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Inventory Control Practices

Inventory Control Practices

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Inventory Control Practices for Winners

Next month will be the second anniversary of the Competitive Knowledge Newsletter. Our purpose was, and still is, to help manufacturing companies reach their full potential by providing competitive knowledge to their key people. One of our initial CKN goals was to earn a readership of 25 new
subscribers each week. When I wrote the first issue, back in May 2000, we had all of 124 subscribers. Today, we have a readership of over 7500 and we thank you for putting us so far ahead of our subscriber goal.

In the past year, 4200 manufacturing professionals subscribed to our CKN. That's a 27% increase over our first year and we thank each one of you for helping us to exceed our expectations. Why am I telling you this?

I'm informing you of this event for two reasons... first, I wanted you to know that we practice what I preach. In my e-tutorial, "Balanced Scorecards" I promote a performance measurement technique that produces great results:

"Set a weekly goal --- exceeded it --- celebrate it ---then set a new higher goal."

We applied this technique in pursuit of our CKN subscriber goal. We exceed the weekly goal a total of 7 times and raised the bar 10 subscribers each time. Our celebrations were a pizza party, a gift certificate, a ride in an air
balloon, a trip to Mexico, another gift certificate, a dinner party, and a theater party. Our goal today is 95 new subscribers per week. This brings us to the second reason for telling you this story... 

The 25, 35, and 45 were easy goals to exceed. At 55 it started to get tough and took 10 weeks to exceed it. We have been stuck at the 95 subscribers per week goal for three months now and this is the reason for bringing you into the play. WE NEED YOUR HELP! If each of you were to forward your
copy of this CKN to your boss, or one of your peers, or an offsite business associate and recommend that they become a CKN subscriber, I know we would break through the 95 per week barrier.

So, "just do it!" Hit your email forward button and do it now... WE THANK YOU.

Now do yourself and your company a favor:

Pick an opportunity --- set a weekly goal --- exceeded it ---celebrate it --- then set a new    higher goal.

You'll be amazed at your ability to exceed expectations in speed, quality, growth and profits. It works for us.

For our lead article this month, I have chosen to present "The Horse's Ass Story." It has been updated with a technological relevance that you should find of interest.

This newsletter has reached your desk because I think we share a common objective---to help manufacturing teams avoid "burnout" while achieving their full performance potential. If this is not the case, simply CLICK THE LINK at the bottom of this newsletter and you will be removed from our mailing list.


Bill Gaw

P.S. I'll certainly let you know when we surpass our 95 subscribers per week goal and then we can all celebrate together. Your associates can sign up by sending a blank email to:  


---- March 2002 ---

1. The Horse's Ass Story
2. Taming the Wild Stallion
3. Unleash Your Creativity
4. Stewardship Delegation
5. Success Kills

Inventory Control Practices for Winners

1. The Horse's Ass Story

The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the U.S. railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe and England were built by Imperial Rome for her legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever!

So the next time you are handed a specification that makes you wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you might be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the asses of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

Now the extraterrestrial twist to the story. When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on it's launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

The engineers who designed the SRB's might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRB's had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide a two horses' asses.

So, a major design feature of what is arguably the worlds' most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

Inventory Control Practices for Winners

2. Taming the Wild Stallion

Do you need to reign in a "maverick" employee? Do you see potential, but find yourself constantly frustrated by their refusal to follow directions?

Lets "tame" your wild stallion:

1. Alone, evaluate this employee and how they can best benefit your company. Where do their work habits cost your business?

2. Pick one area and set a goal for them. Make it a measurable, attainable goal. For example, a technician communicates poorly with customers, limits repairs to save money, and won't completely fill out a service report. Start
with the service report, it's the simplest to fix.

3. Meet with the employee and lay out the goal and your expectations. Tell them they are valued, but this work habit hurts the business and them. Be clear and thorough. Make it a requirement, not a suggestion.

4. Set a time to follow up. With the service report it would be at day's end, every day. Have accountability meetings until they consistently comply. Praise them along the way for successes, while patiently, but firmly correcting mistakes.

5. After success with the first bad habit, send the message clearly that you are very pleased and move on to the next in a week or two. If you are unable to help them succeed in the first easy area you chose after several weeks of working with them, it's time to reconsider them completely.

This is not a quick fix, but an investment in retraining and will pay big dividends in the long run.

Inventory Control Practices for Winners

3. Unleash Your Creativity

We live in a hectic time.

Ours is an instant gratification society. We want it now. Yet, as we reflect on the best things in our lives, we often find the truly important things took time to develop.

The 'always on' nature of the tools we use in business can all too easily trap us into believing that we can function as machines too.

But we're not machines, we're human beings.

Is there a way to achieve peak performance and happiness in life too? Of course.

Here are five factors which, when practiced consistently in your life, will help you tap into the giant creativity reservoir you have within.

1. Find your peak mental time

   You may hear some people say "I'm a morning person"    while others say they don't really get started until    noon. To maximize your effectiveness, it is vital to    know who YOU are and co-operate with your natural clock    rather than fight it.

One great way to discover your peak time is to keep a log of how you feel. Keep a log for a week, noting when    you felt the sharpest. Then arrange your work around these peak hours, planning the most important tasks for
this time. Many have found that once they harmonize with who they really are, they get much more done in less time.

2. Make a 'creativity appointment' with yourself

   Plan 30 minutes every day DURING this peak time for a    "creativity appointment". Make this time as undisturbed    as possible. Use this time to connect deeply with your mission in life and review your goals as well.

3. Get ready to solve a problem

   During this time, think deeply for the first 10 minutes    about the biggest problem you face. Allow yourself to    play 'what if' about the challenge you face. If you had every resource a person could have, would it still BE a    problem? What if you tackled it and did nothing else? Would that solve it? What if you neglected it completely for two weeks? Would that make it worse, or make it go away?

4. Let your subconscious work

   After these 10 minutes, and for the rest of the time,    let your mind wander anywhere it wants to go. If    possible, step outside and look at the sky. Even  better, go outside and hear the sounds of nature. You want to think expansively now, to consider all possibilities.

5. Prepare for the answer

   During this quiet time, keep a pad and pen handy and write down any new and creative thoughts that come to you. You may find that during this time new, and very exciting, thoughts and possibilities rush into your mind. Write each one down, no matter how silly they may seem.

Be consistent. The more often you keep your creativity appointments, the more you will find that you have the "aha!" moments during your day, when solutions to problems just pop into your mind.

Expand the appointments to include a half-day a month and you will unleash even more creativity. Soon, you will hunger for these times because you will find that it is while doing nothing at all that something very good gets done.

Inventory Control Practices for Winners

4. Stewardship Delegation

Do you have too much to do?

It's easy to say, "just delegate", but how do you do that when it often means that YOU end up having to do the job yourself (or correcting mistakes) in the end?

The first step is to identify the difference between stewardship and "go for" delegation. When you direct an employee to complete a task and return to you when it's done, without allowing them to see the big picture, you are using "go for" delegation. Even in today's world, "go for" delegation is the most common kind of delegating that gets done.

Consider this.

Webster's Dictionary defines stewardship as:

   Stewardship : the conducting, supervising, or managing    of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care <stewardship of our natural resources>

How much better would our lives be if our employees became stewards of the projects they are involved in, and not simply "go for's"? When an employee takes ownership of a project he or she becomes the steward of that project, with your role becoming one of overseer.

When we help our employees become stewards, we help them develop into persons who can run the show while we are busy doing other things. The process minimizes interruptions in our days and provides more peace of mind throughout the day as well.

Consider these five steps to help your employees make the transition into stewardship.

1. Evaluate and choose one person to begin with. Remember,
   you're not choosing someone to go get coffee. You're
   choosing someone to trust.

2. Explain to them what you are doing, without showing them
   the whole picture yet. If it doesn't work out, you'll
   lose them if you say too much now.

3. Set one long-range goal and one short-range goal. Make
   the short-range goal one that can be done within two

4. Teach them how to plan. Teach them how to break tasks
   into small pieces and keep track of the progress.
   Remember, this is an investment in YOU. Make sure they
   have access to the resources they will need.

5. When the two weeks are up, evaluate his or her progress.
   Hold them to a reasonable standard.

Stewardship will not be a good fit for every employee, or every manager for that matter. One good way to decide if stewardship is right for you is to check your level of interruptions. Run an interruption log for one week. If you
find you are interrupted five or more times in an average day, perhaps a 'steward' to assist you would be a good idea.

Inventory Control Practices for Winners

5. Success Kills

Has success killed your creativity?

Do you remember when times were leaner? When you had to improvise to get things done? When you knew your entire team on a first name basis?

Many of us attend seminars where the speaker sniffs, in their best condescending tone, that we must "think outside the box" or "embrace new realities".

While it is true that we must understand systems and processes in order to grow and thrive, it's equally important that we trust ourselves and our own judgments.

We might not want to return to leaner times (who would?) but we may benefit greatly from the thinking that took place during those times.

If your creativity level is lower than you would prefer, consider this process to rekindle the fire that burned within.

When faced with a new dilemma ask yourself these questions.

1. When presented a challenge, is your first thought how to
   systematize the problem or how to solve it now?

2. What would you do if YOU were the only resource available
   to solve the problem?

3. How many alternative ways are there to solve the problems
   you face at this time? Have you listed and explored each?

4. If you had to decide NOW what to do, what would you

Bureaucracy is like a boat that loses it's anchor. Little by little, we drift so far that we can no longer see the shore.

If you still believe that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line perhaps the best "to do" on your list today would be to identify the one piece of bureaucracy that you would like to eliminate and take action to change it.

The simple fact is that in most circumstances we know what to do. We've been schooled. We've been trained. We have the tools within us to excel. When we learn to focus on performing the basic tasks of our businesses with
excellence, and to trust ourselves in the process, the laser focus that leaner times creates will return.

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