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What has driving the Tesla got to do with software? Everything. As you will soon learn. As luck would have it, I was in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 8, 2015 the day that Tesla announced the release of their new entry level electric vehicle, the Tesla S 70D. I was the third person at this dealership to drive the new vehicle on that day. Only 38 miles on the odometer. Over the years I have purchased and leased about 30 new cars and SUVs, including several BMW 3 and 5 series. I value well-engineered vehicles. This includes a Triumph Chicane that I drove off the show room floor to my home 10 miles away and had to have the vehicle towed with the engine seriously overheated. That car spent more time at the dealer being repaired, than in my garage. Over the decade’s one gets conditioned as to what to expect from your vehicle, including that new car smell. The refinements added to each new generation are always welcome, especially the continuous improvement of safety features and the unbelievable host of electronic aids available on today’s cars.


But what if you experience a vehicle that is revolutionary in concept and design? The excitement is indescribable. With the Tesla you require a small transponder in your hand, pocket, or purse. From about 30 feet away as you approach your vehicle the flush fitting door handles protrude allowing you to open the door and seat yourself in tailored comfort. Extended door handles impacts aerodynamics. There is a lever on the right side of the steering column that requires an inward press to engage park, tip up for reverse and tap down for drive. There is no need to “start” the vehicle as it is already running. This is not like my son’s Toyota Camry where you must apply the foot brake and press a start button. Nothing happens in this Tesla if you do not use the accelerator pedal. As you set forth the door handles retract. Then too if you enjoy exhilarating performance, hit the accelerator and you’ll be traveling 60 miles per hours in 3, 4, or 5 seconds, depending on car model and options. There are welcome features including “Driver Assist”. If you go one mile an hour over the speed limit, a small display pops up on the instrument panel advising you of the regulation speed limit. If you wonder too close to the edge of the road, the car emits an electronic rumble to alert you to inattentive driving. Then too you can summon to car to come to you, and to have it park for you. If these features are not for you, then turn them off. It’s programmable. If you see a traffic light turning red there is no need to brake, just remove your foot from the accelerator and the car slows, and simultaneously recharges the battery. In fact the dealer was telling us that there are only 13 parts that could be replaced on the vehicle, and at this dealership they have never had to replace any brake linings on any Tesla since its inception.


I could keep going on and on about all the fantastic features available on this vehicle including the two iPad sized displays in the center of the car with a built in internet, maps, and every conceivable detail about the car and its status, plus programmable settings for driving preferences. If there are any required upgrades or improvements to the vehicle, these are effected by a software upload from the factory. Important too is that this new entry level car comes standard with features that were optional extras on prior entry level Tesla’s. Yes, there is a price increase, but significantly lower than the prior models with optional extras that are now standard. Living in the cold and snowy climates of Wisconsin, the benefit for us is the 70D comes with all-wheel drive, and the significance of the “D” for dual drive in the model description. The “70” signifying the kilowatt hour battery, delivering 329 horse power and 140 mile per hour top speed. With 85 percent of the US blanketed with free recharging stations, driving across country presents no problems. We saw a Tesla owner who had travelled from New York to Florida. Think about the benefit of zero gasoline expense. The car will require a recharging stop every 5 hours or so, but this should not be an inconvenience on a cross country trip as one needs a bathroom break. The vehicle warns you of the driving distance available until your next recharging stop, or more correctly when it will be wise to stop and recharge, requiring about 30 minutes duration. The total cost of ownership over a 5-year period with the Tesla is less than a comparable BMW or Mercedes Benz.


Having stated that I have purchased and leased many vehicles in my time, I would be remiss not acknowledging the team at the dealership. Without question they were the most personable people I have ever encountered at any dealer ever. We arrived stating that we were not in the 1% income bracket and unlikely to purchase a vehicle. No problem they said, but it would be their pleasure to showcase the vehicle which they did to a professional degree rarely encountered at any dealership. The follow up too was beyond impressive. They encouraged both my wife and me to drive to get a first-hand experience. In fact there were two clients signing purchase orders while we were there. The one gentleman was asked if he would like to finance the vehicle over 5 years. He was the owner of a Porsche Panamera. “Good heavens, no”, he said, “I am 85 and don’t know where I will be in 5 years’ time”. His friend who was purchasing a vehicle for himself was 93 years young.


And so to software. The difficulty I have when presenting software solutions to clients is to credibly allow them to understand how their company will improve operating performance when the new technology is fully operational. The greatest difference between Tesla and Lighthouse is that the Tesla is a commodity and you get what you pay for as you drive off the showroom floor. There is a trill in learning a new driving technique, and to educate yourself on the function provided through the intuitive touchscreen display.


With Lighthouse we need to first develop an understanding of your current operation, determine where the greatest business opportunities lie for improvement, design a solution that will support your operation short term, facilitate you to grow successfully long term, show a cost-benefit analysis, and install a continuous improvement solution over time. Important too is the required behavioral modification as you adapt and embrace the new working environment supported with education, business process re-engineering, software configuration, implementation, project management, and training.


Management should recognize they cannot repeat what they have done successfully for many years and expect a different outcome. The competitive environment calls for faster delivery of smaller quantities, higher quality, shorter lead times, and product life cycles, while containing or reducing costs. As the organization grows, and the enterprise needs to retain its competitive advantage, adopting new and productive ways to link customers to their enterprise, be it retail, wholesale, distribution, or manufacturing, through to their suppliers. With the complete supply chain synchronized, factors to help productivity improvements of all resources are critical. If your metrics reflects a need to improve on time deliveries to customers, reducing inventory levels to free up working capital, and improving productivity and profitability, these become meaningful goals to target.


Let’s learn from Tesla as they redefine the automotive industry, and seek ways to reinvent your enterprise. Tesla initiated a concept that has forced competitors to play catch up. In any business if you do not take a leadership position, and you allow your competitors, both domestic and international, to dictate terms, you are forced to play catch up. Maintaining your competitive advantage is critical to outperforming competitors and even possibly commanding a premium price for your goods and services. Effectively applied, technology can be one source of competitive advantage.


Companies face tough challenges with a relentless call to reduce or maintain costs. Increasing profits must come from somewhere. Technology applications and refined business processes to help eliminate waste and increase productivity of all resources can effectively support a progressive management team.


For more on this topic, please see the presentation I made to PolymerOhio by viewing this YouTube video.


Oh. And then there is the Apple Watch!

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