Taking stock of the situation

February 28th, 2009

Acme Tool Co. is not especially vulnerable to the current economic climate, supported as we are by a repair industry, and repair being a fact in a cynic’s life and not just a realtor’s dream of an ever-exploding house value. But the collapse of unbounded optimism is sucking quite a lot down the drain with it. Somewhere around a dozen salaried employees were shed from our plant; we were among the fortunate, and the discerning ear can hear the tremors of further exfoliation.

One of the reasons our employment has not deteriorated further is the decision by our new Vice-Admiral to build up inventory–lots and lots of inventory. I’m sure I commented at least once on this site that the simplest way to improve your on-time delivery is to have plenty on hand to ship, and that is the general direction we are headed in. The obsession with cash flow — or inventory turnaround — has faded to a background murmur. After all you can’t worry about cash flow unless you have money flowing in, and you can’t have that without product flowing out. And today that means you can’t afford to let a customer walk away just because you couldn’t ship on the same day he ordered.


February 7th, 2009

We have a phrase at Acme tool company that I suppose they have at many companies: “It’s all about the customer.”

Since anyone can say “customer focused,” we better ought to have a look at what it really means. Imagine then that you are a potential customer of my company. As such, you might first hear about my company’s products from someone who works in Marketing. If you decide that you would like to buy our products and you would be a significant source of business for us, someone from Sales will work with you to make all the order arrangements. The salesperson will probably take care of booking your initial order, but after that you will work with someone in Customer Service to place your orders.

If you have inquiries on an existing order, you would contact Customer Service and if they were not able to answer your question they would pass your request on to Order Management. Order Management would pass your request on to Planning. If Planning could not give a satisfactory answer the question might go back the buyers as to why we did not have the material in place for us to be able to build your order.

And the buyers might say that when the Marketing people got together in their meetings to decide what tools to sell to you, they had in front of them some pieces of paper that said this could be made and that could be bought, and all of that was well and good and sometimes true. But the Marketing people did not know the problems that frequently arise when you try to make this thing this way, or buy that thing from that person, so that although things may work according to the pieces of paper, they often don’t.

I have left out a great number of people, not even mentioning Engineers or Accountants or Workers, to say nothing of all their various Managers, but if you are like me you do not even want to have to deal with Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. You want to talk to one person who can take care of your problem. So you may ask to speak with the Customer Service person’s manager; or if your list of contacts includes a seasoned veteran, in Sales let’s say, or even in Planning, you may go to them, and ask them to just take care of the problem for you.

Any veteran will know how to make sure something gets done, but whatever this worthy does on your behalf could have the effect of rolling a bowling ball through an elaborate maze of standing dominoes, so that dominoes go toppling in all directions. One way or another that crucial last domino will get toppled, but strings of dominoes will also run colliding into each other and running out into dead ends where the dominoes have already fallen.

But this is a diversion from my subject. Aren’t you, dear customer, glad that there is such an army of dominoes out there, all working on your behalf?