Can You See the Ding?

Netflix is addicting. I find myself scrolling through the movies it suggests for me in search of the next great Hollywood Blockbuster (or is it Hollywood Bust?) I can sink my teeth in to.  The truth is I am far from a movie snob.  I am easily entertained by both the latest Transformers saga and the most recent Diane Keaton romantic comedy drama.

Case in point… I found myself intrigued during a recent viewing of Jobs, the biopic of Apple-founder Steve Jobs.  While this movie was not successful by anyone’s standards, I found it entertaining because I knew little about Jobs (or Apple for that matter), even though I have used Apple products religiously the last several years. Also, the way the movie portrayed Jobs as continuously-focused on innovation and revolutionizing people’s lives was uplifting.

“I want to put a ding in the universe,” Jobs said.

This idea leads to several of our features this issue as they are focused on providing customers solutions.

  • •  The article, “Tech Trends for Practical Casting Design” on p. 25, is focused on the role of casting process modeling software in providing more effective casting designs. While the success of the software is well-documented, its use as an integral tool by casting designers is still developing.
  • •  In “Steel Job Shop Proves Value of 3-D Scanning” on p. 30, 3-D scanning technology was the key to be able to produce accurate first-article castings and quality tooling.
  • •  In the article, “Solving Customers’ Problems” on p. 34, the solutions discussed include a weldment to casting conversion, reverse engineering and additive manufacturing.  The growth of additive manufacturing in metalcasting has been covered well in this magazine, the true potential of it for metalcasting and manufacturing as a whole is just beginning to be realized.

Each of these changes, improvements and advancements has the opportunity to change the world to some degree and put at least a small “ding in the universe.” Manufacturers always have this opportunity at their fingertips because they consistently create value.

Every time you help design and manufacture a new product or component, you have the opportunity to reduce weight, improve performance, reduce emissions, increase safety, lower cost and, most importantly, enhance someone’s life. In most instances, the enhancement is valuable, but marginal to the typical consumer. In a select few instances, we actually can see the ding.

Lessons of Agility

Like the software it develops, Red Hat is run with open source management. CEO Jim Whitehurst explains how in “The Open Organization,” a business management book that describes the open, engaged workforce philosophy behind Red Hat and provides strategies for leaders to implement in their own company in order to be more flexible in meeting customer demands.

Software and metalcasting are vastly different types of businesses, and its difficult to draw parallels for some aspects of the book. Whitehurst can use his company’s internal memo network and web-based forum to foster communication, imput and engagement with his employees; such a system rarely would be in place for an entire metalcasting company, from sales manager to molder. However, the metalcasting CEO can take smaller steps by simply communicating more openly about the context of the company within its niche of the industry.

“When people are given information, they begin to see the big picture as it relates to meeting their targets, earning their bonus, increasing the value of the company’s stock and protecting their jobs,” writes Whitehurst. Red Hat does this by opening up the decision-making process to the employees closest to the area it will impact. The CEO makes the final decision, but the ideas can come from anyone. Good ideas win in this meritocracy.

After each chapter, Whitehurst provides five or six leadership tips, and these are the best parts of the book. They provide clear ways to implement an open-source philosophy into your management style, such as “Before making your next decision, ask yourself whether others will be surprised. If so, think about including them before finalizing it,” which was at the end of the chapter, Making Inclusive Decisions.

Whitehurst also suggests giving teams the room to determine ways to improve the company rather than always providing direction from the top-down. Tell people where progress is needed and give them the freedom to come up with their own ideas to meet the goals, he writes.

While not all principles in “The Open Organization” will fit a metalcasting organization, it provides plenty of ways the CEO can use better communication with employees to more quickly adapt to changes in the operation. It also gives food for thought in how much could be advanced if the whole industry was open source.  

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