Keeping in line with the general business practices, company’s instead of keeping its warehouse operations in-house, outsource it to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). We have come across instances where a shipper demanded more from a third-party logistics than it would from itself. This practice is specifically true as far as continuous improvement is concerned. However, while lean manufacturing and Six Sigma practices have been widely adopted to improve production activities, this is far less prevalent in the warehouse.
The decision of outsourcing warehouse operations to a third-party logistics provider is undoubtedly an equitable one, however in this sheer exhilaration of events, do not fall short of the diligence, which is required to determine whether the outsourced logistics provider has a robust continuous improvement culture in place, or not. While many master the art of persuasion, and will easily lead you to believe that this is the case; you only get acquainted to the ground reality once everything has been entrusted to them. You wouldn’t at any cost want this sequence of events to lead you to an agonizing desolation. Therefore, how can a company that wants to outsource its warehousing operations pick a logistics provider that really does have strong capabilities here?
Site visits maybe?
Well, in order to learn about the lean culture of an outsourced logistics provider; site visits are imperative. Have a look at the warehouse, or maybe indulge in some succinct conversation with the workers on the warehouse floor. Now, delving deeper into the concept of lean practices in a warehouse, what are the first impressions you accrue when you have a look at it? Is it relatively clean? Or it might be possible that 3PL is using visual management techniques.
During the visit to the warehouse, try asking employees on the floor about basic info, such as do they know about different types of waste, or have they ever been involved in kaizen events by the 3PL.
A core concept in lean management is that workers always know exactly what is expected of them. For instance, expectations about how many pallets they should be able to pick in an hour should be clearly defined. The workers then need to know how they are doing against those goals over the course of the day using clear visual management techniques.
In order to continue reading, switch to PART-2 of the series.