Fix your warehouse team before those KPIs

Here is an example of some KPIs that were asked of a warehouse manager I recently interacted with —

  • Stock Accuracy — 100%
  • DIFOT/Perfect order s — 99.9%
  • Mis picks — 5%
  • Dock to Stock — 2 hours
  • Order lead time — 4 hours
  • Continuous Improvement …. etc.

I asked him how we was fairing and he replied that he wasn’t doing doing well. I then asked him the following questions and he had the replies-

  • Is your staff strength enough to manage a workload on a given day? — No.
  • Do you have frequent absenteeism? — Yes.
  • Does your company have a hire and fire approach towards staff? — Lackadaisical approach.
  • How many internal promotions have occured in the last two years?-Hardly.
  • Do you feel that work doesn’t happen in your absence?-Yes.

When you take over a warehouse operation or are currently managing one, look at your team first. Find answers to the following questions:

  • How is the morale of the team?
  • Is everyone motivated enough?
  • Is your team transient? Are you plagued with constant absenteeism and turnover?
  • Does your team feel they have a future with your company?

If you aren’t satisfied with the answers then find them and don’t start anything else until you are satisfied. You could spend days planning operations, fixing KPIs in your offices but if you don’t have a motivated empowered warehouse team, your operations would only go south!

How do you expect to get top class scores in performance when you don’t do anything for your most important resource? — Your team.

Warehousing operations roles aren’t the most glamorous of jobs (something which is so important to today’s millenials) and don’t attract the best talent as a career.

If your team isn’t happy to work then they wouldn’t be motivated enough to follow your company’s policies and procedures.

If your team is overworked and not suffciently rested (it happens so often in warehouses where a few absentees increase the workload for the others on shift) they wouldn’t stay sharp especially in high volume operations leading to errors.

If they do not have a sense of belongingness and don’t see long term association with your company, they may resort to practices not in favour of your company.

And just how can one expect a team to offer suggestions when it is disinterested? How can you follow a policy requirement of continuous improvement?

Spend time with your team, get to know each one of them, their motivations, their current levels of knowledge and skills, their aspirations etc. If your company cannot offer growth, maybe you could invest in their training.

Nothing compares to motivation and attitude when you hire a candidate. Knowledge and Skills can be instilled but motivation and attitude are inherent. Get your hiring right. Go out of your way to recruit someone with the right attitude and motivation levels. Your new recruit should love working in teams.

Companies in countries having transient migrant labour force have a unique dilemma. How do we hire good people especially if they are migrants and support them with immigration requirements? If you find a suitable candidate and are confident of her/his abilities, my suggestion would be to go out of your way. A good hire impacts the performance of your company manifold.

You may have standards for every process, a best in class infrastructure — in physical assets and software technology. You may even have a high level of automation in your warehouse. But don’t forget the most important thing — It’s people who drive everything forward, it is now and it will be in the future even if there was only one warehouse operator needed.

While managing a successful 3PL company, I was always asked by prospective clients about the USP of my company. My pitch was always this one thing, the secret sauce … our team! We had results to prove it and happy customers to vouch for us. We were never afraid of competition and never afraid of poaching. We just spent our most productive time in what we were required to do — Delivering results.