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Foxes in the Henhouse

Week of 10 Sept 07

An old friend and I were reminiscing a few weeks ago about a situation we encountered a couple of decades ago. Perhaps with modern computer accounting, this does not or can not happen any longer, but I pass it along for you to check out. I am sure the devious can find a way to get around sophisticated checks and balances.

In the mill in which this happened, we bought a certain supply in fairly large quantities. I’ll not say what it was but hasten to add it was not machine clothing, PCC or anything bought and stored in bulk. There were many slight variations to this material and the quantity of each variation was relatively small. It was a pain to manage.

The supplier of this material had convinced our predecessors to allow them on-site to manage this activity. They even placed one of their own employees on site full time in order to make sure everything went smoothly. Their employee took the material off the trucks, placed it in a locked storage room and distributed it to production as needed. They put unused amounts of each variation back on the supplier’s trucks and took them away.

Every month there was an accounting problem. Our own records of how much we used in production never matched up to the amounts on the invoice. We watched everything as closely as we could with manual systems. Finally, we told the supplier we would just manage the material ourselves, please take your employee away.

Miraculously, within a month, the records of what we used in production and what we were charged on the invoices matched up. When we started managing this material and stopped receiving “help” from the supplier, we acquired the smiles on our faces that were formerly plastered all over theirs. A word to the wise.

In another mill in my experiences, we had a situation where salaried personnel were allowed to park near their offices inside the mill fence (excuse me if I have told this story before). Over the years this had caused a lot of hard feelings with the hourly personnel, especially on cold or rainy days. There were also some suspicions on the part of management that perhaps things might be leaving the mill that should not be, given there were all these private cars and pickup trucks inside the fence every day.

Management chose to change the policy during the summer, when the weather was likely to be pleasant. They announced the change that the salaried personnel would park in a new lot outside the fence. They softened it by saying that this change was a trial for a month to see how things went.

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