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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


Socks, Six-Sigma and Salvation (Army)

I disappeared from these pages (or rather, from these pixels) for a couple of weeks. Given the time of year, you might have guessed—if you noticed at all—I was on a summer vaca.

Nothing of the sort.

• A dedicated grad student, I was writing my finals.
• A devoted husband, I attended my wife’s week-long series of graduation parties.
• A consummate American-dreamer, I was moving from one home to another.

The psychotherapists say that blocking out bad memories is a common coping mechanism. Self-preservation kicks in, or self-delusion. I likely blocked out all memories of past household moves, since I wasn’t particularly anxious about this one.

By the time my focus shifted away from finals and all the rest, and turned to packing, time was running thin. I began with the socks, and started feeling worse about myself from there. There were mismatches, obsolete styles, dorky holiday socks, worn-out socks, and socks I hadn’t worn in years hidden away in the corner of the drawer.

Four trips to the Salvation Army later, I’d given away much (socks and more), but also gained much (satisfaction and this week’s blog topic).

My house was an operations disaster! I wondered how in the world I had accumulated so much, and how I had failed to realize it. Where did it all come from? Having read about Little’s Law (among other takeaways, “Inventory = Throughput × Cycle Time”), I knew all this stuff had to be coming from somewhere. But where?

Was there a sock-knitting gnome hiding under my stairs?

My head ran wild as I computed average inventory, throughput, inventory turnover ratios— but then I stopped myself before I became a walking example of grad-school studies running amok. I felt stuck in the time of an Ionesco play. This WAS truly absurd!

Then again, it wasn’t, really. My sock situation pained me because I knew there was a better way; I was taught better than this. The experience was a great reminder to implement the basic standard practices.

Growing up in a printing facility, I’ve always known that there is specific place for everything needed for an operation, and that any extraneous movement or slowdown creates cost and reduces value to our customers. My education started with a common-sense approach to operations and continued formally with 5S and Six Sigma training.

I came back to work with a renewed vigor to maintain—and enhance—my office’s efficiency. Had my workplace gone the same way as my sock drawer, or was it an anomaly in my life?

I encourage you to follow my lead. Take a hard look at your sock drawer. Then do the same with your office’s workflow. The Salvation Army will greatly appreciate it. And so will your customers.

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