Spotlight on NCOF

Oct 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

Welcome to our continuing series highlighting the speakers of the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, which Multichannel Merchant co-sponsors with the Direct Marketing Association. This year’s conference was held in Schaumburg, IL from April 29-May 2. This month, Susan Rider, president of Upton, KY-based operations consultancy Rider & Associates, discusses some highlights from her NCOF session, “The Top 10 must do’s for operational excellence.”

Is operational excellence an illusive dream? I think not, but it is a definite commitment of time and talent every day. Below are four steps that will help you achieve this goal.


As in every part of your life, communication is essential. Supply chain communication across your network can make the difference on whether you achieve a good result or bad.


Another common problem is quality training or the lack of training. The typical large distribution center has a 40% turnover rate per year. Depending on geographic location, it could be more. A good training program is essential and could increase productivity 10%-20%.

Know your operation

Start by going through a process flow mapping and then audit the process. Are these steps occurring in the warehouse? Have associates created a more efficient work-around? Now look at each component: is there a better way of doing this task? How can you reduce walk time or touches out of each component? Would an investment in equipment or technology reap big returns in any step?

Then map the process to key performance indicators. Evaluate your metrics compared to others in like industries. What gets measured gets noticed!

Improve internal service

Every department needs to know who their customers are and communicate with them. Survey them and find out how your support teams can better serve them. This will increase productivity. For instance, IT, maintenance, and human resources are suppliers to operations. If IT doesn’t support with good systems or a fault tolerance plan, operations will fail. If maintenance doesn’t maintain a sorter and it goes down, operations fails.

Order fillers support shipping. If order fillers do not finish a wave on time, shipping is back-logged. You get the picture. Develop a team of customer service professionals and you will increase productivity without adding cost.