Shop Life

Learn from Disaster

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As I write this letter, we’re a few days out from the polar vortex of January 2019. It’s not the first polar vortex we’ve experienced up here in Minnesota, but it is the first time that the cold has caused 10 Missions’ office to shut down for the day. In fact, the weather was so frigid one of our employee’s cars is still sitting in our parking lot, refusing to start—three days later. It was fairly ridiculous, and it makes you question why you live in a place where the windchill can conceivably hit –50 degrees Fahrenheit and where 2 degrees above zero feels balmy in comparison.

However, any chance I had of feeling sorry for myself and my hometown stopped when I read Ryan Cropper’s column this month, “Staying Open Amid Repairs.”

Over the past couple of months, Ryan has explained in his column the process of dealing with the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Anchorage, Alaska, late November, an earthquake that seriously damaged his facilities.

It’s quite the story, and I encourage you to read it. And for those of you who finish the column thinking, “Oof, I’m glad I live in a land-locked state in the Midwest” like I did, there are some takeaways from the (admittedly extreme) situation that apply to any operation, regardless of circumstance, location or size.

On a surface level, that takeaway is simple: Life is unpredictable.

A natural disaster could strike.

Someone in the shop could fall ill.

Your best manager could quit.

You might want to take a month-long sabbatical, like columnist Kevin Rains did.

Heck, you might want to take one day off without wondering how the shop is doing without you.

Those possibilities, however, only underscore the importance of a concept that we touch on in nearly every issue of FenderBender: the need for systematic processes.

Without processes and procedures, dealing with those situations becomes exponentially more difficult. But even beyond their increased necessity during difficult times, consistent processes are also the key to smooth day-to-day operations.

In this issue, you’ll find a variety of stories with the goal of helping you shore up your shop’s procedures—from the main feature on estimating (“The Ultimate Guide to Modern Estimating”) to the Case Study on managing WIP (“The Key to Better WIP”)—and ensure it doesn’t take a disaster to systemize how your shop runs.


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