Category Archive: Uncategorized

Hot Roll Lamination

At CGR Products, we laminate many different materials on a daily basis.  We laminate materials up to 84″ wide and as thin as .062″.  Materials range from closed cell foam to heavy fabrics.  This article explores our hot roll lamination service.

Hot Roll Lamination

Hot Roll lamination applies an adhesive between two other substrates in web form to bond the two together.  Typically hot roll lamination involves applying adhesive over a heated drum.  The heated drum helps the adhesive flow just before being applied to the substrate at a nip roller.

 

Another application of hot roll lamination is known as Fusion.  This is where a substrate is fused with another web by chemical or heated reaction. For Example: When adding a film barrier to Foam, the lamination is achieved by passing the foam and film through a set of heated Teflon-coated rolls at the correct speed and temperature which fuses the film to the foam making a permanent bond.

CGR Products Hot Roll Lamination

Camouflage textile laminated to sponge foam

CGR Products utilizes a custom built hot roll laminator to accommodate bonding multiple types of substrates.   CGR Products hot roll laminator will handle materials up to 84″ wide.  Our hot roll laminator is well suited for materials such as carpet and textiles. Multiple layers of materials can be laminated at one time and our process can be used with a film, non-woven, fabric, or even another foam.

A common use for this machine is the process of glue web lamination. Glue webs are nonwoven webs made of 100% thermoplastic adhesive polymer resins and can laminate a variety of materials.  This process can bond materials such as textiles, nonwovens, foams, films, carpet, and plastics or allow customers to reactivate the adhesive with heat when parts are ready to be installed.

CGR Products lamination service includes such markets as automotive trim, marine trim, carpeting, upholstery, medical, electronics, and aerospace.  Our continuous roll to roll lamination allows for high production rates to keep costs competitive.

 

Learn More

To learn more about our lamination capabilities, visit our laminating services page.   Feel free to click around our website or visit our Applications Page to view a portfolio encompassing many of the industries we serve.

Heat Sealed 3M™ Thinsulate™

CGR Products has been supplying various types of 3M™ Thinsulate™ materials to the automotive market for more than 10 years.  The 3M™ Thinsulate™ NVH material (noise, vibration, and harshness) is used in a variety of applications across many different industries and provides a wide variety of sound absorption and dampening properties.

The Advantages of 3M™ Thinsulate™

3M™ Thinsulate™ NVH Material provides a reliable acoustic solution for various automotive applications.  3M™ Thinsulate™ is engineered to provide high-performance sound absorption.  Specific products are engineered to assist in the creation of lower profile products and reduce mass in the automobile while also reducing noise around the vehicle.  3M™ Thinsulate™ is water repellent to absorb minimal moisture; thus, no need for an additional waterproof layer. It is also resistant to mildew growth, eliminating the risk of unintended odors.

Heat Sealing Thinsulate™

CGR Products supplies custom cut 3M™ Thinsulate™ to the automotive industry utilizing a heat seal around the perimeter of the part.  Some of the benefits of a heat seal include:

  • Preventing contaminants into the part.  If your part is located in an area prone to dust, dirt or any other foreign contaminants, a heat seal is an ideal way to keep much of the substance out of the part.
  • CGR can supply custom cut Thinsulate™ in a variety of ways, such as individual parts stacked in a box, or perforated on a roll.  If a heat seal is used, the parts will retain their shape and remain stable dimensionally.
  • Visually Appealing. If you have a die cut part that is visible, you may be interested in a heat sealed edge. This type of edge will provide a more finished look as opposed to an open, fibrous part.

Keep in mind that for most die cut Thinsulate™ parts, the heat seal is not needed.  However, if there are OEM requirements or if you are looking at exterior parts, a sealed part may be what you are looking for.

Learn More

Consider CGR Products when you are developing sound and vibration dampening.  With over 140,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space and over 100 top-quality machines, CGR serves a diverse range of clients, including those in the automotive industry. To learn more about our capabilities within this field, download our automotive application guide, or visit our Sample Gallery to view a portfolio encompassing all the industries we serve.

CGR Products is Helping To Fight COVID-19

Just a few months ago, we would have never imagined we would be fighting the pandemic that we’re now facing.  CGR Products is currently classified as an “essential business”.  We die cut critical engineered parts that go to other essential businesses.  The amount of inquires we’ve received has been both overwhelming and a blessing, including companies that range from major automotive manufactures making ventilators to high school students 3d printing face shields in their homes.

The president of CGR Products recently gave an interview with our local news affiliate regarding how we are helping fight COVID-19 which you can find Here

Helping in the Fight

A few products that went into production extremely fast are gaskets used for ventilator timers, die cut face masks, and die cut foam strips used on face shields.

Ventilators

The ventilator gaskets are a specialized neoprene rubber that have a 3M high temperature adhesive on both sides.  We used to cut these gaskets years ago but the company moved the production overseas.  Within 10 days we were able to locate the tooling which we still had, ordered the specialized material, and started die cutting the parts.  The parts were then rushed to a major USA based automotive manufacturer where the ventilator is being produced.

Face Masks

A local company reached out to us about die cutting their own material to make face masks in a rush.  This customer brought us a prototype of the mask and the material to be used. The face mask design is a closed cell material that is washable and reusable. From the sample, we created the tooling in house and started die cutting the masks.  We were able to create a die to maximize the customers’ material utilization and start cutting immediately.

Face Shields

Face shield foam strips have also been in huge demand.  We have been supplying these strips in materials that range from open cell polyurethane foam, to closed cell sponge.  With closed cell sponge, CGR Products can split these materials to any specific thickness.  We have seen thickness requests that range from .500″ to 1.25″ for these strips.  We then apply adhesive to one side of the materials and either die cut to the finished desired strip or supply the materials in roll form.

A student from an area high school reached out to us looking for a material to use on face shields.  The school has 3D Printing as part of their curriculum and they started making the clear plastic portion of the face shield.  Here at CGR Products, we stock a wide variety of closed cell sponge and offered the school Armacell 3091 to use as the foam strip.  We supplied them strips die cut 1.00” thick x 1.50” wide.  The completed face shields were then supplied to medical staff in the local hospitals.  Attached is a link from Armacell, regarding materials used for face shields.  Foams for face shields.

We Are Ready to Help

CGR serves a diverse range of clients, including those in the medical equipment industry.  To learn more about how CGR Products can help with your die cut parts, please Contact Us today. Ready to get started,  Request a Quote for your die cut parts.

Large Format Die Cutting

CGR Products has actively been die cutting high volume parts for more than 40 years. To accommodate either very large die cut parts, or supplying parts in a prolific fashion, we use a process called “Large Format Die Cutting”

Equipment

large die cutting press

CGR Products utilizes two Bruno die-cutting presses. Bruno presses are made in the USA and used by large manufacturing companies throughout the world, primarily in the automotive and gasket industries. These presses cut against a flexible conveyor belt to move raw material and the die cut parts along in an automated fashion.

Both presses use steel rule dies as the cutting method. CGR Products creates and maintains all our steel rule dies in house. These dies are typically made with heavy gauge and long length steel rule to accommodate thicker materials. These presses can hold a die up to 84″ x 75″ or roughly 7ft x 6ft.

Process

The process is similar to what is found in most die cutting operations but on a much larger scale. Raw Materials in Roll form or Sheet form are fed into the front side of the presses. Most flexible materials such as rubber, foam, and Thinsulate can be fed in multiple layers providing more throughput per cycle.

The raw material advances under the cutting platen via the conveyor belt. With the die attached to the top of the platen, a “stroke” is made. The steel rule die cuts through the raw material down to the conveyor belt. Once cut, the material advances out on the conveyor belt and a new cycle will start again. The die cut parts at the back end of the machine will be taken off the conveyor belt and packaged.

Advantages

For us at CGR Products, we are primarily cutting flexible materials and typically utilize these machines in two different ways.

  • To cut very large parts that no other machine can convert.
  • To cut very high volumes of parts that no other machine can convert efficiently.

To expand on large parts, let’s consider the insulation for a vehicle door panel. The non-woven raw material comes in rolls and wide widths. Typically the die can be nested so the entire vehicle door panels can be cut in one single stroke. If the material can be layered, then you can greatly increase your throughput. These die cut insulation panels can then be stacked in returnable containers that go directly to the OEM.


large format die cutting

For high volume parts, the process will be more complex. The number of die cavities can be immense and the throughput can be monumental. For example, we die cut millions of foam filtration parts. With a standard die cutting press we could get 12 cavities on a single die. With our Bruno die we have 264 cavities. That is a difference of 252 parts per stroke and with simple math, the throughput numbers to keep up with demand add up easily. It takes CGR Products years of experience running large cavity dies while maintaining high quality, to maintain these stupendous volumes.

Cutting high volumes of parts are what we do best and set us apart from our competitors. Our large format cutting operation has its own dedicated shipping dock with 7 bays. This allows for truckload quantity operations of unloading one set of trucks while filling another set of trucks. CGR Products has the ability to work with our customer’s computerized interfaces and portals, allowing order to flow directly to our large format cutting department.

Find out More.

With over 170,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space and over 100 top-quality machines, CGR serves a diverse range of clients, including those in the automotive industry.  To learn more about how CGR Products can help with your large volume die cut parts, please Contact Us today. Ready to get started,  Request a Quote for your die cut parts.

If You Want to Influence People, Pay Close Attention to Emotions!

I have a technical behavior type and I pride myself on making fact-based decisions. As my years in the work force have progressed and my hair has moved past grey to white, I have come to realize that emotions are way more important than facts when working with others. For a person like me to say that is groundbreaking. Over the years my wonderful wife Merrill and I have had a few disagreements, okay maybe more than a few. When those altercations happen, it has become a standing comment from her to say, “I couldn’t care less about the facts, let me tell you how this makes me feel. At that point in time, I realize two things; first, I better change the way I am approaching the topic, and second, that I have probably lost this round. You see in my world, I cannot possibly understand how facts don’t rule the day in any decision, but in my wife’s world, and in many people’s world, emotions play a major part in how decisions are made.

A Powerful Example

To prove my point let me explain the strangest situation I have encountered. Most people think that facts should and do rule the day in our judicial process, or at least that is what we think should happen. Our company was sued along with 20-25 other companies. It was clear to me that our company should not be involved. I was deposed by numerous lawyers, some in person and some on the phone over the course of a day. In the mediation that followed all the companies met in some building in some city.  We were all sequestered in separate rooms with our lawyers while the mediator went from room to room to try to get as many companies to settle out of court as possible. When the mediator came to our room, my attorney explained that we had submitted documentation and that we should be dropped from the lawsuit. After one minute the mediator left and went back to the plaintiff’s lawyers to try to understand the situation. Shortly after that, the plaintiff’s lawyer came to our room. For those of you who have been in a mediation, that is not how this works. The plaintiff’s lawyer spent the next 15-20 minutes clearly outlining my defense. I was shell shocked.  They clearly knew we had no business being there. So, I’m thinking what the heck is going on and why was I there?  During the day long deposition, they felt like I was the type of witness that would connect well with the “emotions of a jury”.

Then she said that she wanted me to testify in front of a jury because my testimony would help them against the other defendants.  In return, if I would agree to testify, they would ultimately let us out of the lawsuit. Again, shell shocked.  After some private time with my attorney, I decided that I was not up to all that, so we settled for a nominal amount and I went on my way.  That single event solidified to me just how important emotions are even in a scenario where I thought facts would or should rule the day.

Winning People Over

Recently, I finished the book, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.  He was the chief hostage negotiator for the United States for 13 years.  This is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it.  For me, it challenged and erased much of what I have learned about negotiating, or a better way to say that is about how to “win people over”.  This book focused almost entirely around the importance of emotions in getting what you want in any situation.  That leads me to my point.  If you want to be successful, spend the necessary time to understand people’s emotions.  The only way to do that is to listen to people and to understand what their body language is telling you.  People will not work effectively with you if they think you don’t care about them.  Genuinely caring for someone or feeling cared for by someone is totally emotional.  You can do your best to try and verbally convince someone that you care for them by saying whatever facts you would like; how much time you spend with them, how you helped them on a project, or how you get them coffee periodically, but unless they feel genuine caring, you are wasting your breath.  They are going to feel what they are going to feel, and it is your responsibility to figure that out.

Have you ever had a decision to make and the facts clearly tell you what you should do, but for some reason, it doesn’t “feel” right?  This is an example that we have all had, so if you don’t think emotions dictate your decisions, think again.  Most people call that their intuition.  Why do people spend too much on a car, a house, or in my wife’s case clothes (I hope my wife doesn’t read this)!  Emotions matter.  Realizing that will make you more successful.


For more than 50 years, CGR Products has been a leading supplier of reliable, high-quality products.  To read more from CGR Products, visit our Blogs page or feel free to click around on our website.

Making Things A Little Easier – Using Pull Tabs and Split Liners

Sometimes removing the liner from a die cut part can be difficult and when it comes to high volume applications, saving time can add up to dollars in the bank.  One way of achieving a simple time saver is adding a pull tab or split liner to the die cut part used during assembly.  In this blog, we will highlight a few of the ways CGR Products achieves these added benefits.

Pull Tabs

A pull tab in its simplest form is an area of the adhesive release liner that is kiss cut adjacent to the part to allow for easy liner removal.  Kiss cutting is a process where the die cuts through the part but stops short of cutting through the liner.  The greatest benefit of pull tabs is ease of liner removal during assembly.  A pull tab creates a better grip and allows for faster and more consistent processes.

I will explain this using the photo to the right as a reference and how it is used.  This particular fastener is 3M™ VHB™ tape used to hold a mud flap on a vehicle.

  • This material comes in master rolls and has the factory red 3M™ film liner on one side (left)
  • We laminate the 2nd brown Kraft liner to the backside of the 3M™ VHB™ tape  (right)
  • During the die cutting process, the part is cut all the way through both liners and the tape around the exterior dimension.  The tab at the top of the part is created by kiss cutting to the red liner and removing the VHB tape, thus creating the “tab”.
  • The die cut VHB™ parts with the pull tabs as shown are then shipped to the manufacturer making the plastic mud flap, typically a tier supplier.  The tier supplier will remove the brown Kraft liner and apply the VHB™ part to the mud flap. The Kraft liner is a heavy board stock and removes easily by hand. Once applied these assemblies are shipped to the automotive OEM.
  • During assembly at the OEM, the associate (or robot) simply grabs the pull tab and removes the film liner which exposes the adhesive, then adheres the mud flap to the automobile body.

Sometimes depending on the material, the excess material of the pull tab does not need to be removed.  A material such as closed cell sponge will allow the sponge to stay on the tab, giving the user even more area to grab.  In this case with VHB™ tape, the excess material has to be removed because the adhesive can fuse back together.

As shown in the example above, the pull tab is basically external to the VHB™ part. The pull tab is created by removing the extra material.  This extra material is wasted and factors into the part cost to some degree.  A rather easy analysis can be made between the added costs of the pull tab versus the cost of a standard die cut part, along with the associated cost of labor to remove the liner.

Sometimes when designs allow,  pull tabs can be internal.  Internal pull tabs will be used where scrap is already present thus not adding to the material cost.  The example below will show this best.  This gasket is a typical id/od rectangle.  The center will be scrapped regardless.  This pull tab is kiss cut down to the red liner and the pull tab is exposed when the waste is removed.

 

Tabbing Tape Pull Tab

When gasket designs or lower volumes prohibit a pull tab from being created, an alternate method known as “tabbing tape” may be used.  Tabbing tape is typically a specialized adhesive film that is supplied in rolls.  The roll will consist of small rectangles of a special adhesive that will stick to a silicone treated liner.  There will also be a “dry edge” portion of the tab where no adhesive is present to allow for the grab point.  The tab is placed on the die cut part liner, then using a heat bond gun, the tab is bonded to the liner using heat and pressure.

When done properly, the tab will make a permanent bond to the liner.  Many factors have to be considered when using tabbing tape such as liner type, accurate placement, surface cleaning or buffing, temperature, pressure and dwell time.

Analyzing the differences

Adding a pull tab to a die cut part will take into account several factors, such as volumes, shape, layout, material selection, thickness, and adhesive types.  Understanding these factors will determine if a pull tab can be external, internal or none at all.   An external pull tab will typically be preferred due to the ease of use.

Die cut parts with pull tabs can commonly be produced on high volume runs where extra costs can be absorbed.    Typically the cost of adding a pull tab increases the cost of the die cut part due to extra processes or run times during manufacturing.  Depending on volume, these costs versus a standard die cut can be proportionate.  These extra manufacturing processes are also why it is not feasible to add pull tabs on low volume parts.  Set up times and run rates for low volume parts would inflate the price substantially.

Split Liners

Split liners are another way to save time and money during assembly.  Split liners come into play when very high volumes are being processed.  A commonly seen example of split liners is the liner used on most band aids.

 

 

Processing split liners involves precision die cutting machinery and high precision tolerance rotary dies.  Typically the adhesive is applied to the material first, and then at the die cutting stages, the part and split liner are cut in sequence.  The dies used in this die cutting stage are machined to very high precision allowing just the liner to be cut alone.

 

The costs in tooling are typically more expensive than standard steel rule dies; however, being used in high volume applications the cost is absorbed over the life of the program.  The tooling is a one-time cost, and a quality high precision tool will cut for several years afterward.

Just as when analyzing a pull tab, a rather easy analysis can be made between the cost of the split liner, versus the cost of a standard die cut part along with the associated cost of labor to remove the liner.  In the case of end user applications such as band aids, it becomes a matter of ease of use for the individual.

 

Learn More

Consider CGR Products when you are developing your next high volume die cut parts.  With over 170,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space and over 100 top-quality machines, CGR serves a diverse range of clients, including those in the automotive industry. To learn more about our capabilities, visit our High Volume Rotary Die Cutting Page or feel free to Contact Us today.

 

 

 

Component Foams Specifically Engineered for Automakers

Guest Author: Isabell Wright, Armacell LLC.

For most major car makers, all parts must be made from materials that are on their approved source list. It’s a competitive business and only the best suppliers with a proven track record of quality, new technology, on-time delivery and service will make the cut. Once a material has been included on the approved source list or our fabricator partners have been selected as preferred suppliers, the task is not over. We must continually maintain or improve our specs to stay competitive and meet the high expectations of auto makers and their supply chain.

Armacell’s foam is used in automotive components such as gaskets for sealing out water, air, dust or noise.

FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES

In the 1930’s Chrysler was known for its iconic Chrysler building in New York City and affordable luxury vehicles. Now they are known as a maker of family cars including a hybrid. Armacell makes a number of materials on the approved source list for FCA including Monarch 3091® and EnsoLite® EF0 which meet the MSAY 430 spec. Both have the necessary resistance to UV, weathering and acid. They meet the horizontal burn requirements for interior automotive gaskets. EnsoLite EF0 has the added benefit of being a super soft and conformable, semi-closed cell, crushed foam that works well in applications that require the material to spring back to its original thickness.

Armacell made more than 6 million square feet of EnsoLite SF0 in 2018

 

TOYOTA MOTOR CORP

For 75 years, Toyota has disrupted the market and revolutionized manufacturing. As a maker of cars that are known for efficiency and reliability, Toyota stands by their brand. It makes sense that they insist on suppliers that do the same. Armacell makes a number of products that meet the tough Toyota TSM 1501G spec for automobile parts. Monarch 8002 is a 100% EPDM bun that has a dependable resistance to corrosive acids, UV and weathering. That means the material will hold up to the abuse auto parts take over time. EnsoLite IG1, manufactured in continuous rolls or sheets, has excellent resistance to oil, fuel and flame. These qualities make EnsoLite and Monarch great choices for gaskets and seals in automotive design.

 

Click Here to Download the Full Automotive Component Foams PDF.

To learn more about Armacell Products, visit their website – Armacell LLC.    For your next foam project, click Here to use the online Armacell Product Selector.

As flexible material specialists, the CGR Products team offers years of experience in converting foam material into gaskets and components. Our in-house precision cutting services include rotary and flatbed die cutting, kiss cutting, slitting, splitting, knife cutting, and more.

 

Benefits of Using a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) System

Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) can be an effective strategy for companies looking for cost savings and a more stable supply chain.  In this post, we will outline the benefits of VMI as well as the services that CGR Products provides with these programs.

What is VMI?

 

VMI is a program where the supplier manages your inventory for you.  These programs helped make some of the largest retailers the giants they are today.  After seeing these successes, manufacturing caught on as a way to move toward lean practices and to become a demand-driven supply chain.

Traditional method

With traditional purchasing and stocking methods, sales are predicted and inventory is ordered based on the forecast.  This method comes with risks of buying too much or too little.  In the event of too little inventory, a risk may be present if the supplier cannot meet the higher than expected demand and lost sales may occur.  Too much inventory will tie up money and can cause warehousing (cashflow) issues.

VMI method

With VMI, the goal is for the customer to only buy what they are moving.  Using VMI requires a very close relationship between the customer and the supplier.  Using technology to maintain constant contact between both parties, the customer can purchase in smaller batches and avoid emergency orders.  Using this data allows both parties to work off of much more accurate forecasts.

 

CGR Products & VMI

CGR Products has been providing VMI services to our customers for many years.  Based on great relationships and communications with our customers, we keep properly maintained inventories based on actual usages and forecasts.   Our VMI programs give us more control so we can manage raw materials and be more efficient.

 

CGR Products can offer many different configurations of VMI.  Working with our customers to find the VMI system that works best for them is the key.

One common aspect of the program is a bin system that is serviced by our own delivery driver.  Highlights of this system are:

  • Bins are set up at the customers’ location where they are physically needed.
  • The driver counts the inventory on hand.
  • Determines the appropriate re-order quantity based on recent usage and predetermined stocking levels.
  • Enters the quantity consumed and the quantity to be re-ordered.
  • Electronically scans the provided barcode label on each bin to assure accurate capturing of the item details.
  • Orders are electronically transmitted directly into CGR’s manufacturing system via our proprietary inventory technology.
  • On the next visit, stock is rotated, new stock is scanned into inventory, and the bins are refilled to the acceptable level.
  • VMI runs on a revolving weekly schedule, with deliveries occurring once per week or multiple times per week depending on customer requirements.

Other Programs CGR Products currently works with include EDI and Portals.  CGR Products works directly within customer portals to maintain inventory and execute orders.  Orders are electronically placed directly into our manufacturing system from the portal.  These types of systems allow for more accurate order fulfillment with fewer errors and often include electronic shipping notices, invoicing, and payments.

Benefits

With an effective VMI system, the benefits are shared for both parties.  Some of these benefits include:

  • Ensuring the necessary parts are ready and available when needed.
  • Smaller orders allowing for lower inventory costs.
  • Better inventory turnover rate.
  • Reduced administrative costs.
  • More stable supply chain.
  • Close communications and partnerships between customers and suppliers.

Find out More.

To learn more about how CGR Products can help with your critical inventory management, please read our article on how OEM’s can optimizing their supply chain.

Ready to get started,  Contact Us today or look into taking advantage of our OEM Partner Program.

 

 

 

Running an Effective Meeting

Do you want your credibility to skyrocket? Learn how to run great meetings!

I was recently attending a social gathering and a gentleman that served on a committee where I was the chair over 10 plus years ago came up to me and introduced me to his wife as the guy who ran the best meetings he has ever participated in. He went on to tell her that he was quite sure that I ran a solid business simply because of the way I ran the committee meetings. It was a pretty funny and interesting interaction especially because I did not know him that well and I certainly did not and don’t know him well enough for him to know whether our business is solid or not. The point is that he drew that conclusion simply because of how I ran meetings.

Insights

With most jobs you go about your normal daily functions by yourself or with small informal interactions with your peers. Formally scheduled meetings are relatively infrequent and the ones you personally organize are even more infrequent. In any group setting regardless of whether it is work-related or not, the people involved are always forming opinions of everyone else. A meeting is no different. It is a human instinct when you are in a group setting to assess everyone else and form judgments of the other people. It comes from our survival instinct. People need to know if anyone in the group poses a threat to their safety.  Now, let’s consider a meeting scenario.  All participants will be analyzed by all the other participants.  It stands to reason that if you are the organizer of a meeting, you are probably going to be assessed at least as much as anyone else and probably more.  This gives you the chance to enhance your credibility, and in turn, you have the chance to hurt it.

The funny thing is that it is not hard to run an efficient, organized, and productive meeting. Let’s dig into some simple guidelines that, if followed, can make you look like an all-star.

Preparation

First, and by far, the most important part of any meeting happens before it even starts. From an importance standpoint, 75 percent of the success of a meeting depends on the pre-meeting preparation. Send an agenda well in advance of the meeting with the following information: the time, start and finish, the place, the invitees, the objective, all necessary information, and who is responsible for what. If there is any necessary information needed by any of the participants to prepare for the meeting, make sure they get it in plenty of time to fully digest it. Let everyone know they need to have read and understood all the pre-meeting information because you will not read it over in the meeting. I can’t stress this enough. So many people expect to be “babysat” if they are not the meeting organizer. Don’t let that happen, they have a responsibility to be prepared as a participant as well. I have seen too many meetings drag on because you must review information that should have been read and understood before the meeting ever started.

 

Stay on Time

Next comes the meeting. Always start on time. If anyone comes in late don’t backtrack to catch them up. It wastes everyone else’s time and they will realize that in the future they better be on time for your meetings. I have said before to a late participant that “their time must be more important than anyone else’s”.  I say it jokingly, but it definitely gets the point across.  At the start of the meeting outline the objective(s) of the meeting.  Then start through the agenda.  Make sure everyone participates and is given the opportunity to contribute.  That said, make sure you keep the meeting on task. We all know how much time can be wasted on topics that have nothing to do with the original objective(s).  It is critical to refocus the group if the meeting heads off course. If there are topics that come up that need to be addressed but are not part of this agenda, assign an action item to that topic to be addressed at another time. Occasionally, as the meeting organizer, you must use your judgment to decide how far to let a topic “wander”.  Sometimes straying a bit off topic can be very beneficial and allow the group to discover a new idea or concept. That judgment is the art of running a meeting, but be careful, that can quickly be the downfall of a meeting.

Finally, make sure you end the meeting on time. People’s schedules are tight, and they appreciate it when you get them out when you said you would. If there are topics that were not covered, schedule another meeting to complete those topics. When a meeting is set to end at a certain time, people subconsciously prepare themselves mentally for that time. If you go past, you lose them. At the end of a meeting always summarize the progress made toward the objective(s) and assign actions items to people including expected completion dates. Thank your team and adjourn.

After the Meeting

The final part of any meeting is the aftermath. Send out meeting notes that include the objective(s), any notes on progress toward the objective(s), and the assigned action items with a due date. These notes need to be sent in a timely manner after the completion of the meeting. I would suggest no more than 24 hours. Put tasks in your personal task list to follow up on the assigned action items on the due date if they have not been completed.  Doing this holds everyone accountable.

 

Running great meetings will increase your personal credibility and make the organization better.  Who knows, maybe one day someone will come up to you at a social gathering and introduce you to their wife or husband by telling them how well you run a meeting.  Good luck and I look forward to participating in your next meeting.

Making a Decision

making a decisionOver my career, I have had the opportunity to experience many decisions being made, a nice way to say I’m getting old. I have seen good ones and bad ones and I have made good ones and bad ones. Ultimately, over 90% of the value any person is to any organization is directly related to their decision-making ability. Any decision is, at its core, a risk assessment.  You must assess two or more potential directions and then choose the best one.  There are always pros and cons to those directions.  Making a decision may seem easy enough, but there are many skills and factors that are part of that process.

 

Emotional Strength

There are several personal skills necessary for good decision making.  By far the most important quality and the one that is the hardest to find in people is having the emotional strength to do it. The biggest issue I have seen that holds most people back in their respective career is having the emotional strength to shoulder the responsibility for a decision as the risk increases.  In other words, as the emotional or financial risks increase many people shy away from making a decision. It is one thing to decide whether to go left or right at a stop sign, it is completely different to decide if a person is in the right job or if you should spend a million dollars with no guarantee of success and 100 people’s income is affected by that decision. So many people either don’t want that burden or the stress of that burden is too much for them to handle.

Understanding Data

Having the ability to understand all the information involved in a decision is another skill that is necessary to make good decisions.  Information comes in many forms. For example, there is empirical data, concepts, emotions, and situational considerations to name a few.  Typically, people have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of information that they are assessing.  I do not understand quantum physics and for me to understand it, I would have to spend so much time learning it that it would not be worthwhile. To put yourself in the best situation to make good decisions you should honestly assess yourself and seek input when you are dealing with information that is difficult for you.  One of the best businessmen I know has a tough time understanding the emotional impacts his decisions have on his team. He knows that about himself and does a tremendous job seeking input from other people that understand those impacts better than he does. From a big picture perspective directing your career so you are dealing with information that you know well helps you be a more effective decision maker.  However, no matter what career field you chose, you should always continue to learn and improve on your strengths and weaknesses, so you can make more effective decisions.

Filtering Data

Once you understand the information, you need to be able to filter the information.  If you struggle to filter what is important to the decision at hand, that information is useless. In almost every scenario, regardless of how risky the decision, there are 2 or 3 main factors that will determine the outcome of that decision. Too many times people are overwhelmed with the amount of data they must synthesize.  You must be able to identify the most important factors and eliminate everything else.  The inability to weed out all the noise will paralyze a person’s ability to decide.

Timeframes

Another criterion for effective decision making is being able to decide in a productive time frame. If it takes you 5 years to make a decision, you will not make many of them over your lifetime. There is an efficient period to make any decision. The riskier the decision, the longer it usually takes, but there is a limit. You have heard the term “paralysis of analysis”.  Time is money and taking too much time to make decisions costs money. On the other side of the coin, you can make decisions too fast. In that case, you do not give yourself enough time to consider all the options. Sometimes people are so focused on getting another item off their “To do” list that the driving force to make the decision is that instead of the driving force being to make a good decision.

Culture & Personalities

There are also decision-making considerations that have nothing to do with you. They are external. Things like the culture of the organization that you are working in, the constituents that are judging your decisions, and the process. making a decision

Every organization has a culture that is unique.  No matter what decision-making skills you have, you must consider the culture of that organization for your decisions to succeed.  Some organizations will not accept a decision if it is made too quickly.  Others look at the speed of a decision as being the most critical factor for success.  If you work at a fire station, quick decisions are very important, while quick decisions in a pharmaceutical company are not.  Be aware of the decision-making culture in your environment to give your decisions the best chance for success and in turn giving your career the best chance to progress.

Just like organizations have different cultures, people have different behavior types.  Very few decisions are made that do not impact other people, the people you report to, your peers, the people that report to you, family members, friends, basically your constituents.   The success of your decisions will be directly influenced by the people impacted. You must consider your constituents as a direction is chosen. How will they react? What actions will they take? How will this affect them emotionally?  Your constituents will judge your decisions and your long-term success will depend on those judgments.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “there is a right way and a wrong way to do something?”  That is true in the decision-making process as well. Your decision-making process can make or break your decisions. As I explained above, organizations have a culture and people have different behavior types.  If those entities inherently respect the process you use to make a decision, your decisions will be more successful and your value to the organization will increase.

Decision Evaluation

Finally, don’t spend time regretting or gloating over a past decision.  That is not productive, but assessing a decision with the intent to learn is.  Set a realistic assessment time in the future and do a postmortem review to evaluate how the decision was made, was the outcome good or bad, should you continue in the chosen direction, and what would you have done differently if you had to do it again. The intent is not to beat yourself up or pat yourself on the back. At the time a direction is chosen, do everything you can to make the chosen direction work.  Every bad decision I have made has helped me make better decisions in the future. Bad decisions are opportunities to learn and if that is your mindset, you will get better at decision making, and in turn, help advance your career.  At the end of the day (my kids love it when I use that phrase) you must understand the information, filter out what is critical to the decision, assess the risk, and understand your constituency.  There are tools you can use to improve your decision-making abilities, but for now, work on one thing; developing the internal fortitude necessary to shoulder the responsibility of making a decision and then “JUST MAKE THE DECISION”  Good luck.

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