Appropriate Technology

Searching for Space

by Dan Schafer

After seven years of manufacturing jewelry in Thailand, and eight years before that in Taiwan, we have gone through several thousand designs. In our main line of enamel jewelry every one of those designs has at least one set of stamping dies and another of cutting dies, all made of heavy hardened steel, amounting to several kilograms per design. All of these have had to be stored somewhere and some way that makes them accessible when they are needed again.

This is a problem that grows on one slowly, a little like the inches around our middle as we get older. But just as there comes a day when we notice we are not quite as slim and trim as we remember, so there came a day when we couldn't just add another shelf in the storage room. Also there came days when we saw cracks in the walls and floors of the old building that weren't there before. And in another parallel with our paunch, it took a while after seeing the problem before we got around to doing something about it. The mold people kept packing the molds in tighter and we kept wondering why it seemed harder to find the ones we needed.

Since the decisions about what designs to market and when, and consequently what molds to keep, have to be made on other sides of the oceans where the jewelery is sold, our only option seemed to be to find another room into which to expand. There was another room in the same old building that was filled with junk of a less unique variety. Sorting through that junk was a long overdue exercise anyway, so we started there. In fact we were able to make it into quite a nice-looking room. The only drawback was that it was still part of the old house which in the first place wasn't designed for the kind of weight we were asking it to carry, and in the second place, was doomed to eventual razing.

Actually Myron and I were working together to clean up several sore spots in the factory at the same time. There was the junk room we mentioned above. There were two storerooms for maintenance and construction materials. Those two we rebuilt and consolidated into one. And there was a semi enclosed area behind our copper room that I had put a roof over a year ago for a place to keep old construction forms. Predictably, this latter, too, had become something of a junk area. Originally we thought we could clean it up and perhaps put a paving block floor in it so it wouldn't be such a haven for the tropical beasties that like to surprise one from such hideouts.

To make a long story short, as we mused together about how we were going to solve our mold storage problem, that semi enclosed area behind the cutting room began to look just like the place we needed. It was a place that wouldn't have to be knocked down when we were ready to build additional facilities. It didn't have a floor, so we could pour a good strong concrete floor in it that would carry the weight of all those molds. With an efficient storage plan we could get twice as many molds there as in the old room. An added benefit was that by knocking a hole in a wall, we could make it join our copper inventory room so that Boriboon, our copper inventory manager, could also manage the mold storage.

Conventionally, what Myron and I did would be called brainstorming, because we put our ideas together and came up with something. But often we think of that as sitting in a room together and verbally giving out our ideas. The difference here was that we knew we had a problem to solve, and we started acting to solve it. It was in our motion that we began to see where to go. But, had only one of us worked at it, perhaps that one would not have come upon the idea that worked so well.

Of course we needed a good solution for our mold problem, but perhaps, even more, we needed to learn how God's plan is to use each of us when our love becomes practical enough to make time to think together and to act together.

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