Before the baby boom and during the war, couples had, on average, 2.5 children. During the boom, the average was about 3.5 children, and families with seven or eight children were not uncommon. That resulted in 76 million babies being born in less than two decades.
"Babies were our business, and the country reinvented themselves to accommodate," says Bruce Clark, co-founder of Age Wave. "Babies were selling everything. The way we built our communities ... moving out of downtown to suburbs, even the way we laid out our communities."
Just as the boomers transformed the way this nation looked at child-raising and community planning, now they will change the way we look at aging.
"Every eight seconds, a boomer gets a surprising invite to the AARP," says Clark. "The center of gravity is shifting as the boomers get older."
Thirty percent of Americans -- 80 million of us -- are between the ages of 39 and 57. Clark refers to this group as the 80-million-pound elephant because, as has been demonstrated before, "Whatever this group wants or needs will be served."
And this generation, which challenged businesses to accommodate its needs when it was younger, is going to demand even more as its members age.
"The boomers are about to get sick," says Clark. "So far, with most boomers being under 50, insurance companies have gotten a free ride. It was a safe population to insure. But post-50 is where you run into chronic disease, and this population starts heading to doctors and hospitals."
Soon this population will hit a critical mass. The question is, how will the health care industry change and adapt itself to these needs? Insurance companies are going to have to be proactive in understanding the specific issues surrounding the aging of boomers.
"What are the defining characteristics of this group?" asks Clark. "They demand convenience and excellent service. Companies will have to listen to what they are saying."
Regardless of whether you are part of the baby boomer generation, this issue will affect us all, especially employers.
"Employers have to take this one on," says Clark. "This needs to become a national priority." How to reach: Impact Presentation Group, firstname.lastname@example.org; Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, www.anthem.com
In 2000, 35 percent of international travel by U.S. residents was work-related. Each year, 7 million to 8 million Americans travel to countries where malaria is present; in 1998, 636 travelers returned infected with the disease.
"Companies need to be aware that when employees travel, they need to make them safe," says Joyce Almasy, R.N., of Passport Health, a national travel health company that consults with traveling employees. "OSHA has recently gotten into the picture and issued a tech bulletin regarding the safety and health of employees and international travel."
Almasy says there is no one way to stay safe and healthy while out of the country. Different destinations require different precautions and medications, but with a little education, travelers can familiarize themselves with what infectious diseases they may be exposed to.
There are specific threats for employees traveling to underdeveloped and tropical countries.
"The three to watch out for are Hepatitis A, which is transmitted through food and water; typhoid, also transmitted through food and water; and malaria ... transferred by mosquitoes," says Almasy. "We do encourage a personal first aid kit with what you use when you get ill -- decongestants, topical antibiotics, antacids. Whatever you use at home," take with you, she says, because buying medication in another country can be problematic. "It could have a different name, or be hard to come by."
Know your blood type, and if you're traveling to underdeveloped countries, to bring a wound kit with, among other things, a sterile syringe.
"I've heard stories of people getting sick in these countries, and they are sent out to buy a syringe from a street vendor," says Almasy.
Depending on the length of the trip, some businesses provide employees with supplemental travel insurance that covers hospitalization and medical transportation.
"Many people don't know this, but Medicare doesn't cover anything overseas," she says.
The optimal situation, however, is not to get sick in the first place, and Almasy has some suggestions for staying healthy.
* "No. 1, wash your hands in soap and water often," she says.
* "Only drink bottled water ... and beware of ice cubes."
Also beware of water bottles without a seal, and use bottled water when brushing your teeth and washing your hands before changing your contact lenses.
* "If you can't boil, cook or peel it, don't eat or drink it," says Almasy.
Lettuce is a good example of a food that is prone to harbor disease because it can be grown in contaminated soil. Avoid anything unpasteurized, undercooked or from a street vendor.
* Don't go barefoot, and get a tetanus shot. Don't swim in fresh water, unchlorinated lakes, pools or rivers.
* Make sure all prescriptions, including those for the trip like anti-malaria drugs, are with you at all times. In some cases, it's wise to have an antibiotic prescribed before the trip, but don't take it unless needed.
Employers and employees should take Centers for Disease Control warnings to heart and follow medical instruction.
"We are spoiled, when you think of how many diseases we have eradicated," Almasy says. How to reach: Passport Health, (216) 591-9380 or www.passporthealthusa.com
Most dangerous places
There are some places best avoided by American travelers right now. The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings for the following countries.
* Liberia -- Rebels are engaged in clashes with government troops in a number of areas throughout the country. The president of Liberia has called for the resignation of his cabinet, which may lead to further instability.
* Yemen -- The security threat to all American citizens in Yemen remains high due to credible reports that terrorists have planned attacks against U.S. interests in Yemen.
* Kenya -- Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings or kidnappings. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites.
* Saudi Arabia -- This travel warning is being updated to inform U.S. citizens that the Department of State has ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia.
* Iran -- Tensions generated by the situation in Iraq have increased the potential threat to U.S. citizens and interests abroad posed by those who oppose U.S. policy. Some elements of the Iranian government and population remain hostile to the United States.
But invention is the mother of necessity, and the health care market has become extremely competitive and plagued with declining insurance and Medicare reimbursements. More and more hospitals and private practices are integrating software with traditional patient files and billing procedures.
In response to this need, RIS Logic and its president and CEO Dan Quigg developed Microsoft-based radiology information system software, in which all of a practice's data is stored to reduce paperwork and increase report turnaround.
"It takes you from scheduling to billing and collection -- the whole patient experience," says Quigg.
The demand for radiology information systems is on the rise. According to recent research, 31 percent of Diagnostic Imaging Centers and 40 percent of hospitals of 200 beds or fewer will evaluate the systems in the next two years.
"There is a growing trend of radiology group practices versus the standalone single sites ... and we developed our product with special features, i.e. practice analysis, to meet the unique needs of the group practice," says Quigg. "Our niche is outpatient imaging centers ... We have historically targeted a more entrepreneurial sector."
Only two other information health care companies, GE and Seimens, compete in the the radiology group practice niche.
"Our stuff is not cheap ... and this is the first system developed for an outpatient (facility), not a hospital. Some recognize the value for the price and are they willing to spend the money," Quigg says.
But that is just part of what has fueled RIS' impressive growth in a few short years.
"The key is that we successfully brought a product to market in a short amount of time," says Quigg. "In 2001, we got started, and 2002 is the first full year we've had transactions."
Quigg adds that RIS' success comes from targeting the smaller radiology practices instead of large hospitals, therefore building a reputation through word-of-mouth.
"In those smaller markets, (the doctors) talk to each other," says Quigg.
The company was acquired by a Milwaukee-based radiology imaging company, Merge eFilm Inc. RIS now has 48 employees and 63 customers at 200 sites. And more growth is ahead, because technology in medicine is inevitable, says Quigg.
"Unless you have an automated system to manage patient workflow, you can't compete. Not with turnaround times like they are ... it will affect efficiency (and) make you noncompetitive, and you will not be able to maintain profit margin." How to reach: RIS Logic Inc., (440) 914-1755
For years, the Clinic's reputation has attracted foreign dignitaries, politicians and celebrities as patients. It's been known that to get the best medical care in the world, you come to Cleveland.
The Clinic employs 1,100 full-time physicians, and the hospital represents more 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. In 2002, there were more than 2.2 million outpatients visits, and patients came from every state and more than 80 countries.
But cutting-edge surgery and superior patient care is just a drop in the bucket for today's medical facilities.
As CEO and chairman of the Clinic Foundation, Loop juggles many priorities. The Clinic is not just a hospital, it is an educational, research, patient care, emergency service and technology center.
And the Clinic under Loop is determined to continue to compete on a national basis.
"The Cleveland Clinic enters 2003 with a distinct clarity of purpose," he says. "Our principal objective is to become the No. 1 academic medical center in America.
Cleveland's reputation has always been helped by the presence of the Clinic, but there are synergies between the community and the Clinic. Last year, for example, the Clinic joined with Case Western Reserve University to create The Cleveland Clinic College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.
"Our new medical school, which will commence in July 2004, is the second new medical school in the United States in the past 26 years," says Loop. "It is unique in the United States because it is devoted solely to the education of physician-investigators, i.e. scientists that relate to basic research, biomedical engineering, informatics or clinical research."
In a time when our area is experiencing disturbing levels of brain drain, the Clinic constantly brings in the best and brightest from around the world.
"The Cleveland Clinic attracts a variety of talent," Loop says. "(It) is based on our staff model and the integration of science, education and patient care. Great scientists and great physicians make great medical centers."
And great medical centers need funding.
As the city benefits from the Clinic's talent pool, it has also benefited from the generous nature of the community. One contributor alone -- the late Al Lerner and his wife -- gave $100 million, the largest single contribution ever to a medical facility, to the titular Lerner Research Institute.
With annual research expenditures exceeding $150 million from federal agencies, nonfederal societies and associations, and endowment funds, the LRI is the fifth-largest research institute in the country.
If it is somewhat surreal that such a huge research facility is in our backyard, it's even more incredible that if you live in Northeast Ohio, you are within driving distance of the nation's finest heart center.
This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center No. 1 on its list of the best heart and heart surgery hospitals.
This reputation of innovative medical practices is so widely accepted that in 2002, the Clinic was host to a two-hour, live nationally telecast program in which one of its surgeon performed heart surgery.
Determined to capitalize on its strengths, under Loop's direction the Clinic is proceeding with what will be the largest building project in the Clinic's history -- the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center.
"With nearly a million square feet of floor space, it will centralize all the heart services and free up hundreds of thousands of square feet of space in our existing facilities," Loop says.
The continual growth of the Clinic can only be sustained with a balanced mix of medicine, technology and funding.
Technology innovation and commercialization, as well as patient access to care and prescriptions, are major issues on the forefront of today's health care industry, and Loop is aware of what this means both here and outside the area.
"Heath care is the leading issue of our generation," says Loop. "The field of medicine offers more opportunities to enrich human life today than at any time in history. Our greatest gift is hope." How to reach: Cleveland Clinic Foundation, www.clevelandclinic.org
"Emergency medicine has changed a lot," says Dr. David Packo, a certified emergency medicine physician and partner of Emergency Medicine Physicians, an emergency department staffing and management company. " Not long ago, residences and interns use to run the ER."
Today's medical schools offer emergency medical programs specifically designed to prepare physicians for a career in the ER. The only problem is that "there are about 4,200 hospitals that have emergency rooms, and it takes at least seven physicians to staff those programs, with only 18,000 board certified out there," Packo says.
EMP hires only board-certified emergency medicine physicians, those who have gone to an accredited program and specialized. After finding the most qualified doctors to fill more than 300 positions in seven states, the company makes them partners, not employees.
EMP doctors become partners after 3,800 clinic hours, which usually takes two years, and after the third year, they become equal partners.
"We are more like the law firm model," says Packo. "People come on and in three years, they become financial partners and then equity partners."
That works because medicine is still a business and can benefit from basic business principles.
"This is where the entrepreneurial side of the company comes in," says Packo. "If you are an hourly employee, it doesn't matter how many people you see, you get paid the same. If you are a partner, the more people you see, the more you make."
To increase efficiency in the billing process, EMP developed its own billing company.
"The billing company would charge 8 to 10 percent to collect, so they can only spend that much to collect.," Packo says. "Now we have more control and better compliance and a lot more oversight."
Employees in the billing company are encouraged to collect through generous bonuses.
"The more they do, the more they profit," says Packo. "Some employees have doubled and tripled their compensation with these bonuses." How to reach: Emergency Medicine Physicians, (330) 493-4443 or www.emp.com
That's not the case with McNichols Co, a specialty metal producer. This manufacturer has such an aggressive marketing campaign that it has taken advantage of new markets for its product and expanded its client base.
"You have to find your niche in the marketplace," says Gene McNichols, president, chairman and CEO of McNichols Co. "You have to be in tune with the types of applications that customers need and what they are using your product for."
In the past, McNichols' products were used primarily in industrial flooring, safety devices, industrial shelving and grating, but in the last five to seven years, other industries have found uses for metal sheeting with holes.
"It's used decoratively now, it's used in a lot of news and sports news sets. It has acoustical characteristics and good sound diffusion," McNichols says. "It's lightweight but has great strength. It's not a new use but it is much more in vogue today.
"It's a high-tech looking world, and we incorporate much more metal, it seems."
To sell to this market, McNichols has to get his product out to a whole new customer -- designers and architects. No problem, he says.
"We've been a marketing machine for years, and focused on trying to create awareness," he says.
In 2002 alone, the company sent out 3 million catalogs and more than 1 million direct mail pieces.
"We've been doing direct mail since 1967 ... We printed up 75,000 copies of our first catalog ... just trying to get the message out," he says.
McNichols adds that every sales lead is tracked from beginning to end to discover where customers are coming from.
"We do understand that we need to market well. I have to make sure I get the customer what they want, but I also have to make sure they know what I have, and then I have to respond quickly," he says.
The company's marketing tradition started decades ago when McNichols' father founded the company after returning from serving in WWII and began a company that made not just metal products but metal products with holes.
"He recognized that the products he was carrying were not readily available," says McNichols. "It's the holes that set us apart. You have to know where to put the holes."
Beyond the normal product marketing, McNichols wages a careful annual branding campaign. The company has had an in-house advertising firm for 30 years, and conducts both external and internal campaigns, always using the phrase "The Hole Story" consistently throughout its marketing material.
"We try to make the ads light," says McNichols referring to its 'Holey-cow' campaign. "We try to develop a theme ... We want it to be fun to read, but in the end, you have to ask yourself, what did you really accomplish?" How to reach: McNichols Co.; (800) 237-3820 or www.mcnichols.com
Testing Ohio's metal
Although it's true that Ohio's steel industry is smaller than it was 12 years ago, it's still one of the strongest is the United States.
According to a recent survey of manufacturers:
* Ohio produces $4.59 billion in valued-added steel production and processing, more than any other state.
* Ohio employment in the steel industry is down 33 percent, from 38,700 to 25,720.
* Ohio ranks first in capital expenditures and second to Indiana in the number of people employed in the steel industry.
* The value-added steel production in the United States overall is more than $21 billion and Ohio has stayed relatively competitive with other steel producing states in its share of the pie.
* Approximately one-fifth of all steel produced and processed in the U.S. comes from Ohio.
* Indiana produces $4.27 billion, Pennsylvania produces $2.58 billion, Michigan produces $1.09 billion and Illinois produces $936 million.
Source: Ohio Steel Council
So why leave all that to become director of the beleaguered Cuyahoga County Board of Elections a position that has been the target of both the media and politicians?
Jelepis likes a challenge.
The native Clevelander came to his new position in July 2000, not long after a ballot shortage in a Democratic primary threw the department into the media spotlight.
His first order of business was to readjust a voter registration file that had not been purged in more than eight years and as result contained the names of more registered voters than there were citizens of age to vote in Cuyahoga County.
Jelepis may have left the mayor’s office but for some of his predecessors, the job at the Board of Elections has proven to be more political than holding office. SBN Magazine sat down with Jelepis to talk about the November election, electronic voting and why we will never have a “Florida” election.
Why leave the mayor's office in Bay Village and come to the Board of Elections, where you are a moving target for the media and other politicians.
It was a challenge that I couldn't resist. I was mayor for six-and-a-half years, and I had announced to anyone who cared that I wasn't running. I had always said that I would do two terms, and I did two terms. The city was running like a top. My staff was outstanding, and if you have a good staff, that is 90 percent of the battle.
Let's talk about what you walked into and how you changed things.
The first thing ... was improving communications around here and working together as a team, similar to what we did in Bay Village. We started cleaning up registration. Everything starts from registration. There hadn’t been a purge, I’ll call it a readjustment, of the registration in nine years.
You’re supposed to do it every year. And the ward had not done it in eight or nine years. That is taking out the deceased and those that have moved. As a result, we had more people that were registered to vote on the files than were actually of voting age in Cuyahoga County.
We had well over a million on the files. We took 170,000 off the list you have to follow the law with two consecutive federal elections and this and that, but the bottom line was we had to get accurate files.
We also started reaching out to the different communities and getting out, getting the word out about exactly what we do, making ourselves more accessible to the public, working as a team and better communications. They are the basic management principles that are applicable in a city, a county agency or a business.
How was that different from previous years?
First we had a reorganization, and we put in a layer of management, to balance and support the higher level managers and give a little bit more accountability.
Why was this so important?
This is such a labor-intensive job, so you really have to have a lot of checks and balances. We put a lot of checks and balances into the system so that if we make a mistake, we can catch it before it has a domino effect on all the other departments.
Was this a problem in the past, this domino effect?
It had been, in the past. Like the lack of ballots, and they may have had enough ballots but they weren't distributed properly.
What does the board of elections do (beside maintain the list of registered voters?
We had 11 elections last year. You have the pre-election, you have the post-election work. We have to constantly update our records, we have to make sure people are properly registered.
We have to reconcile the unofficial results on election night with the certified results, which we usually certify 10 days later. And then you prepare for the next elections, and it is a constant pre and post. Game time is on Election Day, but there is a lot leading up to that.
Someone from our ballot department was up here today. She is ordering ballots, and over in the warehouse, we have people assembling ballots by hand. The process is so labor-intensive.
What about electronic voting? What's keeping us from electronic voting?
The House passed a bill last December and the Senate followed in April to come up with money for those counties and states that want to convert systems or improve technology. And this was all based on Florida of 2000.
But what is happening, now that time has moved on, the urgency to do this has decreased. So now House and the Senate are arguing over a few points and they can’t come up with a compromised bill.
The thing was this close to dying and being a dead bill, and then Florida happened again.
So now there is more of a sense of urgency to get this going, and if, in fact, they do come up with a compromised bill, we've been working on this for two-and-a-half years. We’ve had 11 elections using five different vendors where we have had electronic voting on Election Day.
How has it gone?
It has been incredibly well received in terms of every demographic. We’ve had it at Ward 7, Ward 20 in Cleveland, for the election of Lewis and Sweeney. We’ve had it in the suburbs’ outer ring, inner ring. The youth have accepted it and seniors.
Every demographic has welcomed it, and now all we have to do is get the funding. But the funding will be the easy part, if at the federal level they come up with 75 percent -- which is what they say they will -- the money that we will save that is punch card related and associated with printing costs and things like that, we can replace line item. It is very doable.
Where are we in the process?
We are at the RFP (request for proposal) stage, or more accurately, we will be releasing one in the foreseeable future and hopefully it will coincide with that compromised bill. Then we will pick a vendor and negotiate a contract.
You've tried different vendors for electronic voting. When we do go electronic, we’re not going to end up with the same problem Florida had this year, are we?
The whole system broke down in Florida, but they were mandated to have it in place for this last election. As a result, they didn’t train their poll workers or didn’t have time to adequately train their poll workers.
We have been doing this for two-and-a-half to three years now. Our due diligence is well underway, and that is why I don't think we are going to run into those problems.
I know some of those people in Florida, and they are good, hardworking people. You hate to see misery befall anyone, but we are learning and keeping our eyes open and watching from what is happening out there.
Is it getting more difficult to find poll workers?
We need on Election Day, 6,000 to 8,000 people, and that is a lot of people. It is always difficult getting people, but we have always been successful, and we are pleased and proud of the people that do give their time.
They get paid a nominal fee, but they do volunteer and they are very civic-minded. Without them, we couldn’t run an election.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult (to find poll workers), and that is why we need to get more people in the process. That is why I was at Bay Village High School last week talking to a class, and we registered 15 kids out there last week.
You’ve got to get the young men and women in there at an early age so that civic pride stays with them with respect to voting. It is difficult, but our staff here always gets the job done. It is a good team effort.
Can you register online to vote?
You still have to hand-deliver because you need a signature. You can print it out and send it. That makes it a little bit easier.
Has the motor voter bill helped with registration numbers?
It has made it easier for people to register and it has increased registration. Not necessarily the turnout, but it has increased registration.
What have you done to help increase turnout?
We are out there talking to everyone. We had a television show at one point for my first year-and-a-half where we talked about election issues. Just trying to educate people on the process.
How is this different from being mayor?
When I came down here, I had always dealt with the election processes from the other side of the table, as a candidate. But this thing is the toughest thing I have ever done because it is so labor intensive. And when you have that sort of labor-intense work, there is so much room for error, there are so many uncontrollables. On Election Day we have 6,000 to 8,000 people who work for us maybe two or three times a year.
And we have training, but really you can’t expect anyone to remember every darn thing from one election to another. There are a lot of uncontrollables.
When I came here, we had some 286s (computers), we upgraded them, and now we have some Pentiums and we are trying to get into the 21st century. We have really undergone a technology improvement in the past one-and-a-half, two years.
How long will you remain director?
A director here lasts two to four years usually, so that is the lifespan. It is almost like a baseball manager. You come in, you bring your ideas and after a few years ... it is like being mayor ... somebody else gets their swings at the plate. Hopefully they are ideas that improve the situation.
Any predictions on the turnout of November's election?
It is a big election. You have the governor’s race I think we will have a 40 percent turnout this election 40 percent of registered voters. You also have the county commissioner and some judicial races that are pretty big, and the control of the Cleveland schools. And Issue 1, that for first-time drug offenders, you should give treatment as opposed to incarceration.
Forty percent. Are you being a tad optimistic?
You've heard our percentages (in Cuyahoga County), it was about 20 to 25 percent. Then when we cleaned up the registration files and took off 170,000 names of people who had died or had moved and those percentages increased dramatically. The apathy probably wasn't quite as bad in Cuyahoga County as people thought because the registration file weren't accurate.
But apathy does exist. Back in the ’60s with Kennedy and Nixon, if I’m not mistaken, the turnout was like 80 percent or so. Historically, every elections since then, it has been dropping.
Now it is 50 percent if you are lucky. I think it is just a reflection of society.
Everyone is just running around and just trying to put food on the table. Even in two-parent households, both parents are most likely working.
And it is not a convenient day.
It is not a convenient day, either. Not really apathy but not having the time or ability to get to the polls.
Which do you like better, being on the ballot or controlling the ballot?
I know I’m not going to be down here forever. I knew that coming in, but it was a challenge I couldn't turn down. If I could stay long enough to be part of the electronic voting process, that would be very rewarding. It will revolutionize how we vote here in this county for years to come.
Being mayor was a wonderful experience. But the team ran the show. I’m still relatively young, and it is not to say that Bay Village doesn’t have challenges and issues.
Does being an ex-politician give you insight on the whole process?
I think definitely you have to know the political lay of the land. It helps tremendously.
The Board of Elections is like an offensive lineman. You get recognized by the media if you get caught for holding or you're off sides or something. You don’t run too many 80 yard touchdowns.
But the fact of the matter is, we are working well, and having held office, I have a real good relationship with the mayor and with the office-holders of this county, who, in turn, know the ward leaders. It all gets back to communication. I think our communication is very well developed.
If there is a problem somewhere, the mayor is not afraid to call me. That is where I think having some political experience taking the opportunity to develop these relationships comes into play.
Any predictions for the elections?
I predict that we are going to do a great job and the staff is going to come through with flying colors.
That's not what I meant. Any predictions on who will win?
Nope, I'm staying neutral on that one.
How about closing the airports and the Canadian border for a few days and see what happens to inventory levels.
That's just what happened to many manufacturers in September when lean inventories came face-to-face with a major shipping crisis.
Lean manufacturing has garnered a lot of attention recently, but the fact is that like any process there are always a number of "what-ifs."
The idea is for manufacturers to stay efficient while maintaining very low inventory levels. Theoretically, it's sound. Parts are only made or stocked in response to demand, with no internal inventory to collect dust. But there must always be continued improvements throughout the supply chain for the process to work as designed.
William Eisele, vice president of Sonic Chain, a bar-code based supply chain management system, stresses that you can't forget to factor margins into your supply chain. "You have to look at your supply chain optimization and determine how much inventory you have on hand and do you have a safety margin," he says.
One of the keys to making sure inventory levels stay within safe margins is to look at your inventory's cost and importance in relation to your product.
"Many companies haven't spend the time to optimize," he says. "Companies still do back of the hand calculations versus looking at commodities group."
Eisele's answer is to simplify and automate. Even with all the attention given recently to just-in-time and lean manufacturing, the industry as a whole is far behind others when it comes to using technology to improve inventory levels. The fact is, a small percentage only about 29 percent of the manufacturers in the U.S. are automated.
"One of the main reasons for that is that it is a huge investment for these companies," he says.
Eisele's idea with Sonic Chain is to use simple barcode technology and inventory databases to link multiple suppliers to one reordering system. All the parts need for manufacturing are cataloged and assigned a bar code and re-ordering is done via web-based software on Sonic Chain's server.
The process mixes technology and human intervention, meshing the basics of lean manufacturing with automated efficiency. Explains Eisele, "Tying up capital or losing time on fast flow products is one of the driving forces behind 'point of use' but utilizing technology takes a lot of error out of the process."
How to reach: Sonic Chain, (216) 535-9800.
The issue is becoming more and more of a problem as businesses shop around for the most competitive plan and employees deal with new plans and changing rules.
What health care consumers don't realize is that with most plans, almost every procedure or test your doctor orders needs to be pre-certified, or else a notification must be sent to the insurer. And what falls through the cracks or isn't documented properly can end up costing your employees.
"Ninety-five percent of the public doesn't know that in the end, they may be responsible for payment," says Carol Geraci, R.N., and manager of central scheduling at Mercy Medical Center. "They think, 'I bought insurance, and it covers this, and I should be fine.'"
The devil is in the details, and the details are in the contract with the provider. Unfortunately, many of us really don't relish spend hours poring over the finer details of our health care plan.
One way to deal with the issue is to never get sick, but for those who can't seem to help themselves, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, know as much as you can about your plan, and if you have questions, call.
"It behooves you to talk to your insurance company, to call for patient eligibility and see what your benefits really are," Geraci says.
And have the proper information with you at all times.
"Throw your old card away ... always have the right card with you," says Geraci, because every graphic and number represents the specifics of your plan.
Always get the name of the person you're dealing with when you call.
"Find one person who you can talk with and can get things done," she says.
Every procedure has a code, but those are not always black and white, and the doctor's office can make mistakes.
Geraci suggests, "If you have a code that is not accepted ... ask the doctor's office to check the code or try another one."
And although the paperwork sent by the hospitals and insurance companies can be indecipherable, don't give in to the urge to throw it all away. And don't get discouraged.
"The simple rules of the game are, if you play by the rules, you can win," says Geraci.
During home games at Jacobs Field, each batter picks two songs to play when he steps up to home plate.
The musical selections range from country to metal and everything in between. It's an interesting peek into the players' lives, because as we all know, music can say a lot about one's personality.
If you had to pick a song or two that best depicts what this year has meant for your company, what would it be? Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," the pop song "Who let the dogs out?," the theme music to "Jaws" or, if it was a good year, Queen's "We are the champions?"
Perhaps the best soundtrack for the economy recently would be the one used during the shower scene in "Psycho," with Alan Greenspan as Norman Bates cutting away at the interest rate.
Regardless of your taste in music, the analogy of business leader as conductor rings true -- pun intended. Much as a conductor leads and directs the orchestra, a good business leader does the same. And the myriad parts of a company are much like the different melodies, harmonies and beat of a song.
But what happens when someone changes the music on the conductor, like the events on Sept. 11 changed our world? Well, change happens. And it happened to many companies in Northeast Ohio, including some involved in the SBN 2002 Innovation in Business Award.
Such is the case for this year's three Master Innovators: Denise Fugo of Sammy's, John Stropki of Lincoln Electric and Anthony Alexander of FirstEnergy. Each knows what it's like to have to change with the times or tempo of their economic environment.
In the last few years, Fugo closed Sammy's restaurant to focus on catering, Lincoln Electric morphed its facility from traditional big-batch to just-in-time manufacturing and FirstEnergy grappled with the logistics of deregulation.
The Visionary winners have also faced the music. Dancing to the beat of a different drummer, BrandMuscle developed a new way of coordinating national advertising, Gateway Title found a new customer base in for-sale-by-owner clients and Imperial Home Dcor discovered a new technology and venue for selling its product.
As for the other Visionaries, Athersys and ShoreBank have played to a new rhythm by taking innovative approaches to conducting business, Athersys by bolstering its revenue stream through strategic alliances and ShoreBank by financing institutions normally shunned by other banks.
Winners of this year's Rising Star awards -- FiveStar Technologies, GroundScape Technologies and Viztec Inc. -- have learned to play along. Although each is a relative newcomer to the business scene, all three are integrating new technology into existing industries.
It is the ability of these companies to change and play through the changing rhythms of our economy that garners them the recognition and titles of Master, Visionary and Rising Star Innovators.
The Innovation in Business Conference wouldn't be possible without the judges, who pore over the nomination forms and are charged with determining the honorees. This year's judging panel was comprised of the following business experts:
* Dorothy Baunach, director, NorTech
* Jeffrey Dollinger, director of development, Inventure Place/Inventors Hall of Fame
* Stephen Ellis, partner, Arter & Hadden
* Michael Marzec, COO, Smart Business Network Inc.
* Connie Swenson, editor, SBN Akron/Canton