Déjà vu All Over Again
The following advertisement for the International Commercial Truck, circa 1910, is on display in Maine’s Owls Head Transportation Museum:
“That the motor truck is an excellent substitute for the horse has been proven in every instance where businessmen have given it a fair trial. But the man who uses his motor truck simply as a substitute for horses neglects to make the most of his opportunities. The horse is not a machine – five to six hours’ actual work – fifteen to twenty-five miles – is its maximum day’s work. A motor truck can be used twenty-four hours a day if necessary, and it will travel the last hour and the hundredth mile just as fast as the first. Businessmen who are using the motor truck in place of the horse and wagon equipment with the greatest success are men who have given this problem careful study. In most instances it was necessary to change the plan of routing – delays which were necessary to give horses rest were eliminated – plans were laid to keep the truck busy the entire day with as few delays as possible……….”
The use of new technology is the key to increasing productivity. However, often pre-conceived ideas or environmental pre-conditioning of our thoughts prevents us from realising the potential of new technology. There are some great examples. With the advent of the motor car in the late 19th century in England, the Locomotive Act 1865, otherwise known as the Red Flag Act stipulated that self-propelled vehicles have a man with a red flag or lantern walking at least 60 yards (55 m) ahead of each vehicle at walking pace to warn horse riders and horse-drawn traffic of the approach of the vehicle. On a recent visit to Japan I had to wait until 10.00 am for the ATM to open (which was when banks opened) to access my bank account. None of these examples make practical sense.
In an earlier career as a transport manager, I was confronted by the long distance truck drivers I was managing telling me that each driver must have their truck (even though it was owned by their employer). This limited the distance that could be travelled per week to less than 3,500 kilometres, due to legal driving hour restrictions and the driver’s physically being unable to safely drive much further each week. Breaking this thinking was difficult. However, multi-driver trucks were introduced, with drivers rostered to the legal driving hours and with the trucks operating 24 hours per day for over 6 days per week. The average distance travelled per truck exceeded 9,000 kilometres per week (with some trucks doing 12,000 kilometres). This high truck utilisation resulted in significant increase in company profitability as fixed costs were covered early in the working week. Correspondingly, the number of kilometres per driver increased. As they were paid by the distance travelled they were winners too!
The challenge for managers is to do away with pre-conceived ideas based on history and experience and objectively look at where new technology can increase productivity and lower costs. My former accountants (note that I said ‘former’ accountants) continued to increase their charges each year, charging me for postage, when they could have emailed me documents, charging my business a direct debit fee for paying our account rather than sending a cheque and so on. When I queried why our fees kept on increasing I was told it was because their costs kept on increasing. Clearly they were not passing on the savings of implementing new technology and were trapped into the ‘old way’ of thinking. Not only did they lose our business they lost other businesses I was associated with.
Remember change is inevitable and what we did yesterday will not be good enough for tomorrow. If you don’t recognise this I can guarantee that your competitors have.
Are you trapped in your ‘old ways’?
Are working in your business rather than on it?