Bye, Bye Burns: Entrepreneur Seeks to Revolutionize Oil Changes (NOLN)

Got to profile an entrepreneur with a great new product, the Last Drop Wrench. Steven Owen’s tool has the potential to revolutionize oil changes and, potentially, the quick lube process.

I enjoyed interviewing Owens, who graduated from Clemson’s MBA program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MBAe). He has a certain type of commitment and drive that many in the next generation have, which will make them forces for positive change.

Article link to profile in National Oil and Lube News.

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Hyper-Convenience, High-Tech and the Next Generation of Customer Service (NOLN)

Cover story on mobile oil changes (NOLN, May 2019)

What if one day in the future, we look back and laugh at how we used to drive to our local mechanic, quick lube, auto dealership, or even, attempted to change our own oil in the driveway? Well, it’s possible, especially since convenience is now a primary motivator of today’s consumers.

People are busier than ever before. This leads to stress, as well as that special kind of dread when you glance at your windshield service sticker and then down at your odometer and know it’s time to schedule a simple oil change, or something more involved for your vehicle. Maybe that’s the primary reason that at least a third of Americans have “skipped or delayed service or repairs that were recommended,” as reported by AAA in 2015.

According to Nielsen, a global measurement and analytics company that provides data on consumer needs and markets worldwide, technology is a major driver of this quest for ease and convenience, especially among the younger set. For millennials especially, but also, most other vehicle owners, this need will only continue expanding. Nielsen’s data demonstrates that if you want people’s business these days, you better be investing in formats and tools that enhance convenience and ease-of-use. If you make getting their vehicle serviced difficult, they’ll just take it somewhere that understands the importance of making it easy for them.

Mobile Oil Change-PDF

Article Link (NOLN)

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The Trump Tariffs and Autocare in the U.S. (NOLN)

Trump’s tariffs are affecting U.S. aftercare market. (NON, Feb. 2019)

The topic of President Trump’s tariffs have become a focal point for anyone running a
business in the U.S. This is especially true if your business is directly involved in
servicing cars and trucks, as back in May 2018, the Commerce Department announced
it was launching a Section 232 investigation on passenger vehicles and automotive
parts. Their rationale for this investigation was “whether such imports are weakening our
internal economy and may impair national security.”

As tariffs have been put in place, they are now directly affecting businesses and their
bottom line. Consumers are being impacted in the pocketbook and wallet. Equally
troubling is that tariffs create winners, as well as losers. Some industries benefit, like
steel and aluminum producers. Others are discovering, at least in the short-term, they
are one of the losers. The challenge becomes, what to do next? Do they pass costs on
to customers? And what kind of impact will the tariffs have on their supply chains?

Tariffs aren’t a new thing. They are as old as America. In fact, the first Congress
addressed tariffs back in 1789 (after creating the oaths of office with their first act). This
led to the enactment of the Tariff Act of 1789. Sentiment for tariffs among the Founders
wasn’t universal, however. And in much the same manner, President Trump’s recent
round of tariffs and trade policies have sparked debate among members of Congress
and business leaders

Trump Tariffs/Full Article PDF

Article Link (NOLN)

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Protection in the Pit: Valvoline Develops A New Face Guard

[Published in National Oil & Lube News/December, 2018]

Working on the underside of vehicles presents unique hazards to automotive technicians. Quick lube technicians must navigate a constant stream of vehicles passing through bays and overhead. This significantly heightens the risk of technicians having their heads impacted by the bottom side of a car or truck, or worse. Then there are many hot chemicals and fluids and the potential of burns from these, as well as trips and falls, too.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports the in the U.S., 3.9 out of every 100 full-time workers employed in automotive repair and maintenance in 2011 suffered various types of nonfatal accidents. This rate of accident was much higher than other industries considered dangerous, like mining and chemical production.

Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) has made the safety of their shops a central component of their corporate culture. They’ve committed to a “zero-incident” mindset in their approach to keeping employees safe.

Speaking with Eugen Oana, VOIC’s senior manager of environmental health and safety, he explained how his company has moved from mere compliance to empowering employees to make a real impact, while managing their own safety.

“In the past, our company operated from a position of compliance. This isn’t uncommon in our industry,” Oana aid. “We did what we did, because ‘we had to do it.’”

Oana explained that over the past seven or eight years, there’s been a shift, which has been driving what he calls a “culture of commitment” in terms of safety at Valvoline.

“We’re looking to develop a mindset of employees who’ve bought-in to being safe, while making sure their teammates are working safely. It creates an environment of caring and supporting one another,” he said.

For more than a decade, Valvoline has been collecting and tracking data on safety and injuries. This began in 2006, when they mandated bump caps and safety glasses. These became the standard for safety in keeping technicians safe and free from injury, but Oana and other managers didn’t think it was enough.

Given the types of exposure that technicians have working below vehicles, it wasn’t uncommon for other injuries to occur. Burns and cuts and scrapes are typical injuries for technicians. Then, there was the issue of protecting the head and face. Continue reading

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Giving Back: Truckin’ For a Cause (NOLN)

Cover Feature of Amalee Mueller for NOLN, Oct. 2018.

Save the Racks NOLN (Article PDF)

Article Link

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Hiring Workers In a Tight Labor Market (NOLN)

NOLN article/Sept. 2018

Last May, the U.S. unemployment rate dipped below 4 percent, the lowest it had been in 18 years. June’s rate ticked up to just over 4 percent, but the current tight labor market is here to stay. This is posing problems for anyone hiring both skilled and unskilled labor. All industry sectors are affected, especially those with a customer-facing component, like the quick lube industry.

In an interview with Marketplace, Tony Lee, vice president and head of talent acquisition at the Society for Human Resource Management discussed how companies are going to have to adapt.

“Companies are scrambling to try and find the right people for the right positions,” he said. “A lot of companies are realizing they’re going to have to change their standards a little bit.”

For industry leaders like Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC), they’ve recognized this need to change. As the second-largest quick lube business in the U.S., closing in on 1,100 locations nationwide, that means adaptation.

Read the rest of the article:

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Bucksport: Life After The Mill (Island Journal)

Cover-2018 Island Journal

Bucksport: Life After The Mill(PDF)

[Article for Island Journal (2018), produced by Maine’s Island Institute for their Innovative Waterfronts/Waterfront Innovators issue]

Bucksport: Life After The Mill
by Jim Baumer

Maine has endured a litany of paper mill closures in recent years. These have been devastating to the communities that leaned heavily on the jobs and tax base these mills provided. But only one town moving into the state’s post-paper era can leverage its rich coastal assets.
When Bucksport’s Verso paper mill closed in 2014, eliminating 500 jobs, the community was already at work embracing a future that includes new uses of its waterfront, while leaning on an outside nonprofit to help the community find its new heart and soul.
Still, the demise of a mill whose history dates back to the 1930s, isn’t easily glossed over. Some of the pain and loss has been captured powerfully by the town’s “poet laureate for life,” Pat Ranzoni, in her collection STILL MILL: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport Maine 1930 – 2014.
In her introduction to STILL MILL Ranzoni wrote,
“…what was happening in the Bucksport area was part of a larger, state and country-wide loss of industry just as the coming of our paper mill had, in the first place, contributed to the industrialization of the Penobscot River, of the State of Maine and of the United States.”
Losing a legacy industry can cause people to “get stuck.” Moving on often becomes difficult, but Bucksport’s response seems different. It may be because Bucksport hasn’t seen itself as a traditional mill town for a while, but rather, a town with a mill.
Andy Lacher, owner of BookStacks on Main Street, and a downtown retail fixture since 1997, has seen downtown hold its own, even as the fortunes of the mill have declined.
“While it might seem counter-intuitive, I’m seeing more business now, then when the mill was open,” said Lacher.
When Lacher launched BookStacks, he was one of just three retail stores along Main Street.
“Now there is a tanning salon, a wine bar, a gift and card shop, the Alamo (theater) is showing films regularly—downtown hasn’t dried up without the mill,” he added. Continue reading

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Chatting With the SheCANic, Patrice Banks (NOLN)

My June 2018 book review and interview for National Oil & Lube News.

SheCanic-PatriceBanks

Women in the Industry-Patrice Banks (NOLN, June)

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The Nuts and Bolts of Offering Total Car Care to Your Customers (NOLN)

My March 2018 article for National Oil & Lube News on how Fast Lubes can enhance what they offer their customers by embracing the total car care model.

March 2018 article on Total Car Care for National Oil & Lube News

PDF article march 2018

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OpEd in Memory of My Son

This is the Maine Voices OpEd published in the Portland Press Herald the day before the first anniversary of the death of my son, Mark Baumer.

Mark Baumer’s life and final walk offers all of us an example and a model of how to live our lives in the midst of a crumbling nation, led by a president intent on imposing authoritarian rule. Our own state has a governor who along with our president thinks it’s 1950 and that oil and gas is the energy plan for the future. Mark mentioned leaders like these, who seek “profit as the world burns.”

Mark didn’t have a “woe is me” mindset. On his final walk, he had to push through pain, dealing with cold (in Ohio), and a host of other challenges. Yet, he got up every morning for 101 days and showed us a way forward. If not for the actions of a driver in Florida, I have no doubt Mark would have finished this epic walk. He left behind videos, blog posts, and poems from his trip. Better, I think he provides a way for us to #resist, one where small acts add up to something much greater.

While Mark didn’t see what he was doing as heroic, anyone who isn’t wearing ideological blinders, or lacking a heart should admire the way he lived his life with honesty and compassion. He was a one-of-a-kind young man and we are missing him the day before the one-year anniversary of his death.

Mark Baumer at Textron World Headquarters, Providence, RI

Continue reading

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