BQ Industries have recently taken over one of our rivals. They put themselves up for sale in 2012. And we made a bid. Which they rejected. They went with someone else.
But that someone else couldn't raise the funds they were promising. And the sale dragged on. Then off. Then on again. And finally the other party pulled out altogether this September and a week later our rival went bankrupt. So we stepped in and took it over. Kept most of the staff on temporary contracts.. reopened and got going again.. while we try and decide what to do with it.
This was a business about twice the size of ours back in 2010. The owner has not had any involvement with it directly since 2012. Just contact by email and phone to the manager.
Walking around this new-old business a lot of little things caught my eye.
Firstly, Its filthy. Every surface has grime and dirt. The bins were overflowing. Cardboard piled up like a tower block. This is common among failing business. Bills stop being paid. So the cleaners don't come. The recycling collections stop ..etc etc.
But what struck me was the sink, with the staff's own cups was dirty. Cups unwashed. Surfaces uncleaned.100 year old dishcloth.. These are the workers own belongings.
- The warehouse workstations are knee deep in the sort of rubbish that accumulates from packing and picking. Buried in the rubbish were pens, and cutters. Parcel tape. Boxes of labels etc.
I counted fifteen packing tape rollers for 8 workstations. About 20 box cutters for the same - Not including those discovered that have simply fallen on the floor. Most workstations have a box of 36 x 6 clear-tape. Don't use that very much. That's enough for each station for 6 months.
This is the public-private debate in micro. Although this business was a private business, its manager was allowing it to be run like a public one. A 'take what you want' instead of 'take what you need' attitude to basic supplies.
Whether the company made a profit or not was important to the manager. Make a loss and the job is gone. But the degree of profit was completely immaterial.
The savings in this case are minimal. 20 box cutters or 200 isn't going to make a dent in the losses this business had. But, as it appears to my casual eye, that 20 box cutters example is going to be repeated all across the organisation in every area. Costs...are not properly monitored. They probably aren't even measured.
When a worker drops a marker pen and it rolls under a pallet - they go and get another one. Because its simpler than lying on the floor to hunt it out. Or they get another one when they can't find the one that was there yesterday. And eventually, they will have a box full.
The manager doesn't get anything for making more profit. The manager is on a salary. The manager's job is easier if all the employees have all the tools they need to hand. So that's what happens.
That, in my private, but public sector dealing world is what I see. Take what you want. Order what you want. And have as much as you want. Until the budget cuts. When you suddenly run short of the actual things you need but have an excess of things rarely required.
Because, although its simple to sort this particular supplies issue, its also, hard.
Hard because it requires some discipline. Some proper management of people. Some change of attitudes and additional personal responsibilities that will produce a fair amount of grumbling but minimal tangible results.
Easy, because the answer to the workstation issue is simply to ensure the floor is properly swept.
A clean environment and a box to put away all the equipment the employee needs is all that's required. And a manager that will say "what did you do with the last one?"
Its far easier said than done.
And I don't think this particular new manager of mine - who put down on their time sheet the 10 minutes before they began work and the 10 minutes after they are due to go, is going to be able to do it.