Yes, quality is everything, and it is in everything a company does: from the way you answer the phone, to the way you present your quotes, to the way you package your product, to the way your salesperson looks and acts, to everything large, or small, that your company does for the customer.
An astute customer will be looking for quality in everything you do, all the time. He will notice everything about your company, from the look of your parking lot and the outside of the building, to your lobby, conference room, and entire facility. It adds up to your overall quality picture.
Let me give you a few bad examples:
I once visited a company whose offices were a mess. There was dust on everything, ashtrays filled with cigarette butts—who knew how old those were? And the calendars on the wall were of scantily clad women! But that wasn’t the worst part; the calendars were at least five years old.
And this was at a working board shop in Western Florida, whose owner wanted my help selling that shop. I did not sell it, obviously, and they went out of business a few months later. What were they thinking? Did they really think someone would buy them? Were they unsure why they weren’t getting orders anymore?
I visited a shop whose public restroom was a complete disaster. Of six urinals, three were broken and had been broken for so long that the plastic that they had duct taped over them was yellowed with age. There were no paper towels in the paper towel holders, and the room smelled horrible. When I asked the owner about it, he gave me a blank look and said, “What does that have to do with us making boards?” Gee, I wonder.
Another time, I went to shop once that had an ugly, sodden, queen-sized mattress on the ground just below the loading dock. When I pointed that out to the owner he looked at me like I had two heads.
By the way, you don’t have to worry, I’m not talking about your shop; these companies went out of business a long time ago, which is not a surprise.
Those were the worst cases I’ve seen in my too long career in this crazy industry, but there is still a strong message here about quality. To get back to my original point, quality is everywhere and in everything you do.
One of the issues that has come up in the past few months is that of documentation. As boards get more sophisticated, so does the paperwork, which in turn means that the quality of the paperwork is now as important as the quality of the board. A board shipped with the wrong documentation is as unusable as a board that is delaminated or delivered late. The paperwork, just like the board itself, must be perfect.
The problem is that many people don’t get this. They build an extremely difficult board, practically kill themselves to get it out on time, get it to shipping with moments to spare, get it boxed up just in time for that expensive FedEx overnight delivery, and then breathe a huge sigh of relief as they watch the truck drive away with their hot, high-tech, expensive board.
The next day they get an irate call from the customer, the one who paid premium quick-turn money, and paid for that expensive overnight delivery, but now, alas, can't use the boards, because they cannot be received. The packing slip does not match the invoice; the board count is wrong; there is no C of C; there are no coupons; the boards were sent to the wrong receiving dock; the MIL-PRF-31032 documentation is missing. And guess what? That customer is going to have to hold up the boards and hold up that assembly line until the you can send them the right paperwork, and the boards can be properly received into his system. And, all of that is for a normal weekday delivery date. You can just imagine how ugly it gets if the customer has brought in a crew on a Saturday specifically to work on those boards! And of course, because it is Saturday, your shop is closed so you are not going to be able to fix the issues until Monday. And to make matters even worse, he still has to pay that very expensive crew for at least four hours of their time. That can get very ugly. And we wonder why people ask me why board shops suck?
Everything, and I mean everything, is important, including the documentation that goes with your boards. It’s all part of good customer service and good business practices. Now more than ever, your shipping department is as important as every other department in the company if not more so. Remember that, and take it seriously.
It’s only common sense.