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Distributor's Link Magazine Winter Issue 2014 / VOL 37 / NO.1

26 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S

26 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Robert B. Footlik Robert B. Footlik is a licensed professional engineer. A graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology, he has worked extensively in the fields of material handling, plant layout, packaging and management systems. The firm of Footlik and Associates serves as staff warehousing and materials consultants to six trade associations. Footlik writes for 12 trade and professional journals. Footlik and Associates is located at 2521 Gross Point Road, Evanston, Illinois 60601; phone 847-328-5644. OVERLOOKED SOCIAL CHANGES No business exists in a vacuum, especially Fastener Distributors. The products you sell, the customers you serve and the people you employ are bringing changes to the way business is conducted. Some of the new paradigms are overt and obvious (this article is being written while the Federal Government is shut down), while others are far too subtle to detect until it’s too late. Staying on top of the market also means staying ahead of the external world. Dumb and Getting Dumber In the name of “equal opportunity” and “diversity” standardized testing is becoming both ubiquitous and irrelevant to education. With state and federally mandated standards measured against comprehensive examinations, education is becoming increasingly designed around the test questions. Since there are no multiple choices for creativity, originality and individualism these traits are being submerged in the classroom. The gifted teacher who would answer a bright student with a question is becoming extinct. In your operation this can be observed in the lack of initiative of younger staff members. All too often they miss the obvious, fail to comprehend the need for creativity and cannot “connect the dots” that provide solutions beyond the normal situation. In effect they may know the “how” but are oblivious to the “why.” Adding pre-hiring testing questions that do not have rigid answers is one way to separate those who are smart from individuals who merely graduated. Asking “How would you….” will provide a better answer in your context than the typical true/false or multiple choice based questions. This is important for both the front office and the warehouse if your policy is to promote from within the organization. Real world mathematical skills are declining. This trend started with the widespread use of calculators and has continued at an accelerating pace. In theory this seems like a good idea, but in actuality people often fail to note the obvious. New hires should be tested on the basics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The number of failures may astound you, especially if you include job relevant questions such as “How many are in a dozen” “A customer wants 40 pieces and there are 10 pieces in a box, how many boxes need to be shipped” and “If there are 20 pieces in a box and the customer wants 18 how many should be removed” Similarly “Rules of the thumb” are becoming increasingly obsolete thanks to cell phone “Apps” that provide precise answers without having any real knowledge of the situation. What is being lost is an intuitive feel for things in context. An example of this was the initial launch of the Hubble space telescope with a mirror designed in English units but used in a metric environment. The oversight should have been obvious before all the time and money was invested in a fix using glasses to correct the focus. In your warehouse a more typical example would be an order shipped with 1,000 pieces for a customer who usually orders 10 pieces at a time. In the past we used experience to develop simple ways to double check things; now we are relying on computers and smart phones to do our thinking for us. Redesign the checking process to take this into consideration and use statistical sampling procedures as an inexpensive redundant way to double check that things are happening as required. This won’t eliminate problems, but it will minimize them. please turn to page 179

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