Woolworths Limited partnered with CHEP Australia on an initiative to identify equipment control process improvements, achieving outcomes spanning across retailers and trading partners, and potentially benefiting the wider FMCG sector.
CHEP Australia Process Improvement Specialist, Lesley Oppy was invited to work with Woolworths’ National Unit Load Device (ULD) Manager Belinda Field to come up with a national solution. Lesley led the project, first conducting an audit of equipment control processes at 13 Woolworths grocery warehouse distribution centres nationally.
The project aimed to embed best practice for the management of hire equipment, delivering loss mitigation initiatives and developing reports to assist with the ongoing monitoring of equipment control. The project focused on seven key areas: receiving, dispatch, salvage, transport, security, stores and the account reconciliation process.
Belinda Field explains that the project provided them with greater visibility over the activities in the ULD space throughout their network including seeing the best practice areas and identifying opportunities for improvement, based on which they were able to make recommendations for both operational and business divisions to achieve effective equipment control.
Key recommendations included the removal of hard copy Pallet Transfer Authorities (PTAs), which allows Woolworths trading partners to have greater control and visibility of their pallet flows. The sender can now raise a transfer docket to accompany a load, which is checked on receipt of the goods and given back to the driver. Senders no longer wait for a docket to be sent back to them before reconciling accounts. The process also saves costs by eliminating docket books.
According to Belinda Field, the removal of PTAs is a big step forward in pallet administration and has been well received by their trading partners. Woolworths has streamlined the process of delivering into distribution centres adopting one procedure for all sites, which third party logistics partners and transporters would like to be implemented across the entire retail sector.
Lesley documented and analysed the process at several grocery warehouse distribution centres and made recommendations that would see standardised best practice implemented. The distribution centres were reviewed individually to ensure that the recommendations were specific and relevant, resulting in across the board best practice equipment control being implemented.
The initiative identified many examples of control excellence throughout Woolworths sites. The challenge was to embed these processes across all the distribution centres to make sure all sites were operating consistently to best practice.
Training was a big component of the recommendations being implemented, to help change perceptions of the pallet control process. Belinda explains that pallets are necessary to move product efficiently throughout the network, and once people begin to understand the need for equipment and its associated cost, they would get more clarity and traction.
At the conclusion of the initiative each site received individual reports and recommendations as well as an overall final report to assist with embedding the changes.