Purple Highlighters and Hoarders

My wife Susan and I enjoy weekend shopping excursions to some favorite haunts—antique shops, flea markets, etc. We also like scouring business supply places for more items that could help keep order in our business.

A few weeks ago we went to an Office Max to pick up some purple highlighters—a hard item to find in bulk, we discovered. But, our daughter-in-law Jennifer needed them, it seemed.

“Why purple?” Susan asked, “What does she use them for?”

“To highlight some key information on Job Tickets in production,” I replied. “Purple is Jennifer’s favorite color!”

“That must take a lot of time, highlighting all those Tickets!” Susan remarked.

“Well,” I said, “I’ll tell you why it’s so important!” It amazes me sometimes, that, after all these years, Susan is such a good listener. She also edits or corrects everything I write—so, I’ve learned to listen to her, too!

Many years ago, we had an error on a particular job and it turned out the root cause of the error was—a press operator said he “didn’t NOTICE the special instructions printed on the job ticket.” An expensive error!

“Pretty lame excuse!” I thought. My guess was: the press operator had not bothered to look for the special instructions printed on the Job Ticket. However, in the spirit of continual improvement, we had decided years before to FIRST give an employee the benefit of the doubt. We wanted to help and encourage employees by exploring ways to improve our systems, in our quest for zero errors—even if it seemed some excuses were weak.

I remember being a press operator myself, many moons ago, and making this same silly mistake—NOT reading a Job Ticket thoroughly. There can be a lot of information on a Job Ticket and, when it’s all printed in black type on white paper it can be a little dizzying!

Back to improving the Job Ticket system…

Philip Beyer, founder/president of Beyer Printing and Ebiz Products LLC in Nashville, TN, is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant, author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business," and an InterTech Award recipient for the design and development of System100™ business process management software. Philip speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses.
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  • Melissa Sienicki

    A great read, Philip. One has to appreciate the simplicity of highlighting to organize information and eliminate errors. Sometimes the most basic systems are the best systems!