A perfect match of employees, work assignments and trucks; it forms the basis of efficient and safe planning for work at the warehouse. Elgiganten previously did this sort of planning work in Excel, just like many others. The transition to new custom-designed warehousing operations has improved the quality of the work. At the same time, the company has received a new way of working worthy of a giant ecommerce retailer, enabling the company to visualize the distribution of the work on the floor.

At Elgiganten’s, 95,000 m² large Nordic distribution centre in Jönköping (Elgiganten is a part of Dixons Retail), approximately 12,000 trailers and 2,000 railway wagons containing goods are handled each year. Articles come directly from the world’s leading manufacturers of consumer electronics. Depending on the season, up to 500 people work here to ensure that warehouse management is world-class, in terms of both handling large volumes and a broad spectrum of articles. A total of 7,500 articles are shipped from or through the warehouse and 4,700 items are kept constantly in stock. With 120 trucks, it is very important to have full control over which employee is working with what and which equipment he/she is using.

First in the world with WorkForce Planner – adapter for warehousing and distribution

WorkForce Planner is the answer to Elgiganten’s challenge regarding the planning of resources and work assignments. WorkForce Planner is a completely new system for the planning and visualization of work assignments at the warehouse. The system was developed in collaboration between Elgiganten and Consafe Logistics.

There are many planning tools on the market, but none that are tailored to the circumstances prevailing at the warehouse or the distribution centre. Instead, they are often closely linked to the process industry. We felt that they did not comply with our needs in a sufficiently good manner,” says Rose-Marie Oldebring, Project Manager for logistics at Elgiganten.

Elgiganten has used the system since January 2011. Before WorkForce Planner was installed, Elgiganten, like many others, used Excel for their planning work. Rose-Marie describes how they used to work:

The Excel sheet we used for planning was like any other document, and different department managers used their own ideas when they were doing the planning work. This made it difficult to pull together and share information. For this reason we risked over-staffing, instead of being able to share resources. That led to unnecessary costs. ”

Rose-Marie continues:

Moreover, only one person at a time could work in the document. If somebody forgot to submit it after making a change, it was locked for everyone else. The same was true for the other two documents that were needed for planning. One of them kept track of employees’ capabilities, and the other one kept a track of absenteeism. This work method clearly had shortcomings, despite the fact that it was felt that the Excel sheet provided a clear picture of all the information in one view. ”

Employee – Department – Resource: a perfect match

Rose-Marie Oldebring, Project Manager for logistics at Elgiganten

Rose-Marie Oldebring, Project Manager for logistics at Elgiganten

At Elgiganten, orders are received at 08:30 on day 1. Based on Operational control’s skills and experience, a decision is taken as to how many employees will be needed to cope with the coming production period (day 2). The following stage involves the department managers planning a sufficient amount of resources. Each resource is linked to a department and a work assignment, and if needed, a truck.

A connection is established between employee – department – resource, such as a truck, based on the capabilities of the employee and the resource. Each department is linked to an internal training course.

In order to work with the storage of goods, you must have completed our incoming goods training course, for example. Facts about what courses a person has completed are kept on file. The information also accompanies temporary personnel over time, Rose-Marie explains.

In order to facilitate the link between employee, department and equipment, the trucks are also equipped with a skill, and it is also possible to plan training in WorkForce Planner by designing a training course for a specific department. In this way, it is now impossible to book two people on the same truck at the same time. This was something that previously created friction in Elgiganten’s day-to-day work. Absenteeism and repairs are also directly incorporated into the system. In this way, planning is safer and mistakes can be reduced.

Leading-edge planning thet is possible to follow up

Elgiganten has chosen the time of 13.00 as the end-time for planning. This is one of the few parts of the planning process that is no different from how they worked before. Today, however, planning work requires much less work and really is completed by 13.00. It is not a problem that there are many people involved with planning because the system allows everybody to work in it at the same time. “There is no need to wait for someone else and there is less stress,” says Rose-Marie. She continues: “The tool saves a lot of time and ensures that the planning work is of a more consistent quality. We no longer risk any double bookings or over-staffing, nor do we miss using any of our resources. We also have much better control over what is going on because data from several systems is gathered in one place. In other words, we could say that we have moved from the trailing edge to the leading edge. It allows us to be proactive in a way that we could not be before. Moreover, we can follow up production with planning in retrospect. When we used the Excel sheet, every day the previous day’s data was lost. This made follow-up work impossible.”

Rose-Marie has had some difficulty in finding any disadvantages with the new work method. “You could perhaps argue that the system is a little bit more “square” compared to the Excel sheet, and perhaps a little bit of fine-tuning is still necessary, such as a comments field. Even the supervisors who initially had a cautious attitude have now embraced the new tool. As so often happens, a few people were reluctant to accept the new work method. It was an advantage to implement WorkForce Planner at the same time as we carried out a reorganisation. Today there are 20 employees working in the system, and many of them had never worked as we worked before, so they did not have any problems in taking to the new tool. Today, scepticism has been replaced by creative and constructive suggestions for improvement,” says Rose-Marie.

We would like to take WorkForce Planner to the next stage and go “live” in relation to our WMS. The goal is to monitor performance and, for example, see turnaround* times before they happen. When the tool tells us when things will turn around with the present staffing situation, then we will be very close to our vision of having an instrument panel that will provide is with a view of our business operations.

Operational benefits and visualization go hand in hand

WorkForce Planner has made its entrance and has not escaped the attention of any of the employees at the warehouse. They noticed it first as a result of a thorough skills inventory. This was necessary in order to start matching employee – department – resource, and had several positive side effects. Today people notice it on a daily basis because the planning work is visualised on large screens in the warehouse. Employees go there in order to find out what they must do and which truck they should take. This is a clear way of communicating daily work assignments to employees and very much worthy of a giant!

*Turnaround time is the time when Elgiganten starts producing tomorrow’s goods instead of today’s loads.