An up close look at a distant place
It’s official now. The Tailwind System has expanded to Australia.
There are already a number of potential clients waiting in the wings, but the world’s newest Tailwind Systems user is Newey’s Drive-Thru Cleaners in Southport, Queensland.
But you most likely know all that. Today, I’d like to share my experiences Down Under with you. I have a lot to say, but nothing like what I expected. My thoughts are starkly different than those that I came back with from Great Britain, Europe, Japan or India. And when I returned from India, I disappointed at least one of my editors by failing to present a photo of myself riding an elephant.
Well, still no elephant, but I had my fill of interactions with the local livestock, and I have photos to prove it. And check out my Facebook page for crocodile, Koala and kangaroo movies (www.facebook.com/
Newey’s is owned by Bill Hudson who will soon sell off his interest to his 30-year-old, newlywed and remarkably intelligent son, Justin.
I worked with Justin for seven days and I must say that he was a real joy to work with. His acute sense of understanding and attention to detail along with his ability not only to understand the importance of details but in relaying the minutia to his employees is uncanny.
In fact, among the hundreds of managers and owners that I have trained, he has no equal. It is Justin Hudson that will play a major role in cementing the future of Tailwind in Australia because he will easily maintain and perhaps even trump the high standard of savings that we have presented at Newey’s.
Here are my observations at Newey’s in Australia:
This might be a bit hard to believe, but its true. The very first song that I heard on the radio at the plant was that Men At Work song “Down Under.” It was especially coincidental because I had been singing it in the shower a few hours before. And Justin bought me a jar of Vegemite, but the airport confiscated it and I never got to try it.
Brisbane, the nearest international airport, is very far away from Massachusetts. From where I sit in my office on the right coast of the United States, this is almost the farthest you can go without needing a rocket ship. It takes about 26.5 hours to get here.
As I type this, I am on my last leg of this journey home, SFO to BOS, but I had to fly to Auckland, NZ, first and then a 13-hour flight from there to San Francisco.
But I have flown far away before — Japan and India are among the 27 countries that I’ve visited
What makes Australia so remarkable is how Americanized it is.
First of all, the Gold Coast even looks more like Miami Beach than Miami Beach does. Silly statement perhaps, but I say it because the Gold Coast isn’t multi-cultural. Everyone speaks English, acts American and sound a little bit British. And remember that this is a British Colony. Queen Elizabeth is pictured on their money, but it is the Americans that they embrace. In fact, every Australian that I spoke to made it a point to tell me this.
And since I mentioned Australian currency, please allow me to go off on a tangent for a minute. Their paper money isn’t paper at all. It’s sort of a Tyvek material. It looks like paper money, but it doesn’t wear or tear. It lasts forever. And you can’t counterfeit it, not only because of the material that its printed on, but because a portion of the money is clear — you can see through it! How can you photocopy that?
Perhaps we should consider that some other countries have great ideas, too. Instead, we continually succumb to the influences of the Crane Company that makes our paper money only to see it fail to withstand much more than one year in circulation.
GreenEarth is very popular here. As is Wesvic’s Piece Counter and DCCS for Windows. Thankfully for me, DCCS is one of the POS systems that feature a component for the Tailwind System. They are curious about American ideas and they welcome the opportunity to investigate them.
There is no Foster’s Beer here. The US commercials may say that “It’s Australian for beer,” but although it is made here, nearly all of it is exported.
Australians are very hard workers. I never saw anyone slouch, show up for work late or complain about anything. They are remarkably friendly and it’s refreshing to visit a foreign country where Americans are looked up to rather than frowned upon.
Several employees told me tales of their visits to America and they were all fond recollections. Justin and his bride spent five weeks here a couple of years ago, did some great things on the left coast and found that they were made to feel very comfortable wherever they went. The Australian troops fight in our wars and believe in what they are doing. And they don’t complain to us if and when the unthinkable happens. They are good people.
In spite of the high payroll cost that I came here to fix, productivity was not the problem. Take a look at the Wesvic PieceCounter pictured. Admittedly, the goals are too low and I have strongly recommended that this be remedied. As you all know, I place a great deal of importance on good productivity and it is especially satisfying when staff meets those goals.
However, when the goals are regularly attained — or easily attained — they must be modified to reflect the skill set of the employee. Look at the photo above, for example. The PieceCounter is programmed to 28 pieces per hour, but the employee does over 47. It is important that the goal be programmed to more closely match this presser’s ability.
This press station belongs to a woman named Mandy. Mandy’s hours have been drastically reduced now that Tailwind is in place.
She could, consciously or sub-consciously, slow down her production to a rate that is much lower than shown here — that is, press only 28 pieces per hour rather than 47 in order to retain the hours that she has lost. If she did that, her reported production in the PieceCounter report would be in line — that is, at 100 percent — but markedly lower than previously reported.
All this means, simply, is revisit productivity goals from time to time so that they keep pace with employee’s abilities.
I found it very interesting that Australia — or at least the parts of Australia that I visited — routinely mention and refer to common U.S. locales as though those cities were nearby and of importance to them.
I read the newspaper daily and there were always mentions of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles (without adding “USA” after them), as routinely as mentioning Cooktown or Toowoomba, neither of which means anything whatsoever to you.
Fourteen million of the 20 million Australians live on the East Coast of the continent.
Drycleaning supplies cost three times what Americans pay. Cleaner’s Supply, not surprisingly, does a lot of business here. A box of safety pins cost $30 here! Even with air-freight costs added on, U.S. supplies are much cheaper.
You’d be impressed with the prices that consumers pay for drycleaning and laundry services. You’d envy them. But, surprise! There is a price to pay… the cost of living here is very high and pressers typically make $20+ per hour. And rents are very high, too. It’s all relative.
Australians import a great deal of their goods from the U.S., but it drives them crazy to realize that “our” goods come from China, are slowly ferried to the USA and then head back to their side of the globe! I guess that I can’t blame them for their angst!
All told, this expansion to Australia has been a great one! Australians are great people, hard workers and a joy to be around. There is a ton of business here for me so I expect to make annual trips, but is there any chance that we can move it a bit closer?
“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!”