Change in the fluid power industry is almost always through gradual evolution, and not in huge jumps and starts. Our technology is a mature one, and there’s comfort in that—but we also need to be wary of complacency.
At this month’s 34th Annual Meeting & Convention of NAHAD in San Antonio, attendees heard a fascinating presentation by Ross Shafer, a well-known author and television producer. He implored the audience to take a long hard look at how they are doing business and whether there are basic process improvements that can be made.
Shafer gave some great examples of companies in the consumer world that were willing to re-examine everything based on customer feedback. One of my favorites was how CVS realized, after many years in business, that they were placing medications for backache on the lower shelves. It might not seem like an issue until you put yourself in the position of the customer with back pain, trying to reach down and grab those pills to put in their cart.
Another way to improve our businesses is to look at how others are doing and asking why they’re having success that others aren’t—whether it’s one of your peers or a branch location of your business. Shafer described how one apartment manager at a company had collected so many more pet fee deposits than anyone else in the country. Upon asking him for his secret, he replied that he’d spent $3 on a dog whistle. He’d walk up and down the halls, blowing the whistle, and knock on the doors where dogs were barking.
At a packaging company, there were problems with the occasional potato chip bag that wasn’t being filled with product—but was still included in boxes to be shipped out. Yet one location had no such problems. Managers investigated and discovered that a staffer had purchased a small fan from WalMart and pointed it at the conveyor line right before the boxing station. This inexpensive solution simply blew the empty bags to the side.
The key, of course, is finding that dog whistle or fan in our own processes. So many times, we do certain processes only because we’ve always done them that way. Take a hard look at your company and don’t be afraid to question everything.
And why? Shafer put it bluntly.
“The velocity of this economy is unforgiving. If you don’t like change, you’re going to hate extinction.”