Catching data thieves on the production floor
June 19, 2017 | 11:14 am CDT

As each project or production order your company processes must wind its way through a series of steps to completion.

Along the way, there may be losses and delays, each one “stealing” some of your precious profit dollars.  This theft is happening real-time, and will continue until it’s eliminated.

A key chapter in my book, Love Thy Data, is called To Catch a Thief, however; that story explains that the real thief was our company’s faulty record keeping. (I'll be covering more of this area during my presentation July 18 at the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum at AWFS Fair.)


Your business is always seeking a goal (profit), which requires skill and experience, while navigating a changing business landscape.
Along the way, your company must manage diverse resources—workers, materials, machinery, facilities, to fulfill orders. In the fast-paced process, with attention focused on meeting deadlines, thieves abound, stealing profit dollars in many ways.
Each project or production order your company processes, must wind its way through a series of steps to completion. Along the way, there may be losses and delays, each one “stealing” some of your precious profit dollars.  This theft is happening real-time, and will continue until it’s eliminated.
Some of these costs are easily recognizable, while others lurk behind their masks, in hidden places, making them more difficult to spot.  
Sure, your orders don’t follow a path through crime-ridden terrain. However, each stage from bidding, through engineering, scheduling, material planning, and so on, is fraught with costly obstacles, many of which are accepted as necessary for the woodworking industry.
So, each of these processing stages can fall victim to this type of crime. The stealing takes place in the front office, in the shop, and in the field. You need crime prevention!
The worst of these thefts are often recognized, but considered unavoidable business expenses. There may also be other very recognizable issues that appear to be too costly or difficult to rectify, where the solution seems out of reach for your resources.  

Some options appear suitable only for big companies with the volume to justify the investment. This is the point at which you need to take another look at your map.  
Instead a road through landscape, your map should be a process flowchart, describing each of the steps toward your goal (profit).  
Careful analysis of your workflow often reveals waste and inaccuracies that steal profit dollars from your business. As to the issue of affordability, consider those few competitors that have already achieved unusually high profit margins, doing the same kind of work. Many of those are smaller manufacturers, with forward-thinking, agile management.  While these companies may lack the financial resources of larger manufacturers, they have achieved more efficient operations.  
How is this possible? They bought the same machines and use the same manufacturing techniques, but they are keeping a larger percentage of their sales revenue.
This is because so much thieving is taking place due to the manual and disconnected processes a typical business employs. Weak links and slow, labor-intensive activities are often just accepted as unchangeable, when in fact there may be better options.  
Multi-million-dollar automation projects are not necessarily the solution to these wasteful activities.  Well integrated solutions are not a one-time effort, but the product of blending new technologies with your ongoing business operations.
Careful analysis, sound planning, and a realistic implementation plan will provide the results you need.  Then surprise; the crime rate goes way down!

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About the author
Mick Peters
Mick Peter’s career began in operations management in the manufacture of cabinets and custom architectural millwork, then to hospitality and dormitory, and next retail furniture products. The last two positions involved implementation of ERP from scratch. Both projects went live in under one year. These manufacturing management positions were followed by 12 years as president of InterPort Corporation, a consulting company and contract supplier to brands such as Century Furniture. Mick was also the developer of Trakker manufacturing planning and control software. In 1998 Mick became a founder and the first associate member of Roger Shaw & Associates (RSA).  
In 2014 Love Thy Data was published by Archway, aimed at helping business managers understand the reasons ERP is important, what to look for, and how to prepare for implementation. Mick is currently with Applied Automation Technologies LLC, specializing in ERP and manufacturing systems integration for the woodworking industry.