Friday, April 01, 2005

I work in a section of the economy that is fast becoming extinct here in the US of A. Manufacturing. At the end of each fiscal year, we have a huge plant get-together. There's no music nor dancing. Scowling is a daylong facial condition. It's called inventory time.
For some manufacturing companies, this is the day that they find out if they've made money or not for the whole year. As you can deduce, waiting until the last day of your annual business cycle to find out if there will be some extra dollars in your till does not bode well for your company's future. Your grip around the true value of the stuff piled to the rafters in your warehouses should be tight, two-fisted hands-around-the-financial-health of your company throat.
Our company is OCD about our inventory. We've seen competitors disappear due to sloppiness in this area; when you're selling commodity type items, margins are the cliche-ish "razor thin" and any looseness with what and how you're manufacturing could cause a rapid disintegration from profitability to bankrupcy. For us, our annual event is simply an acknowledgment that we know what we're doing. Our physical counting of our stock falls within 0.15% of what we think we have (usually, anything within 3.0% is acceptable in our particular industry). The end results is not the cause of the scowl on most of our faces. It's the amount of time, 10-14 hours, that we spend on a late March Saturday (guaranteed to always be an absolutely gorgeous Saturday) while our families are out enjoying what is usually the first warm weekend in Spring.

Folks are not very happy. We've been working on a new system of doing things; a system that quite a few companies had adapted long ago. I won't go into any detailed or even general info about cycle-counting; I mean, I do want you to stay awake reading this piece! The short of it is that you simply spread the counting, checking, and worrying activity over the course of the year rather than putting all the calamity and the ill feelings into one day.
Dilution of effort.
Our inaugral year utilizing the newly installed methodology passed with flying colors. Saturday was saved for freedom. What had taken over 12 hours was cut down to 3 hours, on a mid-week day.

Rare is the time that a supervisor/manager will compliment one of their workers/associates.
Rarer still is the time when a worker/associate will bestow praise on their supervisor/manager.
It was amazing how the gift of an unencumbered Saturday affected our plant personnel. Hugs & kisses from everyone. Now, I'm just hoping for the appearance of the sun and 60 degree weather for this Saturday. Unexpected free time is (I apologize for the following word and hope it's not been copywrighted) priceless.

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