Rowe Pottery Works: Putting a Pottery Business Back on Track Margaret Jones
In the past two and half years, Rowe Pottery Works has experienced financial losses despite the ever-growing demand for salt-glazed pottery. The pottery production department is mainly responsible for the losses. A new controller was recently hired to evaluate the processes and make recommendations that will bring this once profitable business back on track. This paper provides an overview of the pottery business by detailing the process of making salt-glazed pottery. The concerns and issues surrounding the pottery operation are discussed. Problems such as inventory, labor, productivity, accounting system, and sales are assessed. Recommendations are made, which will address the concerns and problems of the pottery operation. Rowe Pottery Works was once a profitable business but somewhere along this path, they got lost. With the right processes, procedures, and systems in place RPW can get back on track and return to profitability.
Rowe Pottery Works: Putting a Pottery Business Back on Track Business Overview
Rowe Pottery Works (RPW) emerged into the pottery business world in 1975. Founded by Jim and Tina Rowe, this once small blacksmith shop is now one of the largest suppliers for salt-glazed pottery. Jim, being an art student, knew secretive techniques for making 19th century salt-glazed pottery. He added his personal touch and created unique salt-glazed pieces that were sold only in art fairs and their small shop. The Rowes decided to change their product line during the 1980s, hence the rebirth of the Early American crocks and jugs. The demand for quality Early American crockery was increasing rapidly. With limited competition, Rowe Pottery Works went into production with their new product line (Rowe Pottery Works, 2003). All of the pottery at RPW is handmade. Unlike pottery from production lines, each piece is unique in pattern, shape, size, and design. The firing process in the kiln also adds distinct qualities to each piece that cannot be duplicated. Some pieces are even custom made to customer's specifications. The unique, natural, and durable characteristics of Rowe pottery are very appealing to buyers. The business is operated out of Cambridge, Wisconsin. Their pottery operation staff consists of potters, decorators, workers, kiln operators, shipping, and sales clerks. Despite the ever-growing demand for salt-glazed pottery, RPW has suffered losses for a couple of years. The pottery operation is mainly responsible for the losses. A new controller was recently hired to evaluate the processes and make recommendations that will bring this once profitable business back on track. The controller has completed the initial walk through of the pottery operation and compiled a summary of the processes. With limited inventory, the production process begins when an order is received from the sales. Workers start with the manual mixing of clay and water. Potters then form each piece on the potter's wheel. The formed pieces must dry at room temperature for up to 48 hours. The decorators paint designs and apply glaze to each piece. Once dried, the pieces are fired in a kiln. The kiln reaches 2,000 degrees and must be cooled to room temperature prior to removal of pottery. The last step is the inspection of each piece before shipment. It takes approximately two weeks to complete a piece of pottery. In addition, the production department staff consists of very skilled artisans. The potters require extensive skills when working the potter's wheel. Training for a new potter is at a minimum of six months. The decorators also require artistic skills when adding designs to each piece. The kiln operators require extensive training on the operation and maintenance of the two kilns. The production process for making salt-glazed pottery is time and labor intensive. Current...