Stop Throwing Personnel at Your Supply Chain Problems

Published : January 15, 2015

supply-chainGuru, expert, specialist— when your supply chain runs into a problem or turns out sluggish response times, do you have any of these roles waiting in the wings to join your workforce? Hit the brakes before you hit your speed dial. By throwing personnel at your problem, you may actually be compounding your problem, not solving it. Your logistics services and fulfillment centers may not benefit from another cook shouldering his or her way to the soup pot, and here's why.

The Learning Curve is Steep— and Biased

As with adding any employee to your workforce, a 'solution' employee will still need to be trained and acclimated, despite their expertise in a given area. At a job site or warehouse position this is challenging enough, but in a supply chain capacity it takes on added complexity.

Even if your incoming candidate understands the core systems that are in use, he or she does not fully understand what your company does, the individual relationships between employees and supply chain nodes or any of the dozens of exceptions, special cases, or even 'glitches' that your existing workforce already knows how to sidestep or work through. Their questions and training will divert effort away from the workflow you already have in place, as well— even if that was the broken element that led you to hire someone in the first place, it was still likely working in some capacity.

The beliefs and procedures a new 'cleanup' professional will bring with them may also rub some employees or nodes the wrong way, introducing disharmony into an already-strained system. As Brooks Ryan writes for Elementum, just because some high-profile names seem to be scrambling for additional employees in a crisis doesn't mean it's the right approach; experts point instead to optimization efforts on existing employees.

It Forces You to Assess

Like a Nietzschian abyss, peering into your supply chain disruptions or mismanagement can open up a can of worms, but adding another employee won’t automatically solve all your problems. Getting personally involved in tracking down inefficiencies will naturally highlight other issues that may have contributed to it. Rather than just sweeping up a corner, you'll be getting a fresh start by tackling the whole floor.

If your logistics services are dropping the ball or a material provider is consistently off-target in their shipments, clarifying expectations and penalties or replacing those nodes altogether may see your downline issue simply dry up. If the problem is upline, talking with individual employees and in-house teams can have the same effect— and possibly help illuminate additional opportunities for efficiency as well.

Downtime for Restructuring Is at a Premium

Omni-channel sales techniques have done an admirable job in blurring lines between traditional busy periods in shopping and industrial consumption, but the other side of the coin is a constantly-moving flow of business. Major changes—hiring on an expert, adding several employees, changing systems— all need to be kept to a minimum because there really is no agreed-upon down period in most industries, and the wrong move could throw a supply chain into chaos.

As supply chain expert Bob Trebilcock tells SupplyChain247, existing employees should be kept in the positions they are in to provide stability to the company and a framework for any temporary labor used for tasks like picking and packing. If your operating core can be leaned on, adjustments at the fringes or out-of-house come much more easily.

The magic bullet for supply chain problems is optimization, not bloat.

Waiting for nodes like your logistics services or warehouse staff to take initiative won't work without guidance, but neither will adding new people to a workflow that's already struggling. Before you go looking for an expert or guru to fix your supply chain issues, remember that you likely have the tools you need to fix it already on your payroll. 

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Topics: Supply Chain Workforce Management

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