In June of 1988, Henry Schein, Inc. was brought to its knees. After 56 years of successful operation—from its original mom-and-pop drugstore to serving dental offices and clinics all over the world—it had just switched over its manual paper-based inventory control process to a new computerized system. With visions of improved efficiency and customer service in their minds, Schein's President, Stan Bergman, and his team looked forward to this new operating platform.
That's when the failure began. No sooner had the new system kicked in then first a trickle, and soon a flood of errors and mistakes started appearing. In the old system, the employees involved knew the customers, their names and addresses, and the products they ordered. They just were not as diligent in keeping that information accurately up-to-date in the records on which the new computer system depended.
As errors began to compound errors, the company knew it had a giant mess on its hands. Its entire business was distribution and that business depended on timely, accurate deliveries to customers who relied on the company's products every day. The real question was whether this would become a company-destroying fiasco or an all-hands-on-deck crisis it would weather.