Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fear is the Enemy of Progress

By Mikael Lindholm, Product Manager, ISO Turning, Fagersta, Sweden

“What is really holding me back?” Both in our professional and personal lives, there are times where we can obtain exceptional rewards by considering that question. Throughout my professional life, I have seen many people consider this topic and come to the same conclusion. Too often, our fear of the unknown and comfort with the known hold us back from making truly substantial progress.

If you’re like many of the manufacturers I’ve worked with over the years, you probably have some machining applications that are good enough to get by, but have some issues. When you look at such areas, it’s easy to concentrate on the potential problems. Taking the time to improve the process may cause short-term disruptions or lowering of productivity. It may be an inconvenience to those workers currently performing the process. And often, you won’t know if developing a new process will pay off until it’s done, meaning you have to take a risk without a clearly defined reward. In such situations, suggesting a new approach can be more than a little intimidating.

On the bright side, most employers highly value team members who look for ways to improve operations. An earnest effort to make things better will rarely result in your boss screaming, “You idiot! Why are you temporarily slowing operations down to try to save the company money?!” Instead, you’re likely to be recognized and possibly rewarded for taking the initiative to drive improvement.

Of course, the tendency to stay in a comfort zone isn’t limited to individuals. Companies can get stuck in the same mindset at an organizational level. Getting out of this rut takes a concerted effort of one or more team members who want to change the company for the better. If you’re in such a position, there are steps you can take to maximize your potential for success.

Bringing together expertise from a variety of sources will go a long way in ensuring the best results when revising a process. Talk to your colleagues and get their input. It’s all but guaranteed that some of them will have a valuable perspective different than your own, and seeking it out not only improves the end result, but also invests them in your cause.

Additionally, call on resources outside of your organization. For example, your local Seco representative will happily help you consider options, drawing on our extensive global experiences to find a solution that’s right for your operations. Likewise, your machine tool builder or distributor is probably glad to offer similar assistance. By bringing together the expertise of people across multiple disciplines and organizations, you stack the odds in favor of your success.

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of manufacturers going through this process with cast iron turning applications. Seco recently introduced the new Duratomic® inserts TK1001 for gray iron and TK2001 for ductile iron. Many manufacturers view their longstanding cast iron turning processes as ‘good enough’ and it often takes the commitment of one or more team members to create an openness to change. In the case of the TK1001 and TK2001, it’s been paying off with big gains, also when applied to processes with intermittent cuts. If you happen to be a manufacturer who turns cast iron, I invite you to try a free sample of TK grades by visiting on your smartphone or personal computer. And don’t forget that your local Seco rep is a valuable resource you can use for applying this or any other new solution.

Enough product promotion, though! The key point of this blog isn’t to focus on a product, but on a mentality that often keep us from progressing. If you ask yourself, “What is really holding me back?” and the answer is that you’ve settled into a comfort zone, don’t be afraid to step outside of it and take some risks in pursuit of improvement. In the words of U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

About the Author
Based in Sweden, Mikael is Seco's global product manager responsible for cemented carbide inserts and holders for turning applications. He is very much interested in things that drive innovation within corporations, and in his spare time he enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as sports and digital photography. Mikael can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment