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Diamonds in the Rough


Last week it was time for my obligatory annual PSA test and doctor’s visit. This has become the new “root canal” as my most disliked process, but it’s not something you openly discuss … at least not in mixed company.  I’ll save you from the details.

Anyway I was in the doctor’s waiting room for 50 minutes along with 10-15 other poor souls.  The doctor is good so the wait is a proper reflection of that fact.  I did not want to read the usual waiting room fair so had consoled myself to just waiting patiently and thinking about the upcoming weekend.

Then a thin magazine caught my eye.  It was the May 2010 issue of “Fabricating & Metalworking” on the business of metal manufacturing.  In a doctor’s waiting room?  Go figure.

The second thing I noticed was that the magazine had been sent to a person in Wetumpka, AL, a town 10 miles east of Montgomery.  So someone brought the 42 page rag to the doctor’s office, presumably to read, and left it there.  Now who does that?

Thumbing through the issue (what nerd could resist?), I noticed two articles. The first was titled “World-Class Safety” by Phil La Duke of OE Learning, Inc., in Troy, Michigan.  In about two pages, Mr. La Duke pounded out a “Template for World-Class Safety” that is applicable to any industrial organization large or small. Here are quotes from two of his preliminary bubble bursting points:

-         … past performance is a poor predictor of future outcomes.

-         The absence of injuries does not denote the presence of safety.

Gees, he sure knows how to spoil a party. He then explained eight characteristics that great safety systems share.  One that I liked best was that a safety strategy should be “simple, concise, and simple to understand.”  Now that’s a key to effective communication for any cause.

The second gem was an article titled “Starting Point” by Rick Bohan of Chagrin River Consulting, LLC, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  Mr. Bohan wrote about how to kick start lean manufacturing techniques at the operator work station level.  He suggested the “5S” approach. You guessed it – five words that start with the letter S.   I’ll go ahead and spill the beans.  The five words are “Sorting, Straightening, Shining, Standardizing, and Sustaining”.  You could use his approach to reorganize a maintenance shop, paper machine dry end work station, carton folding station, your desk or your garage.  Again, this two page bomb just blew me away with its simplicity and practicality.

There are two things I learned from this experience.  First – just because material is written outside of your industry or area of interest does not mean you can’t gain from it.  Second, the next time you are scheduled for a hind end exam, cheer up, something good may come from it.

Oh – I was not paid by either of these two authors and they are not relatives.  And I took the magazine from the doctor’s office.  Confession is good for the soul.

Phil La Duke can be reached at

Rick Boham can be reached at

“Fabricating & Metalworking” is published monthly by Cygnus Business Media, Inc.  The web site is            ISSN: 1541-2415.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

Gene Canavan is retired and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA


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