We’re going way back in time for today’s blog. The year 1546 to be exact. That’s when John Heywood first published the proverb that gave life to our more modern “cannot see the forest for the trees.”  In his own words:

From him who sees no wood for trees,

And yet is busie as the bees,

From him that’s settled on his lees,

And speaketh not without his fees.


He wrote it as a commentary on the Pope at the time, and the commentary was based on the fact that those with money could not appreciate the dire situation of those without.

In today’s vernacular, it’s still not a positive commentary, although maybe not as brutish as back then. Today, we use it most often to refer to someone who is unable to see what’s going on as a whole because they are too focused on the details. I often equate it to those times I find myself looking down instead of out.


"the trees" are important in manufacturing

And, no, we are not talking about wood pulp mills here.  The "trees" in manufacturing are the details; the data. This data is just as important as the big picture (forest) because you need to know whether you’re:

  • Making or losing money
  • Reaching or falling short of goals
  • Meeting or missing targets

More than that, data means that you can answer the questions you have right now. How am I doing? Do I really need to hire more people? What work is falling behind? Data helps you make the decisions you need to when you need to do it. Should I push that off or do it now? Do I need to prioritize a different piece of work based on my backlog? Should I make that commitment or not?


Manage and Leverage Production Data with Quantum  LEARN HOW HERE


manufacturing is ALWAYS moving

There is never a time that manufacturing is not in motion, at least on an open shop floor. Work and materials, people and paperwork, inventory, and orders are constantly in motion. Whether you make 1 or 1,000 of something, you have things that travel with it to make that happen. If you use paper on the shop floor, it should move with the work it's attached to, but paper packets get lost, damaged, outdated, or go missing. 

It is impossible to track your manufacturing on paper, be that an Excel sheet or documents on whiteboards. It is improbable to do it with an ERP because it was built for office financials; not manufacturing.  A manufacturing software system does track all that, but how does that help when you want to see the trees?


See How Production Management  Works in Quantum  CLICK HERE


when do I want to know about "the trees"?

The big picture – the forest – is important for your shop, your management, and your performance goals. It’s not important when you’re talking about an order. Or is it?

It’s critical.

You must be able to find and understand the smallest of items in manufacturing in order to see the big picture. If you cannot track an order down by its individual steps and the work being done there, you will never be able to tell, holistically, if it will get done on time and its performance to similar work last year. To expand upon this:

  • You don’t know if you’re making money if you don’t know how much time and money each step in manufacturing is taking you.
  • You don’t know if your performance is up or down if you don’t know how successful you were at completing a piece of work compared to the last time you did that work.
  • You don’t know if you need more resources (be that time, money, or people) if you don’t know if the people you currently have are doing the work at the rate you believe they should.

The interesting thing to me about manufacturing is that the complexity of the work and motion involved make it unique to other industries. You absolutely need to be able to see the details (the trees) in order to get an understanding of the big picture (the forest). The small things add up in manufacturing. The small things sometimes make the biggest difference.




do you know what's happening in your shop?

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s impossible to know how you’re doing.

  • What orders are on time?
  • Which are late?
  • Where are they in process?
  • Who’s working on them?
  • When will they be done?
  • Did we stick to this morning’s plan or do something else?

I’ll bet you have a million of your own questions, but these are the ones we help our customers with every day.  If you need real-time access to your shop floor data; we can help.  We’ve been doing this for more than 25 years and we’re happy to share our insight with you. Just reach out and ask us the questions that you have. 

Anxious to get the information faster? Engage with us for a Process Gap Analysis of your shop. We’re only an email away, info@cimx.com.

Contact CIMx Software to see how a Manufacturing Execution System can improve production control for you.

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