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Thread: Harbeth and ISO9001: what it means to you ...

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Harbeth new recruits (April 2006)

    We have a step by step solution to increasing productivity, shortening leadtimes and moving our company forward to meet the new business environment challenges. Thank you to those of you who have recognised the painful path that any small business must follow as it grows up: conversely, those who have seen our incremental approach as a sign of our dissinterest, deliberate strangulation of the market or whatever - you are so extremely wrong. Wrong in fact, wrong in interpretation and wrong to believe that such comments are in any positive sense motivational.

    What never ceases to amaze me is the vague preception that the audio industry is flush with cash and that somehow wafting dollars around will solve all problems. That's the thinking of twenty years ago: the golden days. There are now definite limits in the capacity of manufacturers right through to retailers to make big, bold and expensive investments in their businesses. We all have to think smarter - much smarter to survive and thrive. Reckless expansion is not sustainable - not that it ever has been in this industry - and for that reason there really is no alternative to a calculated, incremental, financially prudent, internally funded growth. But first you have to resolve the fundamentals - the limits to efficiency, throughput etc. - the nitty grity. That we have addressed and yes, Production did work through the four-day Easter break to make more RADIAL drivers to permit maximum system production this week.

    Our new staff member will work primarily in the drive unit (RADIAL) production area. That will remove the bottleneck that's become apparent, perhaps increasing efficiency by 15-20% which can all be put towards system production.

    The end of the current sales pipeline is now at the begining of November 2006, a considerable time away in what we are advised is a fickle audio market with customers that 'absolutely must have this instant' regardless of the fact that we are and have always been a craft business. Self evidently, there are customers who have taken this situation on board, got orders into the pipeline and will get deliveries: they have confidence in the Harbeth brand. We now all know where we are going.

    As to increasing our storage on or off site, our long experience is that the more man handling of cabinets, the more prone to damage they are. That is not a solution, it just creates a different sort of problem: the paperwork to reject cabinets that fall below standard back to the supplier is extremely time consuming and frustrating: added costs for no benefit whatsoever.

    One thing I can absolutely guarantee: faced with the many constraints on the industry and our tiny niche within it, it is only possible to meaningfully criticise when appraised of all the facts. To do that, you have to spend time here with your sleeves rolled up.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  2. #22
    Frihed89 Guest

    Default Saving up to buy a pair of.......?

    Well, I was saving up to buy a pair of HLP3s. That is, until the world ran out of Harbeths. How long could I wait? I am actually going deaf in my right ear at a rate i can measure. It's not a fun time in my life. There is some hope that a second operation might be successful, where the first was not.

    So, i went to my backup choice - the little monitor i tell everyone else to buy but never owned myself. It used to be made in the UK, but it has migrated eastward, like me, only farther. Not me, I was holding out for Harbeths.

    I bought a used pair for about $400. And I love them so much I stopped saving up for the HLP3s. I am listening to them now, detailed, open, natural, a little more forward than the HLP3s, but that gets to be less and less a problem as I go deaf.

    That done, I decided to shift my focus save up for the big banana, Compact 7s. Where I live the HLP3 cost about $2300 and the Compact 7s, about $3300, so i figured that would fit in nicely with the current supply shortage. I could dream of being a Harbeth owner again!

    Until last week, when on a trip to Stockholm I happened to wander into a hifi shop and lo and behold there was the bigger brother of my little monitor, a 2.5 way floor-stander with about the simplest cross-over system i have ever seen and now 2 kevlar cones. It must be bright i thought, but i allowed the shop owner to talk me into listening anyway

    And i was hooked, again, because now i could hear the same natural sound a bit farther down the regsiter, but just as clear and crisp as the highs and the mids. They reminded me of te day I fell in love with the Compact 7, but these beauties cost only $1300 brand new in stunning Birdseye Maple, just like the monitors.

    Well I work for the UN, so i had to reunify this family, and I promised them both I would do this before November 2006.

    Sorry Alan, I really did use to love Harbeths, and I almost owned one, twice. I know someone else will buy the one's I didn't. But if you multiply 1 by a large number, you get a large numer of 1's that got away.

    John Callaway
    Copenhagen

    RIP Peter Walker, OBE

  3. #23
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    Default Keeping up with demand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frihed89
    ... That is, until the world ran out of Harbeths. How long could I wait? I am actually going deaf in my right ear at a rate i can measure. It's not a fun time in my life. There is some hope that a second operation might be successful, where the first was not. . .
    We'll I'm really sorry that we could not serve you.

    However, I would like to correct one thing that I obviously have not made clear. You - and others - have said or implied that "the world has run out of Harbeths". This suggests that the current leadtime issue a new, unexpected and unique situation that has come out of the blue. Not so. We've never known anything else.

    We have never, ever, been able to keep up with demand - not during the last twenty years anyway. The difference in these past few months as the ISO rope has tightened is, quite simply, that we have stopped kidding ourselves and our customers that we are a tap that can be turned off and on at will. We now do not pretend that we can work 24/7: we factor in the time lost to sleep, our families, supplier hiccups, vacations, public holidays, bottlenecks etc.. Take that all together, and what you have is a formalised acceptance that there is an order pipeline. And it's now quantifiable, almost to the day, for months ahead.

    It is, I'm sure you will agree, madness to have the Designer in any business chained to his desktop day in day out, month in month out, decade in decade out, firefighting routine supply/production issues all of which are the direct consequence of working against the clock with inadequate time to plan, react - or even to think. He/she should be adding value to the business, creating new concepts, putting his/her abilities to their best use and being rewarded with the same thrill of creation that first attracted them to the industry all those years ago.

    I hate to lose a customer, but there is no quick fix. This supply/demand issue is not, actually, new to Harbeth although to someone on the outside without the benefit of careful review of our 29 year span sales/production records, it may well look like one.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  4. #24
    Frihed89 Guest

    Default When the world ran out of Harbeths

    Thank you for putting things in perspective. I was only trying to dramatize how i felt at the time i was ready to purchase the HLP3s and got the bad news.

    This was just a personal story about how one prospective customer adjusted to the situation, not an attack on your fine company.

  5. #25
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    Default Finding staff ....

    Quote Originally Posted by Frihed89
    Thank you for putting things in perspective. This was just a personal story about how one prospective customer . . .
    I know that and thank you for saying so. Again, I'm really sorry that we were not able to supply you this time. Maybe you'll give us another chance next year?

    We are doing everything we can to increase productivity, but this is limited by the virtual impossibility of recruiting good, reliable, motivated staff. I have never known such a situation: we advertise for one month in the local newspaper and we receive two - only two - replies. Where are all the young people? Don't they want to work any more? Maybe it's because the headline of our advert is "Quality conscious person required ...."
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  6. #26
    Frihed89 Guest

    Default Re: Finding staff ....

    We have the same problems in Denmark. No one wants to be an engineer any more. Was a time when the danish technical education in EE was as good as anywhere and turned out a lot of good designers. Now everyone wants to be "creative", so every year since i have lived here (the last 10), all of the engineering programs at the Danish Technical Universty have been entirely open to anyone with passing grades in G-3 (12th class), while you need almost perfect grades to get into political science or psychology.

    That's what happens when education is free; when labour markets are inflexible; and the state will support you if you pick the wrong education and become unemployed. Unemployment is becoming a bigger problem for university graduates in Denmark each year, except for engineers....the few we turn out any more.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Finding staff ....

    Quote Originally Posted by Frihed89
    ... Now everyone wants to be "creative"...That's what happens when the state will support you ...
    Absolutely correct. Meanwhile the fat cats in Brussels (I was there myself last week) spend our hard earned money on madcap schemes that involve running-down and writing-off industry. "We'll leave that to China" they say. It reminds me of when I was at high school (some thirty + years ago) and the careers master interviewed me. "What do you want for a career, boy" he boomed at me. I stuttered, and sheepishly replied "Well sir, I'd like to make things with my hands" (meaning speakers but not daring to say so). He was mortified. "With your hands boy? You mean getting your hands dirty? Manual labour? I can't help you: I can offer you insurance, the clergy, the army or banking ...... what is it to be?"

    That was then, in an era before computers, media studies or iPods.

    So you'll readily appreciate that manufacturing anything in Europe is hard work, swimming against the tide. That's why ISO is a good thing for us all: it forces everyone in our entire chain to think and plan - in other words to use the very same approach to business that have turned those busy bees in China into the economic might that they are. But would you believe it: there are many examples of total and utter disregard for what we are striving for.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  8. #28
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Finding staff ....

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S.
    Absolutely correct. Meanwhile the fat cats in Brussels (I was there myself last week) spend our hard earned money on madcap schemes that involve running-down and writing-off industry. "We'll leave that to China" they say. It reminds me of when I was at high school (some thirty + years ago) and the careers master interviewed me. "What do you want for a career, boy" he boomed at me. I stuttered, and sheepishly replied "Well sir, I'd like to make things with my hands" (meaning speakers but not daring to say so). He was mortified. "With your hands boy? You mean getting your hands dirty? Manual labour? I can't help you: I can offer you insurance, the clergy, the army or banking ...... what is it to be?"

    That was then, in an era before computers, media studies or iPods.

    So you'll readily appreciate that manufacturing anything in Europe is hard work, swimming against the tide. That's why ISO is a good thing for us all: it forces everyone in our entire chain to think and plan - in other words to use the very same approach to business that have turned those busy bees in China into the economic might that they are. But would you believe it: there are many examples of total and utter disregard for what we are striving for.
    Good God, I've got university diplomas in political science, sociology and law! I'm working as real estate broker-employee in a big company. With 21.000 euros per year you cannot face cost of living in Athens, having family, expenses day in-day out... And, my neighborhood's plumber (he didn't go to high school) earns about 3 times as much. With dirty hands. I wish, if I wasn't married with a child coming in, Alan would get me there in the beautiful Harbeth factory by this gorgeous countryside... I would personally rub the speakers' finishes to perfection, considering each pair as a kind of child... Living humbly, not a rich man, yet not having my head and soul crashed every day on the false ground of a not anymore natural world. Well, my good Alan and friends, that's life... And that's why I bought my beloved SHL5s. At least, they recreate natural sound beautifully enough to help me forget and travel -for a while- into a better world. Please don'y call me pessimist. Just romantic..
    Greetings from Athens approaching Easter and Spring,
    Thanos

  9. #29
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    Default Re: Finding staff ....

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S.
    It reminds me of when I was at high school (some thirty + years ago) and the careers master interviewed me. "What do you want for a career, boy" he boomed at me. I stuttered, and sheepishly replied "Well sir, I'd like to make things with my hands" (meaning speakers but not daring to say so). He was mortified. "With your hands boy? You mean getting your hands dirty? Manual labour? I can't help you: I can offer you insurance, the clergy, the army or banking ...... what is it to be?"
    From the evidence of this deft bit of writing, Alan, you could have been a novelist! But I suspect that your careers master would have been just as nonplussed and indignant at the thought.

    David

  10. #30
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    Default Re: Harbeth and ISO9001: Successful audit of Harbeth's systems

    We have just successfully completed our ISO9001 Audit with the Auditor's comment "A well documented quality system - with records to match."

    Now we have concluded my first phase - securing and strengthening our Company's foundations. The next step is to increase our manufacturing capability, our production capacity and to cut our leadtime. We are working on this right now.

    Thank your for bearing with us whilst we have been preparing ourselves to restructure our internal systems to make more Harbeth products available at a consistent quality to our hungry customers.

    36 chapters of our ISO9001 paperwork system looks like the attached; a great deal of effort with one objective: customer satisfaction.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  11. #31
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    Default Ramped-up production: good news for back-orders

    With a couple of exceptions due to material shortages, good news on the Harbeth production leadtime. We now have an additional staff member, and the new production planning system seems to be running well.

    This means that we have made a real impact in cutting the production leadtime, which is now back to the our long-term 'norm' of about 10-12 weeks ex-Harbeth.

    Next year is Harbeth's 30th Anniversary .... and we have increased efficiency here to take advantage of the continuous month-on-month sales expansion and our plans to celebrate this milestone.

    Thanks for being so patient and understanding as we have realigned our business to demand whilst keeping our overheads to the absolute minimum, hence reducing the price you pay to the bare bones.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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