This article offers some thoughts on using Competitive Intelligence field tradecraft. A retiring HMRC (IRS) senior inspector explained to us that investigators use a simple technique when they suspect VAT evasion in pubs. When the pub is busy, they sit with a pint and watch the staff loading the dishwasher for 20 minutes. The glasses washed equated to the number of pints bought, giving the taxman an estimate of the beer sold. HMRC also do this with Takeaways.
In the field
And we have been known to hang around factories counting HGVs leaving the gates. There are many things you can learn from standing outside a factory. Many things you can see what legally walking around the perimeter. If you want to know how many bits of kit leave the factory every day count them.
Finding this sort of information can be done in several ways.
- You can ask them.
- You can count the number of delivery vehicles leaving the gates.
- If you have the kit, you can even weight the vehicles as they leave. We have never done this, but we have heard it done. Weight the bit of equipment they make, weigh an empty vehicle and then weight the same vehicle fully loaded. Asking the security guard or ringing the plant up is so much easier than getting your boots dirty, but you learn so much more.
How many cars are there in the car park, when do they leave? Where do the vehicles come from? Which haulage companies? Which countries. Where do the vehicles go to? How many Forklift trucks do they have? And how many warehouse doors do they have and how many are used?
How many production lines do they have and how many are in use? If there is heat (amongst other things) involved in the manufacturing process, how many chimneys are on the site? How many are smoking?
Not just factories
It’s not just factories. Without looking deeply at this there with a little research, you will find specific regulations determine the number of air conditioning units are required. So counting these units will reveal something of interest. If not straight away, perhaps in the future.
We have seen examples of illegal activity within sites. UK based companies were inspecting site abroad. To check that their anti-slavery statement on their website still stands up to scrutiny. When they leave the site, the main company signage is taken down and packed away for the next suckers. We have seen lovely Health & Safety signs proudly displayed on sites. The trouble is some of the operatives are unable to read their language, never mind English, so why have Health and Safety signs in English? It also explained why flipflops had replaced safety boots.
Ultimately, competitors, are they gaining an unfair advantage by lying. As a result of our experiences, we offer two related products to assist ethical-trading initiatives and green credentials. To look at your competitors and make sure all is well with your operation.
Analyse your competitive environment with a Competitor Ethical Report. Check your ethical and sustainability credentials stand up to scrutiny. Allow us to audit your processes with our Ethical Business Review Certificate process.
This article offered some thoughts on using Competitive Intelligence field tradecraft. There are countless ways to create insight just by sitting outside the gates of a factory. So, does your competitor have a site you can monitor and measure to determine their production levels and revenues?