Whew! We just returned from a week at IWF Atlanta and my head is still spinning with all the products and services we saw. Talk about a world full of challenging strategic business decisions; there were so many options and so many different ways to do more with less staff—intriguing new equipment to save floor space in your facility, or keep better track of your inventory—materials that dry faster or finish with more depth—greener options to both save money and save the planet—ways to make kitchens, and storage, more efficient and/or more beautiful . . . the list goes on and on!
I was fascinated to see how different people approached these types of decisions. One cabinet shop needed a CNC machine for some small detail panels they were creating. Instead of purchasing one large machine, they selected five smaller CNC machines that allowed them to create at the same pace but have more variety at the same time (and if the machine had to be taken out of service for any reason, only 20% of their capacity was down at one time).
How much can you save by optimizing material flow and reducing time searching for materials? Would it be worth the investment in an Intellistore® intelligent storage and retrieval system if you could significantly reduce panel damage due to constant mishandling and decrease forklift traffic issues? Or would a smaller RFID Automated Component Tracking system be the right answer for your particular challenges? There are options that fit the smallest shops, inventive choices for mid-size operations, and spectacular discoveries for the “Big Boys.”
Making wise strategic decisions requires significant work. Don’t just use your guts to make these decisions (although your instincts are critical). Do the research, figure out the numbers, make a list of pros and cons and then, and only then make your decisions. The people who make the equipment and materials can help you figure out the savings versus cost in your investment. They have great information to offer on what other, similar operations have saved and how they integrated the new systems and materials into their operations.
Look carefully at the evidence, challenge their information and statistics, study the fit for your business, and don’t be afraid to initiate change when the right opportunity comes along. Shows like IWF, AWFS, and LIGNA, as well as our ProductIQ.com database can be great places to learn more about what you want to consider.
Most of all, enjoy the hunt for improvement. It can be confusing, exciting, overwhelming, and very, very rewarding when you find the right answers.