Eliminating Waste: Transportation


Today we look at our third installment in our series covering the seven types of  “Mūda” (waste) common in order fulfillment and contact center operations.  Next up, “transportation”.

Transportation: Material movement that does not directly support immediate production.


In The Operation

Most cases of waste by transportation are very obvious.  No one likes moving equipment when it is not adding value and employees are quick to let their leadership team know about it.  Other times the process requires it as supplies/equipment are moved to an area that does add value. This makes it more difficult to identify.


What does this look like?

  • Constructing packaging outside of the packing area – This often results in packaging being stored in excess next to the packing station where it is constantly rearranged as it is used.
  • Overproduction – As discussed in our earlier post, overproduction is producing more than what is needed.  When this happens, employees are again rearranging work to make room for what is being produced.
    • Stacking totes/products next to packing stations.
    • Stacking a MOUNTAIN of boxes in the box making area (automated and manual).
    • Unloading conveyor when work is backed up.  Once the conveyor is clear, work is loaded back onto it.
  • Batch Production – Producing a large number of partially completed items quickly is more efficient than completely finishing the process for each (one piece flow).
    • Box making – One person makes fifty boxes for four order packers as opposed to the packers making their own boxes.
  • Storage – As a result of overproduction, the operation is forced to move supplies into storage until needed.
  • Functional Layout – Equipment that is needed at the beginning of the shift (carts, scanners, pens, etc.) is stored away from where employees actually work.

How to prevent transportation/motion waste.

  • Have order packers make the box for each order.  This is only an issue if you’re over capacity at your packing stations. Most employees can actually make a standard box in three seconds (depending on the size of the box).
  • Flow work into packing stations using conveyor (static or flex).  Make sure there’s enough conveyor to accumulate work in times of overproduction.
  • Push for continuous flow production whenever possible.  This is not only more efficient, but also reduces quality errors.
  • Only produce enough for the current shift.  Producing more than what is needed to start the next shift is wasteful.  If your employees are not needed in direct job functions or problem solving areas, send them home.
  • Create small storage areas throughout the department to store needed equipment.
    • Keep picking carts in a designated area within each pick zone.
    • Keep scanners and other picking supplies in each work area.  If control of the scanner inventory is a concern, use a mobile secure storage truck.



In The Contact Center

There’s not a lot of equipment moving around the contact center, so we’ll combine types “Transportation” and “Motion” for this post.

Does anyone enjoy being passed from one customer service agent to another?  This just creates unnecessary wait time and a poor customer experience.

Contrary to popular belief, 91% of customers do not mind being transferred if the next person can help them.  What does frustrate them?  Having to repeat the same thing over and over.


How to prevent transportation/motion  in the contact center

  • Route calls correctly the first time – If your process requires specialized teams to handle the various customer issues, it becomes critical to route calls correctly the first time.
  • Create skilled gatekeepers – It is common for customers to hit “zero”  wanting to speak to a person as opposed to working through voice prompts (yeah, I’m that guy).  For this customer, it is important to have your best agents addressing each issue first hand.  They’re also experienced enough to complete a successful warm transfer if needed.
  • Transfer Team – A transfer team would handle all general calls and department transfers.  If an agent feels a call needs to be sent to another group, the caller is forwarded to this team instead.  The transfer team is not only equipped to solve any customer issue, but also becomes a central point of contact for all exceptions giving you visibility to process and training deficiencies.
  • CHANGE THE PROCESS – Every business has its own set of needs, but I’ve always been a firm believer that if a process is too complex to train an agent on how to correctly address 80% of calls, then something is broken in your process.



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