Monday, 23 June 2014

You Know Where You Are? You're in the Jungle, Baby. You're Gonna DIE!

Ok, so I know I said come back Tuesday, but as it turned out, there was so much to write about that I had to weed out the good stuff to make an interesting post.  And it's still a wall of text.  Forgive me?

To say Monday was crazy is an understatement.

There was the same feeling in the air as when a hurricane just passed through, and while no one is dead as a result, there's a huge mess of debris everywhere and no one knows how to clear it up but we all know it needs to be done now.

Bear with me as I try to explain the new system that I don't fully understand to people who have never set foot in my workplace (feel free to ask questions).

Problem #1:  The Yellow Shirts
The yellow shirts were the people who were supposed to be there to help.  God love them for trying (and by trying I mean, uh, being there) because it would have been a lot harder without them, but they were often less than helpful.  For starters, maybe if they didn't look down my shirt so often, they'd have a better time paying attention to my question.  Secondly, if they would listen to me when I asked them a question, maybe they could give me an appropriate answer.  Thirdly, the representatives from the big warehouse in Ontario understood the warehouse-related things and not the technology, while the people from the States understood the technology but not how we need it to work in terms of the warehouse.  Unfortunately unavoidable, but extremely damaging to morale.  Lastly, a whole bunch of them bailed on us.  Yep, just up and left us in the lurch.

Problem #2: oLPNs
Outbound Licence Plate Numbers (oLPNs) are the names for the new packing stickers that we have to use.  They're actually great and I'll fight anyone who tries to tell me otherwise, but they do pose some problems.  The point is to have a unique sticker for every box to tell everyone exactly what is in every box.  However, you can't plan ahead like you could when you had a physical list in front of you to see, or be able to shift items around at will.  Let's say you're picking along and it's all little stuff, and then they throw something long at you like a saw or windshield wipers.  Now you absolutely have to open a new container that is big enough or find a bigger box and make sure everything assigned to your current sticker makes it into this bigger box.  You can't pick it now and deal with it later.  You have to deal with it now.  I've figured out how to cheat the system by using the "skip slot" function, but I don't know how to explain it to you without actually showing you in the warehouse what I'm doing.  You'll just have to trust me when I say my skip slot strategy is a sanity saver.

Problem #3: Partial Picks
This problem stems from the previous one.  Imagine you are to pick six solar lights.  These solar lights conveniently come is boxes of six.  This isn't a huge deal just yet.  You have to say "new container" and the printer will print off a new sticker.  Slap 'er on and there you have it, an oLPN that says there are six solar lights in that box.  Perfect.  But what if you need 12 solar lights?  You'd be stupid to unpack the conveniently packed lights just to put all 12 in one box.  That's why there is the "partial pick" function.  That tells the system that you're splitting up a pick between two boxes.  Except, get this, the partial pick function doesn't work.  Right now, saying partial pick is probably the worst thing you can do.  They system loses its mind and doesn't know what to do at all.  Which leads me to...

Problem #4:  The System Effs Up.  A Lot.
It'll do it even when you don't say partial pick.  Sometimes, when you ask for a new container, it doesn't remember how to do that and just say "error getting container information."  Or it'll print you out a sticker with missing information and a licence plate number it doesn't recognize (but will still look for in the shipping department so you can't throw it out or all hell breaks loose).  Usually, but not always, if you log out--or pop the battery out and back in again because it gets so confused it can't even log out--and reload your picking task, you can overcome these problems.  Frustrating and time consuming, yes, but it solves the problem.  Even so, sometimes when you log back in, the system doesn't even recognize the whole task that you've been working on, let alone one oLPN.  Even worse is when in the confusion, the system seems to forget about the last item it told you to pick and thinks it's all done and won't even give you an oLPN sticker as a result.  Now our dealers aren't getting some of the product that they've ordered and that sucks and is frustrating for them too.

Problem #5: It Doesn't Understand Reality
This is more of a forklift driver problem but it affects me too.  In short, what the system tells the drivers to do, what can be done in real life, and what should be done to make things easier for everyone are often three different things.  The unfortunate truth is that they can only do it the system's way at this point, and the warehouse looks like someone's messy garage now.  There's stuff everywhere and no one can do anything about it yet.  For me, I've run into a problem where it gave me forklift stuff to do and I don't even know how to drive a forklift (granted, I would love to know.  Vanessa drives a forklift, why can't I?).  Just because an overstock location happens to be located in the area where I'm picking doesn't mean I can physically pick from it.  But now I'm stuck with it and can't pass off that task because I'll just get it again later.  Better go bug a yellow shirt and let shipping know that the oLPN they think they're getting isn't what they're going to get.

.....

I don't know if it's true or not, but I've heard that we might be sending some people from our warehouse to Ontario at some point to talk about the system, or be a yellow shirt, or something.  I would love to go.  I love talking about what works and what doesn't and I want to help out in any way that I can.  Or be someone who has an understanding of both the system and the warehouse because we didn't have that.

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