Systems, machines and people

Some days, fighting in the trenches gets bloody and awful. Nothing is working right, a hiccup here a falter there and a disaster thrown in for good measure. Arron Harnden of Shirtworks talks systems, machines and people.

Your forehead takes the pressure of both palms as you cup your cranium and rub it in a circular motion as though this rubs away the problems.

The definition of stupidity is repeating the same mistake twice, you know this but how do you stop yourself and the collective organism that you govern from making those mistakes? Especially when the organism is multiplying its numbers and it takes time to train people and eliminate the variability in their thinking so there is a standardisation of procedures and of actions?

I think I have figured it out.

I am going to get a machine, some IT systems and some robots, I am going to try to fully automate the business, where do I start?

Let’s try at the beginning of the customer journey and order lifecycle.

Ok, we have a website, Google likes it, it automatically pulls in enquiries and it quotes automatically – check that box.

Ok, we have a frontline sales team that then work hard to convert those enquiries into orders. Hmmm… I reckon I can set up some drip marketing email automation from having collected customers email addresses and this should eliminate the need to call those prospects – check that box.

Ok, I can get customers to place their own orders using our website, they can upload their own artwork, fill out delivery details and make payment – check that box.

Ok, that order needs garments purchasing from the wholesalers so I can get the order system to send a PO directly to PenCarrie – check that box.

Ok, when the goods come in I need a robot who can move boxes, open boxes, pull out shirts and count them and notice if there are any incorrect garments, it needs to be able then put the shirts in other boxes, label them, move them into the correct production bay and then check the stock in on the ordering system. Hmmm, yeah, ok… skip that one.

Ok, so we have some big automatic carousels, they have eliminated the need to drag a squeegee across a screen – check that box.

But I need a robot who can load and then take the shirts off the carousel and place them neatly on the dryer belt while being able spot check for fluff, print inconsistencies and garment faults… ok, park that one.

Ok, I need a machine that can catch the shirts off the end of the dryer and fold them neatly ready for the bagging and then count them all as they are boxed neatly, taped up and then manifested for dispatch… pffffffff… this is getting complicated.

Complicated is the problem.

The problem is complicated.

I want to fix complicated by removing the human element, removing fatigue and lazy corner cutting and bad decision making by systemising and by automating and by… by losing those funny stories that make the day bounce along more quickly, by losing those kind little gestures of tea making for each other, by losing all those little human dramas that make life what it is.

Life…

It’s complicated.

Because humans make it complicated.

How do I stop it being complicated?

I know… I am going to get a machine, some IT systems and some robots.

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