Forecasting and AI for Manufacturers

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for May 21, 2020

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On May 21, 2020, Tony Nash, the CEO and Founder of Complete Intelligence (@complete_intel), hosted a #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on forecasting and AI for manufacturers.  Below is a summary of Tony’s (@TonyNashonAsia) questions and answers on this very important topic.

Question 1:  What are some of the trends manufacturers can expect to see in 2020 and in the next few years? 

Answer 1a:  “Procurement and category leaders will increasingly become strategy players within their companies. With AI/ML tools for cost transparency & scenario planning for manufacturing, these leaders can show ROI, significantly improve margins” 

Answer 1b: “#Supplychains will become more regionalized over the coming years. #Manufacturers will need #AI #ML cost technology to quickly run scenarios on cost estimates, supplier comparison and risk assessments for each new #sourcing location”.

Question 2: Why choose an #AI solution for cost control in #manufacturing? 

Answer 2:  “Non-AI forecasting methods are limiting. As companies are reforecasting, decision cycle time is critical. AI/ML models compute millions of calculations to optimize cost outlooks. Better information & forecasts = more informed clients = better decisions”

Question 3:  Did you know the average consensus forecast error is double digits? Do you know the accuracy of the forecasts you are using?

Answer 3:  “We regularly test our #AI #ML forecast accuracy compared to consensus forecast. Our core belief is that data & math should drive the forecast results without human intervention or bias. What we found was astonishing. CI outperformed consensus 88% of the time.”

Question 4:  If enterprise BOM materials aren’t publicly traded commodities, can these material costs be forecasted accurately? 

Answer 4:  “Yes! One of the challenges we see for product lines is that consensus forecasts & indexes lack context and detail for specific products, components, and raw materials. Our #AI #ML platform incorporates enterprise & market factors for specific cost & revenue items.”

Question 5:  Should my company build an #AI #ML cost analysis model in-house or outsource? 

Answer 5:  “Consider the budget, time to results, and expected outcomes. Looking for value and access to results quickly? Look to outsource those #AI #ML projects. Commercialized AI applications like @complete_intel’s CI Futures & CostFlow have a track record & proven success.” 

Visit Complete Intelligence to learn more about its #AI and #MachineLearning platform that gives highly accurate revenue and cost #forecasts

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Employee Wellness Programs in Manufacturing

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for May 14, 2020

It is important to have a goal before starting a [wellness] program like this. It helps provide the direction of the type of activities you want to share with your employees.

– Shannon Simpson, @Duratech

This week, Shannon Simpson, Digital Marketing Specialist at DuraTech Industries (@DuraTech) hosted a #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on employee wellness programs.

After brief introductions, Shannon asked participants whether they have an employee wellness program in place and, if so, what it looks like.  Most everyone said that they do not have any formal programs in place, though they have various informal initiatives like continuing education and professional development and opportunities for staff to get together.  Shannon said that DuraTech offers special events and wellness programs and that both have committees to plan activities that include wellness fairs, biometric screenings, gym discounts, fitness challenges, lunch & learns, newsletters and even an on-site garden.

Next, Shannon asked what the overall goal of a wellness program would be for participants besides employee engagement.  Lower benefit costs? Promote a healthier workplace?   @CVTPlastics said that less sickness and absences through having a healthier workforce would benefit the company overall.  Shannon shared DuraTech’s wellness mission statement,

“To improve the health & well-being of DuraTech employees & their families’ lives through positive education & activities that will support positive lifestyle changes, resulting in improved employee productivity & morale,” which sums up the purpose of a wellness program nicely.

Next, Shannon asked, “How do you communicate with your employees that the wellness program is available to them and get them to engage in behavior change?”  @SocialSMktg said that small companies like hers have this easier, but that bigger companies would have to plan wellness events on a calendar and then integrate them into employee onboarding and communications.  Everyone agreed that communication is key.  Employees need to know they exist and that they will be beneficial.  Messages can be conveyed through internal communications such as email, bulletin board posts, or team meetings to start.  Shannon agreed, stating that @DuraTech talks about the wellness program during orientation and in newsletters and emails.  While all activities are voluntary, they do offer incentives such as a prize or a few hours of PTO.

If a company does not currently offer a wellness program, what steps can be taken internally to contribute to employee wellness?  @NestbitMarketing said, “A great first step is to allocate some time and resources to decide what the program would ideally look and feel like. What resources do you want to provide your staff? How will it improve the employee and the company? Then start planning.”  Shannon agreed and suggested starting small and gauging the response and then going from there.  And, don’t forget that wellness is about mental and financial wellbeing, too! .   

The last questions asked participants what other engagement activities they provide besides wellness.  Do they celebrate Anniversaries and Birthdays?  Nearly every participating company mentioned that they do acknowledge anniversaries and birthdays.  However, @paul_kiesche cautioned that celebrating those milestones are only nice if they are authentic and not repetitive and insincere.

Shannon closed the chat by encouraging participants to remember that no single wellness program is standard.  Each will vary based on company health trends and goals. Some ways to measure the impact of wellness programs include:

  • Utilization by employees
  • Positive feedback from employees
  • Reduction of overall health insurance costs
  • Overall improvement in employee satisfaction
  • Requests for additional programs
  • Employee suggestions for different programs
  • Reduction in sick days and absentees

Does your company have a wellness program?  If so, what does it entail?

Visit to learn more about what @DuraTech does and how it may be able to help you with your custom printing needs such as company prints, custom nameplates and graphic overlays.  Questions about wellness programs?  Feel free to reach out to Shannon at [email protected]

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Customer-Centric Marketing for Manufacturers

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for May 7, 2020

Hand drawing Customer concept with marker on transparent wipe board.

This week, one of our frequent participants, Christopher Nesbit (@NesbitMarketing), hosted a #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on customer-centric marketing for manufacturers.

After introductions, Christopher asked participants what they think customer-centric marketing is.  While many of the participants thought it was marketing using segmented data about your customers, it actually involves marketing that simply puts the customer first by building reciprocity and trust with value rather than self-promotion prior to the customer purchasing products or services. 

“Why is company-centric marketing not as effective as it used to be?”, asked Christopher in the next question.  While a few participants took guesses centered around customers not wanting to be talked “at” by companies and oversaturation in the marketplace, most were eagerly awaiting Christopher’s insight.  The reason company-centric marketing fails, Christopher said, is because marketing focused on company products and services in a self-promotional way sends the message to prospects that “it’s all about us, you are just a sale,” which has become a turn-off in today’s environment where prospects receive countless ads and promotions a day via various channels.

However, customer-centric marketing is much more effective.  Why?  @envmtfilter said,  “Customers feel valued and feel like they are doing business with someone they trust and someone that understands their needs.”  Other participants echoed that sentiment, stating that customer-centric marketing puts the focus on the customer.  When the focus is on the customer, then you’re solving their problems and bringing them value, which makes them feel more connected to your business.  Christopher agreed, stating customer-centric marketing builds a reciprocity balance with the prospect.  People who receive tangible or intangible value from a company feel a subliminal need to reciprocate in some way (ideally in a sale).  Additionally, it establishes a connection, builds “like, know, trust” factor, and promotes expertise that customers will seek out when they need help.

What are some ways companies can pivot towards customer-centric marketing strategies?  Since customer-centric marketing is all about adding value, companies should find something they can share that customers will find useful and actionable but also leave enough room for the company to fill in the gap with a product or service. @paul_kiesche suggested re-working messaging on marketing to address what the customer cares about and then educate, inform, and be helpful in your messaging and outreach.  And, @MfrsNews said, “What’s key is really having a good understanding of your audience and customer base. Who they are, what their needs are, their challenges etc. This is probably the first step in pivoting towards a customer-centric model.”  

Lastly, Christopher asked what things your company could be trying now that would work as a customer-centric marketing campaign?  Re-thinking tweets, email campaigns, social posts, and other digital content is a great first step.  Then you can eventually develop blogs, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, infographics, case studies, customer reviews, interviews, and other materials with a customer-centric focus once you start to gain momentum and have the resources you need.  

Per Christopher, “By pivoting your marketing strategies to a customer-centric stance, you will build higher trust, attract more prospects/leads, and ultimately your leads and prospects will be better vetted/qualified.” 

Learn more about this topic and other marketing topics of importance to manufacturers by following @NesbitMarketing on Twitter and visiting their website.  Next week, Shannon Simpson, Digital Marketing Strategist at DuraTech Industries (@DuraTech) will be hosting a chat all about promoting employee wellness. You won’t want to miss it!

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Inventory and Materials Control

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#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for April 30, 2020

This week, one of our founders, DCSC Inc. (@DCSCInc), hosted the #USAMfgHour Twitter chat and discussed inventory and materials control.

The chat started off asking participants about recent online shopping experiences. Have participants been frustrated with online purchasing? If so, how? Responses included delays in delivery, items showing as being in stock that are not, and being unable to reach customer service to voice issues.

Next, DCSC Inc. asked what participants thought “real time” actually means? Most of the participants answered with some version of “live data without delay”. @NJ_MEP responded, “Having the ability to access an immediate update on a status of an order, delivery, or anything else. It’s all about access to information at any time.” DCSC Inc. elaborated on the meaning of “real time” by citing the @APICS Dictionary: “Real-Time is the technique of coordinating data processing with external related physical events as they occur, thereby permitting prompt reporting of conditions.”

Given the benefits of having accurate, real time data, DCSC Inc. shared two main procedures or places that manufacturers start losing control of inventory in its experience: 1.) poor receiving processes and 2.) poor data, especially in a bill of materials.  

Cycle counting is one way to help combat that.

Cycle counting on a regular basis not only increases inventory accuracy but also can identify shrinkage and prevent further loss, according to DCSC Inc. What is cycle counting? According to Inc. magazine, cycle counting is the process of continually validating the accuracy of the inventory in your system by regularly counting a portion of your inventory, on a daily or weekly basis, so that every item in your inventory is counted at least several times a year. Learn more about it here: 

Do you engage in cycle counting? Have you found it helpful for your manufacturing business?

Next week, Christopher Nesbit of @NesbitMarketing will be hosting the chat and sharing about customer-centric marketing campaigns, so be sure to join us.

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER. Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Theories of Safety

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for May 27, 2020

On May 27, 2020, Phil (@witzshared) hosted a #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on theories of safety.  

After brief introductions, Phil asked if the participants had ever heard of behavior-based safety?  Unfortunately, most said that they hadn’t heard of it before.  Behavior-based safety focuses on changing the behavior of employees through education to be more aware of their environment and change habits so they don’t make bad decisions.  Dr. Rob Long is the main guru behind behavioral safety and has some great resources at for people looking to learn more about the concept. 

First, Phil asked, “When you look for a safety program do you go with the “easiest to use one size fits all in our budget” program?”  @LiftWisco said, “We use a standardized program as a guideline and then tweak it to what OSHA requirements are in our industry. We have a PT Safety Manager onboard and Safety Asst. to provide documentation & implementation.”  @NJMEP agreed wholeheartedly, saying that safety is not “One Size Fits All” and that implementing safety programs just to implement them isn’t enough.

Phil then asked whether the participant companies were guilty of “heavy-handed set an example punishment to an employee right after an accident or fine for violation and then let the message fade with light punishment until the next accident?”  Everyone who responded said an emphatic “No!” in response with @SERVICECASTER chiming in with, “I’m not sure since I don’t handle that, but it seems like, with anything, consistency would be key.  Having different standards and inconsistent consequences would, in my estimation, send mixed messages to employees.”  Phil agreed, saying, “Everyone is treated the same and consistently otherwise there will never be trust.”

Finally, Phil asked, how participants would want to be treated if they break a safety rule?  Nearly everyone said that they’d want to be treated professionally with their errors explained and then given education on the proper course of action.  While it is understandable that emotions can run high in imminent safety situations, yelling should be kept to a minimum when possible and disciplinary action done behind closed doors.

Phil closed out the chat by saying that when it comes to looking for a safety program, like in life, you should not accept just one way of doing it.  You have to look at all the other alternatives available and then take some from each.  Adapt it to your situation as one size does not fit all.   But the bottom line is and always will be communication between employees and management. 

The #USAMfgHour chat, held every Thursday from 2-3 PM Eastern is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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