TAKING STOCK: There’s a Storehouse inside Jon Schreibfeder

It’s Monday, and Jon Schreibfeder has just got off the plane in San Diego. For the next two days he’ll be spending time with his favorite clients staking out the place retail customers rarely ever see – the warehouse.

This is where all kind of items stack to the ceiling to the point where some owners don’t even know what they have or what to do with it all. Dead stock. It’s enough to stop a growing company in its tracks.

Fighting Super Cost Villains

Fortunately Schreibfeder is a kind of superhero when it comes to dealing with this most tangible of intangibles – inventory. From his home base in Dallas, Schreibfeder flies to where the action is – expansive warehouses in places like San Diego, Dubai, China, and even the Congo and Botswana.

“When I started my business 15 years ago, people said I was a fool,” laughs Schreibfeder, who owns Effective Inventory Management Inc. “They told me that with the internet no one would have inventory any more. Products would just be distributed through huge warehouses over the internet. Well, that didn’t quite pan out.”

From the Beginning

Born in Connecticut, Schreibfeder has created a life’s work out of figuring out how to minimize costs not by reducing staff or cutting corners on quality, but by counting, organizing and tracking products.

“The biggest sin or mistake is not paying attention to inventory, not realizing that inventory is worth money,” he says. “It’s exciting for business owners because they can see that yes, if you cut jobs you have to think about families to feed and people with medical concerns, but if you eliminate inanimate objects it’s a win-win situation.”

Schreibfeder sets his sights on a positive outcome, with a firm commitment to never look back – lessons he learned from watching baseball as a youngster, including skipping class to catch the 1969 World Series when the New York Mets took on the Baltimore Orioles.

“Every pitch is a new game. You have to put your mistakes behind you and concentrate on the next pitch.”

He relishes in taking on challenges that appear out of reach, a characteristic he’s held since his teens when he reached out to Alan “Buddy” Silver.

Mining  Silver

Silver was by then a well-regarded pioneer in the development of inventory control systems with hundreds of articles to his credit in periodicals like Supply House Times and The Wholesaler.

The two met when Silver did some work for the family’s business.

“He was a marvelous influence. He thought it was cute that this 13-year-old was trying to manage inventory and took me under his wing,” says Schreibfeder.

“He taught me everything about inventory and was my first mentor in forecasting the future demand of products, which makes up 70 percent of the work I do right now.  I spoke to him once a week until he passed away in 1988. I probably still have a stack of 200-300 articles he wrote.”

Striking Out

After years working in inventory trouble-shooting, criss-crossing the country on airplanes while lugging around a 5MB hard drive the size of a pizza box, Schreibfeder decided to go it alone with the urging of his wife Maureen and the words of Andrew Jackson ringing in his ear: Never take counsel of your fears.

“You can, with the strength of God and other things, get through anything. I’ve taken on some interesting assignments – and been successful. It takes hard work, knowledge, but a good part of it is not being afraid.”

Purdue Came Knocking

About eight years ago, another door opened when Schreibfeder was invited to lecture at Purdue University where he literally wrote the textbook for the class on industrial distribution (Achieving Effective Inventory Management, 5th Edition). Today he still can’t believe his good fortune. That volunteer work has returned back to him with a position on the university’s advisory board, informed recommendations to his clients about future employee prospects, and even a contract in Botswana.

“There you have to be licensed by the government, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have a degree because there was no such thing back then. But the university vouched for me, and told them I’m teaching the current generation, and they use my text, so that was fine.”

Taking Stock in the World

The world is a big place, and as Schreibfeder sees more and more of it, he has come to a deeper appreciation that the ability to overcome perceived obstacles is what makes the difference – whether at home or in business.

Business management guru, Eliyahu M. Goldratt, in his Theory of Constraints says you should never let inertia become the constraint. In other words, keep moving forward and you’ll find a solution.

For Schreibfeder that reveals itself as taking stock of waste.

“If we can just get rid of waste, we’re in great shape, and I see more and more of it happening. The retailer I’m working with in San Diego is very large and they’re doing tremendous things by delivering product in great shape to customers and charging as little as possible. They do it by minimizing waste, and they meet or exceed customer expectations at the lowest possible cost.

“No matter what happens in the future, we’re still going to have to move products and plan on how much we need and work on the best way to get it from point A to point B, and then we find better ways of doing it. Some of that will involve computer technology, but a lot of it involves observation by people. We really might want to do it this new way, rather than way we’ve always done it.”

For Schreibfeder it seems, as with inventory, so with life.


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