During the first few weeks of the fall semester, we discussed productivity in my class.

Productivity is a relative measure of outputs over inputs (i.e. cases shipped over labor hours). As a Supply Chain professional, I am called on to “deliver productivity” to my organization year-over-year (i.e. increase cases shipped with the same or less labor hours).

Productivity efforts can be realized in a number of ways. Some require a large up-front capital expenditure investment, while others may simply require a willingness to change a process. These process changes can result in improved on-time delivery, or reduce administrative overtime.

One way to find productivity projects is to analyze key metrics like cases shipped or on-time delivery that needs improvement. Other times, productivity opportunities can be found in the frustration of team members complaining about a process or procedure.

New managers might shy away when confronted by an angry team member, or handle the situation using conflict resolution training. But, I will coach the new resource to first listen for the root cause of the team member’s frustration.  


Using year-to-date delivery volume, we separated our delivery locations into five equal quadrants. We then shifted our deliveries to these new quadrants across the week Monday through Friday.

In addition, we reduced the weekend deliveries in the process. The new quadrant delivery strategy is estimated to improve on-time delivery by 8%. The new process also reduces the miles driven to deliver the product. Load leveling the deliveries across the week will reduce warehouse labor costs.

It’s lessons like these that I encourage my students to think about, because once you’re working in the real world, problems will arise, but it’s our job to fix those issues when they arise.