Here’s why businesses use the wrong tools to solve their problems

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Just because you have a screwdriver doesn’t mean you should use it to cut down a tree. Get a saw. Or hire someone with a saw. And do that only when you’re sure the tree needs to be cut down.

What got me on this rant is a client who insists on using material requirements planning (MRP) to execute short-term scheduling of suppliers and the shop floor, despite the fact that MRP does not do that well at all. It can’t. And then the owner is upset with late orders and too much work in process.

His argument? Use the tools we already have instead of learning new ones.

Tools you have vs. appropriate tools

Should you use the tools you already have or use the most appropriate techniques? The answer seems obvious to me.

When data is inaccurate and untimely, why on earth would anyone believe they can create a good schedule from it? Sure, the software salesman says you can. And you can create a schedule. It will just be a lousy one that cannot be and should not be executed.

MRP/ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems can have value, but only to the degree that they reflect current reality. They never do.

Barcode. Radio frequency identification (RFID). Use every technology currently known to man and your ERP system will still not give you optimal information about what you need to do right now.

Technology and tools and simple solutions

This question of technology and tools and simple solutions matters now more than ever.

The “fourth industrial revolution” is all about advanced statistics and electronic wizardry. Like “big data,” it’s a great theory, and is useful to many organizations that have both the need and skillsets required.

But for the average company, it’s like putting your 16-year-old in a Formula One racecar. It won’t end well.

Too many organizations insist on using the wrong tool because they’ve already paid for it, or buy the latest and greatest thing because it sounds so cool.

Discover root cause

Here’s some advice: Run your business. Identify the problems that are preventing your success. Discover root cause. Determine how best to drive the problem(s) from your business.

If it requires big data or the fourth industrial revolution or a Magic 8 Ball, acquire those capabilities. But first, understand your current reality.

Have you really identified the problems — or just symptoms? Do you know how to identify the right tool to eliminate your problems? Do you have the capability to use it? If the answer to either is no, find someone who can help you.

Otherwise you’ll be wasting time, energy, money and maybe a good screwdriver.

As published on American City Business Journals