In Search of Consistent Excellence

It’s a safe bet that if you visit any trade show these days, you’ll find at least one session — usually a keynote — devoted to “managing in turbulent times.” While there’s no question that today’s economic conditions are unlike any we’ve experienced in the past several decades, they don’t call for a special style of management. Rather, they require doing what managers should always do (and should always have done), regardless of external forces: Stay nimble, resourceful, open to change, and focused on the essentials.

Speaking at a recent logistics conference, ARC Advisory Group analyst Adrian Gonzalez defined operational excellence as “consistently doing the right things well.” To understand what the right things are, he said, you must understand precisely what your customers want. To do the right things well, you must adopt industry best practices, and to do them consistently, you must adapt quickly to changes in real time. Gonzalez described the ARC operational excellence process model as one of definition, measurement, analysis, and improvement. Obviously, this process is suitable for all sizes and categories of businesses, in good times and bad.

Although corporate scandals and the economic downturn have forced companies to obsess about financial measurements, the latter alone can’t benchmark business performance. As operations professionals, you deal not just with financial data but with your employees’ quirks, facility limitations, the ups and downs of your industry, and the specifics of each channel you operate, not to mention the idiosyncrasies of your equipment and systems. The results of our first-ever study of key measurements of facility and employee performance, to be presented at this year’s National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, will give you unique insights into how your peers actually run their DCs, how and why the best ones achieve the performance they do, and how to apply an effective measurement model to each of your operation’s components. These lessons are a great first step toward doing the right things well — consistently.

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