Wedding Day May 21, 2019
You know about all the mayhem we have been having at work which has been complicated by my Daughter’s wedding. It began with the rehearsal and dinner on Friday which continued with bar hopping until about 10 ( I didn’t go.) I was up the next morning at 6 to make breakfast for the bridesmaids, fresh strawberries and blueberries with a lemon cream sauce and eggs benedict. Melissa came by the day before and decorated the table with the wedding colors, white, blue and green. The girls showed up at 7:30 with three stylist who did their hair and make up. That lasted until about two so I also made them a pasta salad for lunch. Finally the big moment, a beautiful, very traditional ceremony at our church. The reception was at a restaurant with a glass wall over looking Tampa Bay at sunset. The food was good, the bar was open and the band was awesome (who knew Darwin could dance?). We went home at 11 but they all hit the bars again till who knows when, then went back to their hotel for a few hours sleep before starting the party up again at breakfast the next day. That part isn’t very traditional but I guess it is okay since they are not going on their honeymoon until June. She also had two wedding planners and two wedding photographers (yeah, two) who began taking pictures at two in the afternoon during the makeup party and were not done until 11. They did agree with me that they rarely see a bride as beautiful as my daughter. I almost lost it a couple of times, just before our walk down the aisle, the father daughter dance and when I gave my speech. It has taken me a couple of days to recover and clean the house but it is starting to feel like things are getting back to normal.
Forecasting Rain? May 16, 2019
I thought weathermen (weatherpeople?) were terrible forecasters but I have a lot more sympathy for them now. We have been doing a terrible job forecasting shipping dates for our products and that has been the most stressful thing I have had to face. I know how upset I was when our spin grinding wheels were a month late so I totally get how frustrating it is for both our dealers and customers to get bad info on delivery dates.
In all fairness, it has been a crazy year. Orders came pouring in literally overnight. At the end of 2018 we had machines in stock and no back orders. By the end of the first week of January, we were sold out and had a back log of orders. We have been shipping machines at three times the rate we have in any of the last ten years and our back log continues to grow. This problem is compounded by the fact that over half of our production crew has been with us for less than 3 months. A new machinist started last week and we are now trying to hire another. We had never really recovered from the prolonged task of hiring a lead machinist and we just blew through what should have been a years worth of inventory in three months.
We are going the step back and stop giving delivery dates until I can assess what our current inventory situation is and figure out why we have done such a bad job of forecasting. This will take a couple of weeks but I wont start on it until next week. I am a little busy as my daughter is getting married this Saturday.
Reorganizing Redux. May 4, 2019
We are making grinders at three times the rate we have made them in any of the last ten years, only a couple of those are from the former Neary dealers, and we are still booking orders faster than we can ship. The hardest part is staffing up. The last time we had a big surge of orders is when a Japanese company decided to equip all of their courses with our grinders. Then we had about a year’s warning and they ramped their orders up gradually and spread it out over three years. This time is was literally over night. I thought we had the staff we needed but we decided today to add another machinist but that will probably take months to fill.
We have also decided to increase our batch sizes which means we have to increase our floor space. We had a subassembly cart for each grinder. When the carts were full, we could start the final assembly. The carts take up almost as much space as the grinders and always seemed to be in the way. We are moving those carts to the machine shop to transport machined parts from one station to the next and we are replacing the carts in assembly with rolling shelves on which we can put all of the subassemblies for a batch of grinders. We were a little concerned that they would be unstable but they seem to work fine.
The other space hog we had was the mobile assembly table for final assembly. A good concept but a bad idea. It was awkward moving from assembly to assembly so tools were put into the subassembly carts or on top of the machine. We have replaced the table with a standard tool cart which has plenty of room for the tools needed. The top shelf is kept open for parts or frequently used tools. Since all four wheels swivel, it is easily moved between assemblies.
I appreciate everyone’s patience. It takes a while to hire people, train them, and implement process improvements for both better quality and speed. The one up side is that we are making the best quality machines we have ever made.
I don’t know when to quit. April 29, 2019
I have missed posting my blog for the last two weeks for which I am sorry. It is hard to maintain good habits but it continues to be a kind of crazy year. We are still selling grinders at triple the normal rate which has led to some pretty long lead times and missed shipping dates. When more than half your crew has been working less than three months, it is hard to plan. Since the next three sets of machines were all going to courses in Florida, I decided to deliver them myself. This would get them to the customer 2 to 4 days earlier than if I had shipped them. I had already begun taking the equipment out of my old Sprinter (2004 with 390,000 miles) so I decided to use it one more time to deliver these machines. I had planned on selling the old Sprinter just as soon as I had the new van ready to go, but that has also taken longer than expected. I was even considering keeping the old Sprinter for just such occasions.
Thursday night, I was loaded up to make the first delivery to the keys. I left at 5:30AM and made it there in time for lunch. After lunch, we unloaded the machines and we headed back. We got as far as Homestead when I heard a loud bang and then a pop pop pop. I pulled into a gas station and opened the hood. It only took a minute to realize that one of the glo plugs had popped out of the head. I tried, without tools, to reinstall it, but that was a no go. I searched on my phone and found a truck repair garage less than a mile away. I limped over. They didn’t work on Sprinters but I guess they took pity on me and tried. The threads on the glo plug , which I had just replaced a few months ago, were still good, but they had no luck. So now what do I do?
I could get a tow to a garage that would work on it which would have probably been in Miami, $200. I would then have to rent a car, $100. It would have been too late to leave so a motel room is another $100. They would not have started it until Monday and I know what they would say “The head has to come off, $4,000 minimum”. I did not want some shop 300 miles away to do that kind of job so I would have to have it towed again. So I bit the bullet and decided to go ahead and have the van towed back to Tampa that night. Six hours and $1,700 later, we were back in Tampa. My first reaction was that I wished I had sold the van last week as I had originally planned but then I realized that it would have been worse If this had happened a week after I had sold it.
It would be great if my regular shop can fix it without pulling the head but I am not too optimistic. Since I have been driving it for the last 4 or 5 years with only two glo plugs, I thought that a work around fix would be to tap it with a pipe tap with grease on it to catch the chips and just plug the hole. Any one have any thoughts or experience with this? One way or another, the old Sprinter has got to go.
A Bad Case of Bad Cases April 8, 2019
A few weeks ago, I told you about all of the problems we were having. One of those problems was that the company that made the case for The RHOC discontinued the product. We searched the whole “interweb” and found half a dozen potential replacements. All but one was either not the right size or too expensive. We even looked at making our own wooden case. The one we liked best was almost identical to the original case we used for The RHOC. That original case was expensive and the foam in it was too thick which caused the case to bulge slightly. The new case has a choice of foam inserts that, with a slight modification, seemed to work perfectly. This case was also 40% less than the original case. When I looked at it more closely, I realized it was the same exact case. The original supplier presented themselves as the manufacturer but they were just a middle man. Thus the higher price and only one type of foam insert. One problem down, twenty-three to go.
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