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Article

April 16, 2014
80/20 homework
On-time-delivery (OTD) problems seem to be widespread in the custom fabrication industry. That’s because this is the custom anything industry. Variation abounds—parts, volumes, routings, demand levels, you name it—and with variation comes... Read more...

Article

March 18, 2014
80/20: What can possibly go wrong?
Last month I reviewed the time-tested 80/20 methodology of management and improvement. Its appeal is its power to focus on just those things that have the most favorable impact on results. Companies often can succeed brilliantly with... Read more...

Article

January 30, 2014
Days in the lives
In prior columns I have alluded to a major impediment to consistent improvement: lack of resources and time. I have also asserted that improvement in every aspect of the business is not just desirable, but is an absolute necessity in a... Read more...

Article

December 6, 2013
Want to make your own products?
This column is a bit of a change of pace, but like all the previous ones it is targeted to the real issues I see with contract manufacturers and fabricators. This column focuses on products, specifically, the products you may want to build and... Read more...

Article

November 25, 2013
The hidden costs in manufacturing
FABTECH ® just keeps getting better. In fact, the entire purpose of FABTECH is improvement. But hidden in the flash of new and better equipment and the appeal of the latest practices and methods is the real question: How do I reduce my total... Read more...

Article

October 9, 2013
No-nonsense lean at Micron Metalworks
Ed Kittelson’s life adventure started four decades ago in a 1971 Vega hatchback packed with everything he owned. He grew up in Anoka, Minn., northwest of the Twin Cities; moved south during his junior high and high school years; and upon... Read more...

Article

September 5, 2013
So, exactly what are you going to improve?
The old saw “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is at least sometimes true. But in the realm of continuous, focused improvement, after having established a will, there certainly must be a “what” before there’s a “way.” We... Read more...

Article

August 9, 2013
The will behind continuous improvement
As I noted in the previous column, the first condition that must be met for real improvement to happen is the will to improve. I also stated that the will to improve must be backed up by the will to invest in continuous improvement. We all know... Read more...

Article

July 12, 2013
Stacking the deck for real improvement
Improving almost anything of real substance in an organization of more than a few people can be a frustrating task. While I often hear about and see the difficulties in sustaining improvements that have at least nominally been put in place, my... Read more...

Article

June 28, 2013
The art, science, and frustration of sales forecasting
At The FABRICATOR ® ’s Leadership Summit held in late February in Tampa was a packed session on forecasting. I was able to contribute some baseline thoughts and principles on the subject for the session’s able moderator, Lori Tapani,... Read more...

Article

April 24, 2013
Why do customers buy from you?
I love asking the managers of companies that I work with a very basic question: “Why do customers buy from you and not someone else?” Asking this does three extremely important things. It unifies the company around a common set of principles,... Read more...

Article

March 15, 2013
More than numbers drive valuation -- much more
In the prior two columns I discussed the valuation of private companies, the importance of company size, and the various measures of profitability and asset utilization. These parameters determine some baseline company value as viewed by... Read more...

Article

February 15, 2013
Basics on the financials for metal fabricators
In January I introduced the notion of company valuation. The measures used to derive valuation are compatible with the overall measures that companies use for their regular improvement initiatives. Financial and improvement metrics are... Read more...

Article

May 6, 2011
Field selling for fabricators: direct or rep?
Sales efforts drive commerce. Without sales, a business would cease to be a going concern. But in contract metal fabrication, a topnotch sales team can be difficult to create and manage. Many job shops start very small, with the founders... Read more...

Article

August 4, 2010
Can lean manufacturing work in the job shop?
Dyke Messinger runs Power Curbers Inc., a construction equipment manufacturer north of Charlotte, N.C., long devoted to lean manufacturing. The company carries little raw stock or finished-goods inventory. Actual customer orders trigger... Read more...

Article

July 11, 2006
Lean implementation failures
Editor's Note: This article is adapted from Richard Kallage's presentation at Practical Lean: Successful Lean Manufacturing for Smaller & Midsized Manufacturers, Oct. 17-18, 2005, Lafayette, La., © by the Fabricators & Manufacturers... Read more...

Article

March 7, 2006
The China-dominated manufacturing environment
Editor's Note: This article is adapted from William Barron's presentation, "China's growing economic influence—How are you reacting?" presented at the 3rd annual STAMPING Journal® Forum, May 10-11, 2005, Troy, Ohio. Anyone who... Read more...