Thursday, January 26, 2006

PEIE Wraps Up Smart Man Oman

Mohammed Al Ghassani, Executive Vice President, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) and organizer of the Smart Manufacturing Conference, held 23 – 24 January at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel commented: “Given initial attendee feedback, the Conference has to be described as an outstanding success. The seven sessions that made up the two day program plus the Lean Enterprise Workshop held on the 25th at Knowledge Oasis Muscat all went extremely well and we’re delighted with the outcome and the momentum the event has generated.”

In delivering the Conference closing remarks Al Ghassani said: “Oman’s Manufacturing is a success story – we excel in ceramics; precision engineering; furniture; fibre optics; batteries; textiles through to food processing. Indeed, manufacturing is a major contributor to Oman’s national wealth. It accounts for a major slice of our exports and provides thousands of jobs and supports a flourishing service sector. Our best manufacturers and best products are world class and sought after in the most highly competitive markets around the globe.”

However, he admitted that manufacturers also face huge challenges. As discussed at the conference, the future of Oman’s manufacturing depends on raising investment, applying innovation and technology, smarter marketing, design and packaging, best practice and skills to create even better products that the world wants to buy.

To ensure that the momentum created by the Conference is maintained, Al Ghassani announced PEIE’s intention to establish a Manufacturing Discussion Group – a group that would aim to stimulate ideas and discussion in priority areas such as skills development, marketing, design, links between industry and academia, technology, logistics, new markets and the image of manufacturing.

“No one would claim that the way ahead for Oman’s manufacturing is easy. Recent failures highlight some of the difficulties. But they are only a tiny fraction of the overall equation. Manufacturing commitment to high value and skills, together with extensive practical government support and maintenance of the right conditions for business to flourish will enable Oman-based manufacturers to compete in the long-term. And that’s good news for everyone,” concluded PEIE’s Al Ghassani.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mohammed Al Ghassani Talks Innovation

Eng. Mohammed Al Ghassani is Executive Vice President, PEIE and an initiator of the Smart Manufacturing Conference. In fact, he’s viewed by many as a key player in the government’s initiative to develop a stronger business culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. PEIE Mirror caught up with him to discuss his views on: corporate culture; innovation; business trends; and mentoring. This is what he had to say:

PM: Do you feel PEIE has a distinct corporate culture? If so, how would you describe it?

Our culture is extremely entrepreneurial. PEIE’s run like a growing for-profit business, with an emphasis on creative thinking, innovation, passion and quality.

PM: Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) - which is part of the PEIE portfolio - is a sponsor of the Smart Manufacturing Conference what’s your understanding of innovation in a manufacturing context?

Innovation is for me an adventure. An idea you get excited about and which you pursue passionately. It evolves and develops throughout the minds of people and grows by teamwork. An innovation can be based on a new technology, a new service or changing the whole product system or business. As far as Smart Manufacturing is concerned, given the nature of the two-day program and the quality of presenters, KOM is honoured to be involved in such an important business event.

PM: What major trends will we have to consider within the next 5 years concerning innovation?

Major trends will be shaped by technology convergence and the totally new business opportunities resulting from this. This will in turn increase the need for new methods of exchanging knowledge between partners and the integration of knowledge from very different disciplines.

PM: As PEIE’s Executive Vice President, you’ve been involved in developing KOM, what have been the keys in bringing KOM to the level it is at today?

Hiring excellent people. It's the motivated staff who contribute the ingredients that enable us to keep taking it to that next level year after year.

PM: What do you feel the future holds for small firms over the next few years?

The future is very promising for small firms in Oman. The Government is constantly looking at ways to improve finance options for them – making access to loans easier and simpler for the people who actually run small businesses. Through the Knowledge Mine business incubator program we will continue to promote and assist start-ups and maintain our efforts to increase the participation of those under represented in business, particularly drawing on the wealth of talent in women’s business.

PM: What trends and changes do you see occurring in business today?

Younger people are starting companies that involve services and technology. We’re witnessing this trend very clearly on KOM. Business owners are focusing on conservation of resources, profit and greater customer service. Lenders are looking for proven businesses ready for funding, and money is out there. This is an opportunity time for KOM because more people are starting businesses.

PM: What advice would you give to a young person that wants to one day succeed in business?

Shed the industrial-age idea that you go to school and get a good life-long job with benefits and a pension. Entrepreneurs think differently - how can I create jobs and provide a valuable service/product? Begin to develop your network of contacts. Read. Find a peer group. Go to conferences such as Smart Manufacturing. And when you do find that great idea, focus on making a successful system, otherwise you just own a job.

PM: How important do you consider networking and building contacts to be for an entrepreneur's success?

Primary importance. You’re only as big as your neighbourhood. You must realize that you can't do it all, and building a knowledgeable network greatly increases your chances for success.

PM: If you could pin it down to just one thing, what is the one most important thing you have learned about business?

You have to be able to read and understand the numbers.

PM: Any final advice for young entrepreneurs, businessmen, or businesswomen just getting started?

Find a mentor and a peer group. Give respect if you want it in return. Have an attitude of gratitude, not an attitude of entitlement and give - it will come back to you 10-fold.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Innovation in a Manufacturing Context

In our increasingly competitive world, manufacturers are faced with pressures to achieve many different simultaneous outcomes with their products. With some of these outcomes being seemingly inconsistent at first sight. Manufacturers may at times be pressured to produce products that are:

* cheaper * faster

* more reliable * higher quality

* longer life * more functional

* more visually attractive * recycleable

* smaller * lighter

* more robust * safer for consumers

* more exciting * ecologically friendly

* easily available * upgradeable

to name but a few.

Whilst achieving these outcomes, manufacturers are urged to do so in a way that is;

* ecologically sustainable * politically sensitive

* serving stakeholder interests * being a caring employer

* law abiding * ethical

* safe * risk managed

* enhances national reputation * leads to employment opportunities

* benefits humankind * contributes to national economies

* respectful towards communities (both local and global)

It is perhaps not a surprise that such pressures result in wide ranging challenges for manufacturers. These challenges may be simple or extremely complex. They are seldom easy, yet often rewarding and frequently fun (for some of us).

Today, manufacturing is about so much more than just great products, and caring manufacturers!

As manufacturers toil to surprise and delight consumers with new products that are positively differentiated from their competitors (and their own past products), they inevitably make the task of the consumer a more challenging one. Many consumers may at times risk being overloaded with information about products, to the point that the choices available can become either stressful or uninteresting. Efforts by manufacturers to make the consumers’ task easier have become more and more appreciated by those consumers, and thus a further source of competitive differentiation. These efforts have moved manufacturers more and more towards a service orientation, where their products are at the core of such services. One example of this being, the moves by many car manufacturers to offer finance, insurance, extended warranties and break down cover to car purchasers. All these are aimed at making the consumer experience easier, regarding the cognitive effort necessary in purchasing choices. Rather than just selling a car, manufacturers are increasingly focused on providing a stress-free motoring experience.

If innovation is the answer, what is the question?

It is perhaps not surprising that with so many pressures to perform, business leaders, consultants and academics around the world have a history of looking for simple answers to complex business questions. In recent years human resource management, organisational learning, knowledge management, change management, management of intellectual capital, human capital management, talent management and performance management theories, have been presented as offering simple answers to the business challenges faced by many companies. Many of these theories have resulted in organisational implementations and changes in organisational structure becoming commonplace. However, established links to anticipated increases in business performance are much rarer. Return on investment (ROI) assessments are rare as many organisations move quickly onto the excitement and promise of the next answer.

Those organisations that have successfully answered their business questions have tended to be those that have worked to understand the question on the way to understanding the answer.

If innovation is to realise the many hopes that are attached to it, then we need to build upon the understanding that ‘innovation is good’ to develop an in-depth understanding of the following innovation dimensions in any given context:

* sources

* types

* drivers

* quality

* intelligence (related to context)

* degree

* measurement

* timing

* value

* management

* leadership

* strategy

* communication

* business exploitation

* influences

* blockers

* resourcing

* collaboration and co-operation

* application

It is only when the dimensions of innovation are understood that we can hope to manage the risk of innovation processes and move towards the certainty of successful innovation outcomes.