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How to improve productivity in your warehouse


In our business, it’s often easy to forget that for every customer that comes to us knowing exactly where they can improve productivity, there is at least two who aren’t sure if they have room to improve or where to start looking for opportunities.

When You Are Your Own "Quality Engineer"

For large businessmobile computer stationes with sales over $100MM, we often find that there is a quality engineer on staff who is professionally trained in process analytics and rationalization and is there full time to seek out ways to maximize productivity. For smaller companies, that is usually a luxury that they can not afford. So many will make use of a trained industry or process consultant, or make use of the consulting resources available at many of their resellers.

But that is also an additional expense that for many businesses is still too large an expense without some inkling if the ROI will be there or not.  So the question is, just HOW can a smaller business owner or facility manager spot the opportunities for improvement?

Four Ways to DIY Your Productivity Gains

Here is a simple list of the behaviors we’ve seen in the best managers that help them see where the real opportunities are:

  1. Watch – Have you ever stood over a still tidal pool at low tide and immediately thought “nothing going on here”? And then noticed if you stand there long enough, you will begin to notice all kinds of life starting to move around? Watch your business in the same way. Walking through every day and glancing at the big picture won’t reveal to you all the other minute activities going on all around. Get out on the floor, stand in one place for a while and let the scene soak in. Look for patterns and repeat behavior. You will eventually notice things that give you some inspiration and ideas.powered cart
  2. Listen – Make a point to meet with individual staff on a regular basis. Create an environment where they feel it is their time to talk and speak freely and not something where they will feel like they are under a microscope. You want them to think out loud about how they would improve things. You will be surprised at the ideas that come out.
  3. "Get Your Hands Dirty" – We have one vendor who shared a story of taking a 2 hour shift on the phones every month both to maintain some credibility with the 250 operators who worked the phones, but more importantly to see first-hand what they see and spot ways to improve things to make their job easier.  Why not do the same thing? A few hours in the shoes of those whose role you want to improve provides a perspective that your staff may not always be able to express or think to connect back to the improvements you are considering.
  4. Discuss – Bring the team together now and then specifically to think out loud together and talk about the things they find to be “blockers” in their jobs and processes. If you have done your job and created an air of openness in your individual meetings these sessions could end up being very productive.

Making Productivity-Spotting a Habit

While these are all practices one might consider to be standard best practices for management, taken together and implemented as part of your personal management style, they can give you both the visibility and inspiration to spot great opportunities for productivity improvement in your workplace.

Newcastle Systems is a provider of Mobile Workplace Systems, providing specialized batteries that turn a powered cart into a mobile computer station. See a complete Product Overview here, or learn more by viewing our customer's Case Studies for improving productitivity here.

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Topics: Productivity Warehouse Management