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Know What You Do and Do What You Know

A happy customer will tell a friend; but one unhappy customer will tell the world. Therefore, “satisfied customer" is realizing the dreams along of the supply chain that can be driven by the strength of logistics, which is defined as efficient and effective movement of materials and services along with the flow of information from the point of sourcing to the point of consumption. Can the supreme goal of customer satisfaction ever achieved, if any role player in the field of logistics without exactly knowing what they do and doing what they know?

Enhance logistics education or knowing what they do throughout the hierarchy from strategic level manger to operational level worker drives the smooth flow of logistics. If the ground level employees are unaware of their contribution in supply chain, the creative vision, mission and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) goals planned in the strategic level will never achieved effectively. Once being a logistics intern I instructed two warehouse workers to measure the length, width and height dimensions of cases of each and every SKU (Stock Keeping Units) at the warehouse. I found them ineffectively and lethargically doing their task muttering “Measuring cases!! This is the most stupid and meaningless task which is ever given to us.” Then I explained them in simple terms that the dimension data gathered by them are analysed to develop a better pallet build which will result in optimizing the number of cases stacked on one pallet. After that I was surprised to find them completing their task efficiently as well as pointing out the SKU where the pallet build should be developed through their ground level experiences. Due to the few simple words of explanation they understood the strategic significance of what they do and it resulted in a better outcome for strategic decision making. So transmission of logistics education at each and every level of employees is critical in achieving milestones in logistics as well as empowering the creativity from the grass route level of the hierarchy.

In the modern era that leads to supply chain collaboration, silo mentality should be wiped off from the mindset to encourage logistics knowledge sharing among supply chain role players. Some manufacturing organizations in Sri Lanka are now facilitating their customers or business partners to visit and witness the logistics functions at warehouses to understand the story hidden behind the product delivered to them from the distribution centers.

The logistics knowledge should be shared beyond the boundaries of logistics comprising the logistics staffs as well as workforce from production, human resource management, demand planning, marketing etc. It can be illustrated in a simple example where the demand planers of a FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company are forecasting the production plan without knowing logistics capacity of the company. Even though this plan could be achieved in manufacturing plants, the demand goals will not be accomplished with the inability to store and distribute the products to the customer. As a result of proper logistics education, all supply chain role players will know exactly what they do and how their role contributes in terms of logistics and the outcome will be playing an effective role to achieve the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.

The scope of logistics education expands from warehousing, transportation and transshipment to safety, quality and control. Rather than just mandating a forklift driver at a warehouse to wear safety shoes and a helmet, educating them on the safety hazards at the warehouse and the necessity of personal protective equipment to eliminate hazards will be more proactive. Educating on cross contaminating during transportation will be more effective than commanding dock supervisors not to load food items along with detergents in a delivery truck. Enhance the awareness of truck drivers about GPS tracking of delivery vehicles will drive them to supply for the right customer at right time in right cost. Therefore each and every logistics employee should know what they do in terms of complying safety, quality and control standards of logistics which will drive forward an effective and efficient supply chain without any rigid rules and regulations.

Logistics education is about knowing as well as updating on what you do in a role of logistics with the technological enhancements in this information era of 21st century. The knowledge of latest evolution in customer delivery: “Amazon drones”, will reveal the significance of the last mile problem in supply chain. Latest innovations from small RFID (Radio-frequency identification) to Big Data in logistics will develop the innovative mindset in logistics workforce. Update with the global trends in sustainable logistics of zero emissions, waste management and sustainable sourcing will lead to the creative and evolutional thoughts driving the way forward to an effective supply chain. Even the companies like Unilever Sri Lanka now use hybrid trucks in logistics operations with the inspiration to minimize carbon foot print of their products. So educating and updating logistics knowledge will also empower the supply chain role players to do what they know as innovators and change makers.

Logistics education will encourage all supply chain role players in operational, tactical and strategic level to know what they do. But as said by Anton Cheknov; “the knowledge is of no value as unless you put it into practice”. This practicality is the ultimate reality in the art and science of logistics. So logistics training will teach the workforce to do what they know.

Today logistics training has become a business necessity due to the absences of logistics experts and the disorganized processes in the field. The logistics employees should obtain adequate training from the induction to periodic on-job and off- job training to enrich and empower them while optimizing the learning curve experiences. Even though a picker at a warehouse has a basic logistics education to perform his task, higher efficiency and accuracy can only be achieved through effective on-job training under supervision and guidance. Not only on-job training but also there are off-job training opportunities like workshops, outbound camps for the logistics workforce which will also be a relief to the stress in operations. The lack of training will lead to issues of mixing up deliveries and massive shipment delays. Therefore the practical application of logistics knowledge or the proficiency of doing what they know is extremely important for all supply chain role players.

None of the goals of safety, quality and control; three significant aspects in logistics will be attained without appropriate training for employees. A comprehensive safety explanation on fire hazards which covers from fire alarm to the methodology of operating a fire extinguisher will never be effective than one fire drill at a warehouse. A few minutes fire drill will disclose the unsafe behaviours of employees, delays can occur in the arrival of fire brigade, effective use of emergency exits and emergency assembly points etc. So the training on either safety or quality will ensure the better control of logistics workforce in a more practical manner.

Even though the logistics education will encourage in attitude change, training the mindsets with the adaptation to fresh attitudes will be achieved through training. That training should be more practical and participative where the employees are empowered to contribute their own ideas and experiences through direct involvement. As an example training on new EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) technology to a logistics system planer will update his skills as well as create a platform to expose his creative ideas and his leanings to enhance the use of EDI in the future. This training concept of doing what they know will not restrict with in the bounders of logistics.

A cross functional training can be given where the logistics employees are trained with different employees from production, human resource management, demand planning, marketing etc. This will pave the way for employees in different functional backgrounds to understand the reality in logistics which will support in their decision making to drive forward an effective supply chain.

The chemistry of logistics education along with a proper training will ensure each and every role player in the supply chain know what they do as well as do what they know. This will be the key to effective logistics which will drive in maximizing customer satisfaction. As once said by Michael LeBoeuf satisfied customer is the best business strategy ever which will guarantee in 100% customer retention, minimum lost sales and attracting new customers to the business. So if you know what you do and do what you know in logistics, you will know the magic of bringing a smile to your customers.

Sachini Chathurika Kumarasinghe
Level 4
Department of Transport and Logistics Management
University of Moratuwa