Laying the Foundation for Continuous Improvement in the DC

Atlanta Dental Supply discovered that the end of its warehouse management system deployment was just the start of its improvement journey


With the system able to report performance measures for pickers and receivers on a daily, weekly and month basis, management has been able to do more extensive analysis of productivity within the warehouse as the basis for continuous improvement on the DC floor. "We can see that the difference between our fastest picker and our slowest picker is probably more than two to one. Or, in receiving, we can clearly see that one person is much faster than another," Hanna explains. "Once we can see that, we can start observing what they're doing to figure out what is making the difference and help make improvements." The same applies to errors. With more granular data in hand, management can trace errors back to the actual pick to see who made the mistake, and then analyze each error or group of errors for possible environmental causes, process issues or potential areas for improvement for an individual worker.

One example: Through the performance metrics made available through the Latitude system, Hanna discovered that three people sharing a single printer in the receiving department had to shuttle back and forth between the one label printer and the boxes. The addition of new label printers to the department cut travel time for each individual and allowed the workers to process more items more quickly. "Without a tool like Latitude, you wouldn't even know there was a problem," Hanna says. "You would just see the total number of lines they were processing and think, ‘OK, good job.'"

These small, incremental improvements have added up: Since implementing the WMS, the company has seen steady growth of about 10 percent each year, with volume of units shipped up 46 percent, while staffing has increased by less than 10 percent. In a sense, Hanna has come to view the WMS implementation not as a discrete exercise but as an ongoing journey. "You never reach the point where you're fully utilizing it," he says, concluding, "You can always improve on a process."

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