The Miracle of Splenda – It’s a Gas!

Has anyone else tried that sugar substitute called “Splenda?”

My wife, Roxanne, read about it, and with me being on a diet for the past few weeks, she decided to buy some for me. I’ve had it twice now, once a couple teaspoons on a bowl of Grapenuts, and another time as the sweetener in some so-called dietetic ice cream.

Let me tell you something, folks, calling the results of eating Splenda “having gas” is like calling the Space Shuttle an airplane. (Well, it would be like calling it an airplane if the damn thing could fly.) It’s like calling a stick of dynamite a “partypopper.” (No, wait. In the crowd I party with, dynamite is the partypopper of choice.) OK, fitting comparison escapes me. Let’s get down to the issues.

Although I suspected Splenda the first time it happened, I didn’t have enough empirical data then to blame the artificial sweetener. The second time, however, removed all doubts, as well as most of the wallpaper. I sat on the couch and blew holes in the cushions. I cleaned all the dustbunnies out from under the sofas and beds, in my own house as well as the one next door, and I blasted the doors right off their hinges in the living room.

My home lifted off its foundation, like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. I could have stuck a fan out the back door and a trumpet up my butt and flown my house to Dallas, playing a rendition of The Lonely Bull that would have made Herb Alpert eat his own heart.

Smoke alarms were going off six houses down, windows rattled the next county over, and strange lights can still be seen in the sky over most of North Arkansas. Roxanne went around turning off all the pilot lights and electrical appliances in the house, for safety reasons. Some guy downtown lit a cigar and his head exploded, burning down the hardware store, the flower shop, and the newspaper office (which is probably why you haven’t read about this before now.)

My bottle of Beano melted in the medicine cabinet like the nuclear core at Chernobyl. Average global temperatures warmed four degrees, the polar ice cap broke into several pieces and floated south, and ocean levels rose three inches. Under some mountain in Montana, lights flashed, alarms sounded, and the nation went to Defcon Three. When paratroopers landed to cordon off and quarantine our little town, the lame excuse they used was “anthrax.” We know better, don’t we?

Sugar, my dog, is no longer my best friend — I no longer have a best friend, or any friends at all, for that matter. I’ll have to have the roof re-shingled, and most of the siding replaced. Everything in the garden is dead, dead, dead.

Now, I’ve eaten beans and I’ve eaten cabbage and I’ve even chased it all down with sour beer, but I’ve never been turned into an actual human wind tunnel like happened with Splenda. So being the curious sort, now I’d like to know: Is it just me and my particular metabolism?

For experimental purposes, I think you all should try it. Eat some Splenda, then we can take a survey. (For that matter, I think you all should try it anyway, survey or not, just so you can brag about the survival experience. I’ll make T-shirts to sell, and later, much later, we will all have a big laugh.)

Meanwhile, looks like I gotta go. There’s some guys at the door flashing Homeland Security credentials.

A sidebar on the Splenda story:

My daughter, Trista, called a few days after our granddaughter, Jaden, had returned to her home from visiting with us for about a month. She told me that she had been giving the 3-year-old a bath when the little scamp pooted in the tub, blowing bubbles in the bathwater.

She looked up at her mom with a rascally smile and a twinkle in her eye, and stated matter-of-factly, “Doggy did that.”

Plumbing – Drain Cleaning Tips

When a clog occurs, it causes big problems with the functioning of the plumbing. There are a variety of steps to try for blockages, some natural, some chemical and some that require special tools. Nearly every homeowner will experience backed up plumbing sooner or later; so it’s wise to learn some handyman or handywoman tricks in order to deal with this household problem. Here are some tips:

- Prevention: A bit of prevention will keep many clogging and backed up problems from happening in the first place. Instruct the children of the household to use only a few squares of toilet paper. The young and freshly toilet trained may just love to unroll the whole paper-roll and toss it into the toilet. This is a huge culprit in backed up bathrooms.

If the plumbing is known to be sensitive, instruct the females not to flush sanitary hygiene products either, but to wrap and discard them in the trash. If bathing the dog in the family shower or tub, brush or comb Rover first in order to get rid of hairballs worth of potentially clogging fur before bath-time occurs.

- Sluggish: If there is a problem with sluggish drainage, help the flow by pouring hot water down it every few days. This will help to dissolve some of the built up debris which is slowing the flowing. A natural remedy of vinegar and baking soda added to the drainage opening will help, as well. Not only will it break down debris, but will improve odors.

- Chemical Option: The hardware store or home repair warehouse will have an array of products designed to loosen debris in plugged pipes. These chemicals will also work to dissolve solid items such as food or hair in order to encourage them to whoosh off down into the sewage system. Be sure to read and follow all directions carefully, however, as some chemicals are hazardous to human health as well as damaging to certain types of plastic pipes.

- Special Tools: A plunger is a handy tool for unclogging blockages. Every utility cabinet should contain this useful device which is actually a rubber suction cup on the end of a wooden dowel. Placing the suction cup over the opening and applying forceful plunges will likely dispel blocked items out of the pipe’s pathway and into the sewer system. Another more aggressive unclogging tool is a plumber’s snake. A plumber’s snake consists of a metal coiled wire attached to a hand crank. With a bit of cranking the coiled snake borrows into the drain and hopefully clears it.

- Call a plumber: Sometimes the problem is a bit too complex for the average homeowner and a licensed and certified professional must be called in. Some problems simply require more advanced skills and a full set of plumbing equipment. If this is the case, it will be worth it to have the pipes cleared professionally and the household flowing smoothly again.

If a homeowner has a stopped up toilet or sink, it would be wise to try a few DIY tactics. If this doesn’t fix the plugged plumbing, call the pros. A plumbing professional is an expert at drain cleaning.

Winter Plumbing Tips – How To Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

One of the most common plumbing problems in cold weather is freezing pipes. Pipes freeze in a high percentage of homes in areas where the temperature dips below freezing. Because this causes serious damage to pipes and home plumbing systems, it’s something that you’ve got to be proactive about dealing with.

What happens is that when the temperature gets below freezing, stagnant water that’s just sitting in the pipes freezes. When it becomes ice, it expands, putting thousands of pounds of pressure on the pipes. This cracks the metal can causes everything to go out of whack. When the ice thaws, you’ve got cracked pipes and the water can’t get where it needs to go. When you turn on the faucet, nothing comes out at all. This means that things have already gotten bad.

What You Can Do About It

First of all, make sure that you’ve got insulation on all of your piping. If you have pipes that are exposed to the outside temperatures, take special care to make sure that they are fully insulated. You can buy foam insulation from any hardware store and install it yourself. It’s an easy job that can be done in just a few hours with simple tools.

For plumbing that is located in kitchen cabinets or other places that might get colder than the rest of the house, open them up so that some warmth gets in there. Especially watch pipes that are located in attics and basements where there will be cold temperatures. Open up these areas to keep them warm when the weather gets its coldest.

Since standing water is the cause of freezing pipes, you should also run some water through the plumbing system occasionally. Turn on the taps to let a little bit of water trickle out when it gets especially cold outside. If you keep the water moving through all of your faucets, it will keep the pipes from icing.

Also make sure that you don’t have any clogged drains. This is another opportunity for water to stagnate and turn into ice. Keep all of your pipes clear and avoid putting anything in them that is hard to dissolve like fat, grease and oil.

If you’re going to go away for a vacation, make sure you’ve got everything well insulated. Drain all of your pipes so that there is no water left to freeze.

What To Do When Your Pipes Have Frozen

Once your pipes are frozen, all is not lost. You can warm up the plumbing and get the water flowing again in most cases. Try running lukewarm water through the pipes or heating them up with a hair dryer. A little bit of heating will do; just enough to get it melting. If you get the water too hot, this will cause further problems in the pipes.

If the pipes are already cracked, there is nothing left to do but call the plumbing experts and have them reinstall piping. This is an expensive and involved job, so make sure that you prevent freezing first. Keeping an eye on your piping and making sure it doesn’t freeze is a good way to save money.

Operations Improvement Process

Power Unlimited Inc. The Next level

Power Unlimited Inc. (PUI) supplies power stability solutions to manufacturing, commercial, and business sectors. To date, PUI operates as a custom manufacturer and serves the needs of local businesses. Recently, PUI has realized the opportunity to expand operations by diversification of processes. In order to make this transition; PUI will develop from a job shop to a full-scale manufacturing facility. In addition, PUI will continue marketing custom solutions for its clients.

PUI, located near Houston, Texas, operates as a distributor, wholesaler, retailer, and service provider for power protection systems around the world. The current product line includes UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), surge and transient protection, power conditioners, battery chargers and monitors, and power monitors. In addition, power surveys are available to determine power disturbances, harmonics, power factors, power consumption, and thermal imaging. Likewise, custom battery cabinets and maintenance bypass switches are available (Think Energy p. 1).

PUI faces the challenge of moving from its current one-man operation to a full-scale manufacturing facility. Power Unlimited, Inc. faces constraints in finance, logistics, operations, human resources, and customer satisfaction. To direct PUI growth plans, the team used the balanced score approach to designs an operational structure. This real time solution will aid this company in this transition phase. PUI currently operates on a to-order basis. This well-defined process is attached as a flow diagram (attachment 1).

Currently, a customer places an order with PUI for their specific product. Following this order request, PUI places orders for all required components. Once all of the parts are received, the assembly process begins by workers laying such mounting points and panel openings required for the specific component to manufacture. This requires the use of templates, which are on file and match the requirements of the collection of components. Part of the process includes cutting and installing all required wiring and interconnections. Likewise, testing before shipping ensures the component performs as designed.

If the customer completes his or her own installation, the process is complete, initiating the billing process for the product. If PUI completes the installation, travel arrangements are confirmed to ensure support staff availability on the sight when the components arrive to complete the installation process. On completion of installation of the system to the satisfaction of the customer, and in compliance with local wiring codes, support staff returns to the company to prepare for the next order causing bill generation for the completed project.

As PUI adds stock items to the mix, new procedures implementation is required. Based on initial forecasts provided from a partner company located in Canada, PUI will set minimum stock maintenance levels in a limited warehousing operation. Such minimum stocking will ensure that finished goods are shipped as orders are received, causing the tracking or monitoring system to be created to ensure stock is available to fill the order. This system will also prevent excess inventory from being created.

Using the new process, when an order is received from a customer, personnel must decide whether the order is for a custom or stock item. If it is for a custom item, the traditional flow will be maintained; however, if a stock order is received an initial check will be conducted to verify the item is currently in stock. If the item requested is not currently in stock an order is placed with the factory floor to complete processing of sufficient product to replenish stock. In the case of an out of stock item, the generated order matches the established minimum level, and causes delay of the order for 72 hours. However, the established minimum level lies within the ability of the manufacturing facility to produce within 48 hours. After 48 hours, the order is reviewed to ensure available stock. Once the item shows in stock, a review to verify sufficient material is available to fill the current order is completed. Again, if the quantity is not sufficient, an order to build to the minimum is created causing another 48-hour delay in filling the order. Each order is handled in a first-in first-out fashion for all stock purchases.

Once sufficient quantity is in place to fill the order, the stock is pulled in full to complete the order. If pulling this order creates a below minimum condition to occur, a new minimum order is created. Filling and shipping the order according to established processes completes the order. As each order is pulled from stock, the next order enters the fulfillment process. The Supply Chain Manager will control the minimum levels of inventory. In addition, the SCM adjusts the minimum level to prevent out of stock conditions from occurring. With this process in place, the quantity of stock on hand should not be excessive, while allowing customers orders to ship in a timely fashion.

By tracking the order fulfillment process, with emphasis placed upon on-time order shipping, the success of stocking items is measured. Due to the nature of the product, a reasonable level of stock must be maintained. However, once this product is created it must not remain in stock indefinitely. Therefore, the need to adjust the minimum level is required. The decision to change an established level requires sound business decisions to be implemented, based on current and projected demand. Without proper review, this system can become unmanageable. With careful monitoring, all parties will be satisfied. The customer receives their standard order without delay. The company minimizes inventory holdings. Cash flow is maximized. Increased demand for products from satisfied customers and the acquisition of new clients drives future growth opportunities.

Along with maintaining an available inventory for shipping customers orders, it is important to develop a forecasting tool that can be used to aid in ordering raw materials in anticipation of building finished goods for shipment. As UPI enters an unknown market, completed probability studies indicate an existing market for the company’s product line exists. According to Chase, the author of Operations Management for competitive advantage, several effective forecasting techniques could apply like: Time Series Analysis, Historical Analogy, and the Delphi Method (Chase pp.467-490). Trials indicated that the moving average method determined the closest tracking results. Developing a modified formula achieves a weighted moving average. PUI’s first quarter operational simulation data helped in the design of the formula used to predict future demand. If the simulation and probability study are reliable and accurate, PUI will outgrow its current capacity by the end of 12 months in operation.

With this model in place, it is possible to develop a functional raw material inventory. The first requirement involves determining lead times for each critical component. In this case, all pre-fabricated mechanical devices and power supplies fall into this category. Other items such as nuts, bolts, wire, paint, and other related hardware are bulk materials and managed using a min-max system, similar to the Finished Goods inventory (FGI) system. Bulk items are those items consumed in the process of making the finished goods and not cost effective when ordered in small quantities. Purchasing these items by case or pallet quantities improves cost effectiveness. The level reaches a predetermined point causing order generation for a new case or pallet.

All critical items require tracking as they are used. When these items are pulled from inventory, they will be tabulated immediately. Following this process, the material pulled generates orders for replacement. Occasionally, a new min-max level may be established. This action will also trigger an immediate order to increase on-hand supply to the new level. Implementing these procedures for all critical and bulk materials ensures sufficient quantity on-hand to support manufacturing operations without process disruption.

With basic supply plans implemented, it is essential to address the heart of the operation. This includes implementing the balanced scorecard approach, which encompasses financial, business processes, learning and growth perspective, and customer service perspective. The balanced scorecard is a continuous step in improving SCM to meet the needs of the company, shareholders and customers (Chase, (2003), p. 467?). Furthermore, the balanced scorecard is a management system not a just a measurement system that enables companies to clarify their vision and strategy but translates them into action.

The system provides continuous responses around the internal business processes along with external vendors, suppliers, and customers in order to promote and improve strategic performance with results (The Balanced Scorecard Institute, p. 1).

Currently, financial issues continue to be a primary hurdle for the future growth of the company. After covering all expenses related to the manufacture of each custom job, the limited profits are reserved for supporting current R&D projects. Due to non-disclosure agreements, these projects cannot be discussed in this paper. This process has created a limited cash flow situation for PUI, causing the decision to explore seeking outside investors. However, the owner is aggressively pursuing additional capital by interested and qualified investors.

Since accounting maintains records via the “shoe box method” by stuffing financial and accounting data and records into a filing cabinet, a workable database should be developed employing Microsoft Access. Currently, the company’s finance perspective is unbalanced in relation to the other parts of the balanced scorecard. Consequently, management should endeavor to centralized and automate accounting and record keeping thereby leading the company into a more productive and balanced information situation.

In regards to the business perspective, this is in reference to the internal processes of the company. In the scorecard approach, established metrics allows managers to track the overall health of the company. For instance, the metrics tracks the products and services performance, to how well they conform to customer expectations requirements in relation to the company’s mission. Consequently, these metrics need to be carefully designed by individuals who know the company’s processes intimately, like the owner of the company (p. 1).

For instance, PUI has already acquired all required manufacturing equipment and has existing facilities in place. The equipment consists of test and monitor equipment, machine shop tools, required hand and power tools, and moving assistance equipment. The current space is sufficient for up to eight manufacturing work areas. In turn, the projected capacity will allow for the manufacturing capacity of up to twenty-five units per day. On average, each team member produces 3.25 units each day with minimal overtime expected. This allows for payroll control what the company continues to grow over the next year.

However, no documentation exists for these processes meaning that flowcharts and metrics do not exist. Normally when an order received, the customer customizes the order to meet its specifications; however, since PUI does not have existing metrics in place, it takes the company about four months of trial and error to complete the project. If PUI has multiple components of the same specification, the company can complete the following components in three-week increments. The metrics should include the Just-In-Time (JIT) concept. Having only one large supplier for a short period of time could increase profits although this can be risky for the company (Conrad, A. (1999), p.1). Therefore, management hopes to implement establish metrics that the company can follow.

Furthermore, the next issue to address under business processes is logistics. Currently, PUI uses FedEx and its subsidiaries exclusively. Although this is a long-term relationship, it is important to evaluate other options for transportation of finished goods, particularly as the business continues to grow. With the addition of standardized stock items to the company’s offerings, there may be benefits to developing a mixture of resources for shipping, including FedEx, UPS, and other long-haul carriers. Likewise, with the continuation of custom projects, it is important to maintain solid relationships with current carriers.

In the learning and growth perspective, this area of the scorecard concerned with employee training and corporate cultural attitudes as it relates to both the employees as individuals and the company self-improvement. In a knowledge-worker company, people are the company’s main resource (p.1). Consequently, PUI needs to address Human Resource (HR) management issues. As the company continues to grow, clearly defined roles and additional headcount is inevitable and training is essential to the success of the company. For instance, HR’s must find the right people to work within the culture and educational requirement of the company. With metrics in place, managers are responsible for ongoing training to improve further the organizational processes.

For example, in the current process two individuals handle all activities. One is primarily responsible for all administrative functions, while the other handles all manufacturing, installation and field support for the current customer base. With significant growth projected, manufacturing, operations, field support, engineering and R&D management roles will result.

Consequently, the company needs to identify an operations manager (OM) to complement the engineering manager currently operating the entire business. The operations manager responsibilities include all aspects of production and supply chain management. In addition, the OM will assist in expanding the current customer base and adding new clients as well. The operations manager will take over the day-to-day activities of the business, allowing the engineering manager to focus on product development and field support activities.

In addition, the current individual who is managing the administrative activities needs to develop an accounting division. The issues of accounts receivable and payable will be delegated to new staff members, allowing the current individual to focus more efforts on customer relations, further increasing the potential customer base for the company.

The creation of a separate customer service support group is also needed. In addition, the company needs to hire sales staff to aid in the marketing of the company’s products including several proprietary offerings currently available. These individuals will be responsible for marketing activities, which in turn, leads to additional growth for the business. In any case, learning and growth constitute the essential foundation for success in any organization fostering a knowledgeable worker company. Therefore, it is essential for PUI to implement this philosophy from start.

The last component of the balanced scorecard system is the customer’s perspective. Recently, a trend in management philosophy reports an increasing realization of the importance of customer focus and customer satisfaction for any business wanting to stay in business. Leading indicators shows when a customer is not satisfied, he or she will find another supplier that will meet his or hers needs. From this perspective, poor performance is a leading indicator of future decline for a business, even if its current financial picture is outstanding.

In response, PUI delivers a quality product above standard norms; however, it is imperative that PUI continues to listens to the needs of the customer. In addition, metrics must be in place to insure compliance with all aspects of the balanced scorecard. Furthermore, along with delivering a quality product, PUI needs to ensure cycle times are within acceptable standards for both the company and its customers. With these components in place, combined with proper positioning and strategic partnerships, the success of Power Unlimited Inc. is highly likely. This placement, along with the release of new products and additional long-term contracts helps to ensure the long-term success of the company.

In closing, as a company experiences growing pain, the decisions that management makes directly impacts the company’s position in the world market. Consequently, resolving these issues are essential to the success of the company. Specifically, when a company reaches its maximum capacity within its existing structure management needs to decide to maintain the status quo or grow to the next level.

By maintaining the status quo, the company will ultimately result in failure. By changing with the demands placed on it, the business will likely see continued growth into the future. Nevertheless, Power Unlimited Inc. is in flux. With the right people in place practicing the balanced scorecard system, and a strong integrated SCM communicating continuously with vendors, customers, and the organization will provide the foundation for PUI’s success. Finally, PUI is such a company to implement and build this strategy for success.

How to Give Your Apartment a Personal Touch

Just because you live in an apartment, often found through Irving apartment locators, doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. Of course, there is probably a list of things the landlord or property manager does not want you to modify for change, but you should still have plenty of options to turn your ho-hum apartment into an apartment that has your personal design touches and stamp of approval!

1. Paint – Before painting you will want to ask your landlord if you are able to change the wall colors. Some landlords allow their renters to paint the walls of their homes the color of their choice, while other landlords allow renters to paint their walls as long as they paint them again, according to the landlord’s color choice, before leaving. If you plan on staying in the apartment your chose from Irving apartment locators for at least a year, and your landlord allows you to change the wall colors, then go ahead and roll up your sleeves and get to work! There is no reason to live with stark, white walls when you can instantly warm up any room with a gallon of paint and a little elbow grease. What’s more, paint is an inexpensive way to update and freshen up any room of your home, thereby making it a practical choice if you’re on a budget.

2. Throw rugs – If the floors of your apartment home are outdated or simply not your style, or if you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to warm up any space, then consider the advantages of simple throw rugs. Throw rugs allow you to pull the look of your room together and are an easy way to create small conversation areas or to cordon off sections of your apartment. Many apartments found using Irving apartment locators have large, open living areas, and throw rugs are ideal for creating smaller spaces within those larger spaces, thereby achieving a comfortable, warm and inviting look for your apartment space.

3. Art work – The walls of your apartment home are like a blank canvas and are awaiting your personal touches! The easiest way to instantly add your personal stamp is through art work. Art work doesn’t have to be expensive or stuffy. In fact, you can frame your favorite photographs, pictures from last year’s calendar and even magazine covers! The only limit you have when arranging and hanging artwork on your apartment walls is your imagination! Make sure to check with your landlord regarding making holes in your walls, as some landlords will require you to patch and repair any nail holes before leaving the apartment.

4. Kitchen cabinets – Although you won’t likely be able to change your kitchen cabinets (and you wouldn’t want to take on this expense, anyway) of the apartment chosen from Irving apartment locators, you can give them an instant facelift by simply changing the hardware. Just by changing out the older knobs with something more updated or interesting, you can change the entire look of your apartment kitchen. Plus, you can easily remove your kitchen knobs and take them with you upon leaving.

After finding your dream apartment using one of the many Dallas apartment locators, it is wonderful to find ways in which to make the apartment your own.