What's your standard?

POST DATE Apr 12, 2019


Tell me something—if you had the choice between a quality product, (with a higher upfront cost), or a cheaper product (with hidden costs), what would you choose?

The logical side of me wants to believe you’ll choose the quality product, but reality really hit me smack in the face the other week, and now I don’t know what to believe.

Let me get this out of the way first: I’ve been told I have a tendency to…overreact. But here’s the thing—when you believe in something, when you’re passionate about what you do and how you do it, you see things differently. Simple things aren’t so simple; and overlooked or “minor” details factor into a bigger picture. They make the difference between efficiency and inefficiency, productivity and instability, quality and crap.

When it comes to sawguides, people who ignore the following points cause me to turn green (I’m talking full hulk mode—without the smashing):

  • Accurate sawguides are manufactured to /- 0.0002” on the spacing surface
  • Sawguides manufactured to /- 0.0002” or better are an important ingredient in making a high-performance and profitable sawmill
  • Accuracy helps the customer become successful and more profitable

At a show the other week, an encounter with one of these people happened not once, but twice, and I’m still shaking my head about the lack of foresight that contributes to mill closures, inferior products, and waste. It all started with a conversation with a customer, where I was talking about the benefits of an accurate sawguide and was interrupted with “Listen—this is all well and good, but in reality, our mill doesn’t care. My manager wants to see a cheap price, and as long as they kind of work, that’s good enough for us.” He spun on his heel and walked away faster than I could pick my jaw off the floor.

It took me a few moments to reflect on what had just happened, but no amount of deep breathing stopped me from taking it personally and letting my frustration turn straight into anger. So I took a walk, and that’s when it got worse.

I ran into another manufacturer, and assuming that he, like me, had a similar attitude about accuracy, told him what had just happened.

Boy, was I wrong.

His response to my outrage was this: “Don’t take it personally, but it’s all about price to these sawmills. Most just need replacements and want a cheap price, end of story. They know they’re not getting a quality product, but accuracy isn’t a priority to them—price is. They just want good enough.”  And then, for the second time in less than an hour, my jaw hit the floor. I had to walk away. Arguing with another manufacturer wasn’t going to end well, so I let it go. But it left me with a few thoughts.

The small things matter. I have thousands of examples I could tell to reinforce this fact, but there is one that really stands out to me. One of my customers told me that the total deviation on one edger dropped between 0.023” and 0.032” to a total deviation of 0.003” to 0.012” from the installation of accurate guides. On another edger the total deviation dropped 0.050” and 0.055” with accurate guides.

The interesting part is that this sawmill had used sawguides from virtually all the manufacturers and had never seen such results. The mill also noted that the decrease in deviation caused some interesting side effects such as fewer saw changes, more uptime in a shift, and more logs processed per day.

I’m going to repeat myself: the small things matter. And sure, a lot of you out there are thinking that buying accurate sawguides are not the be all end all answer. To this, I say YES, but it sets a tone that moves the meter in the right direction and creates a standard for high-performance. When your team knows you don’t care about quality and that good enough, is good enough, what motivates them to perform better? A sub-par standard has been established and there is no motivation to be or do better—to win.

My standard is to win, to move the meter in the right direction by doing everything I can to inch closer to success. I won’t stop being frustrated with people who are satisfied with less—with good enough—and I also won’t stop trying to help other people raise their standards and become successful. That’s my standard, and I have to ask: what is yours?

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