that has been flying under the radar, but may have significant implications with regards to harsh environment connectors in the future.  TE Connectivity has acquired Deutsch from Wendel.  I am not a financial analyst by any means, but I expect the uncertainty in the European markets made this an attractive acquisition.  It is important to note here that the acquisition includes Ladd, which is the single source distribution partner for Deutsch.

If you are unfamiliar with Deutsch, they hold a large marketshare when it comes to connection systems on heavy equipment, from construction (backhoes, dozers, graders, etc.) to more industrial (man lifts, telehandlers, truck bodies, etc.).  TE Connectivity has had some success breaking into that market with their AmpSeal line, but Deutsch is still the king.

This will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  • What will happen with Amphenol and their recent introduction of the Amphenol Sine AT Series (which is a direct replacement to Deutsch DT Series)?
  • Will there still only be one place to purchase Deutsch components?
  • Will TE Connectivity use their leverage to increase pricing, or will they use their breadth to reduce pricing?
  • Will there be consolidation and how will that affect Quality and Reliability?

All questions that you can be sure we are asking of our contacts within the industry.

By the way, has TE Connectivity gained a firm footing in anyone’s lexicon yet?  It still feels awkward to say it, and every time I typed it in this post, I typed Tyco, backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace, TE Connectivity…

Customer Satisfaction and Vocabulary

I stopped in at a local used car (Rogo’s Auto Sales to talk to the owner (Tim) about a set of keys that he was going to order from me.  A quick conversation with them gave me an idea for a blog post, so I thought I would share it with you.

I bought my first vehicle from this dealer about 6 months ago and I was absolutely amazed by their customer service.  They are small, they know me by name, and they can justify their pricing.  Notice that I didn’t say that they had the lowest price around.  When I had a problem with the new truck, they gave me a loaner and took the truck to the OEM dealership to get it fixed for me.  They didn’t have to do that, but Tim said that was how he wanted to make it right.  That is just one example of the customer service they provided.

I want our customers to feel the same satisfaction after working with PC Systems that I felt after working with Rogo’s.  I have to admit, one of the reasons I stopped in today was to ask about some new vehicles for my wife.  I want to buy from them again.

This morning, I overheard Tim and Kenny talking about how to look up my VIN number.  Kenny told Tim to look under “deals” in their computer database.  I pressed Tim on that a little bit.  I thought it was interesting that they call it “deals” instead of “sales”.  Tim joked and said that he hopes everyone thinks they got a deal there.

I don’t expect that anyone sat down and really thought out what they were going to call “sales” in their database.  Only employees look at it, so there isn’t any incentive or marketing gold to be had by calling it “deals”.  Rather, I feel this is just a reflection of the culture at the dealership, which is what had me excited in the first place.

Using terminology that frames up the customer satisfaction internally will obviously translate into using the same terminology while speaking with the customer.  This is always going to have an effect on the buying experience.  I don’t know if that was intentional at Rogo’s or not, but I thought it was worth writing about.  I’ll have to think about how we do that here at PC Systems (if we do) or how we can start doing it.  How about you?  Can you think of any way you use vocabulary that takes into consideration the customer’s point of view rather than the company’s?

Blog Reorganization

If you check the blog often, you may have realized that we have changed a couple things.  I will try to provide a quick summary of what has changed:

  • Name – We have changed from PCS Engineering Blog to The PC Systems Blog.  This is because we have added contributors and hope to round out the content.
  • Theme – We changed our blog engine to WordPress so it required a change in theme.
  • Categories – We are going to start organizing our posts a little better using categories and tags which should help direct you to the content you want.
  • Content Strategy – With the addition of team members willing to contribute, it is our hope that we can develop a schedule and update the blog on a regular basis.  Also, we hope to develop additional content, such as whitepapers.

We appreciate your patience during the transition!

New electrode design improves weld performance

I want to share a continuous improvement effort that was presented by one of our Quality Engineers, Dave Gillen.  Dave has worked at PC Systems since “the beginning” and has consistently been looking to improve peel performance of welded wire to Copper solder tabs, which is one of our core products.   Through a series of corrective action activities, he had declared that the “flaring” of wires when welding smaller gauges (18/20/22AWG) caused a lower peel value on the weld.   Even worse, the “flare” was unpredictable, leading to variability.

Dave found that the “flaring” was caused by the upper electrode design.  It was cut as a radius, which did not always capture the wires before the weld.  He designed a new upper electrode in a trapezoidal shape.  In Dave’s words, “the results were remarkable”, and I agree!

Variability of the weld was reduced significantly with respect to weld peel.  Also, the aesthetic difference is impressive as well, as you can see in the photographs.  We look forward to using this new design and improving our capability at the welders.  As we are all aware, this reduced variability will likely lead to reduced scrap and increased throughput, allowing us to manage our costs for your benefit!