How Is Tribal Knowledge Impacting Your Warehouse Efficiency?
“I know how things are done around here. I know this warehouse operation inside and out. It would take forever to teach someone the ropes,” thinks George Smith to himself, as he moves slowly through the warehouse and picks the customer orders for the day. George is a warehouse employee who has worked at Company ABC for the last 15 years.
When Pick & Pack Fulfillment companies start out they usually have a few key employees who wear lots of hats and know a lot about how things work around the business. These employees are responsible for receiving, picking, packing and shipping the correct products to the customer in a timely fashion.
What is Tribal Knowledge?
When the company grows, a more systematic approach is required for success. Key employees are usually responsible for driving business processes forward; so they create warehouse efficiency procedures that become tribal knowledge in the system.
As the business hires new people, they train them in this tribal knowledge. All of the processes become information that is carried through the system as reports, keywords or terminology which means something to the people in that business, but it doesn’t mean anything to people outside the business.
So warehouse efficiency becomes very dependent on those key employees, and their knowledge for tasks to be accurately done. It also makes the system unscalable. It is difficult to train new people and grow the Pick & Pack Fulfillment business when you only have a few key employees and a lot of specific knowledge that is accumulated in a business. If the key employees are unavailable, business may not happen.
How to Minimize your Dependence on Tribal Knowledge?
To increase warehouse efficiency and make your business more scalable your dependence on tribal knowledge needs to decrease. You will want to create processes and systems that direct an employee to do something without having to understand specific intimate details of the business to get a product shipped out the door.
Building a scalable Pick & Pack Fulfillment business operation allows you to quickly react to how many customer orders you need to get out the door. If you have more jobs in a particular week, you have the ability to simply add resources, because they are easy to train and don’t require a lot of tribal knowledge.
Increase Warehouse Efficiency By Directing Your Warehouse Employees to:
- Pick product from an exact location rather than relying on the employee’s knowledge of the location where the product exists
- Scan the product so that the employees can confirm that they are picking the right product.
- Scan the box the product is being put into.
- Scan the label to review all the information, when the box gets to a shipping person (Instead of relying on someone in the business that knows the customer preferences for order fulfillment, labels and packing.)
- Find the most efficient way to pick this product, not simply doing it the way it “always has been” done.
If you are able to achieve that, then key employees can be tasked to come up with new procedures to streamline the system, rather than incorporate more tribal knowledge into it.
Warehouse Efficiency and George, Warehouse Manager at Company ABC?
Something important to consider is that key employees like George Smith might get frustrated because while being a key employee is job security for him; his tribal knowledge also makes it difficult for him to grow and contribute to the business at a higher level. Being the sole repository for the accumulated knowledge and being held back because of it, could serve as impetus for him leaving Company ABC.
By investing in a warehouse management system (which allows for tribal knowledge to be captured and key employees to be freed up to grow and contribute at a higher level), you will create a win-win situation for both George and the business.
Make the Message Loud and Clear – Successful Businesses are Scalable Businesses
Most of the time, when there is a lot of tribal knowledge in the business, there is a lot of resistance to implementing anything that would not rely on that tribal knowledge. The message needs to be loud and clear that a successful business is a scalable business.
If the business can’t capture the tribal knowledge in a system and become more scalable, then ultimately the business will not be able to compete in the marketplace. Eventually Company ABC will go out of business and no one will have a job. Job security and success is about making a business more profitable, flexible and scalable.
To move away from tribal knowledge and build a scalable warehouse operation, schedule your warehouse evaluation below or contact Front Line Systems at 540-785-0268 today.
About Front Line Systems
Front Line Systems is an ERP and WMS Consulting Firm with headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.We are dedicated to helping businesses solve their accounting, manufacturing and warehouse concerns. We believe that your business has an amazing capacity for innovation and growth and that technology can help get you there.
Front Line Systems is a technology partner that solves problems and creates solutions for the life of your business. We provide ERP Consulting and Warehouse Management Software Consulting in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and serve clients across the US. Contact us at 540-785-0268 today to discuss warehouse automation.