The Operational Impact on Your Printing Business When You “Do Nothing”

Posted by Rock LaManna

 Doing Nothing

All this month, we’ll be talking about nothing.  As in, what would happen to your business if you avoided making a big decision, and instead chose to do nothing? In this post we talk about how doing nothing can impact your operations, and believe me, the news isn’t good.

As a reminder, I’ll be talking about how “doing nothing” when I present “Making Big Decision: Will Doing Nothing Destroy My Business?” at PRINT 13 in September.

The Danger of Doing Nothing With Your Equipment and Your People

For insight into the danger of doing nothing, we tapped into the expertise of LaManna Alliance lean operations guru Ed Klaczak.

Ed Klaczak

Ed Klaczak

Ed began by talking about your equipment.  If you don’t do anything in regards to preventative maintenance on your equipment – no lubricating, no sharpening – over time you’ll experience a degradation of equipment and product.  For example, your printed pieces might have a little burr on the edge or print definition is not as sharp as it use to be, etc.  And your clients wouldn’t be happy.

That’s a literal example, and most owners would shrug and say, “Of course I would do maintenance on my machines.  Just because I’m sitting tight operationally right now doesn’t mean I would let my equipment fall into disrepair.”

Obvious, right?  But many owners don’t seem to equate that same line of thinking to their business and staff. If you do nothing to analyze your operational systems, procedures get out of date.  Processes start to vary.  Different people will do things differently. “You won’t get the consistency the organization is looking for,” Ed said.

It’s like maintaining a lawn.  Sit still, and weeds will grow and overrun your lawn.  The same can be said for quality improvements.  If you’re not continuously looking to improve and add quality to your organization, the weeds will grow.  Your organization will eventually be overrun.

Two Types of Owners Who Do Nothing

This seems like a matter of common sense, right?  So why don’t owners move to improve?

Before we answer that question, consider there are two types of owners who do nothing.

There are those who simply don’t make the time to implement quality into their organization.  They micro-manage everything (Business Development, Sales, Scheduling, etc.) and become ‘consumed.’  They’ll use the excuse that they’re “too busy” to use customer feedback for improvement, or to talk to their employees about changing processes.

Then there is the owner who understands the value of quality improvement, but is experiencing paralysis by analysis.  He or she can’t make a decision on the next step, and so any efforts to improve sit dormant.  This owner doesn’t understand that you don’t take on the full slate of issues all at once.  Instead, you Pareto the defects and incrementally implement quality improvements.

So what’s the over-riding factor in both owners?  

One part is fear.  Fear of embarking on a quality improvement process that they don’t fully understand, and fear of what the outcome of that kind of analysis would tell them about their own business.

More so than fear, however, Ed notes they suffer from indifference.  “Operations is probably NOT their strength,” he said.  “For most owners, either Bus. Development/Sales is their strength or developing the core technology, but NOT Operations.  Either an owner doesn't understand Operations... or doesn't care to understand Operations, etc. Thus, it suffers.”

The typical small business owner will get very involved with improving the processes for the core services they provide, but not on the ancillary processes that cumulatively helps them run the business more efficiently, eg. Sales, Customer Service, A/R, A/P, Production Scheduling, etc.

“This is where an external Quality/Productivity assessment will help or if they have a robust Quality Systems, then their internal audit process will identify opportunities for improvements,” he said.

The Impact of Doing Nothing On an Operation

I asked Ed if there was any kind of measurement in the quality world of the impact of “doing nothing.”  Let’s return to our lawn-mowing analogy:  How long would it take before it was overrun by weeds if you did nothing?

Ed was not able to determine an exact time when processes/procedures would produce defects, or estimate how long it would take before your business would decay.  But he didn’t mince words about how drastically things could go wrong when they do.

“It could be catastrophic,” he said.  If you don’t do anything to improve your systems and processes, it’s conceivable that defects will occur and result in one entire order being botched, delaying a shipment (customer dissatisfaction) or internal yields reduction to a point where you are not profitable anymore (on that lot, for that month, etc).  If you’re tight with your cash flow, this could have a huge impact on your business.

The point here is that your people and your processes are much like your equipment.  “They are the human part of the system,” Ed said.  “6 Sigma helps to minimize human and process variation.”  If your business isn’t constantly looking for new ways to improve, those variations will compound over time.

Photo by: Victor1558

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Topics: Lean Operations