Have HEART, Operations Execs

You’ve got to have heart to do pretty much any job well. But distribution executives really need HEART, according to John Hill, principal of Toledo, OH-based supply chain process improvement firm TransSystems/ESYNC.

During his session “Are We Ever Going To Get It Right,” at NCOF in Orlando, FL, last week, Hill educated attendees about the aspects of HEART, which stands for humanistic, ethical, agile/acquisitive, responsive/resilient, and targeted. These basic fundamentals, he said, can improve your company’s performance and spark fulfillment and delivery excellence. “I’m reminding you of things you already know, but people need to be reminded,” Hill said.

With nearly 600,000 warehouses in the U.S., Hill wondered why it is that some get it right, while others spend more time with alibis as to why things went wrong. He encouraged attendees to read trade publications because that’s the only way to stay abreast of industry changes.

“The challenge is we have so many solutions, finding the right one and integrating it is the difficult part,” Hill said. “The guys who do logistics right are the winners. The ones who do it wrong are absolutely going to lose.”

Factors to consider when assessing one’s warehouse efficiency include facility size, what areas hurt you the most, and benchmarks against one’s own company. Where to start? “Simply and streamline processes,” Hill said.

“Keep it simple when you can. Take a hard look at processes and fix what needs to be fixed. Get back to basics. Use data flow diagrams and materials flow diagrams.” And talk to the warehouse workers, he added. “I learn more in a 10-minute smoke break with workers than I do anywhere else.”

Hill listed some personal objectives when he visits warehouses: the dirty finger test, in which he rubs his finger across pallets to gauge how long supposedly fast-moving products have been sitting around in warehouses; clean out ghost town vestiges, such as unmoved, year-old products; match layout to inventory profile; match aisle width to vehicle turning radius to reduce damage and increase throughput; and don’t dismiss racks as being too costly.

“Empower your people,” Hill said. “Recognize achievement.” Incentive plans work, he noted, particularly in picking and packing. “There is a severe shortage of warehouse staffing. Find ways to stimulate retention.”

Warehouse efficiency is an ongoing challenge, Hill said, and change is often necessary. In closing, he offered one of his favorite quotes from Ben Franklin: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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