Archive for April, 2010

Picking a SEO Company or any Vendor

April 29, 2010 by Kara

Over the last 3 years I have been learning about what SEO is and how it works.  So what is it?  Search Engine Optimization, it’s how websites get found by the search engines, Google being the most popular search engine.  Over the last few years we’ve used a few different companies but felt that our site was stagnant and we were ready for it to move forward again so I started to look around and find a new SEO company to help. 

I started searching a few months ago and was disappointed by some of the companies that I found.  As I searched for companies I looked through their websites; after all I wanted my website to be better so they had to have a great website.  Some sites didn’t even answer basic questions as to the services they offered or what those services entail.

Some companies I contacted had a good website but on review of their proposal I realized that they were using old outdated information for the services they were providing.  Coming from a company who goes out and searches for the newest technologies to integrate into an automated solution it was frustrating to see companies trying to push services that were considered outdated when I started learning about SEO three years ago.

The most frustrating was when I contacted a company to find out more about their services only to not have someone contact me back.  There was one company that I thought would be a good match and I submitted a request twice, the second time I heard back saying the regular contact was out of town and that they would assign someone else to contact me, only they never did.

After reviewing the proposals I realized that some companies were very upfront with what their strategies were while some were vague.  Those that were upfront seemed to be more trustworthy because they weren’t trying to hide what it is they were planning on doing.  At what point would the more vague companies let me see what they were offering to do for me?

In searching for a SEO company I found ways to improve my website and our company.  Do people come to my website looking for what we offer and leave feeling like I didn’t answer their questions?  Does my company or my website use old outdated information or equipment?  Do we follow up on the leads that come into our site?  Are we giving them the run-around?  Are our proposals lacking in the explanation of what services we are offering?

Bottom line is there are no silver bullets in finding an SEO Company. My feeling is that you must decide what direction or help your website needs and then go out and find that specific SEO Company that can help you. I have yet to find the SEO Company that can do it all.

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5 S Lean Intranet Cleanup

April 15, 2010 by Kara

As a follow up to our 5 S Lean of the Intranet following the Toyota Production System’s lean philosophy, I finished cleaning up and redesigning our Intranet here at Setpoint.  We replaced the old Intranet with the new design a few weeks ago and so far it’s running smoothly.  After sorting through the more than 500 items we ended up with only 75 that we actually needed to keep.  Of those 30 are sales training audio files.  We found that in all there were 10 documents that were used the most and decided that we wanted to group them all together.

Figuring out the right headings took a few iterations.  For those 10 documents we started with Commonly Used but then when testing it no one thought it was a link to the documents they wanted, they thought it was some type of header above the other categories.  So I changed it to Frequently Used and still it was seen as a header when I presented it to everyone.  During that meeting they said why don’t you call it Stuff You Actually Care About, so we did.  Now all documents are only 2 clicks away, a far cry from the previous version.

Now comes the sustaining.  Every time we add a document we are going to verify if we really need it on the Intranet or if another location is the right place for it.

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Discovering and Resolving Problems

April 1, 2010 by Brad

In any organization that intends to exist for an extended time period, learning is critical. Not repeating mistake allows a business increased profitability. Someone once said (I can’t remember who) something like – “the school of hard knocks is a hard school to go through, but only fools return”.

Over the years Setpoint has been, is, and will continue to be an engineering centric business. Most of the projects we build have never been built before; most are completely clean sheet designs, meaning that no one is quite sure what this machine will end up looking like. This means that there will be multiple iterations as we develop the machine. It is critical to our success that we discover our mistakes as soon as possible to reduce our costs. The table below illustrates how critical it is to discover the problems as soon as possible.

When Mistake is Discovered and Fixed

Relative Cost to Fix

Designing at the white board $1.00
Designing in CAD system $10.00
During build of machine $100.00
During debug phase $1,000.00
After installing at customer site $10,000.00

Over time we have developed some unwritten rules that we use to help us down the development path. For this blog we sat down and wrote down the ones that matter to Setpoint.  These are in no particular order:

  • Right to left thinking – What are we really trying to solve here?  What must be solved, what would be nice to solve, what doesn’t matter if it is solved? What happens if we just leave it alone?  Is it really a problem?

  • Stop to think and drive towards root cause or what really needs to be solved, it is too easy to get caught up in ‘noise’.  Always ask the five whys

  • Evaluate and Prioritize: does this need to be resolved this instant, don’t get caught up in minor issues and miss a fundamental problem – (forest for the trees). Most problems don’t have to be solved this instant – a little time and thought usually pays big dividends

  • Take a system view of problem, don’t resolve one problem and create 3 others because you isolated the problem and disconnected it from how it has to interact with the rest the system

  • Don’t get designed into a corner, you may need Plan B – in fact it usually helps to have more than one legitimate idea as you move forward. This helps avoid sticking with a solution too long that should be discarded.

  • You can’t ‘will it to work’. And ”it might work” generally means it won’t work

  • Document all important work in a simple manner…your memory’s not that great and often results in faulty assumptions that somehow get turned into facts. Always pull the data to see what is really going on. Many so called facts are generally assumptions…if in doubt, treat it as an assumption and react accordingly

  • Turn the problem objective into a math problem if possible. Typically the guy with the equation wins.  It is easy to argue about subjective ideas like – that’ll never last, that’s not strong enough, or that’ll never make cycle time. Facts should rule in those kinds of discussions

  • When debugging, only change one thing at a time if possible…seems slow but it’s much faster long term. That way you know what worked and what didn’t.

  • When debugging, document a known ‘baseline’ that can be returned to when you’ve tried 4 things & you can’t get anything to work anymore, if in doubt go back to the baseline.

  • Sometimes the best way to improve the Design Factor of a system is not by increasing the capability of the system but reducing the requirement…sounds obvious but it’s not.

  • When working on timing issues never forget parallel operations are your friend…once again, not always obvious

  • Watch for unaccounted moment loading in a design.  Forces are rarely overlooked; however, moments are commonly ignored

  • Is the process defined?  Because a process has been duplicated twice in a lab doesn’t mean it can be automated

  • What’s the simplest thing that could work?

  • Given enough time and money you can solve anything, is regularly heard on the engineering and assembly floors, and it is the enemy of profitability.

  • If you had to contribute your paycheck towards it would you still solve it that way?

  • And finally – What would Steve do?
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