Friday, June 1, 2012

Associates’ Corner - Buckingham Manufacturing Company, Inc.

Buckingham Manufacturing’s name is well known to linemen and arborists throughout North America and many foreign countries today as a leader in quality and innovation. Originally founded by Wilmont Stephens, The Stephens Company was a blacksmith shop that began producing pole climbers in 1896 in Binghamton, NY. In 1913, W.H Buckingham purchased the firm and changed the name from the Stephens Company to what is now known as Buckingham Manufacturing Company, Inc.

H.Andrew Batty Jr. and a new management team took ownership in 1984. Today he and James Pennefeather continue to guide the company as they expand and improve the original product line; introduce new product lines; expand their sales and distribution system domestically and internationally and introduce new manufacturing technology and reorganized production.
Buckingham Manufacturing is a medium-sized company with the expertise and agility to develop and deliver quality products based on customer requirements, lead times, engineering changes and schedule changes. Their diverse work force contributes to the breadth and depth of their knowledge and experience and senior management continues its commitment to quality improvements.

Today, Buckingham is ISO 9001:2008 certified and is primarily responsible for the design and manufacture of climbing and work positioning equipment, fall protection gear, and accessories specifically designed for the electric, telecommunications, cable and professional arborist markets. The company follows all applicable standards including OSHA, ANSI, ASTM, CSA and CE requirements pertaining to their product line.

Buckingham’s on-going success is dependent on its loyal customer base and the continued addition of new satisfied customers. “Outstanding customer service is the backbone of a successful company and our customers appreciate the knowledge, experience and flexibility of our staff. In sharp contrast to the national norm, Buckingham’s customer service staff has long tenure at Buckingham. Our service representatives know the products, interface with our shop managers and frequently work directly with manufacturing to satisfy customer requirements,” said Jim Nichols, Chief Operating Officer.

For more info: contact Nichols at 607-773-2400 or visit

Associates’ Corner - Laing Industries, Inc.

Originally founded as Laing Truck and Trailer, the company’s name was changed to Laing Industries to reflect its evolution into a premier service company that offers Equipment Restoration, Fleet Maintenance, and Alignments, in addition to basic truck and trailer repair.

The Fleet Maintenance division specializes in maintenance and collision work. Services include preventive maintenance, alignments, DOT and NYS Inspections, engine diagnostic and repair, major repairs and accident damage, fleet maintenance reports, and free estimates. Laing Industries helps business owners manage the maintenance and repair of their fleet easily and efficiently.

Laing’s alignment capabilities are unique to the Southern Tier, consisting of a laser guided alignment system coupled with a 35ft runway. Laing Industries is the only company with axle correction equipment, allowing their certified technicians to make precise camber and caster corrections on any size axle without removing them from the vehicle.

The company launched its Diesel Service division in May of this year, offering drive-in service and a parts department. The drive-in service will focus on diesel-powered engines, ranging from compressors to Class 8 road tractors, and the parts department will offer engine products for Caterpillar, Mack, Cummins, International, John Deere, Detroit Diesel, Natural Gas, and FPPF fuel additive.
Laing Diesel Performance is the company’s online presence, specializing in diesel performance components for Fords, GMC, Chevy and Dodge trucks. Products from Spider Performance, K & N Filters, Banks Powers, Diablo Sports, Bully Dog, Fass, Edge, and others will be available at

Laing Industries attributes their success to the values instilled by Dick Laing back in the 1970’s. “Customer service, knowledge and quality is what sets us apart”, says Laing.

The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness)

By Jessica Hagy - Forbes

These six factors can erode the grandest of plans and the noblest of intentions. They can turn visionaries into paper-pushers and wide-eyed dreamers into shivering, weeping balls of regret. Beware!

1) Availability
We often settle for what’s available, and what’s available isn’t always great. “Because it was there,” is an okay reason to climb a mountain, but not a very good reason to take a job or a free sample at the supermarket.

2) Ignorance
If we don’t know how to make something great, we simply won’t. If we don’t know that greatness is possible, we won’t bother attempting it. All too often, we literally do not know any better than good enough.

3) Committees
Nothing destroys a good idea faster than a mandatory consensus. The lowest common denominator is never a high standard.

4) Comfort
Why pursue greatness when you’ve already got 324 channels and a recliner? Pass the dip and forget about your grand designs.

5) Momentum
If you’ve been doing what you’re doing for years and it’s not-so-great, you are in a rut. Many people refer to these ruts as careers.

6) Passivity
There’s a difference between being agreeable and agreeing to everything. Trust the little internal voice that tells you, “this is a bad idea.”

lt’s the Process, Not the People

Why playing the blame game works against continuous improvement for manufacturers.

By Ralph Keller

All businesses have specific processes they use to conduct their operations. It’s the way things are done in delivering products and services to their customers. Senior executives and managers attempt to ensure these processes are robust and can handle all the different issues that may arise in the business, but in today’s complex world, these processes often fall short of being able to handle all the different permutations that exist.

When this happens and the results deviate from the expected outcome of the process, in many companies the search begins for who “screwed up.” The vast majority of the time, the answer is that it is senior managers’ fault because the processes in place are not up to the task of handling all the variation that exists in today’s businesses. As a result, they have not enabled the organization to continuously improve its processes.

The very successful companies, the leaders in their industries, generally have senior executives and management teams that understand it’s not people screwing things up, it’s the processes that are not up to the challenge of today’s business complexity, and it’s the processes that need to be improved. This is where they focus their continuous improvement efforts, and they encourage the organization to identify the anomalies so they can be addressed.

If organizations really want to have a continuous improvement effort focused on improving their business, they celebrate the mistakes and errors that result from inadequate processes so they can be corrected. They don’t look for someone to blame for the problem. These organizations have their sensors turned up to identify problems that will inevitably arise and encourage their people to expose these issues rather than try to bury them and cover them up.

In organizations where people are blamed for these variances, there is a culture of “hide it and cover yourself” to protect themselves from the blame and potential disciplinary action rather than a culture of exposing process variations so a continuous-improvement team can improve the business process to prevent future occurrences of the same issue. In a blame culture, these variances from expected results will continue to occur due to the inadequate process, and the people will continue to bury the issues whenever possible rather than exposing them so they can be fixed permanently.

There will never be a shortage of variations from expected results in today’s business world, but you have to have the data systems and sensors in place to identify them when they occur so they can be exposed. You also have to have a culture that encourages people to elevate these issues when they arise rather than trying to hide them to protect themselves from blame. Treat variances from expected process results as valuable pearls of opportunity that allow the organization to improve instead of costly errors that “somebody” made. You have to ask yourself, “What do I want in my business? Do I want a culture of blame and cover up or one of problem identification and resolution using my continuous-improvement teams?”

The successful organizations that lead their industry both financially and in growing their revenue and market share take the latter path and constantly work to identify problems and encourage their organizations to use continuous-improvement tools and techniques to make their business processes more robust to prevent reoccurrences in the future. The choice is yours. I hope you choose to become a learning organization that constantly strives to identify the shortcomings in your business processes and then have your entire workforce engaged and motivated to continuously improve them, so your business is a standout success in your industry.

Ralph Keller is president of the AME Institute and former president of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

NYS Funding for Manufacturers

Up to $247 million will be available for direct assistance to businesses as part of the 2012 round of state funding to stimulate job creation and economic growth. This includes:
  • Up to $150 million for Regional Council Capital Fund
  • Up to $70 million for Excelsior Jobs Tax Credits
  • Up to $20 million for Empire State Economic Development Fund
 An online Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) is required to request funding, and a June 8 workshop will provide training on how to apply -- see more information below.

Here’s an example to help understand the types of projects that might qualify: The Regional Council Capital Fund targets capital-based economic development initiatives intended to create or retain jobs; improve unemployment, and/or increase business activity. Approved funding may be used for:
  • Acquisition or leasing of land, buildings, machinery and/or equipment
  • Acquisition of existing business and/or assets
  • Demolition and environmental remediation
  • New construction, renovation or leasehold improvements
  • Acquisition of furniture and fixtures
  • Soft costs up to twenty-five (25%) of total project costs
  • Planning and feasibility studies related to a capital project
For more information,
  • Contact Jim Cunningham at AM&T 607-725-1225
  • Visit
  • Attend the training workshop:
Funding Application Workshop - June 8
Learn about the CFA process at a workshop for businesses, local officials, municipalities, non-profits, and the general public.
Friday, June 8, 2012, 12:00 noon – 2:30 pm
Binghamton University, Old Union Hall, First Floor
Parking available in the University Visitors lots
Register by calling 607-721-8605 or at

Workforce Training
$5 million is available in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding to develop and enhance the occupational skills of New York State’s workforce. This money will fund:
  • Existing Employee Training Program;
  • New Hire Training Program; and
  • Unemployed Worker Training Program.
The purpose of these programs is to address lay-off aversion by training existing employees who are at risk of losing their jobs unless they obtain skills upgrading; and by training long term unemployed individuals who require training upon being hired or who need classroom based skills upgrades to be qualified to be hired. These programs also support the workforce needs of the strategic plans of the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils.

To learn more, contact Jim Cunningham at 607-725-1225

Top Ten Signs of a Bad Supervisor

From an article by Dr. Kimberly Alyn

Everyone has had to work for a bad supervisor at one point or another. Some people mistake leadership for supervisory or management positions. Anyone who supervises another employee is a supervisor, but that doesn’t make that person a leader. A leader is someone who positively influences others to want to follow. A good supervisor should also be a good leader. A bad supervisor is someone who usually lacks leadership skills, ability, or training. They might think they are doing a great job, but everyone around them knows they stink at it! Here are the top 10 signs of a bad supervisor:

1) Bad Supervisors Lead and Manage by Intimidation
These types of supervisors tend to use force and threats to get things done. They try to intimidate others with their tone of voice, body language, and harsh words. They are abrasive, harsh, and severe.

2) Bad Supervisors Do Not Produce Results
They often talk about what needs to be done, complain about what’s not getting done, and demand that someone else do it. They rarely ever produce real results themselves and they lack initiative in getting things accomplished.

3) Bad Supervisors Lack Honesty and Integrity
Character is a vital part of being a great leader, and this is a non-negotiable leadership principle that has been around since the beginning of time. Bad supervisors are dishonest and tend to make unethical decisions. They justify these decisions with excuses like “Everyone else does it,” or “No one is going to know” or “It won’t hurt anyone.”

4) Bad Supervisors Do Not Learn From Mistakes
They rarely ever admit they are wrong and their subordinates would faint and fall over if the words “I’m sorry” were ever uttered from their mouths! Bad supervisors tend to deny their mistakes, making it impossible to learn from those mistakes and become better as a leader or supervisor. As a result, there is a lack of respect among followers

5) Bad Supervisors Lack Openness to New Ideas or Suggestions
These supervisors do not want suggestions or input from others. They take any form of suggestion or input as negative criticism instead of positive ideas. They say things like “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” or “That’s the way we’ve always done it around here” or “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.”

6) Bad Supervisors Become Threatened by People Who Pursue Learning and Self-Development
Real leaders support their followers in pursuing continual learning and self-development. Bad supervisors become threatened by subordinates who might get a higher education than the supervisor or who might attend some leadership training that the supervisor doesn’t want to attend. As a result, the bad supervisor will often put down college degrees or leadership classes, or any form of continuing education.

7) Bad Supervisors Criticize Others
When a supervisor is insecure, they tend to overcompensate by putting other people down, especially in public. They tend to talk down to people to make themselves appear more powerful. They find things to criticize about anyone who is getting positive attention. When they need to reprimand a subordinate, they will often do it in front of other people because they think it makes them look powerful. If they only knew how horrible it makes them look!

8) Bad Supervisors Do Not Make Themselves Accountable Up or Down the Chain
A bad supervisor will make decisions without thinking about the consequences or how the decisions might affect others. Additionally, there is no accountability, especially down the chain. Bad supervisors say things like “I’m the boss—I don’t owe an explanation to THEM!” or “If they don’t like it, too bad.” Real leaders understand that they are accountable to their followers as well as their supervisors to make principle-based decisions.

9) Bad Supervisors Exhibit Poor Communication Skills
Too many people think communicating is talking. Well it is, but it’s also listening. The reason God gave you two ears and only one mouth was so you would learn to listen twice as much as you talked! Bad supervisors spew their thoughts and opinions on others without really listening to what others want to say. If they do shut up long enough to listen, they are not really listening… they are formulating their response or argument in their head. They often interrupt or interject when people are trying to talk, and they don’t take the time to validate others in the communication process.

10) Bad Supervisors Exhibit High Confidence but Low Competence
This is by far the worst type of supervisor. They tend to show a very high level of confi dence but they have a very low level of competence. Subordinates fi nd it very diffi cult to follow this type of supervisor. The supervisor comes off as a cocky, arrogant, know-it-all, but everyone around that person knows they are full of crap. Unfortunately, the only one who doesn’t know it is the supervisor, which amplifi es their incompetence. Since we now have syndromes for just about everything, I call this one the HCLC syndrome

Innovation Lessons from 3M

While Apple is often the most highly touted company for its innovation success, 3M is a global innovation company that has remained under the radar for its long-term innovation plans and succeses. With $30 billion in sales and products sold in nearly 200 countries, 3M has made significant contributions to the health care, communications and office business - including bringing the world’s most recognizable brands Post-it Notes and Scotch tape to market.

The root of 3M’s success is its business model; to foster organic growth by inventing entirely new, market-changing products. These disruptive technologies have not only led to new products but to the creation of new industries. In order to foster this growth, 3M has always emphasized the importance of research and development (R&D) to which the company dedicates six percent of its yearly revenue. Although a high percentage in R&D spending does not guarantee success, 3M is doing very well.

3M takes a long-term approach to the new product development process by creating a culture of innovation that encourages risk-taking, tolerates mistakes made along the way, and rewards achievement. A culture of innovation means that senior management encourages employees to spend a significant portion of their time on products and research that go beyond their usual scope of responsibilities. This involves hosting ideation sessions in which the innovation champion creates an environment of trust and openness. Only by breaking out of their usual comfort zones can teams create truly disruptive technology.

As part of the company’s holistic innovation strategy, 3M focuses on developing disruptive innovations outside of the current existing portfolio. In 2008, 3M began strategically investing in startups with long-term benefit to the company, resulting in collaborations and increased technological development. These 3M New Ventures include 3M GTG digital media solutions for outdoor advertising, and Energy Inc., which monitors residential and commercial energy consumption to reduce costs.

Another way 3M capitalizes on its innovation success is by combining diverse technologies in new and unexpected ways. 3M draws upon innovative technologies from its portfolio of 55,000 products to create new solutions, such as using dental technology applied to car parts. By making these uncommon connections, the company pioneers new ways of innovating.

The strategies developed by 3M are meant for long-term, sustained innovation.
  • Dedicated R&D, long-term development and separate from concept to launch efforts
  • Apply and use Open Innovation; host ideation sessions with members of all departments
  • Foster a culture of innovation by allowing team members to take risks in a protected environment
  • Reward and encourage creativity
  • Implement and nurture all Ten Imperatives in Robert’s Rules of Innovation to create and sustain innovation.
As innovation is the lifeblood of any organization, all companies can stand to learn from some of the tactics used by 3M. For more tips, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.”