Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Discovering dangerous and hazardous situations are commonplace to the staff at TPA.  As we develop technical documentation for operator/owner's manuals we identify potential hazardous situations that could occur when operating electrical appliances and cooking equipment.  With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we would like to share some safety insights for a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Most people do not realize that every year at Thanksgiving, there are four times more cooking fires than any other time of the year.  Also, in home related fires, cooking equipment is involved in almost half of all reported incidences. 

If you manage to escape the wrath-of-the-bird by avoiding the fire hazards, you are still vulnerable to food poisoning.  Tom Turkey may still have his vengeance via food poisoning as an average of 400,000 Americans suffer from food poisoning each year caused by mishandled food. 

With all the potential hazards associated with Thanksgiving, the staff at TPA and Tom Turkey would like to help you to stay safe by sharing a few safety tips for the holiday.

 Keep fire extinguishers close by and ready.

Make sure all smoke alarms are working.

Keep all knives away from the reach of children.

Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food.

Wash all fruits and vegetables before prepping.

Make sure the turkey stays at 40°F or below until ready to cook.

Stay in kitchen when cooking, do not leave the stove or oven unattended.

Keep children away from stove and oven.

Use timers and routinely check all dishes that are cooking.    

Cook Tom until he reaches a temperature between 165°F to 180°F before serving.

We hope these tips will keep you and your family safe this Thanksgiving. Here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at TPA.

And now for a lighthearted message from Tom your Turkey Ambassador...

#thanksgiving safety tips

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Workplace Safety — Preparing for an OSHA Safety Inspection

— How do you prepare for an OSHA inspection? —

Our job, here at TPA, is to mainly help you protect your customers against unwanted injuries as they use your products. We help you protect customers by way of creating concise and effective user documentation. However in regards to the work force side of your business, we came across an article we wanted to share that may help prevent injuries to your workers on the shop floor.

Disclaimer: TPA does not have any affiliation with the company who wrote this article nor did we have any input into the article. This article is simply being presented to our clients as part of a workplace safety awareness campaign.

What's in the article?

An OSHA Safety Inspection

We’re not surprised if the thought of one [safety inspection] may be unsettling for you. After all, someone searching around your business for things that you’re doing wrong so that they can potentially cite you isn’t exactly a pleasant thought. On top of that, OSHA inspections are almost always unexpected, giving you no time to prepare. These factors are why writing this guide was important to us. By understanding the process of a safety inspection as well as measures that you can take to always remain prepared in the event that an inspection happens, our goal is to make you feel a little more at ease with the idea of an OSHA safety inspection.

This guide will cover reasons why OSHA may choose to inspect you, what to expect in all phases of an OSHA inspection, what happens during an inspection follow up and, most importantly, the proactive steps that you can take in order to be prepared for an inspection.
Reasons You May Be Inspected

THE BAD NEWS: In most cases (besides planned inspections, which we will speak to), there is no way to assure that you absolutely 100% will or will not be inspected.

: This doesn’t mean that it’s completely random. In order for an inspector to be able to walk into a business, they must have a probable cause that warrants an inspection. There is a hierarchy for probable cause, meaning that certain items make it more likely that you will be inspected than others.

I hope this information helps protect your staff from personal injuries due to workplace accidents.

Steve Nichol, President and CEO    Technical Publication Associates, Inc.

#safety inspection

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How Effective Are Your Product Illustrations in Conveying a Message of Safe Operation?

These photos show an area of this product that should not be touched.  In the black and white photo, you cannot clearly see the directional arrow or the "X" indicating the danger area?  You can see the red "X" and the red arrow in the color photo to the right, but that doesn't help when the Operator Manual is printed in black and white.  Furthermore, from our viewpoint, you should never show someone physically touching the prohibited area.

bad product photobad product photo

Make sure the illustrations you use in your Operator Manual are clearly defined, whether printed in black and white or in color, as shown in the following illustrations.  As stated above you should not show the action being described, such as "do not touch" the hot surface.  Even though the international "Do Not" symbol is shown, it is possible that not everyone will understand.  For legal purposes, it is better to show the operator's hand at a safe distance along with the "Do Not" message and symbol.
good black and white product illustrationgood color product illustration

Initially you may save money using the photos supplied by the exporter, but these photos do not provide a clear understanding of the prohibited action.  Using quality illustrations, however, will make a clear statement of the prohibited action. 

Ultimately you need to compare the cost savings of using photos with an unclear meaning to that of your attorney defending you in a personal injury lawsuit.  Our recommendation is to invest in the one-time cost of creating a clear and concise Operator Manual and not multiple times defending ongoing lawsuits over the lifespan of the product.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reducing documentation costs

Most operator's instruction sheets for products can reduce costs by reducing the amount of text needed for the instructions. The more visual instructions can be, with less text, means less text needing to be translated for other languages. This is just another small way to help reduce production costs. When was the last time you have evaluated your product's instruction sheet?

security device illustration

Unique Patents

You can patent just about anything that is unique. Here is a picture frame patent drawing from our archives showing a person with great contorsional skills. We are not taking a political side, but this does kind of reminds us of the political climate taking place today among all politicians. Why can't our leaders just be Americans striving for what's best for the country? We hope this makes you smile and that you will not take offense.
illustration of filed patent


Friday, September 9, 2016

Help Make America

We came across the “I Make America” movement today and wanted to share it. The one thing TPA believes that has made and continues to make America great is her people. Each of us is one part of the “I” that make America what it is today. 

I Make America


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Branding – Don’t let it be bi-polar

All companies in today’s business atmosphere need to be aware of the importance of branding.  Branding is a "clear identity" that conveys your promise to your customer.  Branding says, "This is what you can expect from my product or service".  Your brand identity should set you apart from your competitor in a positive manner.  Branding affects any business, but we are focusing on equipment manufacturers and products, primarily smaller manufacturers that cannot afford an entire department to maintain their branding strategies.

Are There Different Rules for Branding?
We all have different likes and dislikes, and the branding strategies will vary accordingly.  There are a lot of “do this” and “don’t do that” rules.  These rules range from where and how you advertise, the shape and color of your product, the design and content of your consumer documentation, the consistent look and usability of your website, and the list goes on.  What’s most important is that the brand has a consistent verbal and visual definition.  Consistency is essential to building the perceived value of your product.  Unfortunately, all too often, we see companies suffering from what we are calling bi-polar branding.

What is bi-polar branding? It’s the pitfall of having a branding image and message which is not consistently displayed throughout a company’s marketing materials.  This inconsistency is most likely due to the myth that a company's success is in the corporate mission statement, the logo design, the corporate colors, and having a unique business card.  The reality is that the brand identity is the message and theme you represent in the product, as well as in the brochures, ads, websites, and last but not least, the owner’s manuals that are used to sell and support this product.

We feel the number one rule for branding is a consistent look across all the platforms of consumer marketing.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Brand Identity?
Branding is the key for consumer recognition of your products.  You want a consumer to have a preconceived expectation as to the quality, consistency, and value of your products.  Here’s a true story for an example.  Someone says, "Think of a carbonated beverage in a red can with the name of the product in white lettering."  Most of us will instantly recognize the product even without the name being given.  That’s the power of branding.  That's the power you want to achieve.  Now let’s say you walk past a display of green carbonated beverage cans, but you notice that same familiar white lettering style with the product’s name on the can.  Something must be wrong.  Someone definitely did not follow the book for this product's branding requirements.  In this case the answer is the company is expanding its brand identity.  It’s a new product line containing healthier sweeteners in a green can.  It’s still the same company we have learned to trust, but it’s not what we have come to consistently recognize. 

The second rule to your success is having the consumer recognize and trust your brand because you followed the first rule.

Let's use the automotive industry for another example.  You watch the TV ads, go to the website, visit the dealership, see the banners, and look at the brochures.  All of these are tools being used to clearly and consistently define the consumer's opinion of the car.  It's the style, look of quality, the colors, the characters, and the message that all work together to reinforce your brand.  The brand also needs to apply to the owner’s manual and other technical documentation which should reflect the same theme and message of quality. 

Why Should I Care If I Have A Recognizable Brand?
How many of us have purchased lawn and garden equipment or a “some assembly required” product with user instructions that either looked severely inadequate or worse, a 10th generation photocopy you can't read.  Suddenly the perceived quality of this product falls into question.  If your consumer documentation is filled with poor illustrations, misspelled words, missing or hard to understand information, etc., then your customers will naturally question your product's quality.

Also, maybe you have shopped for a product where the printed brochure has a certain look, the website looks totally different, and their TV ad has yet another look.  In fact, we wouldn’t even call that bi-polar.  That’s more like multiple personality branding which really confuses a brand message.  Seth Godin would call that a “Meatball Sundae”, after his book with the same name.  Again, inconsistency can crush a company’s branding efforts.  With so many product choices available to the consumer, this is a pitfall you can't afford.  There are many small manufacturers with products that are very useful, of high-quality and affordable, but their bi-polar or multiple personality branding theme gives their potential customers the perception of a low-quality, and poorly manufactured product regardless of the cost.

How Can I Establish My One Unique Brand?
Technical Publication Associates (TPA) has been helping companies in many different industries to establish and maintain their brand identity by creating and managing their owner manuals, marketing materials, and basic websites.  Keeping your brand consistent throughout all your consumer sales and user documentation requires a focused effort.  We understand how small companies can dilute their brand because they have used one provider to produce their manuals, another for their marketing materials, and a third for their website.  So a typical manufacturer may do the manuals in-house, hire a small firm for marketing materials, then see John Doe for their website.  With three groups in the mix, you wind up with a discombobulated look and feel to your brand. 

If you’re going to use several different sources for creating your brand, then we would recommend starting with one firm for the most important piece of the brand identity (possibly your website).  Once the website is established, then create the marketing materials using the website as a foundation.  Then use both website and marketing materials to develop any consumer documentation.  With multiple groups, it's essential they all communicate with each other.  All the groups must align themselves with YOUR goal to develop a solid, consistent brand image.  Let’s say it again; the key to any good brand is consistency.

What If I Don't Know Where to Start?
Using a single source, such as TPA, for creating and maintaining your brand, allows you to focus on finding potential consumers and maintaining a high-quality product.  We focus on providing you with consistent branding materials and you focus on business.

If you are a company that is suffering from this branding disorder, then it’s time to stop and identify what clearly defines your message and your brand.  Once you have identified a brand identity source, use it as a starting point to change the other areas that don’t match.  Maybe your owner’s manual has the look and feel that represents your product's high-quality, if that’s the case, then have us create new brochures to reflect that same image and then we can move to your web page to do the same so everything works together and is well balanced.

If you’re a new start-up company, then it’s critical that you think through what you want your brand to convey.  If you don't use our services, you may want to hire a marketing advisor to help develop your brand.  Once you have a theme for your brand established, you need to ensure that everything that follows stays true to the theme of your brand.

The Payoff!
Creating a consistent brand will pay dividends in consumer awareness of your product and in increased sales.  A clearly defined brand gives consumers confidence in your product and assurance in you, the manufacturer.  As for the branding itself, it doesn’t even have to be that fancy, it just has to be consistent.