4 ways cross training your logistics team can improve operations

cross_trainingWhen it comes to valuable assets, our natural instinct is to protect them. Take, for example, a lengthy report that you have spent hours meticulously writing. The fear of losing it mid-sentence is gut wrenching.

Thanks to modern technology, we can now store our valuable work in numerous places: external memory, OneDrive, email, the list goes on.

If something happens to the original, we have duplicates readily available, which is brilliant - no more restless nights for us!

However, as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can you say the same about your logistics team? Are their valuable skills and knowledge "backed up" in the same way? And do you have a system in place that can heighten your productivity levels when you are really pushed to the limits?

Disaster prevention

In essence, cross training is a physical back up of your company's knowledge and skill sets. It's a disaster prevention technique - in the sense that having multiple copies of a document saved in various places reduces the risk of loss, having multiple team members trained in various roles can significantly minimise the risk of ineffective productivity.

A no-brainer, right?

If you're still not convinced that cross training is key to driving operational success and productivity, then take a look at the four benefits below.

1. Improved consistency

We've all heard the expression: consistency is key. But, of course, a 100 per cent consistency rate can be an unattainable goal. One of the benefits of cross training is the ability to implement standardised training and expectations across an entire team, thereby making that 100 per cent goal more easily attainable.

Take, for example, packaging standards: there are a number of ways your manufactured goods could be packaged before they are shipped out. Likely, without specific training or guidance, each team member will have his or her own way to do it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - nonetheless, by cross training your team with one standard procedure, you stand to see an increase in your operational success, such as:

  • Heightened customer satisfaction: in the eyes of your customer, receiving a uniformed delivery, on time in full (OTIF) enhances your professional appearance. Consistency argues dedication and commitment - two factors that are notable in retaining positive customer relationships
  • Potential to reduce labour expenditure: with packaging time minimised comes heightened productivity, meaning there is now greater scope for your department to become more cost effective in terms of workforce productivity and expenditure. For instance, a task that may have taken one team member three hours to complete in the past could be redistributed between three team members and take just one hour.

2. Increased level of team motivation

If you have noticed a drop in morale among your team, then you may have also noticed a drop in productivity. A recent study by the University of Warwick shows that happy and engaged employees are 12 per cent more productive. 

If so, it may be time to look at your team's personal development. Whether you're the CEO of a multi-billion pound company or an apprentice taking your first steps on the career ladder, everyone wants to feel appreciated for the effort they put in. Cross training is a fantastic way of achieving this: your team gain a higher sense of worth as their development is being taken into consideration, while you gain a team of highly trained and positive (and, therefore, productive) employees. This fun employee engagement calculator is a useful tool in helping to understand just how much return on investment could be possible through increasing levels of employee engagement. 

3. Departmental stability

Imagine your only goods-in team member is off work with the flu or on holiday for a week. How do you operate without them? Do you have a backup plan? If the answer is no, then this could be a significant obstacle to your ongoing operational success.

Having a fully cross-trained department as a backup plan makes a lot of sense. It enables your business needs to remain a priority, regardless of employee absenteeism, and ensures your department output remains undisturbed and stable. As you can probably imagine, this also allows the team to keep focused on achieving their key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets without the added stress of falling behind on daily tasks.

4. Increased rate of efficiency

Through cross training you are giving yourself and your team a sense of security. Safety is in knowledge, and the greater your team is trained the safer you are. This safety then has the ability to positively impact on your efficiency rate.

With a team that is responsive to pressures and able to move freely and confidently around the department, you can appropriately distribute your resources to increase your efficiency rate. For example, the despatch department is notoriously busy towards the end of the month, whereas the goods-in team is less so. By having a fully cross-trained team, you can move some of the goods in staff to assist the despatch team.

Here, we can instantly see two ways how your efficiency rate could be improved:

  • Your workforce productivity is optimised - i.e. no single department is working flat out while others sit back with their feet up having a cup of tea.
  • With more people trained to one standard, resources can be moved around easily to ensure KPIs are met and customer orders are fulfilled.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog post and recognise this list of benefits is by no means exhaustive - however, we feel it highlights some of the potential ways in which cross training can instantly improve your operational success.

So I guess your decision whether to start cross training your logistics team boils down to two questions: do you already have a robust and proven effective plan in place for when fluctuations in either demand or resources test you? And can you really afford not to cross train your team?

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Written by Jessica Plank

Based in Switzerland, Jessica holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and has day-to-day responsibility for strategic marketing tactics including blog management, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and European event management. Jessica’s dedication to maintaining a strong online presence has significantly contributed to the success of ESCATEC's marketing initiatives since she joined the team in 2021.