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Making Good Resolutions for Your Distribution Center in 2019

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Making New Year’s resolutions is something we all do, or joke about, or both. But regardless of which category you think you belong in, there’s no question that the New Year is a good time to re-examine how you do things and implement improvements in the workplace.  But where do you start? Every year, the list of “we should…” is a long one, but here are a few ideas that we think are a good place to start:

1. Start with Last Year’s Resolutions

If you are like most of us, you probably have a list of things you set out to improve or change at this time last year. Let’s start with those. Pull out your list and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Which ones did we accomplish?
  • Which ones are still needed?
  • Which ones should we keep doing?

If you have something on your list that you never got around to, or did not complete, you have to be honest and ask yourself if you are ever going to actually get it done. If it is important and your gut tells you that the answer is going to be “no”, then perhaps it makes sense to hand this off to someone else better positioned/resourced to do it. If it is not as high a priority as it was last year, then don’t waste time keeping it on a to-do list if it will never get done!

For those that are still important and “in-progress”, by all means, carry on!

2. Take Care of Your Employees

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If there was an underlying theme to all of 2018 it was the difficulty in finding, training and retaining a good workforce.  As we’ve written about before, while wages are an important part of that formula, they are not everything. There are two main types of things you can focus on as a means of improving the attraction of your workplace and the retention of your valued people.

Benefits: The definition of “benefits” can apply to a lot of things, not just in the conventional sense. Things that appear on a W-2 are all generally well know, but sometimes it is better to think of them from the perspective of improving morale. Free food or (soft) drinks, laundry services, fitness benefits, paternity leave, legal assistance, etc.

The point is, that you can be creative. Depending on the location, type of workplace and the general profile of your personnel, find things that would work best for your business. Are your people on their feet all day and doing a lot of walking? Then why not a “shoe benefit” for the best fitting, safe and healthiest footwear? Things that show recognition of specific aspects of the job are often a great way to show you are aware of the hardships and that you care.

Safety: While providing a safe work environment is always a requirement, there are visible things you can do to go above and beyond that not only make it clear to your team that you are putting their welfare first, but may also create the fringe benefit of improved productivity as well. One aspect that is often overlooked in the safety discussion is lighting. Poor lighting is connected to lower productivity due to symptoms created like drowsiness, headaches and eye strain. When workers are tiring more quickly from these symptoms they are also more prone to increased error rates, which is a productivity issue AND a safety issue.

Other aspects to consider would include larger, clearer labeling on shelves and aisles, smarter layouts that reduce the total steps workers need to take during a shift and a disciplined plan to keep a well-managed and clean space kept up to local safety standards and building codes.
The key thing is to make sure that these improvements are visible and intentional.
 

3. Document or Measure Something

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OK, this may sound a bit flippant, especially since we’ve been hearing the importance of measuring things for years now, but every year there is something else that could use another look, a review of how it’s being done or a new approach with some outside ideas. We’ve seen this with our own clients over the years.

Many of them have world-class operations that go deep into measuring and continuously improving many major business processes using a Lean approach or otherwise. But many of them became clients only after having taken a closer look at their Receiving area for what was the first time, as it was often overlooked as less consequential. A quick examination of how things were being done and a bit of counting and measurement quickly demonstrated that there was clear room for improvement.

What about your facility? What kind of “unmonitored” processes do you have? Start the year off by choosing one and start to measure it.

4. Get Your Gemba Shoes On…

If you aren’t already one of those managers who makes a point to get out and about every day and tour your area of responsibility (and others that it is connected to!), then you are missing out on one of the best ways to make incremental improvements. If you’re not familiar with the “Gemba Walk”, we did an article on its importance earlier.
 
Even before you read it, set aside some time right now to make sure you are “visiting” the floor every day. With or without a formal lesson on the virtues and how-to of the “Gemba Walk” as defined in Lean analytics, it will make you a better manager.
 

And make for a better 2019. Happy New Year!

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Topics: Planning Process Improvement Safety