Guest Editorial: Walk Your Warehouse – Quit Driving the Desk

Warehouse loading dockMy wife goes for walks all the time for exercise – but these walks rarely generate cost savings initiatives that can reduce our family’s household expenses and improve our savings rate.

The good news is with a minimal time investment you will be well on your way to reducing your overall supply chain expenses and improving your warehouse. Plan to spend an hour a day and ask a lot of questions.I advocate that you keep asking why, until you determine the root cause of the problem. Often, it is not the first why that gets you to an answer.

When you get back to your desk – identify your top 5 list (pick one from each category) and get your team engaged in helping solve the problems.

Keep in mind – there is no magic wand to wave that will turn the frog into a prince overnight.

This will take an investment of time and resources – but if you make it a practice to go for routine walks through your warehouses you will kill two birds with one stone: first and foremost you’ll get to know your warehouse team at a greater level and secondly you will see a process change that leads to expense reduction and an increase in efficiency.

Five key categories can help you determine if you run a frog or a prince.

Safety

  • When you enter the facility does it clearly indicate the corporate commitment to safety?
  • Are you asked to don any special apparel for your one hour walk?
  • Do you actively track safety metrics and regularly discuss them with your associates?
  • Are safety committee meetings posted on the safety board and are they up to date?
  • Do all the associates go through an active safety orientation prior to their first day of work? How about periodic refresher training?
  • If OSHA inspectors walked in right now – would you pass the audit?

Productivity

  • Do you have enough space to operate and maintain a safe environment?
  • Is your warehouse laid out in the most efficient manner to service the needs of your customer?  If it’s been more than two years since engineering reviewed the design of the work within the building, it may be time.
  • Do you have established productivity measurements for all areas of the warehouse?
  • Are you utilizing all the tools at your disposal to maximize productivity?

Penske WarehouseCustomer KPI’s

  • Are you currently meeting your defined metrics established for each customer you service?
  • Do you hold daily meetings to discuss the metrics with your floor level associates to make them aware of how your location is performing in the eyes of the customer?
  • Is there an active mechanism in place to measure the facility over time and against other facilities within the network?
  • Do you have established QBR’s with your customer to discuss metrics and goal achievement?
  • Are you engaged in any cross-functional/cross-company teams to improve operating metrics?
  • Can a random warehouse associate provide you with today’s number for your number one customer KPI?

Associate Morale

  • When you walk the building do you get a sense that people seem generally happy executing their functional role?
  • Do heads shake east and west (a bad sign) vs. north and south (a good sign) when they see you approaching?
  • Does your on-site leadership team spend inordinate amounts of time in their offices on conference calls?
  • Does the suggestion box ever fill up?
  • Are floor level associates encouraged and rewarded for speaking up and suggesting process improvements?
  • Do you measure their satisfaction in a formal, anonymous manner? How often?
  • Do associates understand the corporate vision and the role they play in execution?

Cleanliness and Organization

  • Is your warehouse generally clean and organized?
  • Do you have locations clearly identified and easily accessible?
  • Do your warehouse associates know what 5s is and how they should be using it within the warehouse?
  • Would you eat lunch in the warehouse break room? Do you?

At Penske Logistics we take pride in putting skin in the game to assure we reduce our customers operating expenses and help them improve their processes. If you need company on your walk – please let us know, since we make the walk an integral part of our process.

By Eric Hepburn

Hepburn is vice president of distribution center management for Penske Logistics and can be reached here. He is located at Penske’s global headquarters in Reading, Pa.

 

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