Thursday, November 5, 2009
The white stuff only fell for a few moments.
My initial reaction?
Oh dear god, here we go again.
Gabe's initial reaction?
Turned my mood around in about a nano second.
Remember, Gabe just turned two at the end of September. I wouldn't have expected him to remember snow at all. Lord knows I try to put it out of my mind. But there he was - proclaiming to all who would listen - "Snow, Dada!"
I might just need to change my perspective on those many things we adults react to with annoyance.
It has always been my belief that a successful life revolves around retaining a child-like sense of wonder.
"Oh, BOY! SNOW!"
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Staying on the hard liquour front, we all of us tend to think either of England or the Netherlands as the source of the best gins and granted there are many exceptional products from those countries and others. What may surprise you is learning that one of the best I've ever enjoyed is the recently launched Victoria gin from British Columbia. If you're someone who enjoys a flavourful gin - either in martini or mixed - this is a product well worth adding to your bar. Probably best with minimum dilution from my perspective but either way it is a wonderfully surprise. Winner of the Silver Medal in 2009 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition is - a well-deserved honour. $49.95 at LCBO. http://www.victoriaspirits.com/
So, turning to the wines, let me share my thoughts on three products with you. Wine snob alert - I will not be employing all the flowery language used normally to describe wines - I wouldn't know a pencil shaving from a grapefruit. I just really like these.
In the premium-priced, premium-experience white wine category my clear winner is the Daniel Lenko 2005 Signature Chardonnay. While I'd love to have this as my everyday white a $39.95 price at LCBO forbids that but for special friends...buy it. http://www.daniellenko.com/
In the red category, the 2007 Mottiar Pinot Noir from Malivoire is a delight. Again, at $34.00 at LCBO this won't be your daily sipper, but a real treat. A bit of advice, very good advice frankly, from Mr. Pinkus, is to let this beauty breathe for an hour or before pouring. http://www.malivoirewineco.com/
Finally, for a very reasonably-priced high-enjoyment white you cannot and will not go wrong with the Chateau des Charmes estate bottled, barrel fermented 2007 Chardonnay. Am I a bit biased? They are a client so maybe but I cannot encourage you enough to experience this great product from an exceptional year. $13.95 at LCBO. http://www.chateaudescharmes.com/
AND...check out the new packaging. Several months ago I wrote a piece on this blog about another wine company which recreated its packaging. In the article titled "A sound only a dog can hear" I wondered why they'd gone to such trouble to make so little and so irrelevant change. The Bosc family at Chateau des Charmes are relaunching the entire line of products and have made enormous strides forward on several fronts. New corporate identity. Recategorized products. Improved product differentiation at shelf. Vastly improved shelf presence. And, if you check out the back label you'll notice a QR code. To my knowledge Chateau des Charmes is the first winery in Canada and one of the first globally to introduce this new technology.
Check it out and kudos to the Boscs for an excellent product and the courage to move forward.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Later that same day, I took this photo from my hotel room in the heart of San Francisco. What an odd sensation it was to be in one of the great cities of the world and walking streets that were virtually deserted.
So what's happened since 9/11? What progress have we made in this world?
Estimates on civilian deaths in Afghanistan since the launch of "Operation Enduring Freedom" range from 12,000 to 30,000.
Coalition forces losses are clearly tracked more accurately. The cynical would suggest that's because they somehow matter more. However, one hesitates to suggest that.
Regardless, in the 8 years since that gruesome day in Manhattan, Pennsylvania and Washington, more than 16,000 to 35,000 people are dead. No matter how you spin it, slice it, dice it and analyze it this is a tragedy on all fronts.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Hence I found this little piece from Fast Company of interest.
FC Expert Blog
Barack Obama Is Tapping Into Your Brain
BY FC Expert Blogger Kaihan Krippendorff Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 2:15 PM
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert's views alone.
The best communicators are the ones who can create and share a strong narrative story. The best novels are the ones with the most interesting plot and the best speeches are the ones that arouse an emotional response from a crowd.
Last week I introduced Dr. Marco Iacoboni, neurologist and neuroscientist at the Brain Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Iacoboni is a leading authority on “mirror neurons,” and after our interview, I realized that people relate to stories because it is part of their evolutionary makeup. Stories cause our mirror neurons to fire at similar experiences, helping us remember and relate.
When humans first started to communicate with each other, they did so by sharing stories. They kept their history and traditions alive by spinning a tale to connect a sequence of events. Because this has been going on for so long, there is something instinctive in our brains that makes us attuned to narratives and stories.
Stories are how we learn. As Iacoboni explains, “Early on in life we learn a lot of things through stories. As a child, you listen to your parents and teachers and you learn lessons from their stories about right and wrong. When you go to bed, you are told stories. There is something almost primal about our evolution and development that leads us back to listening to stories.”
So to be a great communicator, a person needs to understand the importance of using narratives. To get people excited about a new idea or thought, he or she needs to be a great storyteller.
This is why Barack Obama had so much success during his 2008 campaign for president. He was able to create a narrative that touched the hearts of many Americans, and he was able to connect people on a deeper level than conservative and liberal. Obama was able to use people’s mirror neurons to naturally and automatically empathize with him. That ability points us to an interesting behavior that relates narratives and mirror neurons.
Mirror neurons reveal why narratives are so powerful
Iacoboni conducted an experiment in which he showed people pictures that morphed together an image of themselves and one of their friends. Some pictures were more like the observer and some more like their friends. Then Iacoboni measured mirror neuron activity when observers looked at the pictures. He found that when the picture looked more like the observer, the observer’s mirror neurons fired more strongly.
In other words, the more someone sees himself or herself in the picture, the more his or her mirror neurons fire. The more people see themselves in you, the more they relate to you. They think, “This person is like me,” and since most of us like ourselves, they think, “I like this person. “
Highly influential people tell stories that spark mirror neurons in others by opening their stories with images, people, sounds, smells and feelings that others recognize and can relate to. As Iacoboni says, “Innovators create stories that others want to be part of.”
Obama created a story of solidarity, or hope, that many Americans got behind. His narrative sparked millions of mirror neurons when he said, “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.” Obama tapped into the empathy of his constituents because he was able to build an idea that people could see, touch and feel.
Ask yourself the questions below to see how you can use a narrative within your company to get your employees and customers excited and focused.
1. Does my company have a story? Where did we come from and how did we get here?
2. Can I craft my company narrative in a way that other people can relate to?
3. Can reliving my company narrative on a daily basis make my business stronger and more focused?
Monday, August 31, 2009
My neighbour Karen is a great porch painter and pie maker.
She dropped this off the other night.
It was excellent.
I would like more please.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Whole Foods Boycott on Facebook Swells to 22,000 Users
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5 Essential Tips for Promoting Your Charity Using Social Media
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
It will all end well but know that unless you prepare as though you were launching a military-type campaign to capture a well-defended beach head, you are doomed.
Know also that anyone who defines such a journey as a "vacation" is clearly childless and most likely clueless as well. Such a description is akin to classifying Saving Private Ryan as an entertaining and informing travelogue about the beaches and near-coastline features of France.
It will help you, should you ever venture off on such a travail, to spend whatever funds are required to secure seating for all the individuals in your party. The entire notion of 'babe in arms' is something that should be confined to Broadway productions revolving around the love interests of 1950's teenagers. For starters, a toddler is decidedly not a babe. Even should you be blessed with an angel such as our Gabriel understand that a little person such as this cannot comfortably confine themselves to the approximately 1 cubic metre apportioned to each individual on Air Canada flights in aging Airbuses. For you Dads - treat your wives extraordinarily well in advance of the trip for it will be they who bear the brunt of your toddler's squirming and impatience.
Remember also to bring your own food. What Air Canada served up was swill inappropriate for any living, sentient being. They offered beef or chicken. I was hard pressed to identify either but did suss out a tiny green bean within the offal.
If you're renting a car...spend the money to purchase a cover for the child car seat. Unless you're comfortable with plunking your child into a scene from the early portions of Slumdog Millionaire you'll be happy for the investment.
Accommodations are always a challenge. We were lucky to have great friends host us for all save three days of the 17 we were travelling. Just remember what Mark Twain wrote many years ago, "House guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days." Be very sensitive that you're an invading force well capable of upsetting the equilibrium and routine of a family who are, after all, complete innocents in this affair. And, if you have height and/or weight beyond 5'4" and 135 pounds, you will not have a bed of sufficient size for yourself...never mind you and your loved one. Oh...it is unlikely your beautiful little child will adjust well to the time change and when you toss in unfamiliar surroundings, noises, diet, and general peculiarities...you're pretty much guaranteed that the first real sleep you'll achieve is approximately five days after your return.
Your outings should be carefully planned. A day at the beach in most countries is a delight. A day at the beach on the Isle of Wight in mid-July is akin to dipping your toes into the waters off Baffin Island.
Yes, you'll find lots of IOW natives frolicking about. Recognize though that when the temperature climbs above eight degrees C these people start the air conditioning.
If however you can find a real steam train to ride that will be your ticket to heaven. Can't speak for little girls, but I think it is a universal truth that little boys LOVE trains and especially ones that spew smoke and steam and have a genuine 'whoo-whoo' whistle and click and clack and chug just like Thomas the Tank.
Highly recommended especially if you can convince Nana and GD (Grandma and Grandpa) to join in the fun.
Before leaving, have someone take a picture while you still have hope and imagine that you are in fact about to embark on a voyage of relaxation, reinvigoration, and recreation. It will be the only memory you have of the naive hopes of stupid fathers without a clue of the reality of travelling with a toddler.
Seriously, can hardly wait for the next trip...now that my innocence is gone.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Lloyd is a great guy and a real professional in a business where there a lots of fly-by-nights and frankly some scary, unreliable drivers.
I highly recommend SilkRoad Car Service and encourage you to consider Lloyd for your GTA area driving needs.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Think I'd just left off with a promise to share a restaurant find with you albeit reluctantly.
On the recommendation of a friend who is completely tuned in to the Niagara wine and food scene, we were directed to REST - Stone Road Grille. Located on Stone Road just a stone's throw from downtown NOTL there's a grubby little mall. In that grubby little mall there is a little restaurant that is a giant in terms of hospitality, service, ambience and food. They also have a very impressive and intriguing wine list completely dedicated to VQA. In fact the Wine Council of Ontario awarded REST the 2008 Gold Award of Excellence for Best VQA wine list. The proprietors, Heidi and Perry Johnson have created the closest duplicate of a Sonoma experience I've ever enjoyed in anyplace other than...well...Sonoma! I encourage you to visit the site www.stoneroadgrille.com for the full story (quite amusing history) and moreso, when you're next in Wine Country make sure you plan a lunch or dinner at REST. Just do it when I'm not in town. Hate to lose a seat.
It was at REST that we made a discovery. On the wine list I noticed under the Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc heading a listing "Foreign Affair 2007 Amarone Style $52." Intrigued at the idea of an Amarone style white I asked Mr. Johnson about this and he offered a generous taste. Loved it. Ordered it. Drank it and next day placed a visit to the winery on our itinerary.
The Foreign Affair Winery (www.foreignaffairwine.com) is located at Vineland Station. Kind of a challenge to find it but nothing a good navigator can't overcome. Anyway, first stop Sunday morning and met the proprietor who shared an interesting and inspiring story of how he and his wife came to produce wines in this style in the challenging and unlikely Niagara location. I encourage you to visit and chat. I think the wines are terrific not just 'cause I'm a big Amarone fan but because Foreign Affair took on a tough challenge and have succeeded. Apparently, four of their wines will appear in Vintages this fall and that's quite an achievement.
So that's the end of the Wine Country weekend post. Can't recommend this destination more highly and promise that you'll not be disappointed by the welcome you receive.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Heard on the news this morning that there was an increase in job creation last month of 39,000. Yes, the majority were self-employed positions but regardless kind of encouraging on the one hand to realize that people are taking matters into their own hands and foresaking the victim mentality that can arise from depending upon large behemoths to provide for you.
On that point, my friend and colleague Grace Attard is about to launch a great new service here in Oakville. I won't spill all the beans but suffice to say she has a terrific idea about how to enable and empower entrepreneurial breakthroughs. She will create a spot where entrepreneurs can gather to benefit from senior-level, multi-discipline advice; make use of meeting space other than the traditional coffee shop or beige hotel meeting room; and, most importantly get the personal and business coaching required for many of us to truly bring our ideas to beneficial fruition.
Anyway, stay tuned for more about this and be watching for the CBC program, Enter the Coliseum (I'll let you know when it is expected to air) to learn more about Grace and other entrepreneurs who are taking the 'recession' into their own hands and saying, "I'm in control of my own destiny!"
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
That special aroma of hope springing eternal.
The scent of freshness, renewal, rebirth and growth.
Just had to take a moment from writing another web site architecture to notice and share.
Life is worthwhile.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Great, so what does that mean?
The main purpose for QR Codes is to automatically input information into a phone (such as the data from a business card) having to type it in. That means no more typing! Perhaps the most popular service, has been providing QR codes that can link users to a website. This service is simple, forward and to the point and since QR codes can be printed on almost any media, any person or company can add a QR code to their products and direct a user to a website, where they can provide information or initiate other processes that provide simultaneous feedback to whoever deployed the code. For advertisers, this might generate real data on the visibility of their ads, while manufacturers might consider initiating warranty registration or identify further products or services. Each industry will determine its own use but the initial priority will be the transfer of information from paper to electronic form. However, the potential is far greater.
So what else do they do?
Just think of all the credit and debit cards a person has to carry around with them. Why not just use your phone? Just walk up to a vending machine and pay with your phone. Or purchase goods in a convenience store the same way. Not possible you say. Try telling that to the Japanese. QR codes, utilized in paperless transactions, have allowed major retail chains in Japan to enhance distribution efficiency through cooperative technology with their shippers in key areas such as apparel and cosmetics. As well, automated reporting has provided additional efficiencies for suppliers and wholesalers, who can better manage their logistics through monitoring feedback. At exhibitions, seminars, and trade shows registration and entry can be streamlined by using a QR coded ID badge or displaying a QR code on your phone. Better still, what about planes, trains or any other queue? In large companies asset management is commonplace and QR codes facilitate inventory control and loss prevention. Now, with the phone as the reader, anyone can benefit by placing QR codes (either visible or hidden) on their own property.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Dear Employees & Suppliers, Congress and the current Administration will soon determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation's history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis. As an employee or supplier, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard. Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support.
Troy Clarke, President,General Motors North America
Response from: Gregory Knox, Pres., Knox Machinery CompanyFranklin , Ohio
In response to your request to contact legislators and ask for a bailout for the Big Three automakers please consider the following, and please pass my thoughts on to Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America.
Politicians and Management of the Big 3 are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has spread like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades, and whose plague is now sweeping this nation, awaiting our new "messiah," Pres-elect Obama, to wave his magic wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep "living the dream." Believe me folks, the dream is over!
This dream where we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the world's most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded "laborers" without paying the price for these atrocities. This dream where you still think the masses will line up to buy our products forever and ever. Don't even think about telling me I'm wrong. Don't accuse me of not knowing of what I speak.
I have called on Ford, GM , Chrysler, TRW, Delphi, Kelsey Hayes, American Axle, and countless other automotive OEM's throughout the Midwest , during the past 30 years and what I've seen over those years in these union shops can only be described as disgusting.
Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America, states: "There is widespread sentiment throughout this country, and our government, and especially via the news media, that the current crisis is completely the result of bad management which it certainly is not."
You're right Mr. Clarke, it's not JUST management.
How about the electricians who walk around the plants like lords in feudal times, making people wait on them for countless hours while they drag ass so they can come in on the weekend and make double and triple time for a job they easily could have done within their normal 40 hour work week?
How about the line workers who threaten newbie's with all kinds of scare tactics for putting out too many parts on a shift and for being too productive? (We certainly must not expose those lazy bums who have been getting overpaid for decades for their horrific underproduction, must we?!?)
Do you folks really not know about this stuff?!?
How about this great sentiment abridged from Mr. Clarke's sad plea:"over the last few years we have closed the quality and efficiency gaps with our competitors."
What the hell has Detroit been doing for the last 40 years?!? Did we really JUST wake up to the gaps in quality and efficiency between us and them? The K car vs. the Accord? The Pinto vs. the Civic?!? Do I need to go on? What a joke!
We are living through the inevitable outcome of the actions of the United States auto industry for decades. It's time to pay for your sins, Detroit .
I attended an economic summit last week where brilliant economist, Alan Beaulieu, from the Institute of Trend Research , surprised the crowd when he said he would not have given the banks a penny of "bailout money." "Yes, he said, this would cause short term problems," but despite what people like politicians and corporate magnates would have us believe, the sun would in fact rise the next day and the following very important thing would happen.Where there had been greedy and sloppy banks, new efficient ones would pop up. That is how a free market system works.It does work if we would only let it work."
But for some nondescript reason we are now deciding that the rest of the world is right and that capitalism doesn't work- that we need the government to step in and "save us". Save us my ass, Hell - we're nationalizing and unfortunately too many of our once fine nation's citizens don't even have a clue that this is what is really happening. But, they sure can tell you the stats on their favorite sports teams. Yeah - THAT'S really important, isn't it?
Does it ever occur to ANYONE that the "competition" has been producing vehicles, EXTREMELY PROFITABLY, for decades in this country? How can that be??? Let's see. Fuel efficient. Listening to customers.Investing in the proper tooling and automation for the long haul. Not being too complacent or arrogant to listen to Dr. W. Edwards Deming four decades ago when he taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations could increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs. Ever increased productivity through quality and intelligent planning. Treating vendors like strategic partners, rather than like "the enemy." Efficient front and back offices. Non-union environment. Again, I could go on and on, but I really wouldn't be telling anyone anything they really don't already know down deep in their hearts.
I have six children, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept of wanting someone to bail you out of a mess that you have gotten yourself into - my children do this on a weekly, if not daily basis, as I did when I was their age. I do for them what my parents did for me (one of their greatest gifts, by the way) - I make them stand on their own two feet and accept the consequences of their actions and work through it.
Radical concept, huh. Am I there for them in the wings?
Of course - but only until such time as they need to be fully on their own as adults. I don't want to oversimplify a complex situation, but there certainly are unmistakable parallels here between the properrole of parenting and government.
Detroit and the United States need to pay for their sins. Bad news people - it's coming whether we like it or not. The newly elected Messiah really doesn't have a magic wand big enough to "make it all go away." I laughed as I heard Obama "reeling it back in" almost immediately after the final vote count was tallied. "We really might not do it in a year or in four." Where the Hell was that kind of talk when he was RUNNING for office.
Stop trying to put off the inevitable folks. That house in Florida really isn't worth $750,000. People who jump across a border really don't deserve free health care benefits. That job driving that forklift for the Big 3 really isn't worth $85,000 a year. We really shouldn't allow Wal-Mart to stock their shelves with products acquired from a country that unfairly manipulates their currency and has the most atrocious human rights infractions on the face of the globe. That couple whose combined income is less than $50,000 really shouldn't be living in that $485,000 home. Let the market correct itself folks - it will. Yes it will be painful, but it's gonna' be painful either way, and the bright side of my proposal is that on the other side of it all, is a nation that appreciates what it has and doesn't live beyond its means and gets back to basics and redevelops the patriotic work ethic that made it the greatest nation in the history of the world and probably turns back to God.
Sorry - don't cut my head off, I'm just the messenger sharing with you the "bad news". I hope you take it to heart.
Gregory J. Knox, President, Knox Machinery, Inc., Franklin, Ohio 45005
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
The truth is, Canada, America isn't into you
THEO MOUDAKIS/TORONTO STAR FILE
It's not personal but niceness doesn't cut it in the land of the free and home of the brave
February 16, 2009
A big ol' howdy and bonjour Canada! How are you?
We know, we know, it's been a while. Sorry about that.
We have been, per usual, rather self-absorbed lately, what with our historic elections and our economy in freefall. But, hey, good news. Did you hear? We're coming to visit.
We'll be in Ottawa on the 19th. Hope you can make it. We hear mid-February is a lovely time of year there.
Look, Canada, before you get your hopes up about this trip, there's something we need to tell you. We're not sure how to put this so we will be brutally direct, as is our way. We're just not that into you.
There, we said it. We feel better already.
You've always been there for us, Canada: after the Sept. 11 attacks and now in Afghanistan. We appreciate that, really we do. But still, we're just not that into you.
It's not personal, really. It's geopolitical. You're just too ... nice. Nice doesn't get our attention. Threatening gets our attention, and you, Canada, are anything but threatening, except on the hockey rink, of course, but we don't take hockey all that seriously.
If you really wanted us to notice, you should have gotten all gussied up in that Taepodong outfit (it worked for North Korea) or maybe flashed some weapons of mass destruction – real or imagined, it's all the same to us.
Let's face it. We've been bickering a lot lately – over Afghanistan and NAFTA and that silly softwood dispute. Plus you think we hog all the water, which we probably do.
We admit we've been avoiding you lately. But can you blame us? Your loonie is loony. Up one day, down the next, then up again. We've got plenty of that yo-yo action right here on Wall Street. We don't need to go north for it.
Also, many of us Americans – especially those in their 20s and 30s – tell surveyors they find Canada a "boring" place to visit.
I know, I know, how can a country with both Cirque du Soleil and Don Cherry possibly be described as boring? What can I say, Canada? Our amusement threshold is very high.
So is our capacity for selfishness. Our pending "Buy American" campaign hurts you. We feel your pain, Canada, really we do, but we've got to look out for Number 1. And we all know who Number 1 is.
Perhaps what we have here is a classic failure to communicate. The fact is, we don't know you Canada. And no wonder: American newspapers no longer maintain bureaus in Canada.
Not that we paid much attention when they did. Most of us couldn't name your prime minister or, for that matter, your capital city. Is this kind of ignorance any basis for a relationship?
If we know you Canada (and we've already determined we don't) you're probably blaming yourself. You always do. Unlike us, you're so modest and self-effacing. It's endearing.
Remember that joke you like to tell us? How do you get 50 Canadians to leave a swimming pool? By making an announcement: Will all the Canadians please leave the pool. See, you find that funny. We don't get it. That's why, Canada, it's best we go our separate ways.
I know what you're thinking: You can change, America. You've elected a new president, one who is all about change and re-engagement with the world.
Don't believe it, Canada. Nations, like people, don't change easily. We're been around for more than 200 years. We're a bit stuck in our ways.
No, Canada, we're just not that into you and probably never will be. Don't fret, though. You're better off without us. We were very much into Iraq (still are) and look how that turned out.
Besides, Canada, you're too good for us anyway.
The truth is we envy you, though of course we never admit that to anyone, not even ourselves. We envy your health-care system. We envy your prudent, sober banks. We envy your restraint on the international stage. We envy your very happiness. We envy everything about you. Except your weather, of course. Nobody envies that.
So, chin up. We can still be friends. After all, you are so close; we're practically neighbours.
Yes, we're still friends – and best trading partners for life too! And you will continue to send us your best comedians, won't you?
Hey, let's do coffee sometime. We'll call you.
Eric Weiner is the Washington-based author of The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, now out in paperback.
Sustainable Packaging Initiatives Are a Viable Cost-Reduction Solution in a Downward Economy
A key misconception is the belief that higher costs are intrinsically associated with sustainability efforts.
Monday, February 16, 2009 By Ryan Humphrey, Director of Professional Services, ModusLink
The environment was a very hot topic last year. In fact "going green" and "carbon footprint" were two of the 10 most overused words of 2008, according to Lake Superior State University's annual list. No industry or business sector is immune to the demand by consumers for products and services that are more eco-friendly, environmentally free and biodegradable. With the recent emphasis on climate change and the affects of human activities on the environment, combined with the resulting regulations and requirements, sustainability has become an intrinsic component of operational strategies. However, while sustainability remains a key market driver, it exists amidst a myriad of meaningless catchphrases and jargon that have no measurable definition, driving manufacturers to ask themselves; what does it REALLY mean to be green?
Credible participants in the sustainability movement take a holistic approach to the process, follow the cradle-to-cradle concept and dismiss trendy words like green and eco-friendly. This holistic methodology focuses on reducing all greenhouse gases (GHG), rather than just the dominant element of carbon. Today, most companies focus on carbon, primarily because CO2 makes up approximately 93% of all GHG emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA. However, over time carbon's prominence as an industry focus in the movement is likely to dwindle, making it important to understand the difference.
It is clear that sustainability is top of mind across all industries and that packaging is a key driver. According to a recent study by AMR Research, 76% of sustainability efforts are focused on reducing packaging waste.
In the world of sustainable packaging, there is no more respected expert than the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). In a 2007 survey by the SPC and Packaging Digest magazine, 73% of 1,255 respondents who are involved in packaging reported that their companies had increased the emphasis on sustainable packaging with most of the attention on minimizing the carbon footprint through creative transportation, alternative fuels, and sustainable packaging efforts.
A key misconception is the belief that higher costs are intrinsically associated with sustainability efforts. The holistic approach affords visibility into the entire product lifecycle, from manufacturing and packaging, to delivery, recycling or disposition. When sustainable improvements are considered from this perspective, most organizations will realize a cost savings and positive impact on the bottom line.
In fact, a global leader in computer hardware and accessories was able to realize a savings of more than $500,000 in packaging and eliminated 99,183 pounds of packaging on 4.3 million products shipped.
The first step in an overall sustainable program is to analyze product packaging and supply chain processes to develop a model that reduces packaging size and minimizes operational and logistics activities that contribute to GHG emissions.
Packaging Design Assessment
As a rule, quality packaging design follows a 4D Methodology of Ergonomics, Cost, Sustainability and Logistics. When embarking on a redesign, manufacturers should first assess the sustainability of their current packaging to use as a baseline. Packaging-specific software programs such as Cape, ArtiosCAD, and Solidworks, can be used to design the most efficient package. Tools such as the Wal-Mart Packaging Modeling tool, the still-beta SPC Comparative Packaging Assessment (COMPASS) and other industry standard tools, further measure and analyze the amount of impact the packaging has on the environment.
More compact packaging will result in a reduced material cost. By simplifying the packaging process with fewer pieces, you can extend the savings with less labor. The amount of warehouse space required is reduced, further impacting logistics costs. The domino effect continues through redesigning pallet configuration and shipping more product per pallet.
Ben Sligar, a global packaging engineer for ModusLink Global Solutions -- a provider of supply chain management solutions -- and a member of the Wal-Mart Packaging Sustainable Value Network and SPC, maintains that manufacturers can look to sustainable packaging redesign as a true driver of cost efficiency. "We've seen cost savings in almost every project, by using recycled materials and increasing the product to package ratio. For example, by moving clients to a trapped paperboard blister design and away from traditional clamshells that are not consumer friendly, we are able to reduce the amount of plastic and package size while increasing pallet density. In 2008 ModusLink converted more than 100 million clamshells to trapped blisters and we see the trend continuing."
Understanding material patents, specialized material types, and their various sources is a critical element to a sustainability program. There are countless misnomers regarding what is recyclable or what truly is environmentally friendly. Most consumers believe that if a product is made out of a tree that it can be recycled and that plastics are bad for the environment, but that may not always be true. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a highly recyclable form of plastic if in a narrow neck form. Some foam and pulp products are not compostable. Not all fiberboards are 100% recyclable. There are a wide array of sustainable packaging materials available, including molded paper fiber, PaperFoam, recycled content plastics and papers and up and coming bio-polymers. The key is knowing the difference between them. And the energy required to create each material significantly influences the overall environmental impact. It's a good idea to check with local recycling centers to see what is recyclable in the region of operations.
Once the package design analysis is complete, the entire supply chain should be optimized for when and where to perform packaging and fulfillment and for the lowest total GHG emissions. Network optimization can identify alternative supply chain models that leverage leading practices such as packaging postponement and deferred configuration. Reviewing the end-to-end supply chain illustrates how each part of the supply chain affects GHG emissions and helps to determine ways to optimize for GHGs that positively impact all other costs in the supply chain.
Packaging postponement entails an analysis of supply chain costs and the trade-offs among them, including materials, conversion, inventory and logistics. It is critical to measure each trade-off, including carbon emissions for logistics and all GHG emissions for operational activities. Operational emissions are typically based on megawatt hours and are derived by the geography's portfolio of energy consumption.
Manufacturers that are not currently examining their packaging programs are in danger of being left off the retail shelf. Wal-Mart is striving to achieve a 5% packaging reduction by 2013 and as of February 2008, requires all suppliers to enter its packaging information into the Wal-Mart Retail Link Scorecard. Further, Wal-Mart has promised to become "packaging neutral" by 2025, which means that, through recycling, reusing or perhaps even composting, Wal-Mart will try to recover as much material as was used in the packaging that flows through its stores.
As consumers become savvier to the green washing techniques employed by some manufacturers, and the retail industry demands clearly identifiable sustainable products, manufacturers will be required to join the sustainable movement. When these sustainable packaging projects are approached in a comprehensive manner and by professional resources, they frequently yield their own financial as well as environmental benefits. Beware the provider that is advocating its own particular shade of 'green' as it may not be the most suited to your products or your business objectives. Product independent advice usually yields the best results. What better way to compete in a world of green announcements than to be assured that your actions stand up to your 'green conscience' as well as external scrutiny?
Ryan Humphrey is the Director of Professional Services at ModusLink. ModusLink Global Solutions, Inc. is a provider of global supply chain business process management. www.moduslink.com.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
With that out of the way I just had to share with you my respect for this organization and in fact other credit unions throughout Canada. Although they have a relatively small market penetration that should change. If more people knew about the services available and the highly-personal approach to both personal and business banking embraced by Meridian I would think the doors of the branches would have line ups.
Did you know:
- You can get the same full range of financial services from Meridian as you can from any of the BIG Canadian banks?
- You will be treated like a person, not a number?
- They will attempt to find a reason to say "Yes" rather than the seemingly automatic and rather emphatic "NO" people tend to experience with the BIG banks?
- That your deposits are covered under DICO?
- That they have an extensive ATM network?
- That the people who manage and work in the branches actually will recall your name?
- That you can take great advantage of the Financial Coaching available?
Based upon my interviews with branch personnel and clients, here's the lasting impression I have of Meridian Credit Union - they help people find hope and sound guidance.
If you're experiencing any of the challenges of the current financial environment I encourage you to seek out the alternative. Whether Meridian or some other credit union I suspect you will find a refreshingly new approach to financial planning and management.