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What sort of yard owner implements an ISO standard?  In keeping with the theme of this edition, I stopped to ponder what are the common characteristics of the folks that I have the privilege and honor of working with, and serving.  With hardly any effort at all, I realized that they all have some common characteristics – ones that make them more likely to be successful:

  • They’re open to new ideas.  Every yard owner I’ve consulted with was open to hearing about what standardization could do for them.  Whether they decided to do something about it right away, or put it in future plans, they were all interested in hearing what standardization was, and how it may be able to benefit them and their yards.
  • They surround themselves with others who embrace change.  Oftentimes, it was someone who reports to the owner who was most excited about the changes we were making – changes in layout of the warehouse, or the disassembly area, or how orders were processed to eliminate errors, or…  

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These folks often became the “boots on the ground” facilitator to what was going on, as well as the cheerleader for the changes and how they would benefit the hourly employees.  And, since it was an hourly employee who was open to learning this, they acted as the de facto leader of their area in embracing the change and making it work for them.

  • They want to serve their customer base well.  Implementing the standard means that you keep metrics on how happy your customers are, and take action if that metric falls below the target that you yourself have set.  Owners I work with are all about eliminating errors that cause customer dissatisfaction – from mistakes on invoices, to shipping the wrong part, to delivering the part past the promised due date – all of my owners want to make sure that the customer gets what he paid for, on time, correct.  It makes it so easy to work with them when they already have the right mindset!
  • They want to save money, time, and effort.  By standardizing their processes, identifying ways to eliminate waste, and complying with regulations, they know that they will save money (by working more efficiently – also saving time; by not having to pay fines when breaking regulations), time – by implementing processes to eliminate errors and doing tasks in the most efficient manner; and effort – eliminating efforts for fixing errors, handling customer complaints and returns, and re-training folks over and over.
  • They want to support their employees.  Much of the work I do is to make the workplace safer for employees – whether it’s part of a formal standard or not.  As a trained Occupational Health/Safety professional, I’ll often suggest changes that are to keep the employee safe and free from harm while doing their job.  I’ve never once had a yard owner push back on these suggestions – they want to take care of the folks who work for them.
  • They don’t mind having a little fun while we work.  I like to kid around while we’re working together – anyone who’s worked for me knows that if I call someone “Sparky”, it means that I’ve ‘caught’ them doing something they shouldn’t do… and I’m going to suggest that they start doing it ‘right’.  

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“Hey Sparky, want to put those safety glasses off your forehead and over your eyes?  Thanks!”

“Hey Sparky, let’s make sure that the drain hose is firmly attached so we don’t get this big spill next time, OK?  Thanks!”

One company has picked this up and has the “Hey Sparky” award – they give incentives to folks who have not received a ‘hey sparky’ notification that week!  I gotta tell ya, I’m sorta honored that they are taking my catch phrase and turning it into something personal to them… way to go! The fact that they’re having fun with it, while reinforcing a safety mentality, is where the payoff comes into play…

Summary:  All in all, if you are interested in supporting your employees and customers, want to save time, money, and effort, and want to improve your efficiencies, then standardization is for YOU!

This article was published in Automotive Recycling magazine, the official industry publication of the Automotive Recyclers Association,