"No matter how technologically advanced systems are, retail supply chain operations are only as good as the employees performing the work," said Reemer Youmans, director of distribution center operations at HUGO BOSS, a men's and women's apparel company. With this in mind, Youmans sought to foster a sustaining, inclusive, and collaborative work environment in his operation. The Lean Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program through the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute (GTSCL) helped him do just that.
At its fully automated distribution center in Savannah, Georgia, HUGO BOSS services 700+ points of sale in the U.S. and has an annual outbound volume of over 9 million units. In his role, Youmans supports in managing a $14 million annual operating budget while supervising five managers, nine supervisors, 110 hourly employees, and 50 to 150 temporary workers, depending upon the season.
Overseeing all functions in the warehouse except for receiving, Youmans is held accountable for leading company wide initiatives to manage inventory, reduce costs, improve processes and procedures, enhance scheduling, and reduce labor costs — all while meeting or exceeding productivity goals and quality assurance standards. As these are no simple tasks, he wanted to refresh his supply chain knowledge and advance his problem solving skills. While reviewing GTSCL's executive programs, he knew the three-course Lean Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program would deliver knowledge and skills that he could pick up and quickly apply to his operation.
"I especially benefitted from Lean Essentials for the Supply Chain Professional [formerly Building the Lean Supply Chain Problem Solver] course," said Youmans. "We covered specific, actionable topics that were relevant to apply in a supply chain environment. And the instructors were great -- Brad and Robert were knowledgeable, approachable, and made learning fun. There was valuable cross-industry collaboration and camaraderie in class."
Upon completing the program, Youmans was better positioned to start implementing standard processes, visual management, problem solving programs, and overall flow throughout the warehouse, leading to efficiency improvements across the board.
In one particular instance, he and his team identified an opportunity to improve the picking process. There were 35 to 40 pickers performing the process almost as many ways -- some ways effective and some not. Youmans and the team questioned, "Why are we walking all over the warehousing picking every unit for one box, when we have a conveyor system that can bring the box to the pickers and eliminate the wasteful motion?" Through leader standard work, kaizen events, picking patterns, and other applications from the GTSCL courses, Youmans and his team were able to improve flat picking productivity from 50 units per hour to 130 per hour.
"Lean isn't complicated. It's about identifying and reducing waste, and doing your job in the most effective, streamlined way," he said. "It's also about involving the people who are doing the work. They are in the best position to solve problems at the root cause."
According to Youmans, the Lean Supply Chain Professional Certificate series at GTSCL has given him the tools and ways of thinking to improve an operation. "I can now walk through a warehouse and know what to look for, how to identify problems, define them, and solve them. I was promoted to the director position shortly after completing the program at Georgia Tech, and I can directly tie my progress back to lean supply chain learning and development. I can continue to leverage my knowledge of lean supply chain methodologies to implement continuous process improvements that achieve cost, quality, and service goals in a business climate of double-digit sales growth."