Efficiency in Shift Changeovers

Part of warehouse efficiency is effective supervision. Most warehouse and distribution center shift work is defined by fixed periods of work for their teams. These periods of work – the shifts – are the basic unit of supervisor output. So supervisor management of the shifts is very important to managing labor cost.

The setup of the shift is analogous to the changeover times in manufacturing. Once the shift is off and running, it’s producing. But the site loses productivity while the shift is getting started and set up.

The start-up period is the time between the start-of-shift time and when the team is productive.

How much productivity is involved? On a standard 8-hour shift, a 15-minute startup period is 3% of the overall production potential. Reducing that to 10 minutes means that only 2% of the shift is consumed. This adds up over time with many hourly department members. And if you pull breaks out of the calculation, this is even more.

But having “faster” startups doesn’t mean “less”. It means making sure the shift is ready to go before everyone shows up.

Many times, extended shift startup meetings result from unprepared supervisors. This means that they take time to figure things out ‘on the fly’ as they’re getting going. Maybe all the RF scanners aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Maybe they have to research where the work is and how to do assignments. Or they have to make adjustments soon after starting, which is management rework.

Here is what to do about it:

  • Have a structured startup agenda for the supervisors. This will usually include messages on safety, quality, building announcements, shift performance feedback, daily plan, and questions.
  • Send out consolidated communications daily to supervisors to share with their teams. Don’t make them hunt for important information.
  • Rehearse startups with new supervisors and give them feedback.
  • Have supervisors do a floor walk and handover with the previous supervisor before shift. This helps to confirm work assignments and priorities for the day.
  • Have leads walk the floor 15 minutes before shift to confirm equipment is ready for shift start.

These things prevent last-minute scrambling by the supervisors to get their teams started. Check that your teams are doing these things to help the shifts be streamlined and consistent, and ultimately more effective.

For more on warehouse supervision excellence, check out Practical Floor Supervision.

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