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Interesting Green Business Ideas? November 25, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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When we consider what are processes are and what can be done better and then add in some creativity we can come up with some great efficiency options.  It is key that we are creative in this process though because some of the best ideas may seem a little bit odd when first discussed.  I have a few examples of solutions that seem odd at first glance.  Some have been very successful others could potentially succeed or fail but the jury is still out.

UPS No Left Turns

UPS spent quite a lot of time and effort reviewing their driving patterns in an effort to decrease their fuel consumption.  They came up with quite a few suggestions that they are offering to the general public.  One of the experiments that they did was to eliminate as many left turns in their routing as possible.  Their assumption was that you spend a lot of time idling in traffic if you make left turns.  They posted information about this on their website that describes the theory and the benefits.  Here is a small part:

In 2007, UPS route planning technology, which minimizes left hand turns:

  • shaved nearly 30 million miles off already streamlined delivery routes;
  • saved 3 million gallons of gas; and
  • reduced emissions by 32,000 metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars off the road for an entire year.

When this idea was first pitched I will guarantee that someone either said or thought “What are you talking about?”.  I am certain that it seemed like a crazy idea.  The innovator saw that there was potential and experimented to see if the theory would work.  It did and as you can see it made a huge difference.

Sam’s Club Square Milk Cartons

While listening to a podcast recently I learned that Sam’s Club has been analyzing the transportation of staple items for potential efficiency gains.  One of the changes that they are making is that they are changing the shape and size of milk containers to be more transport friendly and efficient.  I found a link to the press release on Sam’s website that outlines the idea.  Here’s an excerpt of the what the concept does for them:

Today’s new square or case-less milk jugs do not require crates or racks for shipping and storage. Instead, the newly designed milk gallon is self stacking because the spout is flatter and each gallon can rest on another during transport, as well as while on display. It’s estimated trucks used for shipping from the processor to club can accommodate 9% more milk — 4,704 gallons per truck or approximately 384 more jugs — without any metal racks

Imagine how large of savings both from an environmental perspective and pure economic perspective this “simple” change will make.  Although 9% seems like a small number think about how much that means to a retailer as large as Wal-Mart and how much milk they will touch over the next 5 to 10 years.  It will have a dramatic effect. 

Japanese Company Employees on Roof

Recently, while reading articles about green developments I ran across an article of a Japanese company that is having all of their employees sit outside on the roof of their building in order to limit the use of energy to light and reduce carbon emissions.  I think that this might be one of the strangest ideas that I have heard but who knows.  Here is an excerpt of the article:

Japanese office supply manufacturer Kokuyo has mandated its employees to work in a newly constructed rooftop office for 90 days each year, or about a third of their annual work days.

Again, I am not certain that this is great idea or not so don’t put all your employees on the roof when it’s 0 degrees outside.  This one may well be the idea that seems strange at first and then a little later still seems strange. 

Sum it up

The ideas above are not designed to be implemented by every company and probably wouldn’t work at every company.  They were thrown out there to be examples of how some strange, crazy, off the cuff ideas turn into real innovations.  Also, they may point out that some are just strange. 

I would definitely think that you should consider what will make your company more efficient.  When you do think outside of the box (or the milk container) to come up with innovative ideas as to how to make yourself better.  Some times those strange ideas turn into common logic in the future.  Imagine the guy at Xerox who invented the original computer mouse!  Now, it is a standard in today’s market.

Look for efficiencies, challenge common “knowledge”, and be innovative.  Let me know if I can help!

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Interesting Article about the Strategy of going green November 24, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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I just read a post on Harvard Business’ Leading Green blog that I really thought might be something to consider. 

http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/leadinggreen/2008/11/the-strategic-obligation-of-su.html

It discusses the idea of how many companies are focusing on green ideals simply for the recognition of being green or maybe saving a few bucks on an electric bill but there are strategic reasons to be as green as possible.  The concepts that are outlined are very interesting to consider.

Much of what is discussed in this article outlines how you can utilize efficiencies to your own strategic advantage.  An example is the idea of using local vendors to supply your processes instead of distant vendors.  This is a green concept to save fuel but from a strategic viewpoint, how much will that decision save you if gas/diesel prices go back up or when shipping costs rise?  As the basics in life continue to rise in price process efficiencies will prove to not only save a little bit of money but also to better position you in comparison to your competitors.

I think that this is a very important thing to keep in mind when considering process efficiencies and green efficiencies… what is the long-term strategic impact of this decision.  It may only save a little money the first year but how much over the long term and what advantage can it provide your business?

My opinion on this is quite simple that creating business efficiencies will pay dividends for many years in decreased expenses, increased revenue, and strategic advantages.

Hope that this article and link is something that is thought provoking.  Let me know what you think.

Cool tool: Mofuse November 19, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficient Technologies, Tools.
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If you have a blog and are interested in making your blog mobile friendly, I found a cool tool that you might be interested in.  It’s called MoFuse.  Basically you provide the link to your blog and they will provide a mobile friendly link that you can provide for your readers.  There are some extra add-in tools that you may be interested in as well for automatically detecting mobile browsers but they will only depending on your current blog provider.   Anyway, take a look if this sounds interesting to you.

http://www.mofuse.com

You’ll notice that I added a mobile option to my blog on the right side menu (http://refocusing.mofuse.mobi/). 

Hope that this is useful to you.

Interesting Green Tips November 18, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Green Business.
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I just ran across this article that gives some ideas of greening up your business without spending all of your green.  Take a look for some suggestions:

http://www.greenbiz.com/feature/2008/11/17/top-8-ways-go-green-cheap

Hope that you can find these useful.

Business Example: Stanley Steemer November 18, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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Well, I guess that I find examples in some strange places.  Recently, though the technology came to me in my home.

About 3 or 4 years ago, we had Stanley Steemer come out to our house and clean the carpets.  At that time Stanley utilizes the tried and true method of carbon paper.  They fill it out and you get the pink copy.   On top of that, in order to utilize a credit card… you guessed it… rub a pencil over the numbers on the carbon paper.  Obviously, there are some problems with this method.

Today’s Stanley Steemer is not in the carbon paper era any longer.  When the crew arrived at my house a week ago, they brought with them a handheld kiosk.  It had all of my information and of course the ability to modify my order with all the other things that I needed.  Once they finished cleaning, they walked through the order, and allowed me to sign that they had done the work.  A simple swipe of my card and a wireless connection later and I had paid my bill.  The kiosk had a printer attached to it (although I would have preferred an emailed receipt) and they printed and handed the information over to me.

I am always impressed when I see companies who have taken the step to make their businesses more efficient and in this case more green.  Mobile applications and wireless access provide so many options but many companies don’t embrace the opportunities to utilize it.  It can be a daunting task to make these kinds of changes but imagine the savings on supplies and denied credit cards not to mention removing the identity theft issues of all crews having the credit card numbers. 

This is a very simple example of how one company has utilized technology to make their processes more efficient.  Is there a way that you can utilize mobile technology to make your business simpler and more efficient?  Can you utilize it to reduce paperwork and follow up?

If there is any way that I can help you, please feel free to contact me.

Simplifying Organizations November 10, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Development Process, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies.
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I recently finished reading a book called Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises by Roger Sessions.  The book is about building architectures that are simple instead of overly complicated.  

System Complication

Organizations and business models are very complicated.  Add on regulation, best practices, trade secrets, etc and the business processes can be very difficult to utilize.  Many times these complicated systems cause issues for the businesses because employees can get lost in the details.  It also can make it extremely difficult to train new employees.  This causes a real problem should one of the employees go on long-term disability, maternity leave, or worse yet to the competitor.  Many times it is not a scenario where a temporary or new employee can just step right in and take over.

The other issue is that if the employee were to forget a step or not do it correctly it can really cause issues for your business.  Sometimes it may be as simple as having to fix the mistake but other times it could result in regulatory or even legal issues. 

Frameworks

All of the issues raised above and many more cause the need for frameworks.  A framework is structure that is put in place in order to standardize and simplify a process or set of processes.  In many organizations, there are many frameworks in place:  network frameworks, software frameworks, process frameworks, etc.  By utilizing properly designed frameworks employees should be able to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently in a very standardized way.  This will make the organization much more efficient overall.

Framework Issues

Many organizations have become very framework adverse.  This is due to the fact that they have invested a lot of money and time into frameworks and not seen the corresponding results.  Many times this is due to the fact that the framework has become way too complicated.  The book I described earlier has the following quote in it:

The paradox about complexity is that it is simple to make systems complex; it is complex to make systems simple.  Many people think that it takes a lot of talent to create a highly complicated architecture.  That  isn’t true.  It takes a lot of talent to take complicated ideas and realize them in a simple architecture.

I believe that this is absolutely true.  In many cases the frameworks try to handle the complexity of all the business without ever taking into account that the point is make it simpler and more efficient to use.  Instead they have only focused on handling all the business complexity in a single place.  In the end, the framework has cost the business quite a bit of money and has not made them more efficient and possibly made it harder to get things done.

Simplifying Frameworks

In order to make frameworks really help businesses they must be simple to use.  For this to happen the person creating them must focus on simplicity while also solving the problem.  This can be a very difficult thing to do.  Another quote from Session’s book says:

Anybody can create a complex architecture.  It takes no skill at all.  Architectures naturally seek the maximum possible level of complexity all on their own. 

It goes on to say:

The observation that architecture are naturally attracted to complexity is actually predicted by physics – in particular, the law of entropy.

All of this to say that it is natural for frameworks to become more complicated and chaotic if someone doesn’t focus on keeping them reigned in.  This is the job of the architect.  It is by far the hardest job that architect has.  As stated earlier, it is quite complicated to keep the frameworks simple to use.

Summarizing

I hope that this article wasn’t too techie or high level.  I found Mr. Sessions’ book to be very interesting and should serve as a reminder to follow the KISS theory when building frameworks.  Frameworks can have a significant impact on organizations in terms of business efficiency.  On the other hand, if not properly handled they can actually have the opposite effect or making businesses less efficient.

Do you have frameworks in place to make yourself more efficient?  If so, can you make them simpler?  If you don’t have them, are there ways to create them to make your business simpler?

Let me know if I can help you with creation or simplification of frameworks.

Green Business: Some More Ideas November 7, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Green Business.
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Just found another article that has some suggestions for the greening of your business.  As the title suggests making green/efficiency investments in a down market can be a great idea.

It Pays to Go Green in a Down Economy

Hope that some of the information is helpful!

Green Business: Some Ideas November 7, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Green Business.
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Although the suggestions in this article aren’t completely technology focused, they are definitely good as far as making your business more green. 

The Basics of Greening Your Business

I thought that some people might be interested in some of the ideas.

Borea Systems’ New Website November 4, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Social Networking.
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I am excited to be able to finally post that my company’s new website has been launched.  I am very excited by the new design and think that the content will prove helpful if someone is looking for help. 

Here it is: http://www.boreasystems.com.

I would love to be able to say that I have the graphic skills to put together this look but, alas, I do not.  I would like to thank Beth Allison Wickerson for help with the graphics and design of the site.  She is a great partner with a great design vision.

I look forward to feedback on the site and I intend to add to the content as time allows.

My Police Ride Along November 1, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies.
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For the last couple of months I have been involved in a program that our city’s police department puts on called the Citizen Police Academy.  I have learned quite a few things about how the department operates and how the basic system works.  This last Monday I had the opportunity to go on a ride-along.  It was a pretty cool experience and I found it pretty interesting.  The reason that I bring this up is to talk about the computer system that the police cars in our city have and how they have created serious efficiencies.

The Old Way

I am sure that you all know what the old way of doing things in police cars was.  If they needed information about a person or a car they did what?  Get on the radio and ask the dispatcher to find out.  This seems like a decent way until you think about the fact that in many metro areas there will be hundreds of police officers out and needing information.  This does not include the other emergency personnel.  In many areas this really got to be a nightmare. 

What I saw

When I got into the police car on Monday evening, the officer showed me what the car had in it.  Obviously, it still had the radio, lights, scanner, etc.  Also, it had the audio and video system that watches and listens to what happens around the car.  Then she showed me the computer system in the cars.  It was very impressive what functionality they are provided.

First, the system obviously was completely wireless.  I know the system had a Sprint wireless card in it but I also think that it might have connected to our city’s private WiFi net. 

Anyway, at any time, the officer is able to see all of the calls that are currently active in the city.  They can look up information about a person or car just like the dispatchers can.  So they can punch in a license plate and the information starts streaming in.  This provides them the ability to access data without calling in.

They are also able to see their current position on a map via GPS.  Now, that’s not a huge deal but then the data is mashed with the current call information and other car locations.  So they can see where they are headed and where the other cars are at that time.  This provides for a better idea of where they are going on a call and also who else is the neighborhood should assistance be needed.

From that system, they also have the ability to instant message other cars.  I found this to be a pretty cool feature.  Instead of taking up radio space and being able to be heard by every scanner in the area they were able to message specific cars.   This allows an exchange of information without the typical headaches. 

Also from the cars the police are able to do their paperwork.  This is a huge benefit when you think about how much paperwork they are required to do.  Would you prefer that the cops are on the road the majority of the time or sitting in the office filling out paperwork?  I know that here in our city the police chief makes presence a high priority and I think that the citizens can see that.

Final Paperwork

I always knew that the police had access to some pretty cool technology, I guess I had just never seen it in person.  I must say that I was pretty impressed by the level of access to informaiton that they had at their fingertips in the car.  By providing this kind of functionality they are able to provide better service to the citizens.  This type of efficiency allows the police to be out on the streets instead of sitting in the office.  It also allows the use of the radio to be much more efficient.  There is little talking over each other while still being able to do their jobs.

Is there anyway that you could employ technology to better serve your customers?  Could you make your employees more efficient and productive by employing mobile technology?

If there is anything that I can help with, please feel free to contact me.  Also, thank you to Officer Murphy for the ride-along.