Knowledge is a significant competitive advantage in all kinds of business. However, many companies make the big mistake of concentrating expertise and competence on a few people at the top of the organisation. This is, unfortunately, very common in organisations within warehouse logistics.
For example, companies build up the warehouse in specialised departments for specific tasks for the permanent staff, for instance, a department for picking, packing or goods receiving. They work there, year in, year out. In my opinion, this is nothing but Taylorism. The same philosophy Ford used at the beginning of the 20th century. It means specialisation of tasks and centralisation of knowledge. Either companies underestimate the staff’s ability to embrace broad knowledge, or they overestimate the complexity of each specific task.
Many innovations in production and logistics originate from ideas from employees. To encourage innovation that benefits the company, the staff must have a holistic perspective on the flow and they achieve this by giving the team a broad competence regarding warehouse logistics.
If you have staff with broad competence and a holistic perspective at all levels of the organisation, you drastically reduce the risk of making severely wrong decisions that could damage your company.
Having warehouse staff who have expertise in the entire flow and many tasks in the warehouse, is today a necessity if you want a cost-effective and competitive warehouse logistics. That is the meaning of ‘agile’ and ‘flexible’. This is the only way to avoid sub-optimisation and overcapacity of expensive working hours.
If you are going to invest in a WMS and/or an automation solution, it is even more critical that the company promotes knowledge of the staff. I have seen several examples where all knowledge about the systems were concentrated to a few people; the risk is significant that you get unnecessary operational disturbances and that the staff become frustrated and tries to find “workarounds” because they feel those are faster or easier. The systems should help you, not hinder you. With knowledge and communication, you get an understanding and positive discussions on how you could adapt the system for both your company and the staff’s best.
Taylorism is the opposite of Lean, remember that if your company is thinking about a lean implementation.