By Michael Hughes
A major part of my life has been spent reducing the complex to the simple.
In journalism, practitioners face a lot of language that would have made George Orwell, author of such wonderful dystopian novels as 1984 and Animal Farm, beam with pride. There’s cop-speak, court-speak and bureaucracy-speak, among others. Almost all involve officials or institutions who seem to prefer their communications to be as useless as possible. As one frustrated reporter at my last newspaper job said to a source unhappy with that day’s story, “We take what you say and turn it into English.”
Some translations are simple. Others, like a proposed merchant agreement from Columbia Bank, defy such attempts. The poorly written document is replete with clause piled upon clause into long, indigestible sentences. The document not only “won” The Center for Plain Language’s top 2012 prize for the least usable document of the year, it was impossible to understand, so the nonprofit involved gave up pursuit of a merchant account.
So it was nice to discover that many, although not all, of you industrial engineers like things simple. Lean and continuous improvement often reduce operations into components that everyone from the new hire to the vice president can understand.
Likewise, in many cases IEs don’t have to push complex, multimillion-dollar investments to save millions of dollars, improve productivity and enhance quality.
Rob Wilkins, Bublu Thakur-Weigold and Stephan M. Wagner demonstrate this in “Managing Demand Uncertainty,” the cover story on Page 30. The authors relate how paying attention to people, process and leadership reduced inventory in HP’s media supply chain by nearly half without compromising availability to the customers. The division added revenue while reducing product offerings by 20 percent and shortened supply lines from Europe to North America.
And, the writers emphasize, none of the solutions required spending tons of cash on new technology or software.
So the next time you face a process problem, show this month’s cover story to your supervisors in your quest to convince them to use the simple, and correct, solution.
Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at email@example.com or (770) 349-1110.