Warehouse Management Best Practices: 5 Habits of Successful Supervisors
by Justin Willbanks
Anyone who has worked with me before knows that my past life working in 3PL’s created a love for understanding what makes an operation run successfully. Whether it was making a process more efficient or getting the best out of the associates on the floor, I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of creating a smoothly running warehouse. One of the largest contributors to this success is the front line supervisor directly in charge of it all. Below are five habits that I believe all supervisors should practice in order to be as successful as possible:
1. Know the Operation
This may seem like a given, but great supervisors should know every detail about the operation they are running. What challenges are pickers facing, how vendor XYZ always misships, whether lift 123 has a bad battery, etc. This is achieved by being on the floor frequently and seeing/hearing what’s happening. There’s also the added benefit of understanding how these issues are viewed from the associates’ perspective, and how it affects their job performance.
2. Observations and Feedback
Another important, but often under-utilized, tactic is performing routine observations on the floor and documenting deviations (both good and bad) from best methods that have been developed. This ensures associates are performing processes correctly, but also helps to identify new, more efficient ways to perform a process that may not currently be in place.
3. Action Plans for the Unexpected
There is almost a guarantee that, at some point, something unexpected will take place that wasn’t on the agenda for the day. Whether it’s a fork lift going down or a facility-wide system crash, having a plan to handle these all-to-common situations can mean the difference between a slight delay and a complete stand-still affecting orders getting out the door.
4. Daily Shift Meetings
I’ve always been a big advocate for over-communication when it comes to interacting with the associates on the floor. If only the minimum is desired, I believe the daily stand-up shift meeting is the best approach. Not only can a supervisor review the workload for the day (or night), but other important messages can be communicated. These meetings are also a great opportunity for associates to bring up challenges or issues they’ve been facing.
5. Effectively Managing Change
Whenever something significant changes within an operation, it’s typically an uncomfortable feeling for everyone involved. Managing this transition falls primarily on the supervisors shoulders because of their proximity to the associates on the floor. It’s important to understand and communicate how the change will affect everyone, even their own roles and responsibilities. At the same time, receiving and acting on feedback from the floor is critical to the acceptance of change.
Although these habits are not the only ones that can make supervisors successful, they are extremely important to their overall success. Encouraging these behaviors will not only build a strong front-line leader, but also prepare them for the next stage in their careers.