How Do We Know We Are on the Right Path?

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2013 in UEA Blog

Recently, I needed a small yet important part for my car that was not available locally. So as many of us do, I headed out to that great electronic marketplace on the internet. Having found the necessary part, placed the order and made payment, all with a few clicks, I moved to other tasks and awaited delivery.

After about a week and no part, I got curious and looked to see if tracking was available on my purchase. Sure enough it was and showed the package had left its origin in Florida the day after the order. Not bad. It then proceeded to a “sort facility” where it spent the night and went to Des Moines, Iowa. For the unfamiliar, the S's are silent. The package reached the Des Moines location, which is also a “sort facility”, on the third day from order and is about two and a half hours away from the final destination. So I am left to wonder why it sat there for the next 4 days. The report showed it processed through the facility, but that it never departed. With it being the winter months I decided to wait a couple more days to see if it would arrive. No such luck.

I contacted my local office to see if they could help, but they knew less than what I was seeing on the tracking screen. Now, I am beginning to think it's lost and I will have to reorder. Thankfully, after a couple more days, it arrived only 16 days after order. I, being the curious sort, decided to look back at the tracking report to see if it had updated. Boy, the ride that package got for $5 was amazing! From Florida to Iowa was a quick straight shot. Then, from Des Moines it went to Alburnett, pop. of about 800, in the opposite direction from intended destination. Then it went to Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, and finally to Tripoli. No, not in Africa. Tripoli, (tri- pole-la) as it is locally pronounced, is a little town in Northeast Iowa where I reside which happens to share the spelling. Referring back to my previous post, how could we ever have done this without computers? Back when a person actually read and sorted the packages could this have happened? A pony express may have been quicker and more direct. Automation is a great thing, but when things do fall through the cracks how do we keep them from being totally derailed?

United Equipment Accessories does not stock a range of standard products like many manufacturers. Instead we custom build all our slip-ring, hydraulic swivel, cable reel and shift control products to customer order. Because of this diversity of products coupled with not having a preplanned long range production schedule, we must be able to quickly take an order from entry to material requisition to production planning, assembly and quality assurance all in a very short time. This requires a close orchestration of all departments for success. As United Equipment has grown to be one of the largest slip ring manufacturers in the world, this is a continuing quest for improvement. We hope to have in place, in the near future, a better system of tracking and gathering data to improve our response to customer needs while minimizing the overall cost. With this move to further automation, it is important to know that we will keep the human element of reason involved so your orders don't take the wild ride that mine did.

Kent Davis

Senior Engineer