In my last few articles, I attempted to explain how you could save time by not
old wheel over and over again, asking the same questions and making the same
We need this valuable time to move to a new level of invention and re-invention.
There is this second tier of
questions that constantly get asked of
your colleagues, your staff, your
professionals and your partners, but
rarely can be properly addressed in an
Once we’ve put aside the
unnecessary questions, we can ask
and answer questions that need both
time and attention. The difficulty is
not only finding the time to ask the question, but asking the question properly
so that the
answer may be as useful as possible.
How to improve PPOH?
Last quarter we talked about the fact that it didn’t matter how you calculated PPOH, only that
you were consistent with the calculation to accurately track changes. As new
along, it is useful to understand the potential improvement available to you in
your PPOH, as
you consider significant capital investment.
Putting in an automated or semi-automated assembly system provides a clear
example of this
If you are currently using two full-time staff to inspect and assemble, by how
much will you
improve your PPOH if you automate the assembly system?
We haven’t asked the question correctly yet. We run a processing system, not just an
On the surface, you will lose one full-time assembly person and one remains to
garments on the conveyor or rails and remove them from the system as completed
what happens to the inspection system?
Can one person now inspect, load, and unload the assembly? Do you need to
and see how these people would move and perform their functions with new
Those who have asked the right questions, analyzed their data and understood the
have moved from 10 to 12 PPOH (clean, spot, press, inspect, assembly and bag) to
New industry standards have been set by spending the time evaluating a position,
and then moving forward with solid decision making and a real positive return on
Do you tag in at the store or centrally?
Now and then this becomes a very useful question, but rarely can it casually be
expect a useful answer. A quick answer can often result in more harm than good.
The question must again be looked at even broader than the new technology
considered above. This question must take into account issues like the store
volume, the store
image, the amount of add-on charges, the quantity of difficult-to-price
garments, and the
amount of space available.
Some plants still price at the counter in front of the customer.
This system makes it difficult to get the highest revenue per piece as the
customer stands and
waits for the transaction.
We know it produces higher wait times for customers who are very much in a hurry
when there are complicated price lists.
We know that it increases price sensitivity as customers receive priced invoices
leave, so what we’re really talking about is pricing at a mark-in station behind or near the front
Pricing at mark-in stations provides greater productivity of counter staff, but
it also results in
a production orientation by staff rather than a customer service orientation.
become an interruption to their day as staff must mark in the work in time for
the shuttle driver
or before they leave for the day.
The organizational decision becomes a trade-off of costs and benefits.
How do you want to use your counter staff? Are they primarily front retail sales
to service customers, market to customers, and support customers? Or are they
production staff with servicing as their secondary job?
There is no wrong answer, but there must be an answer to this question before
make any major changes.
Individuals who are able to leapfrog over their competition and move past the
status quo are
the same ones who spend the time asking the bigger questions and listening
intently to all of
the feedback they receive.
The big questions challenging us today include how to appeal to our younger
customers, how to introduce them to drycleaning, how to grow in a wash-only
and how to expand, cost effectively, into related markets.
There are companies today who feel they have answered some of these questions
beginning to translate their plans into concrete actions.
There are other companies who are still examining how to fit in with this new
world and they
will, most likely, find their way, because they have at least started to ask the
There are others that have not yet started to ask these time-consuming questions
and may be
Finally, there are those who will never start to ask the questions and they may
as we’ve seen in recent history.
These questions consider not only all of the previous areas of cost trade-off,
sales orientation, but also consider your financial position, business and
operational skills and
competences, and, not to forget, your personal energy and goals.
This is when the new wheel is truly invented.
How do you know when you’ve asked the right questions?
Often the key is when you get an unexpected answer. Then you know you’re looking at the
issues or opportunities from a different point of view than you previously had.
The similarity of
the questions above involves looking at the issues from all dimensions — from the customer, the
pricing, the equipment, the space considerations, and the profitability.
Asking the right question is not always obvious but it is critical. Without it
you may go down a
road you didn’t intend to go down with consequences you didn’t intend to have. Think carefully
when asking advice of those you respect. Make sure you’re asking the right question and
providing them useful information to keep you on your intended path.
Today it is even more important to spend time looking at your business,
strengths and weaknesses and your opportunities and threats. Reinventing
yourself on a big or
little scale is critical to survival. The threats and opportunities are all
around us and sometimes
pop up when you least expect it.
Don’t be afraid to move forward. Asking some hard questions is a first step.