Cutting Tool Engineering
June 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 6

Positive restructuring efforts

By Keith Jennings

Over the past year or two, a plethora of articles, including this column, have been published about getting through the recession. Much of it was valuable information and worthy of consideration or even adoption. I’ve received many great ideas from readers and even implemented a few of these ideas myself. For instance, many readers responded to my January column regarding my Dad’s retirement and passing of the torch to me. A consistent recommendation was being thankful for his good health, maintaining regular communication with him and appreciating his input. While I always intended to do that, this advice impacted me and made me realize what a valuable resource he could be. It was good advice and made my duties easier to deal with.

When business is slow, making improvements is obviously a wise strategy. The lean, or doing-more-with-less, approach is always a big deal during a downturn. You’ve probably embraced some lean concepts, as has our shop. The good news is those efforts will likely bear fruit in the coming months and years, if they haven’t already.

Our shop is still not done tweaking manufacturing operations and other processes to ensure we do more with less.

Some measures commonly taken by job shops and other businesses include staff reductions or at least a hiring freeze. We’ve been able to retain our key employees and, so far, haven’t had to make drastic cuts, but that could change if the economy remains flat and manufacturing opportunities don’t develop as expected.

As a result, I’m keeping some of my plans on hold. It’s certainly frustrating, but we must persevere and make the best possible use of time and resources.

One reader sent me a letter about utilizing already-proven techniques to make improvements so as not to reinvent the wheel. Good advice indeed. I agreed it was good to heed the advice of others or at least consider the advice before embarking on a time-consuming or expensive reengineering activity. He shared a formula to measure productivity I had never considered, and I’ve incorporated some of it into my monthly analysis. Many great ideas can be shared through business relationships, and it’s good to be open to the ideas of others.

Whatever the method and wherever ideas and techniques come from, hopefully you’ve made some sound adjustments at your shop. Based upon my relationships and feedback from readers, that seems to be the situation with many shops. What are some of the improvements, adjustments or restructuring efforts you’ve accomplished during the 2009-2010 calamity? The concept of “continuous improvement” never stops, but what were the activities that were more a result of the market downturn? Or, did you sit tight?

I’ve seen a few companies already so well-run and managed that they didn’t have to react much at all. I envy that position and strive to be there. But, for many of us, challenging times can make us better, which I addressed a few columns back.

You can bet I’ve worn out my brain trying to absorb and deal with the latest market conditions. While there’s more to do and I’m not satisfied yet, I’m pretty optimistic. Burdensome insurance and regulatory matters aside, we’re doing better in many respects than 2 years ago. We’ve trained employees, tightened procedures, rearranged parts of the shop for better productivity, thoroughly evaluated advertising and sales and carefully examined work areas in our 60,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant, among other things.

Ultimately, I expect these tasks will pay off. Hopefully, similar improvements undertaken by all of us will solidify U.S. shops as the best choice for generations to come. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, laser cutting, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at

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