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Operations Q&A: Should You Sweat the Small Stuff?

The smallest of details can sometimes have huge ramifications.
LeeSchwartz

Question: What’s the difference between 5 mm and 7 mm?

Answer: This is not a math question nor intended to insult anyone’s intelligence. Rather it is an ode to how the smallest of details can have huge ramifications.

To provide perspective, 2 mm is the thickness of a nickel. Think about that for a moment. It does not seem very consequential. However, in my case, it had a huge impact.

I was having a number of head-scratching problems with my laptop. Having an in-home warranty package with the supplier, I called tech services to schedule a tech visit to my office. The tech arrived, attended to the identified problems and left, assuring me that all was well.

The computer performed as one would expect so long as my fingers only touched the keyboard. Any wiggle or purposeful movement to the screen and the computer would literally turn off. Black screen. Needed to reboot.

Another call to the supplier. Another tech visit. The machine was fully disassembled – including all those little screws – and then reassembled. But the problem remained.

Once again, they dismantled the laptop, from stem to stern. More by happenstance than purpose, the cause of the shutdown was discovered. Where a 5 mm screw was called for, a 7 mm variety was inserted by the first tech. Every time the screen was jostled, that elongated screw hit something internally that caused the machine to shut down.

Bottom Line: Have you read – or at least heard of – the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? That might be a good approach for overall mental and physical health, however it is not always the right answer. Being attentive to detail is critical to so much that you do every day.

Imagine if:

  • The zip code on a mailing label was one digit off.
  • The part number on the pick ticket read 1000 when the item desired was part number A1000.
  • 100 units of a product were physically received yet only 10 entered into the computer.

Take the time to get it right the first time. No wasted time, energy, resources, etc. When it comes to operations, sometimes it's OK to “sweat the small stuff.”

Lee Schwartz, former CEO and president of distribution and manufacturing companies, is principal of the Schwartz Profitability Group (SPG) that, for almost 13 years, has uncorked the operational bottlenecks of distribution and manufacturing companies, boosting their bottom line results. His consulting and operational turnaround work helps clients find solutions related to process improvement, supply chain management, inventory control, workflow design, and operational performance.

If you have questions regarding operations for Schwartz, please email him at lee@schwartzpro.com.

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