MAPP Conference: Did You PUSH PLAY?

Plastics Business
MAPP’s annual Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN, drew over 400 executives, representing over 181 plastics and rubber companies.

Bring together 400 plastics processing professionals in one room. Ask them to share ideas, trade strengths, build relationships and understand through benchmarking where their company stands among its peers.

Add in highly respected speakers with insights on the economy, affecting organizational change and reducing waste.

Inspire the pursuit of innovation, employee development and sales management. Show how the best consistently reach for greatness. Task the plastics professionals to do the same. Ask them to PUSH PLAY!

This was the 2013 MAPP Annual Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference.

Getting Buy-In on Change

Garrison Wynn (

Affecting change in an organization’s culture is one of the most difficult things to accomplish because people are involved. People have their own thoughts and feelings and ways of doing things … which makes getting buy-in for organizational change a significant challenge. Garrison Wynn, the keynote speaker for the MAPP Benchmarking Conference, offered perspective on The Real Truth About Success … What the Top 1% Won’t Tell You.

According to the session summary, many experts agree that trust is perhaps the most important element of a successful workplace. Company executives who gain the trust of their employees tend to have a more engaged, productive workforce and a high-efficiency work environment. Although trust is the least understood element of business success, it can be the most powerful; and a leader who lacks it ends up with zero influence.

Wynn stressed that one of the greatest factors in whether or not a leader can gain trust is whether or not that leader has learned to listen. “Seventy-eight percent of us don’t listen very well,” he said. “But if a person feels like you’re listening to them … if they feel like you’ve heard what they’re saying in the first two minutes of a conversation, there’s a chemical reaction in the brain that leads them to trust you!” Furthermore, when people feel as though they’ve been heard, what you say will have double or triple the impact.

According to Wynn, trust can be gained or lost based on the perception of the answer to a few simple questions:

  • Are you competent at your job?
  • Do you genuinely listen to what others believe their problems are?
  • Are you accountable?
  • Are you willing to look at the role you play in others’ behavior?
  • Are you sincere?

As leaders, the first reaction to a problem or potential problem can be an instinctive, autocratic solution that does not take into account the perceptions or ideas of others in the company who might be more intimately involved in the day-to-day operation. That same response sometimes puts leaders in the position of forcing change upon a company rather than getting employees on board. Wynn put it plainly by imitating a fictional executive: “I’m right! I’m right because I’m the boss, and I said I’m right, so I’m right!”

A leader who has gained the trust of those in his or her organization by proving themselves competent as leaders, listening to the concerns brought to them by staff members, being accountable for the role their own behavior might play in influencing the behavior of others and “being real” has a much better chance of affecting real change over those who take the “I’m right” approach.

IGNITE Sessions Provide Interactive Information Sharing

Designed to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the association’s membership, IGNITE sessions ask those with subject area expertise to share impactful processes with other conference attendees. Twelve sessions were available on the first full day of conference programming, including discussions on employee training, sales management, waste reduction, program launches, wellness programs, process validation and maintenance solutions.

Chris Sachs, general manager for Eclipse Mold, was part of the maintenance solutions IGNITE session. “My co-presenter focused on his company’s maintenance approach, and then I shared information about a maintenance tracker used in our facility,” he said. “We use cloud-based software that can be accessed through a mobile phone to track all of our assets, including our presses, robots, chillers and thermolators. We tag all of those assets with a QR code, and then use smartphones to scan that asset and log a work order based on maintenance issues that need to be resolved.”

Sachs explained that the work order then can be emailed to maintenance staff, managers and others with a need to know, ensuring that everyone is aware when there is an issue on the floor. “Using the software, we easily can get the right people to the press and reduce the downtime,” he said. In addition, the software allows the company to review past work orders, which can assist when planning preventative maintenance schedules and frequencies. “That allows us to begin working on predictive maintenance, which is usually the Achilles heel of any manufacturing plant! We’re still implementing it fully on all assets across the floor, but the ability to communicate is a big help,” he explained.

The software utilized by Eclipse Mold can be researched at Sachs was happy to share his experiences with the MAPP audience and thought the solution utilized by his company was a nice complement to his co-presenter’s explanation of the maintenance processes at another molding facility. “We have 36 presses with a few hundred tools that go through that same set of presses. My co-presenter’s plant had more jobs that are lock-ins running 3-4 days straight. He listed out best practice maintenance activities for his facility, and I talked about a tool that helps set up those maintenance schedules. I thought it was worth sharing.”

IGNITE presenter Kelly Goodsel speaks to an audience about what leadership means to the small- or mid-sized processor.

Kelly Goodsel, president of MAPP’s Board of Directors and president/owner of Viking Plastics, was a presenter in the IGNITE session on leadership. The session gave the perspective of the leadership role from a larger company (Cook Polymer’s David Lessard also was a presenter) focused on developing and mentoring future leaders and that of a small to medium-sized company (Viking Plastics) where leadership means taking calculated risks, envisioning the future and applying resources toward those future goals. “The value of the MAPP membership is sharing and learning from each other,” said Goodsel. “And the IGNITE session on leadership was a prime example of that opportunity, where even the presenters received takeaways based on the discussion that happened.”

Great Service, Great Quality … So What?!

CJ McClanahan (

Explaining that quoting and selling are two completely different functions, McClanahan said salespeople in an organization often believe they are doing a stellar job because “we have a lot of quotes out there right now.” But a quote is simply a collection of numbers, and without showing value – without explaining what makes the company special – there’s no differentiation from the competition.

McClanahan asked the audience what made their companies special. Without waiting for an answer, he said, “Great service. Great quality.”

McClanahan’s message? Figure out a way to get different. “Everyone believes their company provides great service and has great quality,” McClanahan explained. “Great service and great quality are NOT different! And if you’re not different, then you’re the same. And if you’re the same, then all you have to compete on when you’re looking for new business is price.”

Competing on price rarely leads to anything good. According to McClanahan, those in sales should be asking: Is there a return for the customer to choose me over the competition? Can I quantify it? What is the risk if they don’t purchase from me?

McClanahan gave an example in which he purchased an expensive watch from a store salesperson, rather than buying it for a discounted price online. While he jokingly acknowledged that some in the audience might believe he was financially unwise, McClanahan explained the salesperson successfully convinced him that if he purchased the watch online, he was at risk of making a bad decision. If he purchased online, he was taking on the risk of poor customer service in the event that something happened to the watch at a later time. He was taking on a risk that the online vendor was reputable and would deliver the watch as promised. Because he was unwilling to take the risk, McClanahan paid a higher price for the product he wanted. What’s the risk to your customers if they don’t purchase from you?

By clearly articulating risk you have created value, and value trumps price.

Using Seconds to Improve Efficiency

Paul Akers, Michael Althoff, Ashley Bailey, Greg Glebe, Kelly Goodsel and Nick Kocelj

Lean operations expert Paul Akers led a panel to discuss high-powered change at four companies based on two-second improvements. Based on Akers’ book Two Second Lean, which was given to all MAPP conference attendees in 2012, the panel presented some of the results of their implementations.

A dirty, old factory (in the company owner’s words) became a clean shop and, in 10 months, lead times went from 15-21 days to 4-5 days. This was the result of a culture change that asked employees to focus on finding ways to make their own lives better, rather than asking them to find ways to save the company money or time. – Ashley Bailey, Klime-Ezee

The addition of four “Daily Drumbeat” meetings each day with employees has educated the entire team about the culture being implemented. Since asking employees to begin implementing two-second improvements, more than 2,000 improvements have been reported. – Kelly Goodsel, Viking Plastics

Kocelj began by implementing two-second lean with a team of eight senior managers, with the theory that if the management team couldn’t do it, they couldn’t teach it. Upon rollout of the concept to the entire company, he asked employees to create a video showing the “before” and “after” for improvements. In one year, 1,400 videos were created. – Nick Kocelj, Walters and Wolf.

For two years, Glebe attempted to “push the train” to force employees into changing the culture of the company. An exposure to Akers’ videos allowed him to show people how to build culture, and the simplicity of the process triggered a modification of Toyota’s 5S process to a 3S system that influences the organization every day. – Greg Glebe, Xylem Industries

Paul Akers has hosted a video roundtable with three of the four MAPP Conference presenters. It can be seen on YouTube.

Action Items for 2014

Gene Marks (

Gene Marks is a daily columnist for the New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC. Marks closed the MAPP Benchmarking Conference with a discussion about how changes in the economy will affect business and what actions need to be taken to prepare. Discussing trends in technology, management themes and healthcare reform, Marks provided action items that every executive in the audience should consider as “must dos” in 2014. Among those items were the following:

Keep on top of the debt ceiling. There are six ways US debt and the deficit effect your business, according to Marks. These include higher taxes, higher inflation, higher interest rates, stock market reactions, a weak dollar and a contracting economy, which means less government spending. Marks encouraged conference attendees to watch CSPAN!

Have a cloud and mobile strategy. Understanding how the cloud works and how it affects your business will be critical in 2014. Google is looking for mobile-optimized websites and, if your site isn’t optimized, it will affect your search ranking placement. There are sites, including or, that can help optimize your site. In addition, Marks noted that social media is making an impact in business prospecting, explaining that one of the hot new sites to watch is Google Hangouts on Air, which allows anyone to host and record live discussions over the internet. Marks also pointed to cloud-based CRM software as another indication that having a strategy for working within the cloud should be a priority.

Have dinner with your accountant. Capital gains, tax increases, dividends, itemized deductions ceilings, flexible spending accounts … these all are reasons to sit down with your accountant. Marks encouraged those in the audience to understand how the business tax climate will affect both 2013 and 2014 taxes.

Decide on healthcare. Take the time to review the impact of the Affordable Care Act on your business and your employees. Make a decision as to how your business will react to the changes that are in effect beginning January 1, 2014, and let your employees know quickly so they have time to make decisions of their own.