In the current environment with markets slowly recovering, yet pressures to contain costs remain undiminished, businesses face a productivity challenge. For many logistics operators, taking on new staff to deal with spikes increases in volume simply isn’t an option, especially in jurisdictions where shedding unneeded staff is trickier than taking them on. The solution explains Simon Clark, CargoWise’s Vice President Business Development – Europe, is to ensure your business has a certain degree of “surge capacity” built into its processes.
I suggest first looking at the quality of the work being done – the more that you can use a solid IT solution to reduce errors in data entry, wrongly produced documents, misdirected reports the better. Some IT solutions on the market these days allow you to configure the screen layouts for maximum efficiency, and at the same time control the data validation rules that you want. For 5 minutes set up by one person you find that all staff benefit from having the right look and feel in front of them to make their work easier, and catch the errors before they become issues, or a crisis!
Look at using technology to remove mundane chores. I often see people printing documents to then put into a fax machine, or downloading a document from a system to attach to an email to send to a client. Why? Modern IT solution can print, fax, or email directly from the system without any duplicated tasks. Some say that a clear desk is from a clear mind, so all the “little reminders” that are on peoples desks that they make when they are busy look like clutter.
Now I know that we love paper in this industry, it makes us feel comfortable – but use your IT systems to file the reminders so you don’t accidentally throw them away. Modern systems will let you put schedules on reminders. For example, if you don’t do it before the end of the day, it will remind you, chase you, stalk you until it is done….you cannot forget! But how many reminders are for repetitive “normal” tasks that are jotted down due to interruption and the operator having to break out of a screen to go to do something else in the system? Modern windows based systems allow you to have multiple windows open, so that you can focus on the job(s) at hand and not need so many reminders.
Automation saves time. If you look at what an operator does in terms of A, then B, C, and finally D; let’s automate the steps that we can. For example, I’ve just taken a booking for a shipment. Should I need to remember to send a booking confirmation to the shipper the system knows that I always do it, so let’s allow the system send it automatically!
Importantly whilst we look at streamlining processes it is also very important to not only enter information into systems efficiently, but to only enter it once – no need to put the same information into the same job several times, it just wastes time and increases the risk of inconsistency errors. So, if you take a few of the tips above and factor them into your processes, busy times will become less of an issue as your operators will have the tools to scale up the efficiency.
But if that isn’t enough, how do you manage temporary staff? Modern IT solutions can often speed up processes, and the best ones with the latest advances in technology go even further into automating processes. But only a handful of the really good ones take it to the final step in their workflow engines, allowing you to build in your documented processes so that temporary staff who are brought in for just a few months can hit the ground running. With a task-based IT system the operator is not only told what needs to be done, but how to do it and what to do when they can’t do it. Now that is using technology.
Simon Clark is Vice President - Business Development Europe for CargoWise®
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