My first Management job was on the Manufacturing floor on 3rd shift. It was company policy … anyone’s first Management job was in Manufacturing. The principle was sound: to really understand how the business operated you needed to be at the very core of what it did, which in this case was Manufacturing. Only then could you really learn the business and how to work with people.
So as I started a new job further along in my career, with responsibility for Distribution Centres around the world, I knew that I was not going to learn what I needed to know from behind a desk looking at Powerpoint slides with pictures and statistics. I needed to go to each and every facility and learn about the operation right from the floor.
We had to begin the transformation of the company’s business processes to support the new business objectives. This would mean value stream mapping the current state process. Specifically the company was going to carry a dramatically different set of products which required a new set of capabilities in Strategic Planning, Merchandising, Marketing, Procurement, Inventory Management, Retail Operations and Logistics.
That scope defined the set of processes we needed to change first. The overall goal was to enable the transformation of the company which would manifest itself in higher revenue, improved growth and profitability, greater customer satisfaction and superior employee engagement.
We decided to attack this by introducing the Lean technique of Value Stream Mapping to the organization. We had to start with mapping the Current State process.
It’s been a tremendous first year at supplychaingamechanger.com. Our goal has always been to share experiences and expertise. And in the second half of 2017 we had an ever increasing number of articles contributed by industry leaders all of whom have been very generous in sharing their intellect and insights. This is our second 2017 Top 10 List.
Our readers and contributors come from all over the world. They include individuals new to Supply Chain as well as Industry leaders and everyone in between. And they work in many different industries and vocations. But they all have a common interest in Supply Chain, Operations, Business, Leadership, Change Management, Human Resources, Transformation, and Technology.
Most importantly they all have an interest in learning and sharing.
As we end this first year we wanted to publish our 2nd Top 10 List. Our first Top 10 List covered the Top blog posts from the first half of 2017 so our 2nd Top 10 List will cover the second half of 2017.
Wow! This was the headline caption on the presentation I was about to see. I had just joined the company. I had just spent the last few years in Retail. I had done a lot of research on how to improve efficiencies and productivity in Online/E-Commerce Fulfillment Distribution Centres. And I had lived through the agonizing process and resource challenges of fulfilling E-Commerce orders during the Holiday season, which is far and away the busiest time of the year in Retail.
Implementing a Lean program on the Manufacturing floor, in a Warehouse operation, or in a Distribution Centre is challenging enough. There are a series of process steps in which materials are transformed or moved in some fashion. Try implementing Lean in the Back Office.
And your Lean program has at its core the objective of making these operations as efficient as possible. But when you try to apply these same Lean principles to the support organizations, or the back office, you are likely to experience a wide range of reactions.
So why is it so difficult to implement, and sustain, a Lean program in the Back Office of your organization?
We had completed value stream mapping the current state processes across some very significant business processes in the company. It took a fair amount of time even though we had the active involvement of subject matter experts and leaders from every functional organization.
When all was said and done the current state involved hundreds of process steps, almost 200 pain points, and dozens of iterative, repetitive loops. The company was just being introduced to Lean process improvement techniques. And as challenging as it was to reach a common understanding of what the current processes were the difficult part was about to start.
First, a “Prime Objective” of the Shasta EDC is job growth in the manufacturing and technology sectors, including the use of collaborative robots. This is our key focus. However, the recruitment, retention, and expansion of our companies is equally important.
There is obviously a symbiotic relationship between employer and employees. However, from time to time there are talent gaps that emerge and technologies that force us to rethink our approaches to business.
Data shows that the number of manufacturing jobs are declining, and the jobs that remain are shifting to a mixture of the traditional and tribal knowledge around manufacturing and a blend of technical knowledge that helps to augment current manufacturing with the practical application of emerging technologies.
How many times have you looked at your Distribution Centre operation and thought about how you would re-layout and streamline the process flow if you had the chance?
When you are starting with a new, empty facility it is clearly much easier to layout the operations to make the best possible flow of materials and processes. But when you have an existing operation which has evolved over a long period of time, you are likely faced with utilities, equipment, infrastructure, walls, and paradigms all of which have resulted in a rather inefficient flow of materials and people and processes.
This was the situation we had in one of our Distribution Centres. In this particular Distribution Centre the current layout of the operation had been the result of many iterations of adding new customers, new products and new processes over time with the associated fluctuations in demand for everything.
Yet with the launch of our Global Process Excellence project we had unleashed our employees to make the improvements they had imagined could be made for a long time.
The modern supply chain grows increasingly complex with each passing day. The digitization, focusing on fundamentals and change, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and many other factors are transforming how the agile supply chain functions.
Once, the lean supply chain was considered to be the most effective form of manufacturing and supply chain management. However, a new concept in supply chain processes, the agile supply chain, is quickly growing to replace the often overused term.
We had the “Call To Action” from the CEO. The business needed to be transformed to support growth. And the business needed to be financially stronger and much more productive.
With the mandate established we had named the change initiative that we were about to launch. We had enlisted leaders from every functional organization. And we had began to roll out our communication strategy.
This project involved every employee, every function, and every process in the company. We needed a simple way to prioritize all of the projects that we were about to undertake.
The box I was looking at in the Pick-To-Light (PTL) lane was full of at least 1-2 dozen different skus with as many as one to twenty of each sku in the box. It looked like the insides of a piñata in there. Although a piñata is used in celebrations I was quite sure that when the retail store opened the box they wouldn’t be celebrating.
All along the PTL conveyor every box looked like an explosion of different skus in different quantities. At every station an employee was following the lights and picking a different quantity of each sku from one set of boxes and putting them in the “piñata” box.
I knew that this was the way it had historically been done, and the company had just spent millions and millions of dollars automating this historic process, but from a Lean perspective the whole approach was wasteful, slow, and expensive.
Was it really necessary to touch every single piece of every single sku multiple times?
Maintaining a high standard in warehouse cleanling is about more than just creating a more pleasant and attractive workplace. It can in fact contribute to greater safety, better employee health, longer-lasting equipment, reduced merchandise damage, and increased productivity.
Warehouses can be hectic environments at the best of times, so sometimes it can be hard to find time for cleaning. To keep your warehouse spic-and-span, try to allot a few minutes at the end of every day for cleaning. Deep cleans do not need to be done as often, but you should aim to schedule them in at least once a month.
The Retail company I had just joined was undergoing a massive transformation. Fundamentally the new merchandising strategy was to curate a dramatically different set of products from that which was carried historically, but in addition to what was carried historically. What did this mean for the backroom in every store?
This meant that an enormous number of the business processes had to be transformed to support the new product set because management of the new merchandise required much different capabilities in all aspects of running a retail company. Not only did this transformation require new capabilities but it also required improvements to productivity and efficiency throughout the company. And overall this meant a need for cultural change.
I decided that I would introduce Lean process improvement techniques to this company.
Does your business struggle with process ownership? Are your process improvements not “sticking”? The failure of an organization to have in place well-functioning process owners is a common occurrence these days.
The root causes (if anyone cares to do a full postmortem) are numerous. We’ve heard it all before; “the organizational structure won’t allow for it”, “incentives are misaligned”, “leaders don’t understand what it takes to be a process owner” etc. I’m sure we can all relate to some or all of these statements.
Major players like Amazon and Walmart have distribution centers all over the world, pumping out packages at lightning speed.
If you want to keep your customers satisfied, you need to keep things moving in your warehouse or distribution center. Use these tips to keep up the pace and make your facility as efficient as possible.