Supply chain visibility is no longer just about having a ready answer when customers ask, "Where is my stuff?" That problem has been conquered and companies now are using visibility solutions to identify hidden pockets of inefficiency in the supply chain, says Steve Hensley, president of Blue Sky Technologies.
Identifying the loss of five minutes here and 10 minutes there can quickly add up to big savings when applied across thousands of employees, Hensley says. He notes that one of Blue Sky's clients improved productivity by 11 percent, while another reduced indirect labor costs by 20 percent "just by looking in the cracks of the supply chain and identifying where things were not flowing as they should."
One example of efficiency gaps might involve a warehouse employee who is supposed to get his first assignments within five minutes of clocking in at 7 a.m., says Hensley. "If this worker doesn't get his first assignment until 7:15 a.m., it is a violation, but previously there was no way to track of enforcing this. By marrying data between the clock-in system and the warehouse management system, companies can get smart about these types of events," he says. Similarly, a 15-minute break in the middle of the day might turn into a 20- or 25-minute break. "One client found 1,800 such infractions averaging 6.5 minutes each in the first week," says Hensley. "That doesn't sound like a lot until you start putting $38 per hour to it. All of a sudden, you are talking big money."
Blue Sky's technology is able to mine hundreds, thousands or millions of transactions to look for things that "just don't look right," says Hensley. This could involve employees' use of time, product throughput, or someone cheating on a labor standard, he says. "With our solution, you know about it now so you can do something now, rather than digging through a long report next week that is 99 percent about the things that are going right."
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