Friday, June 25, 2010

Uniqlo: Using Toyota Style Systems to Sell Clothes


Uniqlo is a low price rather stylish clothing company that, if you don't know by now, you probably will soon. They've been a certain kind of phenomenon in New York since they landed in Soho a couple years ago. Now they're set for expansion across America. There is an excellent article about them in New York Magazine.

They're from Japan. I don't know if that fact — that they're from the same country as Toyota — has some influence, but they have some key similarities to the car maker. They use operations to drive sales. They have lean style systems to make, buy, stock and sell clothes. They experiment and expect to have lots of failures. They have open book management — every employee can see the sales every day, down to the number of each item sold. They also have a freaky clone army approach, which, when you read about it, may give you the heebie jeebies. 

In the end, the article is mostly fun, especially if you are interested in fashion. But it's got some good ideas to steal for anyone who manages operations, too.

Full disclosure: I am a fan. I'm not going to lie, their stuff is pretty good.

Link to the full article here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

iPad Instruction Manual
Success in Barely Existing

"Each page of an instruction manual is sign of design failure."

I'm not sure where or when I heard that phrase. I know it was a long time ago and it was about VCR's, which, nowadays, seem like the 8 tracks of the video world, don't they? VCR instruction manuals were bound volumes dozens of pages thick. Do you remember trying to set your VCR to record a TV show? It took a PhD to read the manual, the instructions were pages and pages long, and it was an anxiety provoking exercise that never seemed to work right.

Wherever I heard the phrase, the idea that instruction manuals mean design failure has been guiding light for me for a long time. Great design should make things intuitive to use, ideally without a manual or SOP.  Being a guiding light means instruction-less design is where I'm headed but I don't expect to get there. You can't necessarily eliminate instructions. But some have come very close. Apple, for one.

Pictured here, the instruction manual for Mac's iPad. It's a single index card, printed front and back. Even at two tiny pages it's probably overkill. You pick up the machine and it's obvious how to use it from moment one. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Power of the Probe

I've been cooking for long enough -- more like overcooking for long enough -- that using a probe thermometer felt like I was giving up. Like I stopped caring and started wearing sweat pants out of the house. I told myself I should be able to do better. I told myself I had experience. I should be able to put my thumb on a piece of meat, immediately gauge how firm it is and declare: medium rare! Then I would deliver it to the table and there would be deafening applause.

I got over it. I use a probe thermometer regularly now. I can vouch it  works; when you don't overcook things they  taste way better. The pork loin. The hunk of salmon. The chicken parts. I even used it on the first steak to pass through my door in half a year and it came out perfect, though there was a distinct lack of applause.

Invest less than ten bucks in one of these. It'll make you look like you know what you're doing. It did for me. Finally.

One note. Most thermometers recommend cooking pork to a temperature that renders the meat criminally overcooked and tough. I cut it back by several tens of degrees, and, while I have yet to catch a fatal disease, the pork has been way tastier.