So You Can Count 

OK, you know how to count.  So, here is an exercise for you.  In the following passage, please count the ‘r’ (both uppercase and lower case).  Please don’t use tools to help you count.  This is an exercise to understand how something as trivial as counting a simple letter of the alphabet can be a challenge.  I use this exercise in my education sessions called, “How to Stop Performing Yearly Physical Inventory.”

Early one Monday morning six months later, my phone rang just as I settled into my desk chair and sipped my first cup of coffee. The number on the caller ID was unfamiliar, but I recognized the area code. Someone was calling from Kentucky, which meant it was a few minutes after 7:00 a.m. there. Instantly I knew that this would be an interesting call, the kind that means someone had waited anxiously all weekend to contact me and couldn’t wait any longer. In three adventurous decades as a consultant, I had witnessed the rise and fall of many manufacturing and distribution operations. Most likely, this call meant someone was in trouble and needed help. And I was pretty sure who it was.*


How many letter ‘r’ did you find?  20, 23, 28, 33?  The answer is in the last section of our discussion.  The point of this exercise is to understand that counting a simple letter of the alphabet may be a challenge.  You have probably been reading since you were five or six.  You have known what an ‘r’ is since about the time you were about three.  So why is it so difficult?  We have found the following reasons:

  • Who cares? – I’ve got better things to do
  • I was in a hurry
  • I’ll probably make another error tomorrow but in the other direction and it will all cancel out in time
  • Why is it important to be correct anyway?

These are the answers we hear when we do the education session.  Frankly sometimes management does not frown upon these answers.  So, does it matter?  Does it matter if we count jet engines?  Probably does!  Does it matter if we count feet of rubber?  It does not, unless it is on MY BUNGE CORD!

The point is that it can matter.  Missing a foot of rubber can stop a shipment just as easily as a missing jet engine.  So, why is it important? So we can meet customer expectations!  Customers keep us in business and we must meet their expectations or they go elsewhere.  When they go elsewhere, the business may not survive!  By the way, the letter r appears twenty-five times in the text.

To begin a dialogue, contact us. Call us at 770-772-6894, Skype: michael.a..roman, email: operations@manufacturingpractices.comWe look forward to earning your business.

Used by permission of Manufacturing Practices, Inc from an upcoming book with the working title: The Turnaround