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Big Data is Great, but Don’t Overlook the Power of Small Data

Big data continues to capture the imaginations—and budgets—of brand marketers across industries, but should it? Certainly the ability to harness huge data sets, collect vast ranges of data types in real-time, and mine that data for insights can yield profound results. But running to big data is often a lot more involved and expensive than what many marketing teams actually require. While big data projects carry prestige and new-toy appeal, they require significant (and almost-always new) investments into databases, analytic tools, people, and storage infrastructure. Tapping into insights from big data means sipping from a firehouse of unstructured data to gain digestible, actionable informat

Wolf administration expands contract eligibility for certain small businesses

The Wolf administration has raised the annual revenue cap for small and small-diverse businesses hoping to compete for government contracts in Pennsylvania. The state Department of General Services on Tuesday said the revenue threshold for the state's small-business contracting program has been raised to $38.5 million — in line with the federal government. The program was previously limited to small businesses with annual revenue of less than $7 million for building design services, $20 million for construction or procurement of goods and services, and $25 million for information technology goods and services. The new cap applies across the board for all business types. The revenue cap was c

How Well Do You Really KNOW Your Customers?

Voice Of The Customer is a much-used term in the marketing discipline. Often this is accomplished utilizing formal and informal surveys. Non-quantifiable surveys leave much to be desired as a tool. The customer may tell you what they think you wish to hear or you may hear what you want to hear, in short they can be fairly subjective. There is a technique that was taught to me by one of our consulting firms, Crossroads Development Group who graciously allows me to highlight the methodology, which provides quantifiable and actionable data. It also is rather benign and impersonal which hopefully leads to more objective answers. THE STEPS 1) Develop a list of your most important customers.

Wendell August Forge Gives Back

Our friends at Wendell August Forge are doing their part to give back to the area. The company is selling a "Stronger Than Hate" ornament with proceeds benefiting the victims of the Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting. The piece depicts the Pittsburgh skyline with various city bridges forming the border. According to the team who designed the ornament, "it shows how Pittsburgh is a melting pot of people and cultures but still deeply connected as a community. Funds raised will be split between the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and a fund created by the Pittsburgh Department of Safety to help the injured police officers. This is not the first time Wendell August has given back to the co

Skills Gap Isn’t the Only Workforce Challenge

Image Credit: Marcin Balcerzak/Shutterstock.com In recent years, there's been much talk about the “skills gap” facing the manufacturing world. The problem is, this is only partially true. Yes, there’s a deficit in our skilled trades pipeline, and we as employers, educators, and communities need to rally around the value of skilled trades, supporting the growth of this critical workforce — starting in junior high, if not earlier. But there’s another issue at play for mid-market manufacturing: the strategic gap. Historically, manufacturing hasn’t had to look far for employees. There was always a good pool of skilled labor, at a reasonable price, and they came to companies with minimal effort.

As Infrastructure Crumbles, So Does US Manufacturing

America is essentially in an infrastructure collapse that is having dire effects on manufacturing. Crumbling water systems that are unreliable can shut down production lines. Congested highways mean late deliveries, production loss, increased fuel and wage costs and excessive wear on assets. Port congestion, lock delays and the penalty associated with not having infrastructure in place to handle larger ships make American products more expensive. Before I address the benefits of an infrastructure upgrade, let’s take a look at the state of our aging infrastructure: Water and Sewer Beneath most major cities, our current water and sewer distribution systems are from 50 to 150 years old—mostly b

Zero-Based Budgeting: How to Do It Right

As margins tighten in industry after industry, more companies are talking about zero-based budgeting (ZBB)—the deceptively simple idea that each year’s budget should start from a zero base, rather than from the prior year’s spending. The trouble is that too often, companies see ZBB as just about cost control. In fact, when done right, ZBB changes a company’s entire culture, instilling a return-on-investment mentality where people throughout the company think about value, not just cost. But to get there, companies need to shift their focus with ZBB from cost-cutting—which for most people isn’t a very inspiring goal, especially over time—to helping people at every level get the best returns th

5 Essential Steps on the Path to Smart Asset Management

Over the past decade, supply chain complexity has increased substantially with the rising pressure on retailers to offer unlimited, fast and free shipping. Frequent disruptions, like damaged or delayed goods, are the most common symptoms of this trend. In manufacturing, an asset-intensive sector, the cost of even small disruptions can add up quickly. Some manufacturers are already leveraging digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and advanced analytics to reduce the frequency of costly mistakes and streamline operations. Low-cost sensors and connected devices embedded into key areas in the supply chain are relaying critical real-time data on asset location, quality

Don't Let Knowledge Walk Out the Door

As Baby Boomers retire, companies wonder how to retain the knowledge that walks out with them. They have spent billions of dollars generating knowledge, and some of them do an excellent job sharing and reusing that knowledge. Solid knowledge reuse practices prevent companies from wasting time and money reinventing knowledge that already exists. But these companies are not the norm: The average amount of reused knowledge in manufacturing remains low, reportedly about 30%. Reasons for low knowledge reuse range from ineffective documentation of ideas and processes to the fact that many engineers find it more fun to reinvent things than to dig through manuals and databases. When companies don't

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