Friday, February 25, 2011

Column #54 - Technology must be controlled.

Installment number 6 of our continuing saga of how Pentair killed their cash cows that were Delta and Porter-Cable.

In 1999, before the ‘merger’, I was told that P-C was still writing incoming inventory receipts on index cards. Their VP of Distribution was very ‘old school’ to say the least. OK, so on the Delta side. We had a Warehouse Manager who turned himself into a ‘tech-geek’. He got educated and brought Delta into the 90’s with a WMS that, in 1999, was ONE piece of paper away from being a ‘paperless’ WMS. The only thing left was the actual shipper that got pinned to each skid on the loading dock. That was it.

OK, so the die had been cast. The decision was made that when the ‘merger’ occurred, a brand new state-of-the-art, 500,000sq.ft. warehouse would be built in Jackson. This new warehouse would be a year 2000-ready warehouse. In other words, it would BE paperless. Great. Grand idea. Now, Mr. VP of Porter-Cable Distribution (who had been placed in charge of that part of the ‘merger’- remember that bias?) has an opportunity to utilize the expertise of the Delta Warehouse Manager, who knows this stuff like the back of his hand…right? Not so fast. Back in the early 80’s, the Delta WM had worked for the P-C VP as one of his warehouse supervisors (the P-C VP was Rockwell’s Distribution manager at the time - over Memphis operations).
So, the P-C VP decided to lowball the Delta WM and ‘offer’ him a make-do job. Naturally, the Delta WM said ‘no thanks’…and the result of that decision did more to make the next few months a complete disaster than most anything else that was done.

So, they were going to ‘merge’ Porter-Cable, who was still using a 1980’s style warehouse management “system” (and yes, writing inventory down on index cards was a ‘system’. Albeit a very outdated one) with Delta, who was once piece of paper from having a paperless warehouse management system...and they were going to do it without the expertise of the Delta manager who got Delta to that point. OK, here we go. New warehouse is built and staffed with folks who were great using the ‘80’s style system…but practically clueless about what they were getting into. They moved all the product into the new warehouse and…then…the…system…wouldn’t…work.

There had been very little - read: next to none – trial testing of the system and it wouldn’t ship anything. This was what met us when we got to Jackson on Feb 1, 2000. But we still had customers who needed parts to keep their machines running.

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