Archive for August, 2010

Don’t we just love excellent customer service

August 31st, 2010 admin No comments

Regular readers of this blog (I have to say that the readers are far more regular than the writer over the past few weeks) will recollect that I do have a tendancy to comment on my customer service experiences, whether they be good, bad, or terrible. It took a really good experience this week to shake me out of my blog-writing lethargy, which is quite a feat.

Back in October of last year, about the time this blog got its first post and resulting spam comments, I hopped over to Chicago (as you do) to run in the very excellent marathon they have over there. The race was on the Sunday, I arrived on the Thursday, so that left Friday and Saturday to see the city. Well, Friday was sufficient for what I wanted to see, and I certainly wasn’t going to spend my time doing anything else too strenuous. Therefore a leisurely stroll around the centre saw me browsing through Borders, the bookshop, and coming out with what I thought was a fair-priced copy of the most recent novel of one of my favourite bedtime authors, Jonathan Kellerman (he shouldn’t be too proud, the sole objective of bedtime reading is to get me to sleep).

August 2010, and I finally got around to wiping the dust off the book with the intention of having a few early nights.All went well until page 187. The reasons are outlined in the note I sent to Random House, the publishers, on 22/08 i.e. 9 days ago.

“Dear Sir or Madam,  Back in October 2009, I travelled over from France to Chicago to run in the city’s excellent marathon. During my stay there, I purchased a copy of Jonathan Kellerman’s True Detectives, published by yourselves, ISBN 978-0-345-49518-1, at Borders in the city centre.   I finally got around to reading it this summer. Imagine my disappointment when, having read 186 pages, I was to find that the following page was 251. You probably have received a number of complaints by now indicating that page 187 to 218 were replaced by duplicate pages 251 in 282 during one of your production runs.   Ideally you could send me a correct version of the book. Failing this, and seeing as I will be travelling back to Chicago this October to run the marathon again, I will return the copy to Borders and ask for an exchange. I would however obviously prefer the first option.   Thank you in advance for your reply.”

Fairly direct, but it worked. The very next day, I got a reply.

Thank you for contacting Random House, we appreciate your feedback and continued interest in our publications.

I have ordered a complimentary replacement copy under order #10462555 to be delivered to the address below.  Orders generally leave our warehouse within 3 business days and are delivered internationally to western Europe within 11-14 business days.

It is not necessary for you to return your misprinted copy to us.  You may be able to submit it as scrap to your local recycling center or regional arts group.

We appreciate your patience and hope you will continue to enjoy Random House publications in the future

And lo and behold, today, 31 August, 9 days after my initial message, DHL turned up with the book. I can’t say that I have anything to complain about.

If this had happened in France, I’m not sure what the reaction would have been. Or maybe it wouldn’t have happened, as I’ve never known such a gross printing problem occur. I can’t imagine what kind of QC procedures the Random House printers use. And no, they don’t outsource to China, at least according to the information on the front cover of the book.

So tonight, I’ll finally get around to reading pages 187 to 218, which should be interesting, as I’ve already finished 219 to 462!

And so, yes, in five and a half weeks, I’ll be back thrilling the crowds (well, they were clapping and cheering last time) over the 26 miles in Chicago. And paying a little more attention to the number of pages in any books I buy.

Categories: It's Happening Worldwide Tags:

The road back from China

August 8th, 2010 admin No comments

Back in the first quarter, I reported on the government plans to reboost industry, one measurable objective being to increase industrial output by 25% by 2015.

One of the measures announced was to provide ’support’ to entice French companies having offshored production to bring it back into the country. 20% of the billion or so euros available have been set aside between now and 2013 to provide financial incitations to bring back the work.

Last week, the first company to benefit from these measures was announced. A foundary, Loiselet, in the north of France had transferred production to China some years ago as environmental restrictions had limited its potential for expansion. The return on investment however was offset by the transports costs (one would have thought that this may have been calculatable beforehand?) and the government offer of a reimbursable loan was sufficient for them to decide to transfer back, and invest 12m euros in the French site.

The qualifying criteria? You need to be a company of less than 5000 employees, have a project of more than 5 million euros, and commit to creating and keeping at least 25 jobs for the next three years. The aim is to create 2000 jobs over the next few years – which needs to be put in the context of the 2m industrial jobs which have disappeared over the past 30 years, but it is hoped that the success of the measures will provide a springboard for others to follow suit under their own steam.

There are, as is the norm in France, those who dispute the real value of the measure, and claim that companies are starting to come back anyway. A furniture manufacturer, Majencia, transferred production to China in 2000. Theoretically,  there was a 20% cost advantage in doing so, but this was soon reduced to 10% due to the extra logistics costs (another lack of foresight?). In 2006, the work was transferred back after an agreement with the works councils that the remaining 10% difference could be cancelled out by productivity improvements. Atol, a network of optical centres, had to transfer production to China in 2003 as there were no French companies prepared to take on the small batch sizes of spectacles to be manufactured. It’s now all coming back (what a difference a financial crisis makes) and the opportunity taken to work with local manufacturers on providing innovative products, which was not possible when the suppliers were oceans away.

A form of protectionism it may be, but the French government is showing the way, and hopefully more companies will be jumping on the return-trip bandwagon over the next few months.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

Why does Productivity make us uneasy?

August 5th, 2010 admin No comments

Maybe I’ve already mentioned it, but when giving an ‘introduction to Lean’ presentation a few weeks ago, my mention of a ‘time-based approach’ led to one of the participants commenting that “you should be careful about mentioning that, it could scare people”.

Scared by taking less time to get something done. Well, it got me thinking, and concluding that there is a probably a link between this type of point of view and the difficulties we have in France is driving ‘Lean’ thinking. It’s all to do with the culture!!

A post a few months ago made a reference to the government’s plan for industry, in which ’subsidies’ was the buzzword, ‘productivity’ hardly mentioned (apart from wondering why the Germans are so much better at it) and ‘Lean’ not at all.

In the past 30 years, the price of petrol has been divided by 2, steak by 3, oranges by 4 and electric light bulbs by 5. All thanks to skilled industrial engineers making the changes required to drive ‘productivity’. Consumers have therefore benefitted greatly from the progress made, but have as a result interpreted productivity in only one of two possible ways – producing as much using less resources… and in most people’s minds, the resources in question are the people themselves.

Very few people see productivity as an opportunity to make more with the same resources. Therefore, productivity has become linked to social recession. In the same way, using time as the unit of measure induces concern and maybe even stress, rather than joy and excitement as the potential of being able to make and sell so much more.

France is and always has been a very creative and innovative country. Information systems is the current thing to be in. I saw an article this morning in which it is reported that over the first half of this year, national results for the big IT companies are far better than the international averages. The French love creating things.

However, growth cannot feed on creativity and innovation alone. Production and productivity make our daily bread. Innovation and productivity feed off each other. And it is time for us all to stop worrying whenever we hear the P word.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:
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