Author Archives: Ada

What Are Panchaloha Idols and How Are They Manufactured?

As one of the oldest religions in the world, Hinduism carries a broad set of traditions, rituals and worship. Hinduism in the real sense is a way of righteous living and professes the unity of worship and the concept of a formless divine. But these are abstract concepts for many and the best way to help relate is through images. Over time, this was how the concept of various ‘Gods’ and ‘idol worship’ was developed, giving the free choice of worship ultimately to the individual. In this regard, Panchaloha idols play a key role in this regard.

Silpa Shastra is an ancient Hindu text dealing with arts and crafts and contains various design rules and standards. All idols whether stone or of metal have to be sculpted and manufactured according to these rules and prescribed rituals have to be followed both during manufacture and installation in order to obtain the correct benefits. Panchaloha idols are traditional idols of Gods fashioned from an alloy of 5 metals (silver, gold, copper, zinc and iron). The percentages in which these metals are used in the alloy varies between different regions in India.

The idol manufacturing process involves 2 steps. The first is the construction of the mould and the second is the actual creation of the idol. Initially, an image of the deity is created in wax with all the details. This wax is prepared by mixing paraffin wax, resin from the tree Damara Orientalis, and ground nut oil. Since wax produced by this method is quite hard, softer bee’s wax of high purity is mixed to make it easier to bring to life finer details.

To create a mould, the wax model is covered in layers of fresh clay and soil and then allowed to dry. Once the clay dries, it is heated to melt the wax and create a hollow mould. The melted Panchaloha metal alloy is then poured slowly into this mould to allow air bubbles to escape. This is then allowed to cool and solidify into the idol or deity. The cooling period varied between a few hours to a few days depending on the size of the statue and is judged based on experience. Finally, the craftsmen break the clay mold starting from the head of the statue to get the preliminary image. This image is then worked on to produce the final product.

The process has remained the same since the time of ancient dynasties like the Chera and the Chola and it is heartening to note that the art continues to thrive in various corners of India even today.

The Advent of Modern Technologies

The advent of modern technologies has undeniably brought so much comfort to the lives of people. It has supported major industries in so many ways that production has become so large scale enough to meet human needs for agricultural and industrial produces. But one drawback caused by technological advancement is overshadowed by these comforts, and that is depletion of the natural resources. Awareness has been raised regarding this condition that have lead to a revolution in the use of natural resources have been made and brought the enhancement of energy-technologies.

What are the two energy sources renewable-energy? Basically energy resource is either renewable or nonrenewable. An energy source is considered renewable resource only if it is replaced by natural processes and is replenished with the passage of time.Renewable energy on the other hand are resources with sustainable yields. Sadly,the major sources of energy that is used to manage technology are nonrenewable, meaning they can be depleted. They include gasoline, coal, natural gas, diesel, and other products derived from fossil fuels which are non-renewable. The depletion of nonrenewable energy source will be inevitable because it is not replenished. Because of this, attentions are gradually shifted to the use of renewable-energy-technologies.

Sustainable energy which is often regarded as renewable resources is the provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. They include plant matter, solar power, wind power, wave power, geothermal power and tidal power. It usually also includes technologies that improve energy efficiency otherwise called renewable-energy-technologies.

Solar energy is a form of renewable-energy which supports technologies. Solar energy is the energy derived directly from the Sun. It is the most abundant source of energy on Earth and the fastest growing type of alternative energy. Renewable-energy-technologies through solar energy use the photovoltaic cell. It converts sunlight directly into electricity. The Sun yearly delivers more than 10,000 times the energy that humans presently consume.

Wind power is another replenishable source. It derived from uneven heating of the Earth’s surface from the Sun and the warm core. Renewable-energy-technologies supported by wind power is generated by electricity gathered via converting the rotation of turbine blades into electrical current by means of an electrical generator.

Hydropower is a very common resource used to run renewable-energy-technologies. The power is derived from the movement of water in rivers and oceans, which can be used to generate electricity using turbines, or can be used mechanically to do useful work. Another renewable source is geothermal power which is produced via directly harnessing the natural flow of heat from the ground.

Characteristics of Modern Media Technology

Media has evolved a lot. Modern media depends on Technology to send information or gather them at a faster speed. The following are the characteristics:  

Speed: The information reaches at a faster speed.     

Reach: The information must have mass reach.  

Preventing Calamities: Modern media broadcasts 24 hours. So high technology is used to beat natural calamities.     

Constant Transmission: Technology is used for constant transmission.  

The following tools of technology is used to achieve the aforesaid targets:  

 

Use of Satellites: Satellite Technology is used to ensure constant transmission. A satellite hardly  gets affected by climatic conditions.     

Use of Video Conferencing: It is used to get live and personalized feedback without physical presence.  

Use of Television Conferencing: It is used to get audio inputs from far off places.  

Use of Internet: Internet is being relied upon for information.  

Use of high end Computer Technology: Computing and high speed processors are used for fast and able data processing.  

Use of Mobile Satellite Vans for News Coverage: Satellite vans are used for high mobility and anytime coverage.    

Use of high end Audio visual equipments: Use of high end audio visual equipments have emerged that leads to clear sound and picture. Tape recorders and high end video cameras are used by media persons to take interviews fast and transmit news ina proper and efficient manner.    

Thus these are the characteristics of Modern Media Technology that has made media more fast, accurate and improved and has made it an indispensable tool for protecting the  largest democracy of the world named India by making it more transparent and accountable to people. Hence these are the characteristics of modern media technology.  

Aircraft Structural Components

The major aircraft structures are wings, fuselage, and empennage. The primary flight control surfaces, located on the wings and empennage, are ailerons, elevators, and rudder. These parts are connected by seams, called joints.

All joints constructed using rivets, bolts, or special fasteners are lap joints. Fasteners cannot be used on joints in which the materials to be joined do not overlap – for example, butt, tee and edge joints. A fayed edge is a type of lap joint made when two metal surfaces are butted up against one another in such a way as to overlap.

Internal aircraft parts are manufactured in four ways: Milling, stamping, bending, and extruding. The metal of a milled part is transformed from cast to wrought by first shaping and then either chemically etching or grinding it. A stamped part is annealed, placed in a forming press, and then re-heat treated.

Bent parts are made by sheet metal mechanics using the bend allowance and layout procedures. An extrusion is an aircraft part which is formed by forcing metal through a preshaped die. The resulting wrought forms are used as spars, stringers, longerons, or channels. In order for metal to be extruded, bent, or formed, it must first be made malleable and ductile by annealing. After the forming operation, the metal is re-heat treated and age hardened.

Airbus Wings

Here in the UK and in particular at the Airbus facility in North Wales, our expertise is in the manufacture of aircraft wings. Aircraft wings have to be strong enough to withstand the positive forces of flight as well as the negative forces of landing. Metal wings are of two types: Semicantilever and full cantilever. Semicantilever, or braced, wings are used on light aircraft. They are externally supported by struts or flying wires which connect the wing spar to the fuselage. A full cantilever wing is usually made of stronger metal. It requires no external bracing or support. The skin carries part of the wing stress. Parts common to both wing designs are spars, compression ribs, former ribs, stringers, stress plates, gussets. wing tips and wing skins.

Airbus at Broughton employs more than 5,000 people, mostly in manufacturing, but also in engineering and support functions such as procurement and finance.

Wing Spars

Two or more spars are used in the construction of a wing. They carry the main longitudinal -butt to tip – load of the wing. Both the spar and a compression rib connect the wing to the fuselage.

Compression Ribs

Compression ribs carry the main load in the direction of flight, from leading edge to trailing edge. On some aircraft the compression rib is a structural piece of tubing separating two main spars. The main function of the compression rib is to absorb the force applied to the spar when the aircraft is in flight.

Former Ribs

A former rib, which is made from light metal, attaches to the stringers and wing skins to give the wing its aerodynamic shape. Former ribs can be classified as nose ribs, trailing edge ribs, and mid ribs running fore and aft between the front and rear spar on the wing. Formers are not considered primary structural members.

Stringers

Stringers are made of thin sheets of preformed extruded or hand-formed aluminum alloy. They run front to back along the fuselage and from wing butt to wing tip. Riveting the wing skin to both the stringer and the ribs gives the wing additional strength.

Stress Plates

Stress plates are used on wings to support the weight of the fuel tank. Some stress plates are made of thick metal and some are of thin metal corrugated for strength. Stress plates are usually held in place by long rows of machine screws, with self-locking nuts, that thread into specially mounted channels. The stress-plate channeling is riveted to the spars and compression ribs.

Gussets

Gussets, or gusset plates, are used on aircraft to join and reinforce intersecting structural members. Gussets are used to transfer stresses from one member to another at the point where the members join.

Wing Tips

The wing tip, the outboard end of the wing, has two purposes: To aerodynamically smooth out the wing tip air flow and to give the wing a finished look.

Wing Skins

Wing skins cover the internal parts and provide for a smooth air flow over the surface of the wing. On full cantilever wings, the skins carry stress. However, all wing skins are to be treated as primary structures whether they are on braced or full cantilever surfaces.

Fuselage Assemblies.

The largest of the aircraft structural components, there are two types of metal aircraft fuselages: Full monocoque and semimonocoque. The full monocoque fuselage has fewer internal parts and a more highly stressed skin than the semimonocoque fuselage, which uses internal bracing to obtain its strength.

The full monocoque fuselage is generally used on smaller aircraft, because the stressed skin eliminates the need for stringers, former rings, and other types of internal bracing, thus lightening the aircraft structure.

The semimonocoque fuselage derives its strength from the following internal parts: Bulkheads, longerons, keel beams, drag struts, body supports, former rings, and stringers.

Bulkheads

A bulkhead is a structural partition, usually located in the fuselage, which normally runs perpendicular to the keel beam or longerons. A few examples of bulkhead locations are where the wing spars connect into the fuselage, where the cabin pressurization domes are secured to the fuselage structure, and at cockpit passenger or cargo entry doors.

Longerons And Keel Beams

Longerons and keel beams perform the same function in an aircraft fuselage. They both carry the bulk of the load traveling fore and aft. The keel beam and longerons, the strongest sections of the airframe, tie its weight to other aircraft parts, such as powerplants, fuel cells, and the landing gears.

Drag Struts And Other Fittings

Drag struts and body support fittings are other primary structural members. Drag struts are used on large jet aircraft to tie the wing to the fuselage center section. Body support fittings are used to support the structures which make up bulkhead or floor truss sections.

Former rings and fuselage stringers are not primary structural members. Former rings are used to give shape to the fuselage. Fuselage stringers running fore and aft are used to tie in the bulkheads and

former rings.

Aircraft Empennage Section

The empennage is the tail section of an aircraft. It consists of a horizontal stabilizer, elevator, vertical stabilizer and rudder. The conventional empennage section contains the same kind of parts used in the construction of a wing. The internal parts of the stabilizers and their flight controls are made with spars, ribs, stringers and skins.

Also, tail sections, like wings, can be externally or internally braced.

Horizontal Stabilizer And Elevator

The horizontal stabilizer is connected to a primary control surface, i.e., the elevator. The elevator causes the nose of the aircraft to pitch up or down. Together, the horizontal stabilizer and elevator provide stability about the horizontal axis of the aircraft. On some aircraft the horizontal stabilizer is made movable by a screw jack assembly which allows the pilot to trim the aircraft during flight.

Vertical Stabilizer And Rudder

The vertical stabilizer is connected to the aft end of the fuselage and gives the aircraft stability about the vertical axis. Connected to the vertical stabilizer is the rudder, the purpose of which is to turn the aircraft about its vertical axis.

Ailerons

Elevators and rudders are primary flight controls in the tail section. Ailerons are primary flight controls connected to the wings. Located on the outboard portion of the wing, they allow the aircraft to turn about the longitudinal axis.

When the right aileron is moved upward, the left one goes down, thus causing the aircraft to roll to the right. Because this action creates a tremendous force, the ailerons must be constructed in such a way as to withstand it.

Flight controls other than the three primary ones are needed on high-performance aircraft. On the wings of a wide-body jet, for example, there are as many as thirteen flight controls, including high and low-speed ailerons, flaps, and spoilers.

Flaps And Spoilers

Wing flaps increase the lift for take-off and landing. Inboard and outboard flaps, on the trailing edge of the wing, travel from full up, which is neutral aerodynamic flow position, to full down, causing air to pile up and create lift. Leading edge flaps – Krueger flaps and variable-camber flaps – increase the wing chord size and thus allow the aircraft to take off or land on a shorter runway. Spoilers, located in the center section span-wise, serve two purposes. They assist the high-speed ailerons in turning the aircraft during flight, and they are used to kill the aerodynamic lift during landing by spreading open on touchdown.

Trim Tabs

Connected to the primary flight controls are devices called trim tabs. They are used to make fine adjustments to the flight path of an aircraft. Trim tabs are constructed like wings or ailerons, but are

considerably smaller.

Computer Aided Manufacturing Applications

Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) refers to an automation process, which accurately converts product design and drawing or the object into a code format, readable by the machine to manufacture the product. Computer aided manufacturing complements the computer aided design (CAD) systems to offer a wide range of applications in different manufacturing fields. CAM evolved from the technology utilized in the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that were used in the early 1950s. CNC involved the use of coded instructions on a punched paper tape and could control single manufacturing functions. CAM controlled computer systems, however, can control a whole set of manufacturing functions simultaneously.

CAM allows work instructions and procedures to be communicated directly to the manufacturing machines. A CAM system controls manufacturing operations performed by robotic milling machines, lathes, welding machines and other industrial tools. It moves the raw material to different machines within the system by allowing systematic completion of each step. Finished products can also be moved within the system to complete other manufacturing operations such as packaging, synthesizing and making final checks and changes.

Some of the major applications of the CAM system are glass working, woodturning, metalworking and spinning, and graphical optimization of the entire manufacturing procedure. Production of the solids of rotation, plane surfaces, and screw threads is done by applying CAM systems.
A CAM system allows the manufacturing of three-dimensional solids, using ornamental lathes with greater intricacy and detail. Products such as candlestick holders, table legs, bowls, baseball bats, crankshafts, and camshafts can be manufactured using the CAM system. CAM system can also be applied to the process of diamond turning to manufacture diamond tipped cutting materials. Aspheric optical elements made from glass, crystals, and other metals can also be produced using CAM systems.
Computer aided manufacturing can be applied to the fields of mechanical, electrical, industrial and aerospace engineering. Applications such as thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, solid mechanics, and kinematics can be controlled using CAM systems. Other applications such as electromagnetism, ergonomics, aerodynamics, and propulsion and material science may also use computer aided manufacturing.

Manage Stress In Business To Succeed

Business has its crests and troughs. Naturally, there is an element of stress in business. When you do not do well, stress can accumulate and bring you down even further. Therefore, a successful businessperson is one who is able to manage stress. You can never avoid stress. Managing stress is the key to becoming successful in business. I have shared some methods that can help reduce stress during the course of this article.

Relieving Stress

First, money is important, but not everything in life. You will have to learn to take the losses in stride. It is easy for anyone to preach. Nevertheless, one can reduce stress by having an open mind. This open mind allows us to absorb the losses as part of life. If you manage to do this, you have won half the battle against stress.

Ascertain the facts:

When you are suffering losses, something has gone wrong somewhere. It is advisable to ascertain the facts and analyze your mistakes with a cool head. This will enable you to plan well. When you realize your mistakes, you will not repeat them. Thus, you can find ways to beat the stress.

Identify the cause of the stress:

Stress can be of two types. When you start worrying about things you are afraid of or do not wish to happen, you accumulate ‘Bad Stress’. At the same, when you stress over real issues, you experience ‘Good Stress’. Distinguish between the two stresses and prioritize your fight against stress. This will make your life easier.

Take the advice of experts:

When you take the advice of others, you are simply sharing your burden. Your shoulders become light thereby enabling you to think fresh. At the same time, you get a third party perspective on things. A financial expert can suggest some beautiful ways to get away from financial stress. Taking the advice of such people is always beneficial to you in the end.

Pause and proceed:

This is one of the time-tested methods of relieving stress. Taking a pause or a deep breath can help you analyze things with a cool mind. You usually end up finding the solution to your problems almost immediately. Relaxing your mind and body is essential. If possible, take a break and go for a nice holiday to recharge your batteries.

Take care of your health:

There are many things in life more important than money. The sooner you realize and accept this fact, the better you will start to feel. Your health plays a great role in relieving stress. Taking care of your health is of paramount importance.

Importance of Supply Chain Management in Modern Businesses

Supply Chain Management (SCM) as defined by Tom McGuffog is “Maximising added value and reducing total cost across the entire trading process through focusing on speed and certainty of response to the market.” Due to globalization and ICT, SCM has become a tool for companies to compete effectively either at a local level or at a global scale. SCM has become a necessity especially for manufacturing industry when it comes to deliver products at a competitive cost and at a higher quality than their competitors. Here are some of the reason SCM has become important to today’s manufacturing industry:-

Competitive Edge through Core Competencies

Today’s business climate has rapidly changed and has become more competitive as ever in nature. Businesses now not only need to operate at a lower cost to compete, it must also develop its own core competencies to distinguish itself from competitors and stand out in the market. In creating the competitive edge, companies need to divert its resources to focus on what they do best and outsource the process and task that is not important to the overall objective of the company. SCM has allowed company to rethink their entire operation and restructure it so that they can focus on its core competencies and outsource processes that are not within the core competencies of the company. Due to the current competitive market, it is the only way for a company to survive. The strategy on applying SCM will not only impact their market positioning but also strategic decision on choosing the right partners, resources and manpower. By focusing on core competencies also will allow the company to create niches and specialization of core areas. As stated in the Blue Ocean Strategy outlined by Chan Kim, in order to create a niche for competitive advantage, companies must look at the big picture of the whole process, and figuring out which process can be reduce, eliminate, raise and create.

As an example stated by Chan Kim, the Japanese automotive industries capitalise on its resources to build small and efficient cars. The Japanese automotive industries gain competitive edge by utilising their supply chain to maximise their core competencies and position itself in a niche market. The strategy works and now Toyota Motor Corporation, a Japanese company, is considered to be the number one auto car maker in the world beating Ford and General Motors of the United States.

Value Advantage

SCM has allowed business nowadays to not just have productivity advantage alone but also on value advantage. As Martin Christopher in his book, Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Strategies for Reducing Cost and Improving Service’ states, ‘Productivity advantage gives a lower cost profile and the value advantage gives the product or offering a differential ‘plus’ over competitive offerings.’ Through maximizing added value and also reduce the cost in the same time, more innovation can be added to the product and process. Mass manufacturing offers productivity advantage but through effective supply chain management, mass customization can be achieved. With mass customization, customers are given the value advantage through flexible manufacturing and customized adaptation. Product life cycles also can be improved through effective use of SCM. Value advantage also changes the norm of traditional offerings that is ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Through SCM, the more accepted offerings by the industry to the consumers would be a variety of products catered to different market segments and customers preferences.

As an example, the Toyota Production System practiced in Toyota, evaluates its supply chain and determines what is value added activities and what is not value added activities. Non added value activities are considered to be ‘Muda’ or waste and therefore must be eliminated. Such non added value activities are overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transport, over processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, defects and unused employee creativity. The steps taken to eliminate waste are through Kaizen, Kanban, Just-in-time and also push-pull production to meet actual customer’s demands. The Toyota Production System revolutionise the Supply Chain Management towards becoming a leaner supply chain system that is more agile and flexible towards meeting the end users demands.

The Horse Rider and Managing Headaches

In my Physiotherapy practice I treat 100’s of patients a year for headaches. Many of these have recurring neck pain and stiffness as well as headaches. I teach riding and very many riders admit to suffering from headaches. Riders tend to get neck pain and headache after riding at the end of the day. Unless there is a medical cause then most headaches are what we call ‘cervicogenic’ (cervico means neck and genic means origin of) so cervicogenic means the headache starts from the neck and are caused by the neck joints and muscles. The upper two joints are the major cause of headaches because the nerves that supply the head, temples and eyes are related to the upper two neck joints.

Headaches that originate from the neck are due to the nerves being squeezed or pressured by the joints and or muscles of the upper neck. There are many other causes of headaches. This article is only talking about cervicogenic headache (start from the upper neck) not headaches of any other cause. It is important to be assessed by a Physiotherapist and or a Doctor to determine if your headaches are cervicogenic or other.

Poor neck posture and poor general posture will nearly always result in headache, given enough time. Repetitive behaviors and postures resulting in the neck being in a poor posture will result in headaches. These postures are the positions we use in our daily work and in our riding posture.

So what is the Relationship between the horse rider and headaches?

The ultimate poor neck posture comes from the round shoulder posture. A person with round shoulders on the ground will have round shoulders in the saddle. When the shoulders are forward and so called round then the neck will be in a forward poking chin posture. This posture puts the upper neck in an extended position and this squeezes the joints, nerves and muscles. Over a period of time the joints become stiff and painful the muscles shorten and the nerves become inflamed. The nerve then refers the pain into the head as a headache. The increased pressure riding in a round shoulder posture will increase the pressure and hence nerve pain. Horse riding is a major cause of headaches. All other activities associated with horses can put pressure on the neck as well.

Many teenager’s posture is unfortunately the norm. Their shoulders are slumped, their chin is poking forward and their upper neck is in a jammed closed position. Many do not use any of their postural muscles and are just hanging off their joints. Many people spend many hours in a similar posture. Driving, computer work house work, are just a few of the activities that reproduce this posture. As horse riders we then adapt the same posture in the saddle. Horse riders get told to sit up and put your shoulders back.

How do you fix it?

The easy quick answer is to straighten up, correct your posture and manage your mobility. The long answer is to educate yourself and mange it with knowledge. First of all, see a Physiotherapist and have a professional assessment. Learn how and why you adopt the postures you do and then become educated on how to fix yourself and manage your pain with posture management. Not many therapists will be able to relate your headaches to horse riding unless they know about the horse riding posture. Very few therapists can relate to the muscles used in horse riding or the amount of skill required to ride well. Remember to the non horse rider it looks so easy. You just sit there!

To manage headaches as a rider can be easy.

The control of headaches in horse riders is the same as for all people; however I put an increased emphasis on particular features of treatment, because I am a horse rider. If you have been assessed and your problems are not too severe, but are chronic in nature, that is, they keep returning, then these simple exercises will help. This must be regarded as basic advice only. To control headaches your upper neck joints must have mobility. Your muscles must have strength and endurance. You must have strong core stability as well. The deep core muscle strength will reinforce the correct upper neck posture. I start with the core muscles on every patient I treat for headaches. The success of management without this knowledge and strength is always limited. This is why chiropractic treatment (and or other) is very come back come back.

I give simple but effective stretching exercises and I educate patients about their posture. I advice all my horse riding pupils to follow the Applied Posture Riding program.

Simple Stretches to gain neck mobility

Stretch 1

Stand tall, clasp your hands behind your back and tilt your head so your ear moves towards your shoulder. This stretch can hurt so take care.

Stretch 2

Stand tall, close your eyes and turn your head so your chin moves towards your shoulder.

Stretch 3

Push your chin with the opposite hand to force the stretch more. Feel the stretch and or some pain in your neck. Don’t increase the headache pain with this stretch. Obviously do both sides and if it makes you worse see a Physiotherapist. Hold for 10-20 seconds ease off and repeat. Do these stretches little and often and do them when you are well, don’t wait for stiffness and headache to return. Manage good mobility and keep pain away.

How to Evaluate Your Finance Department

Nobody knows your business better than you do. After all, you are the CEO. You know what the engineers do; you know what the production managers do; and nobody understands the sales process better than you. You know who is carrying their weight and who isn’t. That is, unless we’re talking about the finance and accounting managers.

Most CEO’s, especially in small and mid-size enterprises, come from operational or sales backgrounds. They have often gained some knowledge of finance and accounting through their careers, but only to the extent necessary. But as the CEO, they must make judgments about the performance and competence of the accountants as well as the operations and sales managers.

So, how does the diligent CEO evaluate the finance and accounting functions in his company? All too often, the CEO assigns a qualitative value based on the quantitative message. In other words, if the Controller delivers a positive, upbeat financial report, the CEO will have positive feelings toward the Controller. And if the Controller delivers a bleak message, the CEO will have a negative reaction to the person. Unfortunately, “shooting the messenger” is not at all uncommon.

The dangers inherent in this approach should be obvious. The Controller (or CFO, bookkeeper, whoever) may realize that in order to protect their career, they need to make the numbers look better than they really are, or they need to draw attention away from negative matters and focus on positive matters. This raises the probability that important issues won’t get the attention they deserve. It also raises the probability that good people will be lost for the wrong reasons.

The CEO’s of large public companies have a big advantage when it comes to evaluating the performance of the finance department. They have the audit committee of the board of directors, the auditors, the SEC, Wall Street analyst and public shareholders giving them feedback. In smaller businesses, however, CEO’s need to develop their own methods and processes for evaluating the performance of their financial managers.

Here are a few suggestions for the small business CEO:

Timely and Accurate Financial Reports

Chances are that at some point in your career, you have been advised that you should insist on “timely and accurate” financial reports from your accounting group. Unfortunately, you are probably a very good judge of what is timely, but you may not be nearly as good a judge of what is accurate. Certainly, you don’t have the time to test the recording of transactions and to verify the accuracy of reports, but there are some things that you can and should do.

  • Insist that financial reports include comparisons over a number of periods. This will allow you to judge the consistency of recording and reporting transactions.
  • Make sure that all anomalies are explained.
  • Recurring expenses such as rents and utilities should be reported in the appropriate period. An explanation that – “there are two rents in April because we paid May early” – is unacceptable. The May rent should be reported as a May expense.
  • Occasionally, ask to be reminded about the company’s policies for recording revenues, capitalizing costs, etc.

Beyond Monthly Financial Reports

You should expect to get information from your accounting and finance groups on a daily basis, not just when monthly financial reports are due. Some good examples are:

  • Daily cash balance reports.
  • Accounts receivable collection updates.
  • Cash flow forecasts (cash requirements)
  • Significant or unusual transactions.

Consistent Work Habits

We’ve all known people who took it easy for weeks, then pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline. Such inconsistent work habits are strong indicators that the individual is not attentive to processes. It also sharply raises the probability of errors in the frantic last-minute activities.

Willingness to Be Controversial

As the CEO, you need to make it very clear to the finance/accounting managers that you expect frank and honest information and that they will not be victims of “shoot the messenger” thinking. Once that assurance is given, your financial managers should be an integral part of your company’s management team. They should not be reluctant to express their opinions and concerns to you or to other department leaders.

Market Research – Why Screening For Talkative Respondents Doesn’t Work

We recently published a special report titled 25 Common Field Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting Your Qualitative Market Research. In point #12, we suggest that researchers scrap open-ended screening questions that are intended to identify respondents who are outgoing and able to express themselves.

Here is the complete text of point #12:

“If your screener contains open-ended questions that are intended to elicit expressive types of people, drop those questions. Questions like that don’t work, and they needlessly lengthen your screening process. Yes, you do want to exclude respondents who cannot or will not express themselves, but you don’t need an extra question to identify these people. Well-trained recruiters will eliminate them within the first few minutes of screening. If you want further reassurance that your respondents will be outgoing and talkative, over-recruit and include a pre-discussion telephone interview. This would be conducted by the moderator who would then select appropriate respondents.”

Our suggestions elicited a lot of feedback. Some readers agreed with us, others didn’t. One of the most interesting comments we received came from a qualitative fieldwork manager at a major full-service research firm. It went like this: “I disagree with one item in your list about excluding open end questions from screeners. Good recruiters may be able to easily identify articulate respondents, but tired or distracted recruiters may occasionally go on autopilot…I think a little qualitative in a screener is worth the time.”

Do you agree with this reader’s comment? Should you?

What is an articulation question?

Articulation questions measure a respondent’s ability to communicate. Articulation questions also judge respondents’ expected communicativeness in a focus group or interview.

Some synonyms for “communicative” include: outgoing, open, forthcoming, talkative, unrestrained, chatty. So who decides what is communicative? The recruiter? The recruiting supervisor? The client who reads the verbatims on their daily reports? And how much communicativeness is enough? How much is too much?

Even the most experienced recruiters can’t determine how outgoing, open, forthcoming, talkative, unrestrained or chatty a respondent will be at a future point. That’s a judgment call recruiters are not qualified to make. But they can be counted on to spot respondents who have…

  • language barriers
  • casual attitudes toward the recruiter, the recruiter’s questions or the research
  • reservations about their ability to attend the research
  • any problems communicating during the screening process

What you must watch for…

Respondents get tired or go on autopilot when screening interviews last too long (10 minutes or longer).

Articulation questions don’t belong at the end of your screener. For some reason, articulation screening is almost always performed at the end of the screening interview. But why is a question that is supposedly so important put at the end of the screener, when the chances for respondents to be tired or distracted are the highest? What are recruiters learning about respondents at this point in the process that they don’t already know?

Articulation questions don’t belong at the front of your screener, either. Well-trained recruiters immediately engage respondents in conversation regarding the details of the research. It is during this prelude to the screening questions that recruiters deal with respondents’ questions and concerns and make an assessment about a respondent’s ability to communicate.

Articulation questions aren’t magic bullets that ensure good focus group participants. These questions simply ask recruiters to use their own biased judgment to decide if a respondent can communicate clearly.

Articulation questions lengthen your screener. Remember this. The longer your screener, the higher your costs.

Respondents become anxious when asked questions out of left field that are unrelated to the screening questions. Being asked, “What is a gazinkle?” or “How many different things can you do with a paperclip?” or “If you were a tree…?” might stump even the most articulate respondent. Off-the-wall questioning from recruiters confuses and frustrates respondents. This line of questioning is the moderator’s territory.

Of course, group dynamics and respondent personalities affect how open and responsive respondents will be. For example, a person may be forthcoming over the phone with the recruiter, but feel intimidated if an aggressive personality dominates the group. Or, a respondent may not be as comfortable with the research topic as they thought they’d be and feel out of place – especially if the subject matter offered during recruiting was vague. How can recruiters know how respondents will act in a variety of conditions? Handling reserved respondents is the moderator’s area of expertise.

In fact, moderators are best qualified to know what can and should be expected of respondents in terms of communicativeness and articulation. So it makes sense that, as we suggest in point #12 of our special report, moderators should pre-interview respondents and select the right personalities for the research.

So what about articulation questions being useful for snapping distracted or unconscious recruiters out of their daze (as our reader suggested)? Assuming that a tired, distracted recruiter missed all of the red flags during screening, will the articulation question suddenly remind the recruiter that the respondent isn’t chatty? What should you do about recruiters on “autopilot?” Simple.

The researcher’s job is not to craft questions that keep recruiters alert and focused. Tired or distracted recruiters are not an asset to your research. They don’t help you get great respondents. And neither do articulation questions. Don’t use either of them.