Ulmart operates on the electronics retail market, one of the most competitive markets of Russia, (well, until the government sets up some Rosmajorretailtrade, yet another state corporation designed to serve for the good of all Russians).
On the arena of a comparatively modest size on the national scale ($10 billion per annum), the present market can be viewed as a venue cluttered up with all sorts of beings: federal chains, regional chains, local stores, computer assemblers, online stores, and borderline hybrids. In million-cities (principally Moscow and Saint Petersburg), the rivalry between these is going on in form of penny price wars — the margin has been squeezed to minimum.
In a word, it’s a classic competitive market, a textbook case.
With prices being more or less similar overall (as far as players in their respective market segments, of course), competing on non-price factors seems like the way to go nowadays.
At the top of the list is the level of service. An easy-to-navigate and informative website, competent staff, prompt and quality service in the way of sales and warranty claims, and, finally, just one’s personal preferences (which became a crucial element in the era of Web 2.0) — each of these factors can play a decisive role in the client’s choice where to buy.
A day may come when the company’s senior management decides that 15-20 minutes is too long for the client to wait to get his order.
There is a need to speed up the process with zero to no cost (competitive market -> economic profit = 0 -> there is no spare money and none is expected any time soon).
So they decide to go back to square one — the reengineering of business processes within the warehouse.
Diagnosis: total lack of personal responsibility on the part of warehouse personnel for the speed of both processing a particular order and handling the entire outbound flow of goods as a whole. There is no motivation on the part of either the unit’s leadership or regular personnel to improve on this crucial performance indicator.
Prescription: create this motivation by learning to measure what in the Soviet times used to be called a "labor participation coefficient".
Solution: a) standardize the entire set of business processes related to the goods dispatch at the warehouse and b) log every move of the unit’s personnel make throughout the lifecycle of the shipping list.
That’s all there is to it: doing it in a way that is simple and costs you almost nothing, with you using Wi-Fi enabled barcode-reading warehouse pocket PCs, readily available now, along with barcoded badges, and having implemented the functionality of registering the transfer of responsibility for the order at each of the stages of the business process via scanning barcodes on the shipping list and the staff member’s badge.
What do you get? The lines are nearly gone, although the influx of orders has risen; no more frustrated clients waiting to receive their stuff; there is a 30% increase in warehouse workforce productivity; and those in charge of the warehouse have finally stopped their perennial whining, "we need more people; we can’t handle it". It’s worth noting that the warehouse personnel have cut down on smoking time, which is for sure better for their health.
This is how Humanless is helping its client companies" employees to give up their bad habits.
And you, should the situation depicted above not remind you of something from your own practice, don’t need to call in to talk about the same issues and the associated reengineering. You can do it all by yourself.