Are You Making the Most of Technology?

I once heard a comedian talk about our use of the tremendous technology we have at our disposal. He said something to the effect that if someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared, the most difficult thing to explain about life today would be that: “I possess a device in my pocket that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at cat videos and to get into arguments with strangers.”

I remember early in my career, when I was working in Japan, I’d head off on sourcing trips and would sometimes be out of touch for days. If I were lucky, I’d be able to borrow a typewriter and type up a report and fax it off. I also remember getting faxes from Indonesians or others that would read “SHPMNT B4 SAT. THNX” because they had grown up in the age of doing business by telex where every character cost. My first digital camera cost around $800 and stored the tiny images on a floppy disk (no kidding!) and it was just magic to us. Amazing the changes we’ve seen.

I used an example the other day to a colleague of “these two systems are like Beta and VHS; we need to see which will dominate the market before we start to use one.” I am not sure if she even knew what VHS was, much less Beta. Talk about feeling old!

But think on this, just how fast things change. We’ve gone from video tapes to DVDs to BluRay to just streaming it all. And think of the new technology in our industry. We have laminate and vinyl and even ceramic tile that can fool experts (hopefully just from a distance!) into thinking they are real wood. We have new methods of installation, new finish treatments and advancements in production techniques that are creating entirely new categories of flooring. Technology had transformed what we sell and how we sell.

It should also be a major component of your compliance program. I’m not talking just DNA test, but simple things.

Remember that documentation of actions/decisions is a huge component of any compliance program? Tech helps that. Document your visits with pictures and videos. Tracking information in extensive databases and use reminder programs to schedule audits. You can set up software programs that provide extended (or limited) access to a variety of compliance checkpoints to anyone inside or outside your company. You don’t always have to get overly complicated, but you should be using the tools at your disposal.

As another example, storage is cheap these days. One small trick I offer people is to take a key file, say “a report on Russian Oak used in Chinese Flooring,” and file it in multiple folders. You might have folders where you store info on Oak or info on China or just general info on Lacey—if you have multiple folders, put it in each. Otherwise, in a year, you might be thinking about Oak and go to that folder and not remember that you have something useful in your “China folder.” And suppose someone else in your office is looking for info on a shared drive—they might be thinking “Lacey” and not “Russia” or “Oak” or whatever key thought you had when you filed it. Multiple copies in multiple files resolves that.

And to the same end, you should rename files. How many times have you saved a pdf that doesn’t have a date associated with it, or has a name like “O135329RFECFJS.PDF.” Boy that’s useful, right? Rename it to something meaningful to you. Sometimes I even “rank” things in the name. I might call it “Useful-RusOak-into-Flooring-CN” versus “DataHeavy-RusOak-into-Flooring-CN” versus “Boilerplate-RusOak-into-Flooring-CN.”

These are all small things, but often helpful. Next week, we’ll look at getting some outside help.

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