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Balancing People Capacity --Dickeson

April 2003

But when we do this we get a fresh, global view of our industry, don't we? We're suckers paying a dime more for every dollar of value we add for people we can't, or aren't, using! When we see those two graph lines and when we scan down the Variance column in the table we ask ourselves: "Didn't we know this? Are we that dense?"

The answer is that we knew, or sensed, that something was wrong. We called it "over-capacity" and blamed suppliers for sweet-talking us into equipment purchases. Yes, we were that dense. We bought the machines and then kept all the same people cashing the same, or increasing, paychecks. We dreamed that, in some magic way, new sales would keep everyone busy. Never happened in 11 years.

Or we didn't buy the new machines when we should have and the old equipment required more payroll capacity to deliver the jobs. We delayed equipment decisions beyond their time. In either case, it comes down to people as the capacity constraint, doesn't it? With new equipment we have unneeded staff.

With older equipment we need to have more staff to get the work out. The key is the delicate balancing of capacity with adding values demanded by the voice of the customer. And at the right moment in time.

And then there's that old marketing myth that in order to keep accounts we must supply ALL the printing needs of the account. (If I hear that one more time, I'll vomit!) We support inefficient processes to avoid a competitive printer getting cozy with "our" account. This excuse is offered to support capacity for processes we can't justify.

It all comes back to top management decisions, doesn't it? The buck stops right there. We must make the right decisions at the right time and then execute. As Jim Collins puts it in his "Good to Great" book, it's all about knowing when to curl up into a ball, make like a hedgehog and do what we do best.

Personally, I'm obsessed. We haven't been providing ourselves the support information we need to make and execute those critical decisions. We're still far too busy specifying, planning, budgeting, and setting unattainable goals and targets. That old model died in the '80s when we began to learn about variance and prediction. We're still reluctant to admit it's gone.

The game is to balance capacity with what we can do well and forget the rest.

—Roger V. Dickeson

About the Author

Roger Dickeson is a printing productivity consultant based in Tucson, AZ. He can be reached via e-mail:


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