Brent’s Ten Dollar Idea
Brent looked over the top of his toolbox and saw Warren make his way down the aisle of machines smiling and nodding at employees as he took large hurried strides. It was Warren’s way of staying visible and to appear as if in touch of the employees, but his pace made it clear he had no time to be anything other than be noticed.
They smiled at each other as soon as their eyes met, but Warren’s smile was a bit forced and why not? Business had been slow, orders dropped off, productivity was lagging, and it was two months away from contract negotiations.
Brent wiped his hands with a shop rag and stuffed it in his back pocket. He turned off the power to his press and picked up a bound note book that laid on top of his toolbox. He met Warren in the aisle next to Brent’s work area.
“Warren,” Brent said. “Ya look a little worse for wear. How’s it goin’?”
“Good,” Warren said. “Things are good.”
“Warren, how long have we known each other?” Brent said.
“27 years,” Warren said.
“27 years and two months,” Brent said. “I remember breaking you in on the lathes. You were ready to quit the first week.”
“That was a long time ago,” Warren said.
“Now look at you,” Brent said. “Ya run the whole show.”
“Well,” Warren said. “You taught me well.” Warren started to walk away.
“Hold on,” Brent said. “I got something important to talk about.”
“What’s it about?” Warren said.
“First of all, have I ever steered you wrong?” Brent said.
“No,” Warren said. “You’ve been an asset to me and the company. Your ideas and suggestions have saved the company a lot of money.”
“And in two particular instances was the difference between profit or loss for the year,” Brent said. “Do you remember them?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Warren said as if interested in moving on. “We’re grateful and always will be.”
“That’s why I wanted to talk to you today,” Brent said. “I got an idea that will really help this place.”
“Can you write it down and put it in a suggestion box?” Warren said.
“You know how that goes,” Brent said. “It’s reviewed by a committee and if it’s not one of their ideas it never sees your desk. You know that. And besides that isn’t the way you and I deal with each other. We never have done things that way.”
Warren breathed heavily through his nostrils.
“That’s good,” Brent said. “I want to see you relax.”
Brent smiled and Warren tried to smile.
“What is costing this factory right now the most money?” Brent said.
“Scrap, bad parts we have to throw away,” Warren said. “Last month over $250,000 dollars was lost because of scrap. If not for scrap we’d be in the black.”
“Who makes the scrap?” Warren said.
“New employees in just about every instance,” Warren said. “25 % of our workforce has a year or less service and they produce 98 % of the bad parts.”
“Here’s my idea,” Brent said. “They aren’t bad people. They don’t manufacture bad material on purpose. They don’t know anything about machining.”
“That’s all there is to hire,” Warren said. “We can’t get people with experience. So how do you overcome that?”
Brent handed him the bound note book.
Warren looked at it passively.
“This is something I’ve worked on for nearly year. It’s a curriculum. It’s designed for 30 one hour classes. It teaches the basics on gauging, changing tooling, machine maintenance, use of hand tools, setup, time saving techniques and much more. You could have every employee who has been hired in the last year take a class for an hour a day and in six weeks he will gain two or three years experience without the mistakes.”
“We can’t afford to take an hour a day for each new employee,” Warren said as if Brent’s idea was childish.
“And you can afford to waste $250,000 a month in scrap?” Brent said.
“Speaking of loosing money,” Warren said sarcastically. “Do you know how much you’ve cost the company by standing here and doing nothing, but talking?”
“Well,” Bent said. “Since you have the meter running, how much?”
“About $10 dollars,” Warren said.
Brent pulled a twenty from his billfold and stashed it in Warren’s shirt pocket. “Here’s the $10 I cost you and another 10 because I’m ain’t done talkin‘.”