Most warehouses in Britain today still have a great deal of manual processes. Maintaining efficiency and control of material flow despite, or even with the help of manual processes requires a good understanding of, and commitment to, the concept of ‘quality at the source’.
Quality at the source is a concept that goes beyond logistics, and has its roots in manufacturing, but can be applied to virtually any business
To create quality at the source is to begin a process with no errors or waste in order to end with no errors or waste. To do that, we will have to discover the key points at which any one process can fail, and eliminate that possibility before starting. We have to have error detection and correction steps at many points throughout the process, and we have to be able to tack changes in efficiency accurately and minutely so when know when we are getting it right, and when we need more development. It is a massive commitment, but the expense is more than worth it.
I’ll give you an example that is only semi-apocryphal
Organisation A made an effort to resolve a serious errors problem in their order picking. They went in to the cause analysis assuming it to be a training or personnel issue, but they paid close attention to their process structure, and discovered that the real source of the errors was excessive interruption of the pickers by other personnel during the actual picking cycle. The process was then amended so that it was possible to plainly identify an occupied picker, and avoid interrupting them. Explaining the picker’s contribution to the value stream allowed others to understand the importance of this change, and made it ‘stick’ that much faster.
Efficiency gains should be organic, and seek modest win-win solutions over optimising for a few key processes. If all of your personnel understand and embrace the philosophy behind your directives, they will fulfil them more conscientiously, and more intelligently.