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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bedford Company Helps Defense Agency Save Money

From Markham Assessment Tool:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 23 September 2005

BEDFORD, VA - Showing that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, theDefense Commissary Agency has just used a small Bedford County company for a pilot project of the Markham Assessment Tool.

The high-technology tool has been used by various companies around the world and has the potential of bringing significant new high-tech growth to the Bedford area.The Defense Commissary Agency, or DeCA, runs over 250 grocery stores around the world as a benefit to our service members.

As part of a cost-savings exercise, the MAT was used to identify areas for improvement in the area ofequipment purchasing and inventory."We used the MAT to identify key elements of the Voice of the Customer,"says Victor Claar of DeCA, "which is a key element of our Lean Six Sigma effort. Getting buy-in and managing perception is a critical factor in any project success and it's especially true for a large, world-wide, distributed organization like DeCA."

The field is huge - in software alone poor processes cause quality problems to the tune of over $60 Billion per year.

Whatever the business, as companies grow beyond one or two project teams, having a way to assess process risk is a critical early indicator of performance."

The MAT is a tool whose time has come. It is a necessary complement to the quality programs many businesses are currently implementing," says ProfessorRichard Daugherty of Virginia Tech, "It promises a leaner and moreefficient method for organizations to reach their goals." Daugherty is the Director of the Business Technology Center at Virginia Tech, which reviewed the online tool this past year in coordination with the Regional Technology Councils.

"When companies grow, they usually decide on a 'master recipe book' for how they are going to do their business without any idea of how to implement itor even how to tell if they're doing a good job or not," adds Mark Manduke of Process Enhancement Partners in Maryland.

"The MAT is an internaltechnical marketing tool, identifying which areas the employees say need fixing - long before schedules slip, projects overrun, or quality suffers."

According to a recent study, about 70 to 75 percent of major organizationalchange efforts fail to meet the expectations of key stakeholders.

Oddly enough, using the "smarts" of the workers in a scientific manner to implement change has not been tried before, even though the same study cited"perception" as a key element of organizational change failure. No matter what the effect on the bottom line, if the folks don't think the change ishelping, it is usually discarded at the worker level.

"When companies take actions to institute organizational change, it is easy to find low-hanging fruit that provide excellent returns. But, once they have successfully addressed these, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify continuing the activity. "

"The MAT provides a way for companies to tap into their greatest resource - the minds of their employees - and continue increasing their productivity," Daugherty continues."We see a lot of upside in this," says company owner Daniel Markham, "both in terms of helping companies save significant money and in terms of growthfor Bedford County.

As the area moves out of tobacco and textiles, we need to grow small, high-tech companies like this to keep the economy diversified and resilient.

"Living in a poor area of the county, Markham fields calls from all over the world from assessment users, working a cordless phone, wireless notebook,and satellite internet connection from his five-acre home. "

This is the new face of business," he says, "it's not a big chip manufacturer coming in and creating a hundred jobs. It's not a shiny glass building in an office park somewhere.

It's a hundred small guys like me, all over this part of the state, growing one job at a time."Markham, a Southwest Virginia native, is a software architect and management consultant. His clients have included Charles Schwab, Pitney Bowes, and Ford Motor Company.

He designed and wrote the voting system that Alan Greenspan and the Board of Governors use at the Federal Reserve.

"The nice thing about my invention is that it takes a lot of conflict out ofthe discussion," he says, "it's not a he-said, she-said format, it's really more of a process of mutual discovery.

While not meant to take the place of outside expertise, it can certainly give you some hard numbers showing whether you're spending your money effectively."In addition to DeCA, organizations from all over the world have expressed interest in using the tool, including companies as far away as South Africa and San Francisco.

Markham hopes to take his tool to other DefenseDepartment agencies in the near future. Bedford Technology Group, Inc. is located in Huddleston, Virginia.

"Helping You Find What To Fix" is the mission and motto of the company. Call 540.297.9187 for further information, press kits, and to coordinate interviews.



At 1:10 PM, Anonymous D L Ennis said...

Great post, Bob.
Congratulations, Dan!


At 1:42 PM, Blogger DAN said...


I just heard from Blue Ridge Business Journal. They are thinking about picking up the story. Hopefully we can get the word out that there are some high tech businesses in sleepy little Bedford too.


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