Each budget year, the word comes down from Finance or the C level execs that operations needs to cut (put your number here) percent from the operating budget. Every year, it’s the same thing. We don’t care where you find it, but we need to cut costs. But, lets improve delivery at the same time, eliminate a percentage of our breakage and become more productive too.
When you look at it that way, with expanding warehouses, space harder to find, workers harder to find, it becomes a tidal wave of difficulty; but that’s not even the hardest part. To really make a substantive, powerful change in operation that involves, manufacturing and distribution of any type of product – the process of bringing in raw materials, building the widgets of all colors, shapes and sizes. It also involves inventorying those products and then boxing them up and shipping them. The supply chain process is the life blood, the heart, in fact of these companies. The heart! So, when process change is required, new technologies or new and/or upgraded tools such as software is a potential next step for achieving this directive of cutting costs and increasing productivity. The operations professionals turn into heart surgeons.
It’s true that some operations professionals have test beds and environments that allow for a degree of pretesting software and some hardware. Fact is however, the rubber meets the road on the operations floor. When the users start giving feedback, or the server goes down, or it takes three times as long to learn new systems, processes, technology, the heart skips a beat. Even a slight disruption causes heartburn.
Seriously, these professionals must start looking at process improvements, newer automation technologies and more sophisticated solutions to move the ball forward. And this is a very risky choice, especially during peak seasons.
The ideal scenario is to find non-invasive types of incremental changes that can have the desired effects to see the types of improvements necessary to attain higher percentage changes in productivity improvement and error reduction. When large implementations need to take place, and they do, like WMS replacements or significant automation installations, the project management, patience and long term planning required is paramount to success.
Fortunately, there are ways in a non-invasive fashion that can provide significant benefits with respect to error reduction and increased productivity. With the advent of technologies that are more edge based and less centrally and cloud based, operations execs can now very skillfully do “heart surgery” and make substantive changes on processes. Improving worker interfaces on multiple types of mobile applications, targeting users that need more effective hardware tools, adding device-based voice specifically for empowering applications that have the fastest ROI are just three examples of tactical strategies that are being used by the most effective operations managers right now.