Let's Go to the Dogs

Turning Point

As I write this column it’s mid February, and we have around 15 inches of snow on the ground.

As I write this column it’s mid February, and we have around 15 inches of snow on the ground. The snow looks nice, but at this late winter date, it has become a nuisance. I think we have more snow in Cincinnati than at the Vancouver Olympics. Maybe we could sell it to British Colombia.

The Westminster dog show concluded with best in show going to a Scottish terrier named Sadie. Being a dog person, proud owner of two, I enjoy the annual cavalcade of our four-legged friends.
 
Watching the show a couple of years ago with my youngest son, we both got a little hooked. Actually, I think our fascination was learning about how many different shapes, sizes, colors and textures the canine comes in. I mean there are big dogs, tiny dogs, hairy dogs and bald dogs. They come in black, brown, blond, white and red.
 
It’s amazing to me how pampered many of these pooches are. Their owners take loving care to an extreme, and it shows. These are beautiful animals and highly trained.
 
Of course, it’s also a sport of sort, which includes passion and competition to raise a best in show dog such as Sadie. To my untrained eye, she’s a very cute, well groomed Scottie. However, to the judges she has something special that separates her from the final 100-plus best of breed finalists to be awarded best in show.
 
However, when it comes to metalworking shops, I do consider myself a trained eye. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many shops on several continents. In my travels, I’ve come to recognize traits that might turn run of the mill metalworking shops into standouts among their peers.
 
At Westminster, a dog’s owner is often its trainer. They form a bond and make a team in order to put on a successful performance—deliver the goods, so to speak.
Likewise, in many of the better and more successful shops I visit, the shop owner acts less like an owner and more like a trainer. These owners and their managers feel it is incumbent on them to facilitate their employees’ success.
 
They reward good performance and scold bad performance. Now I’m not talking about biscuits or a rolled paper across the nose. It’s about getting involved with the employees and providing them the tools and training they need to help both parties succeed. It’s about good lines of communication.
 
Moreover, it’s critical that your people know what’s expected. I read that Sadie has her own treadmill for her two-a-day walks. For my two mutts, that would be a waste. For a best in show winner, I see it as a training aide. It’s a tool the dog needs to do its job. True, it may sound silly, but the dog won.
 
Another thing I look for in shops is grooming. The heights to which top dog owners go to make sure the animal is perfect, with not a hair out of place, is amazing. And of course, there is the ridiculous (a snicker to poodle owners).
 
Once it was OK for a workplace to simply be a place to work and make all the mess you want. Today, that is not acceptable for a couple of reasons.
First, people won’t tolerate today the working conditions that were acceptable yesterday. It’s hard enough to find people, but it’s virtually impossible if your shop is a Dickensonian hell-hole.
 
Second, many of the customers in medical, electronics, aerospace and automotive have come to equate a clean and orderly shop with quality. Those industries have, for the most part, made the transition. They expect the same from their suppliers.
 
Performance is another category I try to observe when visiting a shop. Her treadmill notwithstanding, Sadie is trained to perform. She knows her job and how to put her best paw forward in the heat of competition. She is a show dog and has been taught to deliver what the judges are looking for.
 
Best in show shops make it everyone’s job to please the judges, a.k.a. customers. Responsibility for quality, delivery, cost reduction—all must be part and parcel of each hour, shift and day’s performance. Nobody, not even a show dog, wants to be in second place. 