Can you figure out a way to perform your job in a manner that you save time doing it? Of course not! Time cannot be saved, it moves at the same speed no matter what you do!
Now think of all the things that are done within your warehouse, supposedly to save time. How many of those things actually worked over the long haul? Can you count them on one hand? If so, then what do you do?
It all starts and ends with your warehouse supervisor. When you hire a supervisor what type of person do you look for? Usually it is a "Time Keeper"! Here is a parable: Imagine if someone told you they could look at the Sky, day or night, and tell you what time it is. Wouldn't that be impressive? But what would be even more impressive is a person that could build a clock that would do the same thing, a "Clock Maker"!
When interviewing a person for a supervisor's position we ask them about all of the things they have done. We ask their references about the things they have done. Then if we like what their past has to tell us, we tell them about all of the things our organization has done and how great our company is. Then once they are hired, we seldom provide them with any training and later we wonder why we continue to have the same problems. Basically we hire people to maintain the status quo. A person who can maintain the time! "Is this what you want"? A "Time Keeper"!
What Should We Be Doing
Why don't we tell the potential employee about the problems we have within our warehouse? Why don't we tell them what our expectations are? By doing these things does that mean the company is not as great? Of course not, we are just being honest with the same person we expect to be honest with us. By being completely honest you give
them the opportunity to give you their vision about how your warehouse should run. A "Clock Maker"! A person with a vision and the determination to achieve that vision is much more valuable to your organization, even at the warehouse level. Remember, your warehouse is the first department to touch the product when it arrives from the vendor and the last department to touch it before the customer sees it. Doesn't this mean we should devote more time and energy to ensuring our customers are completely satisfied?
Think about this, "What is the most expensive asset you have within your organization"? Now imagine, "Your Money," being controlled by a person with no vision and no desire to improve your investment. Would you let your 401k be controlled by someone without telling him or her what your expectations are? Without telling them how much of an increase you are expecting? Would you trust it to someone who could not tell you how he or she plans on improving your investment and in what time frame? Then why trust your organizations largest investment to the person with the best past and a limited future.
If we are looking for experience we must look deep and ask ourselves, "how much experience does your warehouse supervisor really have"? Look at their resume when you hired them, then ask, to view their latest resume. Has it changed? Look at the resume of a potential warehouse supervisor. Has it changed over the years? The types of jobs they have held are probably similar, their positions are all the same, and their achievements are the same from company to company. Remember, nothing is as futile as expecting past returns to be translated into future returns on a linear basis. Now ask yourself, "Does this person have "X" number of years of experience" or "1 year of experience repeated "X" number of times." A "Time Keeper". Is this the best person for your organization? Or, should you hold out for a, Clock Maker?
Clock Makers are hard to come by; they are most likely already employed. However, a true Clock Maker is always looking to improve their situation as well as the situation of others. What they want is a challenge, "But it will cost you"! Before hiring a "Clock Maker" you have to decide if you are committed to the revolution. That is what they will stir up within your organization, a "Revolution"! It will not be a commitment to change. Change, is a "Buzz" word that floats across industries and is consistently used by consultants and wannabe Clock Makers. In other words, they are straddling the fence, one foot is on the change side and the other is on the, "continue to operate the same" side.
What We Should Be Doing
What we must do is strive for "Revolutionary improvements by taking evolutionary steps"! And it must begin at the top! We must force the leaders within our organization to become "Clock Makers"! Especially in our warehouse! Because, they are usually the least educated people within the company. I don't mean education from a traditional standpoint; I mean what they have learned since High school or College. How many books have they read on logistics? How many seminars have they attended about warehousing and inventory control? How many associations do they belong to? Probably, none, none and none! And believe it or not we promote the lack of continuing education by not giving them the opportunity to revolutionize the warehouse. When they try to attend a seminar, we shoot them down by saying, "It won't provide any value and the company won't pay for it". Yet sales personnel attend seminars; we have consultants and motivational speakers come in and speak with our sales force and look at how much we have grown by doing so. If it helped your sales force can't it help your warehouse?
Right now, you probably have someone hiring and firing warehouse personnel who has never attended a course on interviewing techniques or labor laws. You have someone controlling millions of dollars of inventory that could not tell you the last time they attended a course or read a book about inventory control. And we wonder why our inventory is so inaccurate. You have someone "Non-Verbally" communicating with your customers, more than anyone else in the organization, and they do not even know who your most profitable customers are. And often we justify this by saying, "they are doing a good job!"
next time you take a physical inventory and you look at the numbers, the accuracy
of it will tell you how good of a job they have done. The next time a sales
person tells you about a customer you lost because of shipping errors, that
will tell you how good of a job they have done. The next time you look at the
turnover in the warehouse, that will tell you how good of a job they have done.
The next time you look at the number of returns you process, that will tell
you how good of a job they have done. And finally, the next time you walk through
your warehouse and you see receiving that has not been completed for a few days,
and personnel that do not seem busy, that will tell you how good of a job they
have done. Ultimately, it will tell you if you have hired a "Time Keeper or
a Clock Maker"!
Jones was the founder and President of Total Logistics Solutions, Inc.
He is now President and CEO of AHN Corporation (www.ahninc.com).
With over 18 years of experience in training, warehousing and logistics he has
used his knowledge to assist and turnaround small and large companies alike,
making them more efficient and profitable. He has been published in several
industry magazines and is the author of, "This Place Sucks" (What Your Warehouse
People Think About Your Company) and "Warehouse 101" (A Complete Guide to Operating
can be reached by phone at (818) 353-2962 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org