If you don’t measure it, you cannot manage it!

Many managers have heard this and it is difficult to argue with.  It makes perfect sense, but what is hard to understand is that few managers live by this golden rule.  If you need to be convinced that you can’t manage something if you don’t measure it, consider this: 

You want to improve the productivity (shirts pressed per hour) off your shirt unit.  You consider it to be a problem primarily because you aren’t getting orders completed on time.  Your drivers wait every afternoon, for the shirt department.  Perhaps you bark at the pressers in the shirt department.  You aren’t measuring anything, but you feel certain that if you press shirts more quickly, your problem will disappear.  This seems logical.  But it is inconclusive. This is called a correlation between x and y.  x = poor production and y = delivery delays.  The problem with a correlation is that you don’t have all of the facts.  Does x cause y?  Or does y cause x?  Or is it another factor, z, that is the culprit? 

The conventional wisdom is that poor production breeds delivery delays – because it is “simple, convenient, comfortable and comforting – though not necessarily true.”  We correlate poor production with delivery delays, x causes y, but this is wrong.  Perhaps Z is the cause.  But what = Z? 

The only way to know is to have been measuring it.  Maybe your delivery delays have nothing to do with pressing productivity at all.  It is possible that the inspection/assembly arena is a disaster; shirts get pressed quickly, but then they go into the black hole that is the assembly area.  It’s possible that pressing productivity exceeds your expectation and because of that, your inspection/assembly area is overwhelmed.  That suggests that your barking about poor production may be causing the delivery delays!  Maybe the problem is the person scanning barcodes.  They are too slow.  Or maybe it isn’t the scanner (person) but rather the scanning device. 

Switching gears, if the drycleaning isn’t getting out promptly, you may assume that pressing productivity is the culprit.  Measuring everything would have shown you that you can only clean 50 pounds per hour, but you have pressing equipment that can easily press twice that.  Big problem.  The pressers know that they do not produce at maximum speed because they learned, a long time ago, that if they pressed clothes at their optimum rate, they would run out in 30 minutes.  They may not be able to tell you, precisely, that you can only clean half as fast as they can press, but they know it in their hearts.  You should be the answer man.  Measure everything!

I was working for a client in Oregon years ago and I was asked to look at one of his other businesses.  I didn’t know anything about this business – it was a delivery service.  I didn’t know anything about the business but I understand business and productivity and goal-setting.  One of the first things that I did was measure the time that the trucks went out.  Something about it didn’t seem right.  Three vans, sparsely loaded, out for 8 hours.  I knew that I didn’t have a clue about the geography.  It’s possible that the drivers had hundreds of miles to cover.  I didn’t ask questions.  I felt certain that if I did, the answers would be inaccurate.  I asked the manager to look into driver/delivery time.  It turns out that one of the drivers would come to work, load his truck and then go back home for 3 hours.  He would then head out to begin his route after lunch!

I mentioned to a client that I was suspicious about a presser that did starch pants and BDU’s.  This employee had been clocked in for 4 hours and had only pressed 20 pieces (I know this because I measured it).  I was clear about my dissatisfaction with this productivity rate.  “It’s 12 noon and this guy has been here since eight.  This is not acceptable!”  The owner corrected me by saying that this presser only gets in at 11.  I showed him the time card report that showed him clocked in at 8.  Everyday.  It turns out that someone in collusion with this dishonest employee, would clock him in every morning at 8.  She was caught on video!  They were both terminated that day, of course.  But the real lesson is that you can’t manage anything that you don’t measure!   

Measure everything!  Even if you have no clue what the standard should be.  And when you have no clue, it is amazing what you learn in 24 hours.  I have numerous examples of measuring something for which there is no established benchmark, but learning within a day, that one day the cost is double what it is on the other day!

Measure everything and then go from there.  Management will get much easier because undesirable statistics will be your manager’s call to action!

Picture of Donald Desrosiers

Donald Desrosiers

Don Desrosiers has been in the laundry and drycleaning industry for over 30 years.  As a management consultant, work-flow systems engineer and efficiency expert, he has created the highly acclaimed Tailwind Shirt System, the Tailwind System for Drycleaning and Firestorm for Restoration.  He owns and operates Tailwind Systems, a management consulting and work-flow engineering firm.  Desrosiers is a monthly columnist for The National Clothesline, Korean Cleaners Monthly, The Golomb Group Newsletter and Australia's The National Drycleaner and Launderer.   He is the 2001 winner of IFI's Commitment to Professionalism Award.  He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com and can be reached at tailwindsystems@charter.net or my telephone at 508.965.3163

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