Dignity of Labour: practising without preaching!

My company had supplied a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine to a medium-scale manufacturer of automotive parts. The machine costing around Rs. 4 million was the first CNC machine being purchased by this company. While finalizing the order, we had emphasized the importance of routine maintenance for ensuring the machine’s excellent performance and long life. We had committed that our service team would impart maintenance training to their factory personnel.

During the week after the machine was installed in the customer’s factory, our service team conducted maintenance training for the customer’s personnel as committed. Later, our Service Manager visited this customer’s factory every Saturday morning to check that all maintenance procedures were being followed correctly.

One Saturday afternoon, the MD of that company telephoned me and apologized profusely for ‘subjecting the Service Manager to humiliation’. My repeated attempts to get him to shed some more light on the matter were unsuccessful. Fortunately, the Service Manager was in the office, so I could get a firsthand clarification!

On the previous Saturday’s visit, the Service Manager had noticed that the ceiling fan above the machine was rotating very slowly, because of which air circulation around the machine was less than desired. On checking, he found that the fan was not rotating fast because a lot of dust had accumulated on the fan’s blades. He pointed this out to the Factory Manager and requested that the fan be cleaned immediately since insufficient air circulation would result in the machine getting overheated. The Factory Manager assured him that the fan would be cleaned as soon as possible.

On the next visit, he saw that the fan had not been cleaned. Upon enquiring with the Factory Manager, he was told that the responsibility for cleaning the fan had not been assigned to anybody; hence nobody had cleaned the fan. He felt that that this ‘issue’ wasn’t likely to be resolved soon. Hence, without a word to anybody, he brought a step ladder which was lying nearby, shut down the machine, switched off the fan, took some cotton waste, climbed on the step ladder and cleaned the fan. Obviously, somebody had reported this entire incident to the MD of that company.

I asked the Service Manager why he had chosen to clean the fan himself; it wasn’t his job. His answer was, “If the fan wasn’t cleaned immediately, our machine might have suffered long-term damage due to overheating. Hence, it was important to clean the fan immediately. The customer’s people did not understand this. So, I did it myself. I hope they have now understood that we were serious about the importance of keeping the fan clean, and will do it themselves in future. If not, we will clean the fan regularly as part of our maintenance routine.”

He had taught many persons, including me, ‘Dignity of Labour’ by practising without preaching!

This post was originally published on July 20, 2013 as I Saw, I Learnt

Service with a smile!

A few weeks back, we visited a textile showroom in one of the busiest areas in our city. Like many commercial establishments in this area, this showroom also has valet parking facility. When the driver alighted from our car after bringing it to the gate, I thanked him and handed him a Rs. 10 note. He did not take the note, but smiled and said, “Thank you, sir. But it’s not necessary,” and walked away. Before I could close the door, the watchman bent towards me and said softly, “Sir, that’s our supervisor. Since there’s a heavy crowd today, he’s helping with the parking.” Only then did I observe that the supervisor was not wearing a driver’s uniform.

I was impressed by the supervisor’s attitude. Dignity of labour is seen among many entrepreneurs, but is not too common among employees. I also hoped that he had not felt offended by my offering him a tip.

Two weeks later, we visited the same showroom again. This time, after we completed our shopping, our car was brought to the gate by a person wearing a driver’s uniform. As soon as he alighted from our car, I thanked him and handed him a Rs. 10 note. The driver did not take the note. He smiled and said, “Thank you, sir. But we are not supposed to accept tips.”

This came as a very pleasant shock to me! Tips are neither mandatory nor forbidden for valet parking. I tip the drivers voluntarily. While the tip is a small amount to the customer, the tips from all customers could amount to a substantial amount per driver per day.

The fact that the drivers willingly refuse tips, especially in these days of high prices and high inflation, speaks volumes for them and for the showroom’s management. I believe that such behaviour and attitude in an organization comes from the top. Obviously, the showroom’s management has instructed their drivers not to accept tips from customers, and has also ensured that they pay the drivers higher salaries to compensate for the absence of tips.

I believe that the additional money is well spent by the management because the gesture of refusing tips has the effect of making customers feel like welcome guests!

What do you think?