Individual logistics training

A furniture maker’s involvement with in-house training

Industrial logistics are changing faster and faster. Terms such as globalization, just-in-time (JIT), outsourcing, supply chain management and raised logistics efficiency are no longer just buzzwords. They are an everyday reality, especially in small and medium-sized companies – like Ronald Schmitt Tables from Eberbach, which specializes in the manufacture of premium furniture items such as tables, wardrobes and TV/phono furniture.

Ronald Schmitt faces the types of logistical challenges many SMEs have to overcome these days: improve process quality and volumes, despite the squeeze on costs. It is made no easier by the nature of their business. Companies like Ronald Schmitt often employ top craftsmen, but they have no or little formal training outside their manual trade. So at the start of this project, employees desperately needed training – everyone would need preparing for new logistics processes. Senior managers also wanted to kick off a continuous improvement process (CIP). In response to the brief, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Logistics and Marketing Management designed and ran a logistics training program tailored to the needs of the company for employees working in the warehouse and logistics.

The key task at the start of the project was to draft a detailed training concept. This involved a round of discussions with senior managers at the company, site tours and an analysis of existing logistics processes to pinpoint the specific target group for the training and work out who to train, how and when.

For training to succeed, the goals of the training program need to be tailored to individual needs, otherwise it is impossible to plan and monitor progress. The goals should define all skills and personal qualities to be learnt by participants by the end of the training program. The project team held several rounds of meetings to work up cognitive, affective and “psycho motor” learning goals, specify each goal and agree priorities.

The courses took place outside working hours on a fixed day of the week. Overall there were 12 sessions each consisting of two modules, first of all looking at the fundamentals of each topic before considering how this translated into everyday practice within the business – in combination with an analysis of processes and an opportunity to work up options for improving processes. Topics covered ranged from issues such as logistic processes overall to goods-receiving, warehousing and in-house transportation. To round sessions off participants were taken on a tour of logistics in a comparable company.

At the end of the program participants were tested on content. If they passed the test, they received a certificate from the Steinbeis Transfer Center Logistics and Marketing Management. Participants also received detailed hard copies of documentation and training notes to take back to the company and speed up employee inductions. Improvement potential identified during the course, such as more logical storage and more efficient warehousing technology, were then discussed jointly with advisors and translated into actions.

The logistics training program lasted six months and was completed in the summer of 2007. All goals agreed before the course were successfully accomplished with the added benefit of various process improvement suggestions. One thing the program demonstrated is that even though there are plenty of standardized logistics training programs, it really is worth tailoring training to individual company needs. Further, linking the program to a systematically organized CIP process can uncover huge potential to improve logistics processes – and thus cut costs.

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