Digitize Logistics Department PDF Print E-mail

In the middle of the 1990s, I was asked to rethink the paper-based processes of Germany’s largest kitchen manufacturer. Some of the products of my work are still in operation 10 years later.

Update Processes to meet spiraling demand
Antagonistic relationship between departments; disillusioned teams; strong push to improve efficiencies and redirect headcount
Key Strategies:
Inclusive; Strong Commitment to Execution Speed and Excellence; Rapid Prototyping;
The department was stuck in a bad cycle of inadequate systems and inability to work with IT. There were differences in terminology, attitude and agenda. Part of my work as the project manager and architect was to overcome those barriers and get people to open up.

We took a strategy of small steps. This allowed me to get to know the folks involved, both on the business and the IT side, and earn their respect. I was handed a lot of obstacles and nastiness from the IT department, including the edict to work with a new IDE they had never worked with called Borland Delphi and a new database called SQL Anywhere. Fortunately, I am a very quick study and was able to produce production code within 4 weeks. This got me the respect of the technical team.

The business team was so hungry for something better that they supported me from day one. There comes the moment, however, when their dreams of what will be are actually presented in front of them, the day of reckoning. This often shatters their imagination and causes a lot of backlash. Using rapid prototyping that involved nearly everybody in the department, I was able to work around this using frequent builds and rapid prototyping. The resulting applications were “their programs” because they could point out a weakness or improvement opportunity and I would turn that around within 24 hours, if possible.

The resulting applications were so good that the supplier of the digital maps came into take a look. They later one tried to launch something like it. It took them 3 years to get to the level of sophistication I delivered within a year (it helped that I worked 100 hour weeks for two years).

The new environment reduced manual labor by 600%. When before 12 planners were involved in assembling the routes, now only 2 could do it and better. The folks that lost their job were scheduled to add to the customer service capabilities, where substantial cost savings waited.

This was my first taste of turnaround management. It involved a very hostile and charged environment coupled with high expectations, a potent mix of people and technology, and strong pressures to perform financially.

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