If it’s not right, it’s wrong

440x380_acAwhile back, I was attempting to plug my phone charger into a dimly lit wall outlet in a hotel room. I wasn’t having much success, and only when I realized that the outlet had been installed upside down did I understand why. And not only was the outlet installed upside down, but it was also crooked and the screw on the cover plate had been torqued down to the point that the plate was cracked.

In any case, I got my charger plugged in and never gave it a second thought until a couple of weeks later when I spent a couple of long days in a meeting facility. I happened to notice that every single outlet and switch cover screw in the room were perfectly aligned in the vertical, even those close to the floor that you couldn’t really see.

This practice that makes things look a little better has a name in woodworking: it’s called “clocking”. But is it worth the bother in this case? It certainly doesn’t make any difference in the functionality of the product. And my guess is that I’m the only one who has ever sat in that meeting room and taken notice.

So in the scheme of things, is it a big deal? I think it actually is. It tells me that the electrician who installed these outlets took pride in what he was doing. He took that extra half second to get everything as perfect as he could even though the pay was the same. What’s more important is that I can pretty much guarantee you that all the connections and wiring behind that cover are first-rate and done with the same precision. The attention to detail inspired confidence.

When you think about it, that outlet isn’t much different than a wellhead. People can’t see what’s down in the well. They can’t see your splices or pump alignment or whether you’ve used a flow sleeve. They can, however, see what’s at the top. And if what they see at the top looks sloppy, well, they’ve got to wonder about what’s below. On the other hand, if the workmanship above the ground is precise and well-organized, chances are they’ll make the same assumption about the rest.

There are lots of analogies that we can draw from this, but to me it’s another example of what defines a professional versus someone who is just going through the motions. A professional is willing to take the time to get things right. Not just the big stuff, but the details as well.

That first electrical outlet that was upside down with the broken cover? I have no idea what was behind the plate, but it sure didn’t inspire confidence in the integrity of the rest of the product.

What changed?

Last year, I posted about the value of Franklin Electric’s Form 2207 – Submersible Installation Record as a tool to document a submersible installation for later reference (Inspiring Confidence). Picture1

The other day, I was talking with a drilling contractor and he related that a key piece of information that his company records at the completion of every installation is how much current (amperage) the motor is pulling while it is delivering water.

Down the road, whether it be a few months or many years, if he gets a call about an issue with that installation, that’s a key piece of information he pulls from the file. It’s also one of the first things his crew checks on site (after they’ve eliminated a few of the most obvious causes). The question is, how does the amperage compare to when the installation was new? Is it the same, higher, or lower? Measuring this takes just a couple of minutes but armed with this piece of data, it leads to a very simple decision tree. If the current (amperage) is the same as before, the motor and pump are most likely good, and it’s time to look elsewhere.

But if the current is significantly higher and the unit is still delivering water, that means the motor is working harder than it was when it was installed. That leads to the conclusion that either more water is being pumped (perhaps a broken pipe downhole) or something is making the pump drag.

On the other hand, if the current is lower, that likely means that less water is being pumped. That could be a pump issue (non-working impeller perhaps) or something is blocking the flow of water.

But as he explained, the key is knowing what the amperage was when everything was new and working perfectly. And of course, this piece of information has to be integrated into the bigger picture.

In any case, after presenting the above at countless Franklin seminars, it was good to hear that it’s being put to good use and I wanted to pass that along. After all, it’s one thing to get technical advice at a Franklin seminar, but sometimes hearing that it’s being used in the field every day is even better.

Opportunities abound

carlosNote: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger.

Last week was spring break, and despite my daughter’s protests that “it didn’t sound exotic enough” (yep, that’s a quote), I took my kids to New York City to get a taste of the Big Apple. My son, a huge fan of the TLC show Cake Boss, immediately recognized the city’s proximity to New Jersey and campaigned for a jaunt to Hoboken as part of our adventure. Two trains and a short walk later, we stood in front of Carlo’s Bakery, home of Buddy Valastro the Cake Boss.

A few hundred other people stood in front of Carlo’s, too. Enough to make for a two-hour wait on the sidewalk. Even so, my kids enthusiastically confirmed that they indeed wanted to wait for the chance to get inside the shop; seeing it from the street wasn’t good enough. Thankfully, the weather was good and the people around us were pleasant, so we settled in to wait.

Not long into our confectionery odyssey, I looked up to see a man methodically working his way down the line, group by group. When he got to us, he explained that he worked for Fran’s Italian Deli, a local establishment that offered great sandwiches on the world’s best homemade Italian bread, cold drinks, and free delivery. In fact, he said as he handed us a menu on which he had written his cell number, he would be happy to deliver to us in line. As incentive, he added a discount code to the menu. I thanked him and told him I appreciated his inventiveness, and he moved to the next group of people.

Shortly after he left, I saw this man come back, this time with food. As the line progressed–the wait really was two hours long–I saw him several more times, passing out menus and delivering snacks, sandwiches, and cold drinks to my fellow Carlo’s groupies.

I loved it.

Here was a guy who didn’t bemoan a long line of people waiting to go to somewhere else. He didn’t begrudge the success of a fellow businessman and grumble, Why can’t this be me? Instead, he saw an opportunity, and he capitalized on it. He got creative, and instead of bringing people to his business, he brought his business to them. He assessed their needs and figured out how to address them in a way that meant success for everyone. It gave the people in line something to do, satisfied hungry bellies and thirsty mouths without forcing people to lose their places in line, and it gave the cash coffers of Fran’s Italian Deli an upward bump.

Now contrast this scene with a couple of the other storefronts along the same sidewalk. Employees from those businesses periodically came outside to shoo us waiters away from their doors to accommodate customers who might want to come in. Instead of seeing a potential audience, they saw a definite nuisance. What a missed opportunity.

Which kind of business person are you? The kind who waits for customers to come in? Or the kind who goes to them? The kind who looks for new and creative ways to satisfy people’s needs? Or the kind who does things the same way they’ve always been done? Food service or groundwater service, opportunities abound; go out and get them.

Not drinking at the drinking fountain

photo (4)A few months ago, I attended a week-long class on innovation. The class was built on the premise that successful innovations come from identifying unmet needs and meeting those needs. And, how do you find unmet needs? In many cases, simply by observing how people are currently doing a job. How are they trying to get something done, and what are the obstacles to getting it done?

Here’s a great example – the recent advancement of the humble drinking fountain which had until recently, remained virtually unchanged since the first one was installed in 1912.

Someone started looking at, or perhaps just noticed how people were actually using drinking fountains today. They observed that in many cases, people weren’t drinking directly from the fountain as it was designed, but using it to fill their water bottle. And if you’ve ever done that, you know that it’s an awkward thing to do. You have to tilt the bottle just right, it’s hard to get the bottle full, and you always splash some. There was an unmet need and an obstacle to getting a simple job done.

The innovation is a water fountain that is actually designed to make filling your water bottle as easy as possible. Set your bottle under the nozzle and a sensor turns on a stream of chilled, filtered water automatically. Pull the bottle away and the water stops (or in 20 seconds, whichever comes first).

What I find especially interesting about this innovation is that it not only fills an unmet need by making a job easier, but it also hits some marketing “megatrends” such as consumers’ desire to consume more water but reduce the number of bottles they use. Add to that how much more hygienic this system is, since it minimizes the transfer of viruses due to physical contact.

The conventional drinking fountain isn’t going to disappear and where I’m seeing these, there’s a traditional water fountain next to it. But my guess is that you’re going to start seeing more of these water stations. All because someone saw how a job (filling a water bottle) was getting done and innovated to make it easier.

Like the baseball player Yogi Berra once quipped, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”