Leave Nothing Open to Misunderstanding
Editor’s Note: Kitty Stein, who usually writes this
column, has taken a temporary leave. She will return to Workroom
Operations after her brief hiatus.
this day and age of e-mail, fax machines, pagers, cell phones and
high-speed Internet access lines, workrooms still depend on written
work orders. The work order is instrumental for information between
the workroom and the designer. When the job is brought into the
workroom the designer can discuss what he or she wants done with
the fabric, but the chances of the workroom doing the work the minute
it is brought in is highly improbable. After it has been in the
workroom for a few weeks, and a few jobs have gone out in front
of it, how is the fabricator to remember what the designer wanted—by
a written work order, that’s how!
We cross-train our employees to better serve our customers, and
in doing so we discovered each designer used his or her own work
order form. Not only did they use their own forms, but they also
would write upside down, sideways and all around the paper! Then
they go back and highlight all the areas they considered important.
This does nothing but help create errors on the workroom’s
“Why,” questions the designer, “can’t your
Yes, we can read! The problem is that the work orders we receive
are extremely difficult to read, it takes an actual rocket scientist
to figure out what some designers are actually trying to have fabricated.
This usually involves the workroom putting the job on the cutting
table, reading and rereading the work order and then having to stop
to make a phone call and ask the designer questions. Then, if we
get an answer right away, we can go on with the job. However, if
the designer was not answering the phone or was out of the office,
the workroom would have to roll the fabric back up and wait until
someone hears back from the designer. This wastes a considerable
amount of time in a workroom.
The way the workroom makes money is by completing jobs as quickly
and efficiently as possible with the quality that’s expected.
It is well known that we learn by repetition, and in some cases
it takes a lot of reminding. Familiarity is another learning tool
that works for many of us. Placement recognition is what we call
familiarity in a work order. So to incorporate all of these learning
tools in a way to make our jobs easier, we have created a set of
work orders. We have a set of 36 different work orders, one for
each of the different treatments we do.
Why so many work order forms? Each work order is for a specific
type of treatment. This is where all those learning tools we talked
about previously are put to use.
1. Repetition—Because everyone in the workroom
will be using the same work order, repetition is built in. The more
they use them and only them, the more familiar the workroom and
the designers will be with the forms.
2. Reminding—We have asked the pertinent
questions required to complete the fabrication on each work order.
If the designer fills out what is requested, no one can miss anything.
This will save the workroom and the client lots of time. No more
chasing down customers to remeasure or ask another question. The
workroom will have everything necessary to get the job done. (It’s
the workroom’s way of reminding designers to ask questions.)
3. Familiarity, or Placement Recognition as I call
it, in this case is when everyone uses these standard forms and
you get used (familiar) to them, enough to know to always look in
the same place for FL (finished length), for example.
This alone should help eliminate errors. The workroom saves time
knowing where to look for information and time is money.
Another reason to use so many forms in a workroom is due to the
fact that different people in a given shop may do different treatments,
and if one person is working on the top treatment, the one working
on the drapery has to run back and forth to read the work order.
If top treatments and draperies were on one work order, it would
be possible for a job to get marked complete before all parts of
the job were complete. Again, the purpose is to eliminate errors.
We realize some clients are going to look at these work orders and
say, “I need to fill out one of these for each part of the
job?” Yes, the workroom needs this information, and these
work orders will ensure we have the measurements and information
we need, and the designers get the products they are requesting.
Our work orders are two sided, the back allows for special instructions
and a space for diagrams. (Here, designers should attach a photo
or sketch.) Fabric samples also are required, please staple samples
about two- by two-inches to the front of the work order. If a designer
is using any trims, fringes or contrasting fabrics, a sample of
them should be placed on the work order as well. This prevents the
work order and the fabric from being permanently separated if the
work order should fall off the fabric.
Attach a copy of the measures with each work order. Remember, it
is the designer’s responsibility to make the workroom understand
what he or she is trying to achieve. The designer should specify
all the necessary details. Leave nothing open to misunderstanding.
I am not trying to sell work orders here, I am just trying to stress
that good communications between the designer and the workroom are
very important to get the job done right.
There are some nice work order forms available from Minutes Matter
Workroom Professionals (www.workroomprofessionals.com)
and Kitty Stein (www.workroomconepts.com),
if your workroom does not have good forms. If a workroom has a form
they would like designers to use, they should use it; it will save
both parties time and money.
Ethel Mahon started her workroom business in 1980 as a one-person
business. Eventually her husband, Harold, joined her in the business,
which now occupies 6,000 square feet. Mahon is a board member of the
Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) and president of its
Jacksonville, FL, chapter. She has taught seminars to consumers and
designers and has authored and published The Designers Workroom Companion,
a book of measuring instructions and calculation charts and The Encyclopedia
of Fabrications, which is used by the WCAA for its Workroom Certification
Program. For more information, visit Mahon’s Web site (www.workroomprofessionals.com)
or e-mail her at email@example.com.