Just A Click Away

By Amy Radishofski, Staff Reporter, Manufacturing.net Technology is shrinking the global market. With so much information and opportunity at your fingertips via the Internet, you can get practically any job done faster and easier.

 
What can you do while you’re sitting in front of a computer? Perhaps the better question is what can’t you do?
 
According to a Consumer Electronics Association report, there are 208,000,000 Internet users in the U.S., or 69 percent of the population.
 
With the Internet, you can order movies, chat with people in Tokyo, find your soul mate, or find a job. And that’s just your personal life.
 
The Internet has also managed to work its way into more and more aspects of running and managing a business. With the use of technology, companies can compare sites for new facilities, sell off surplus inventory, submit approval documents to the government or train employees.
 
Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Surplustrack.com helps firms identify excess and obsolete inventory and assets, and then helps try to sell those items. The concept for SurplusTrack.com grew out of the Midwest area surrounding the struggling auto industry because auto industry parts are relatively universal and have uses in other industries, said president and CEO Brent David Ray.
 
“It gives companies a new venue to remarket, versus traditional auctions for pennies on the dollar,” Ray said. “Plus, auctions typically bundle items together. By keeping items separate, Surplustrack.com can provide more ROI.”
 
Surplustrack.com takes nonproprietary items and will identify anything that falls under certain regulations, etc. to get it ready for auctions.
 
“We sell commercially viable and industry standard items — things that are universal to other industries,” Ray added. “And there’s definitely a market for them.”
 
As manufacturing moves offshore, there will be an additional need for remarketing inventory. Moreover, consumers tend to demand innovation frequently.
 
Plus, working with an intermediary assists with due diligence and sorting when it comes to government regulations like Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
 
Speaking of government regulations, perhaps you work in a pharmaceutical company and need to submit forms for a new drug you’re working on.
 
As of January 1, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandates standard forms for investigation or marketing approval, with the current exception of biologics and medical devices.
 
“Different companies would submit different forms. The information would be in a different order, making the FDA’s job harder,” said Patricia Santos-Serrao with QUMAS, a compliance software company. “The standardization makes the reviewer’s life easier, and when you’re pushing something for approval, you want them to be happy.”
 
Companies can submit a form either electronically or via traditional paper. The electronic form, an Electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD), provides standardization for companies submitting information to the FDA.
 
“It’s not the ugly stepchild. Most companies are jumping into the eCTD because of the ease of use with hyperlinks instead of boxes of volumes,” Santos-Serrao said. “Companies using a web-based solution have the benefit of audit trails — who did what, when and why.”
 
Perhaps you’re in the market for a new manufacturing facility or office space. You can find either without getting out of your chair.
 
FastFacility has a database of available properties and allows users to search for a particular property at any time, day or night. The user can enter search criteria and locate buildings or sites around the globe.
 
It also manages the user’s portfolio, organizes searches and provides updates on listings.
 
“Our site is a non-obligation site,” said Dennis Shea, Managing Director of FastFacility.com and publisher of Area Development Magazine. “We put the users in touch with the listees and then step back.”
 
If the user can’t find what they are looking for, they can fill out an online form and FastFacility will try to locate the property for them.
 
The advantage over traditional site searching is that online site searching can open the users up to other possibilities.
 
“A company could be looking for a particular property in a particular location. They may say they want a facility in the Carolinas. They may not be considering Alabama, but they find their ideal facility in Alabama,” Shea said. “With the market in the state it’s in, the property becomes the driver, not the geography. They change their compass.”
 
What if you already have facilities, but need help training the people who work in them?
 
According to Joe Panebianco with TBM Consulting, in 2006, 53 percent of corporate spending on employee training was e-learning.
 
When it comes to training, e-learning has several advantages over traditional training.
 
“You don’t have travel costs and it cuts down the time your employees are away from their work,” Panebianco said. “It fits into your schedule and allows you to learn at your own pace.”
 
TBM has its own form of e-learning — an eight hour course with 12 modules designed to give employees an understanding of lean principles.
 
“It gets everyone speaking the same language,” Panebianco said. “It helps with standardization. It provides the core concepts that you can apply to your work environment.”
 
When looking for an e-learning program for your company, Panebianco suggests the following guidelines:
  • Evaluate the program to make sure it is user-friendly.
  • Make sure any special features are there to enhance learning.
  • The program should have a clearly defined learning objective.
  • Choose a program that has some form of post-assessment to make sure the employees aren’t just going through the motions.
“Ask yourself whether or not it changes their behavior on the shop floor. It’s a sign that they are applying what they have learned,” Panebianco noted.
 
So, what can you do while you’re sitting in front of a computer? Obviously a great many things, with more possibilities coming along every day.
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