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6:30am EDT March 28, 2003
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that applies to business as well as to life.

For example, one of the biggest mistakes new management makes is trying to effect change without first evaluating a situation properly.

Knowing where both the business and manufacturing processes stand is more important than you might think. In fact, process evaluation is analogous to the 'You are here' X you find on the mall directory -- you have to know where you are to get where you need to be.

Vince Slusarz was especially aware of this when, after he was promoted to vice president of manufacturing at Kinetico, he set his sites on improving the industrial division.

"We wanted to look at the entire business," says Slusarz. "We wanted to identify several main processes and subprocesses for each of those ... we looked at what we could affect and how we could measure the changes."

The industrial division is a build-to-order water treatment equipment manufacturer and any misstep is costly, so management decided that is where it could have the biggest impact. But before changes could be made, the entire process, from lead management to product delivery, had to be assessed.

"It was very revealing. The initial inclination was that it won't take that long ... but it took about two years. You think a process is simple, and then when it's written down, it takes up two pages," says Slusarz.

Slusarz admits that the early stages were difficult because they took so much effort and discussion.

"There is a fine line you can cross by being too detailed," says Slusarz. "It becomes a paralysis."

Slusarz and a cross section of about 50 employees identified issues that were impeding success.

"We had a management group, an overall steering committee, for each of the four major processes, and they identified the issues that needed to be handled and took them to the group," he says.

Ironically, as Kinetico got its house in order, the market for its industrial division began to slow significantly. But it is taking what it learned and applying the lessons to other parts of the business.

"We considered the effort a success," says Slusarz, even though the company's commercial market has bottomed out. "Where we have seen the benefits is that it allowed us to open our eyes as to how this can help us in other areas of the business." How to reach: Kinetico; 1-800-944-WATER (9283) or www.kinetico.com