On the Side of Majority? Get Inspired, CPG.











“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
— Mark Twain

Yes, it’s a Mark Twain quote, but it resonated with us while we were reviewing some Tim Ferriss material and thinking about what it’s like to be in the CPG sector right now.

If you don’t know who Tim Ferriss is, he’s a best selling author and internationally recognized for his work in lifestyle design, and well known for the experiments he runs on himself and the people who engage with him. He’s a productivity, efficiency, and experience fanatic, and worth looking into.

His thinking and his use of Mark Twain’s quote about finding yourself on the side of majority, is certainly relevant as manufacturers in the CPG sector face pressures that conspire to drive them all in the same direction. Even still, most want to distinguish themselves, compete globally, and embrace new technology and approaches to make things more effectively than they ever have.

Granted, it’s tough out there, with the requirements that come with contract packaging, increasing influence from the investment community in manufacturing processes (think Wall Street), retailer and consumer pressures, and other global market conditions.

So, where are the people who manufacture the goods we consume to turn for a little bit of inspiration? Where might you find content to cause you to pause, reflect, and consider a new approach?

Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • We just mentioned Tim Ferriss (twitter: @tferriss), so here’s a nod to The Four Hour Work Week, a compilation of his work in book, blog, audio, and video form and worth exploring if you’re a continuous improvement buff. There are lessons in here for CPG’s, and it’s funny and informative stuff: http://fourhourworkweek.com/introduction/

  • You’ve likely been to the Pack World website before (twitter: @packagingworld), but, they’re pumping out some amazing content on the heels of their acquisition of Summit Media, particularly on the internet of things. Find them here: http://www.packworld.com

  • This one is out of left field, but, McRock Capital (twitter: @McRockCapital) is a really exciting investment group, with a focus on the industrial internet (they also announced an investment in our friends at Rt Tech this week, http://rttechsoftware.com). Head over to their website for free content on the industrial internet. Check it out: http://www.mcrockcapital.com
  • This TED talk will really expand your mind. This is Marco Annunziata (twitter: @marcoannunziata), Chief Economist at General Electric, talking about both the Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet. This really is all about the future of machinery. What the video here: http://www.ted.com/talks/marco_annunziata_welcome_to_the_age_of_the_industrial_internet?language=en

If you’ve got a moment to inspire us, please reach out at info@xiplinx.com or leave a comment and we’ll connect with you!

You can find us on twitter via @siteflo or @xiplinx.

3 Ways to Get More Context from Fault & Error Codes

3 Ways to Get More Context from Fault & Error Codes

If you’ve ever looked at the fault and error codes in the user manuals of your control systems and equipment, your eyes have glazed over. Sure, they’re powerful features, but you need timely information and context associated with issues to respond to events in near real-time, and that’s not always possible.

If you leverage real-time alarm, fault and error code notifications from your systems, you know how powerful they are, but many organizations in the CPG sector don’t have the IT infrastructure to support such processing of data or the equipment to provide it. And, even in cases where the infrastructure does exist and notifications are streaming in, context is missing to help you get to the root causes of issues.

Don’t underestimate the power of context, like many software providers have over the last twenty years in this sector. Typically, your operators or supervisors are forced to walk to a personal computer to enter information on downtime or other operational events, an approach that doesn’t suit their workflow. The screens they interact with were designed as an afterthought, simply streaming data in with text boxes for data entry. Very little appreciation has been given to user experience affecting adoptability of the systems, and dramatically impacting the context you get from system users.

Here are a few experiments you can run to explore the power of a discrete, Context-First system.

Ignore Your Existing Fault Codes Altogether

This doesn’t exactly reflect the title of this blog post and it isn’t going to work for every CPG, but it has for a variety of the ones we’ve worked with. Test our hypothesis, that you can deploy a discrete, semi-automated system that is web enabled and wirelessly connected, to collect critical information on context and events that create issues in your factory. The goal here is to collect more powerful diagnostic data than you can by aggregating fault codes, allowing you to get to the root of your problems effectively and rapidly, without having to leverage your existing cumbersome systems. Remember, this is a moment-in-time experiment, to prove the power of the context so that you can make changes to your existing systems and internal processes.

Put in a Context-First System and After it Works, Integrate (Not Before)

It’s natural to rush to connect all of your disparate systems, but don’t rush this time. Test our hypothesis, that you can implement a system to retrieve better context on events that lead to factory issues, and that this data will be so powerful that you’d rather move forward with a “Context-First” system. After that, you’ll look to integrate with that system at a later date if possible, streaming machine data into the contextual system and not the other way around.

Pick a Context-First Project and Calculate the Financial Impact of It

This one is simple. Pick a project to address an issue that you know is costing you money (think downtime or rework), given a lack of context. Deploy a discrete system to help you collect data, and review the data at the end of the project relative to the project goals. Now calculate the financial impact of what you’ve learned. Test our hypothesis that putting context ahead of a system driving only machine data, isn’t always a “garbage-in” and “garbage-out” scenario.

To learn more about how customers are using our Context-First system SITEFLO, contact us at info@xiplinx.com.

You “Planned” & “Did” Without “Checking” & “Acting”

You "Planned" & "Did" Without "Checking" & "Acting"

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and that’s something you know well.

Everybody’s swamped in your operation and although you believe in efficiency and process improvement, and you’ve invested in training to that end, you’ve really only gotten to the “Plan” and “Do” phases of the Deming cycle.It’s been so difficult to sustain all of the “checking” and “acting” on your improvement initiatives, even though the outcome of your plan was seemingly realistic.

And whether you’re a highly automated CPG with advanced equipment and software, or the opposite, you know that failing to check and act means you’re missing out on key intelligence.

You characterize this intelligence as that bubble of information that exists on the floor, but never leaves. It’s not that anybody on the floor maliciously keeps it from you, but, they’re busy. That interplay between man and machine leads to floor based wisdom, and that’s hard to tap, particularly when you’re running a project that is a departure from what’s considered business as usual.

This intelligence on the floor, accessible while you’re “Checking” and “Acting”, is key to understanding unplanned and otherwise unknown downtime or waste. You’d fix these things if you knew about them, and if you ever have enough data to justify fixing them.

This is the kind of knowledge that keeps you from running on schedule everyday, and from producing to specs. The knowledge about root causes of issues, that seem to interrupt what everybody is supposed to be focused on. The key to understanding all of your emergencies.

For a moment, think about all of the assets in your plant, and whether or not you understand why they’re causing rework, and truly, when and why they go down in the first place? Do you always get notified when they’re down? How quickly can you respond?

Now pick a line. One that you know is causing you trouble. It has a bottleneck, and you need more intelligence to fix it.

If you could dedicate yourself and an operator to exploring this solely for one shift, and collecting data, would that prove the value of “Checking” and “Acting”?

You could take on your secondary packaging area, at the end of the line, which is less automated than primary packaging. Pick a case former, for example. Now look upstream and downstream of the case former.

How well can you evaluate the performance of your case former and the associated assets upstream and downstream? How much downtime does the case former or other assets create in a shift? What are the reasons for the downtime? How much rework do you have to do as a result? What’s the lost opportunity cost you?

Now, let’s do some simple math.

Based on your observations over a singe-shift, how might the things you observed impact you annually? Do seemingly small numbers add up? Have you hit $1M+ yet?

Total downtime in minutes, cases per minute, and revenue per case. This is all data you possess. What’s the lost revenue potential annually? What are the other metrics that matter to you given what you’ve learned.

Consider the rework. Average wage, total labor cost, and the employees affected. What are your rework labor costs annually?

You’ve got unknown, unplanned downtime and a lot of waste and you know it. And all you had to do was check and act.

To find out how SITEFLO customers are leveraging our discrete monitoring systems to “Check” and “Act” on their improvement initiatives, so that plans don’t go awry, please reach out to us at info@xiplinx.com.

BNAP and SITEFLO Announce Partnership


BNAP and SITEFLO Announce Partnership

***** For Immediate Release *****

Xiplinx Technologies Ltd. and BNAP, Inc. announce a partnership to distribute the SITEFLO product in the Consumer Packaged Goods Market in a variety of US based jurisdictions.

February 13, 2015

Nashville, TN – Xiplinx Technologies Ltd., developers of the continuous improvement software product SITEFLO, announced today that it will partnering with Nashville, TN based BNAP, Inc., to distribute their SITEFLO product.

The partnership will allow BNAP to meet customer demands by implementing a discrete, software monitoring tool to track progress on performance improvement objectives. The benefits to BNAP customers include improving response times to critical events, reducing downtime and rework, and identifying unknown opportunities for performance improvement.

“Our partnership with Xiplinx Technologies in distributing SITEFLO to our customers will allow us to bring them powerful and highly customized continuous improvement data collection and analysis tools,” said Jon Nettles, Vice-President of BNAP. “We are excited to work with such an innovative group of people who value delivering a positive end-user experience above all else,” said Nettles.

This announcement comes on the heels of several other SITEFLO partnership announcements as the software company continues to scale distribution throughout North and South America.

“BNAP is a great fit for us culturally and their technical depth brings both SITEFLO and BNAP’s existing customers so much value,” said Brent MacDonald, CEO of Xiplinx. “Their domain experience and service oriented approach makes BNAP trusted advisors to some great customers.”

About BNAP, Inc.

BNAP, Inc. is a process improvement consulting firm based in Nashville, TN with an emphasis on automation, packaging, and material handling for the manufacturing sector.

About Xiplinx Technologies Ltd.:

Xiplinx Technologies Ltd. has developed SITEFLO, a discrete, semi-automated, mobile software solution for the consumer packaged goods sector, used as a diagnostic tool to identify and monitor continuous improvement opportunities. With SITEFLO, managers can map project workflow and operating procedures, and assign continuous improvement activities to technical personnel. As SITEFLO is used, the product shares intelligence with management about the results of continuous improvement activities on a customizable dashboard in real-time, leading to reduced downtime and rework, and improved response time to critical events.

For more information, please contact SITEFLO at info@xiplinx.com, or 1-866-797-3106.

How to 10X the Output of Mike and Jerry








Here’s the secret.

Make Jerry and Mike feel like their contributions are valued by your organization and that they have a voice. This is especially true when you’re focused on continuous improvement, where many of the solutions to your problems are available if you lend an ear and provide employees with the right tools.

Consider what Greg Flickinger has to say about employee engagement, the VP Manufacturing at Charlotte, NC based snack food manufacturer Snyder’s-Lance. He’s a member of the Alliance for Innovation and Operational Excellence (AIOE), under PMMI, and a leading thinker on employee engagement and cultural transformation.

When he speaks about engaged workforces, he often draws from a rich set of real-world examples, where engaged employees have implemented the most impactful continuous improvement projects, not consultants or software companies.

In an interview with Pat Reynolds, Editor of Pack World, Greg walks readers through an experience he had with an employee named Mike, who traditionally “punched a clock” while he worked eight hour shifts. After being invited into a broad-based project to improve performance in their receiving area, Mike drove substantive, measurable improvements and got employees engaged in the effort. He brought new ideas to the leadership team, and focused day-to-day on increasing efficiency. All that Greg’s employers had to do was listen, and provide support for his efforts.

And don’t forget about Jerry Wynn, an oven operator who recognized an issue downstream of the area of the line he owned. He subsequently helped fabricate a small part that bolted onto a conveyor frame, that perfectly aligned food products so that there were no downstream issues.

As Greg notes, this is an example of an action that was “above and beyond” what was required of Jerry, and it leads to measurable results in a high throughput operation.

Examples like these are in stark contrast to Gallup reports referenced in the Pack World article with Mr. Flickinger, where it is noted that in their 2012 State of the American Workplace Report, only 30% of American workers are presumed engaged, and 52% are not engaged.

In the face of this, Jerry and Mike have likely more than 10X their output with their ideas, and continue to be actively engaged in the organization to drive continuous improvement.

Head over to Pack World to read more about Greg Flickinger, and to read more about “The Engagement Framework.” This framework was published by the AIOE group Greg belongs to under PMMI, and is a playbook to help organizations create engagement cultures, and to help bring out the Jerry and Mike in your own organization.

How to find the Pack World article: http://www.packworld.com/trends-and-issues/trainingeducation/how-develop-engaged-workforce

To find out more about how SITEFLO develops tools to support Jerry and Mike, please feel free to email us at info@xiplinx.com.