Episode 8: Kaizen improvements in warehouse operations, exponential gains through operator enablement, and an elegant solution involving AR glasses.

Season 1 Episode 8, Jun 16, 2021


Abhishek Patel, Program Manager for Ryder, talks about how he leaped from manufacturing to supply chain, how employee morale became a key metric in a warehouse efficiency problem, and how AR technology helped create a win-win situation.

Topics in this podcast

Manual Operations, AR/VR, Material Handling

Show Transcript

Abhishek:[Background music]Over time, just because there were no actions, everyone just gave up and they all started working around it, but I knew that it was a big opportunity where, if we knew those problems from the people who were actually working there, and if we started solving those problems one by one we will be in a much better state.

Intro:[Background music] Pashi presents the Means Of Production, a podcast about what it really takes to build, maintain, and scale the processes that produce the physical products that power our world. Every episode, we ask a manufacturing expert to walk us through the nuts and bolts of how they do their job. We explore how and why they got into manufacturing, dive deep into the hardest problems they have solved on production lines and discuss their thoughts on what's broken in manufacturing today and how those things can be fixed. This podcast is hosted by Siddhit Sanghvi, Pashi's US Manufacturing, Operations Lead, and former Assembly Engineer at Ford motor company. If you are a part of the manufacturing world and you're interested in being a guest on the Means Of Production, please email siddhit@pashi.com.

Siddhit: Welcome to season one, episode eight of the Means Of Production with us today is my friend and former college batchmate, Abhishek Patel, who is also the program manager at Ryder Supply Chain Solutions , so welcome Abhishek.

Abhishek: Hey Siddhit, thanks for having me here. I look forward to having this conversation as well.

Siddhit: So before we get started a quick disclaimer from Abhishek.

Abhishek: I work at Ryder, but this is my own opinion and it's not the opinion of Ryder. I'm not a spokesperson for Ryder official or otherwise.

Siddhit: Thanks Abhishek, so we've talked after a long time, Abhishek. So I'm very glad to catch up with you, through this podcast I've reconnected with a lot of people and one of them is you and you're on our podcast now. So welcome before we get started, just tell us what you do these days, how are you handling the COVID situation, how was your family, how was work?

Abhishek: So I'm doing well, I know the COVID is almost over, hopefully as we all are getting our vaccine shot. So initially when the COVID started the lock down started it was really tough. So my position is really onsite, so I had to work remotely at the same time my wife, she was working remotely as well, and then we had to take care of my son. So it got challenging initially, but now slowly, slowly we have been getting used to it. But now it seems like things are getting better, I have start going back to my work. So it was a different experience for sure, I'm sure it was the same for everyone but we got through it. So yeah, doing well, looking forward to going back to normal.

Siddhit: Glad to hear that Abhishek, I'm glad that everyone is safe on your side as well. Yeah, it's been very challenging and this is why I just make sure I ask everyone how they're doing, because we seem to have come out of it but who knows what someone has faced in this situation. So tell us a little bit about like, what you do Abhishek at Ryder?

Abhishek: Yes, absolutely. So at Ryder I'm a Continuous Improvement Engineer Lead. So I mainly support all the continuous improvement activities for the location. So Ryder is a third party logistics company, so Ryder supports the business for Verizon. So down here being a lead, I take care of a lot of activities around trying to look for opportunities to improve a process or reduce costs or make a certain process efficient. So high-level, we will look for opportunities in different areas of the operation and then once these opportunities are found, the team would determine which ones are good. So the team would go through a prioritization effort to make sure we are focusing our efforts on the right activities. So down there, once we identify which projects are worth working on, they will either be broken down either as a gesture to it or a Kaizen or a project, but depending on what kind of problem we're trying to solve and then all of these would happen.

Siddhit: Hey Abhishek.

Abhishek: Yes.

Siddhit: Can you just like elaborate on those three different types of problems that you just mentioned.

Abhishek: Okay, I think I'd also talk about the transformation planning high level as well, what it is.

Siddhit: Yeah, sure.

Abhishek: And the mapping session, so being a Continuous Improvement Engineer Lead, what we do every year is we would meet as a team from members from all the different areas within the operation. So the customer by customer, I mean Verizon. So we would map the current state of the operation, right from all the inbound side. So this is a Verizon operation, so we receive a lot of products from Verizon equipment manufacturers, receive it stored in the racks and then whenever there's a request from a particular customer, we pick it and then ship it. So high level, this is the process, so we would just map the current state of what the operation is and then after mapping, the current state of the team would start brainstorming different ideas to look for ways to eliminate any non-value added activities or waste in the process. So we use a process called like the 7 wastes and lean, so we would use that as a North Star to identify any opportunities where we could eliminate a step from a process or operation from a process from there the team where identify a list of improvement ideas. So these ideas would either be broken down either as Kaizen, so Kaizen is something where there's a problem the team wants to solve, and then there'll be a small team which will get together and then that team would try to solve the problem and come up with improvements and make the changes right away. So this activity will be taken over like three to four days, so that's a Kaizen. But if it's like a project where a big system changes acquired, or someone has a better idea so that could be identified as a project and also, there's a third category which we have, which is a Just-do-it. Just-do-it, is something which is very simple and that can be done quickly and does not make any sense to have a big plan in place when you could just implement a change right away.

So the team defined these ideas into three different buckets and then using a prioritization effort, which is a nine block process, is what Ryder calls it as. Basically the team will get together brainstorm and then put different ideas into different buckets and then the metrics we would use to define these would be either how much it's going to cost to make this change or how much effort is required. So once we put all these different ideas into different blocks, the team would mainly focus on ideas which have a high impact and low effort, which is something which would either save the company a lot of in terms of reducing costs, or it would improve a certain process drastically. So once these have been prioritized, the team would come together and create like a roadmap say for the whole year saying, these are the activities we think would make more sense and then we would try to come up with a timeline as to which activities we could work with based on the number of resources we have. And then again, doesn't mean that if any idea that goes on that list means that it's going to work for sure whenever the time comes, as someone would look into that problem to see if it's truly worth solving at that point, because things could have changed between now and then, whenever that the time would come. So at that time it would be analyzed further and then if there's a good opportunity there, if there's a good ROI in that and solving that problem then the team would work further into it. So that's where ROI also play a role in terms of managing the project right from the initiation, which is where the idea was created to launch. So I would take the whole idea from the concept phase to the launch phase. So that's what I mainly do, high-Level so I've been with this company for three and a half years now. So this is something I have been doing for quite some time now, so I've been enjoying it so far.

Siddhit: That's great to hear and the concept of just-do-it seems very interesting. At first, I thought you said just in time, but then you restated it, I heard that it was just-do-it. And that is very interesting because essentially what you are saying is that this would not require any kind of permissions or, going up the hierarchy and saying, can I do this, can I do this? It would just mean that if it makes enough sense, you would just simply spring into action and implement the changes. So just curious about that when something falls under, just-do-it, does that mean that you as the lead have like the full freedom to make the physical changes in the warehouse or spend a certain budget or make some process changes in the way things are done there and then, is that how you do things in the just-do-it category?

Abhishek: Yes, high level, so the way we define something as just-do-it is something which would not be very expensive to make that change, but something as simple as moving a certain product from one location to another location just because it just didn't make sense to have someone travel so much so that it is like a quick change, so rather than going to a detail analysis as to why the current state and the future state are different and why it is implemented, it just logical trying to follow some lean guiding principles. So rather than trying to prove that each idea is a good idea, or sometimes we just try to follow these guiding principles saying that if something is causing excess amount of travel, which is a waste, and if there's a better way of doing it just by moving it from one spot to a different spot, rather than going to a detail analysis to provide why is this better, you just-do-it. So that's the concept behind it.

Siddhit: Okay, so it's like a low hanging fruit that you've identified and it's very easy to implement and you just finish it off without any kind of bureaucracy involved, any kind of steps involved. That's pretty effective in these kinds of situations where you're trying to add value, I think that becomes very helpful because sometimes trying to get the permissions itself wipes out some of the value, right? The time it takes to act on it, so that's a very smart thing you all do at Ryder. So thanks for that answer and introduction to what you do Abhishek. So let's get down to our format, which is how did you get to this position and in this industry and what was that journey like?

Abhishek: So I can go back to like how it all started maybe. So in my career, currently I'm in supply-chain industry, which is distribution warehousing, but I was not in this when I just start. I started with manufacturing actually, so again trying to go back to how I entered into manufacturing, is that something you want me to share?

Siddhit: Yeah, you can trace the whole journey because for people listening to this, especially young people, they might think how did Abhishek go from college where we both were studying together to a supply-chain company, or how did he go to Caterpillar or what have you, like how was that process? So you can elaborate as much as you feel like.

Abhishek: Sure, so I'll begin from when I came to the United States, so I did my Masters in manufacturing systems engineering from Manchester University. So right out of college during my Master’s program, I had an opportunity to walk for my internship, with the Bosch and Siemens home appliances, which was basically, I spent like almost a year there as an intern. And then right after that, got into Caterpillar as a manufacturing engineer, but down there I was also working as a new product launch program manager, per se. So down there, I was supporting a team to launch a new generation of construction equipment, which would help reduce the emission by almost by 95%. So that was something like a tier four emission model that it required a completely new design. So I was supporting that team to launch these products, but from assembly and manufacturing side. But it was like a whole product development life cycle. I was actually working with the design team to provide inputs, which would help eliminate a lot of assembly time. So trying to provide inputs from an assembly perspective as to if a certain design could be changed in a certain way, it could help eliminate the assembly time by X amount of time. So trying to make those changes, so it's basically designed for assembly was the term we were using. So trying to design a productivity with assembly in mind, so that you're not designing something which would cause excess amount of time, just trying to assemble something. So which is where the company would see a lot of costs in terms of labor, trying to reduce the time into quite a small something. So I spent a lot of time down there as a manufacturing engineer, and then gradually I started getting interested in supply-chain.

So I know it was a big change for me in terms of moving from manufacturing to supply-chain. But I started like reaching out to people on LinkedIn just to find an opportunity in supply-chain. And finally being able to use a lot of concepts in manufacturing, which is like a new manufacturing, but at that time it was really new on the supply-chain side, on the warehousing side, I was able to use those in-depth knowledge and experience from manufacturing and apply it to the supply-chain side. So finally, I got that opportunity while working with a company called LeanCor Supply-chain Solution, which was also a consulting company, which was actually trying to work with a number of different customers, trying to share the knowledge of Lean, as to how Lean could help on the distribution and supply-chain side as to how waste were also present in that industry as well. And if the concept were applied from the manufacturing of the companies could see a lot of benefits in terms of reducing costs or making processes efficient. So that's where I got the opportunity, I pivoted from being a manufacturing engineer, to being a senior supply-chain engineer and then after that, I got an opportunity to be at Ryder, so that's how it all started.

Siddhit: Yeah, and I've heard of this transformation taken by some other friends and colleagues as well, because these are very related fields and they often have the same requirement of optimizing, right? Both manufacturing operations as well as supply-chain operations need optimization, they need a lot of calculation in terms of how you can squeeze the most amount of value from the least amount of resources. So I completely get that and it's a great field to be in and even when I was at Virginia tech, I saw those subjects and I wasn't as interested in supply-chain, but there were some pretty interesting subjects on supply-chain and I saw several great problems being solved by some of my batch mates there and good companies are requiring supply-chain engineers and what are these fields are very physical, they're very in-person, they're very hard. So again, the same aptitude or attitude would be required for both of them. I'm sure you were spending a lot of time in the warehouse as you were spending on the shop floor when you were in manufacturing. So that makes perfect sense that you could pivot from one to the other. So yeah, that's pretty comprehensive Abhishek, how you laid it out, so thank you for that. And you've been through these different jobs you've been through Caterpillar, which is very manufacturing, right? It's assembly of all of these heavy equipment and some of the steps you said, design for manufacturing and I think in Ford and some other places we call it manufacturability, right? It's the same thing, it just says that if you make something that's hard to assemble, it's going to lead to quality issues and you take that feedback back to this. But it seems like in Caterpillar, there was a very tight feedback loop between product development and, and the shop floor where you can quickly tell them that this is not really going for or this is not really helping with design to assemble. So that's pretty good to see, it's not always that product development and production are able to talk in the same language and design something that is very easy to manufacture and sometimes it's not even possible. But I see all of these problems that you're solving, so can you talk to us about some problem or a set of problems, which are very technical and then you had to go ahead and face them and maybe you solve them, maybe you're not able to solve them, but it is something that you remember even now. So walk us through that problem as if we were in your shoes.

Abhishek: This is the distribution and fulfillment centers, so we'll fulfill orders for, warehouse and garage auction that is what we call it, as well as retail stores. So let's say you order something from Verizon, you need a new cable connection or you need new internet connection. You could either order it online, or you could either go to a store or then have a technician come into the home. So this warehouse is basically where we would ship it, we would either ship it to a technician or we would directly ship it to an end customer, which is called like direct to consumer fulfillment and this warehouse also supports like returns. So let's say you no longer want the service from Verizon, or you're upgrading to a new product and you want to send your setup box or router back. So all these are tans would come through the Ryder facility, which is where the receiving operations would receive these products, which would come and like parcel boxes. So there are all kinds of boxes that come in and then that side of workstations where someone would literally open up each box and get the products out, receive it into the system. So it would be sorted based on where it's supposed to go, so there are like, let's say 50 different products that come into the return receiving operation. So I was working in a team where we were trying to identify some opportunities to improve that process and just to make that process more efficient. What I did was, I actually working with a set of people from operations, as well as from a solutions design team is what Ryder refers to as. Solution design is basically a team, which helps with launching new processes or helps with designing a process for a new customer.

So I was working with members from that team trying to look for opportunities in the receiving operation, what we actually did was to actually map what the current state process was. So trying to map that whole process down creating a process flow map, and then looking for opportunities where we could eliminate some of the steps from the process or the number of touches. So when I say touches, it means that the number of times a product move from the time the product comes in, how many time the product has to be touched until it's moved to wherever it's supposed to go, either in storage or stores to vendor. So a lot of time these products would come in and then based on how old this product is it will either be stored in the racks to be processed further, or it could either be like, let's say it's too old we don't need it anymore. So it's going to be sorted in a different area, which is what we call scrap. So these products would go through a different recycling vendor where they would be recycled and tried to be used for something else, per se, as an example. So trying to look for opportunities in this area, the teams are brainstorming and then we found certain areas where the end-user or the associates, which are actually touching these products, who are touching these units multiple times. Also just trying to do like a discovery we're trying to look like having open mind and look for ways to use technology, to make this processes more efficient. So we looked at ways like trying to use when these products come in, as a person has to literally open like each parcel box and then take the product, scan the product in and then put it back on the conveyor and then it goes down like 20 feet. And then down there someone would pick up the product again, and then they would move that product to like a trolley or support say, or some other person would take the trolley and then scan the product and then based on where it's supposed to go, which is the final home, they will just take the trolley around to that area and then move it to its final location.

So there are a lot of touches that are involved. So we wanted to find a way to make that process more efficient, we look for an opportunity where we could actually use like a scan down is what we refer to as meaning a person would open the box, get the unit and put it back on the conveyor and the units would travel through like a MRI machine per se, like there are scanners all, like 360 degrees, just because based on all the different complexities with other different products barcodes could be anywhere, so trying to capture the serial numbers. So we went that route, we're trying to see if that process made sense, if it was cost efficient working with different vendors or getting cost estimates. And then finally we forgot that from the benefit the team was going to get, which is basically eliminating like two seconds from the process, compared to the cost of the team will be investing, it didn't make sense going that route and also, it required a lot of physical changes and within that, but receiving operation. So we decided to not go that route then we started looking at a different way of trying to use technology.

Siddhit: So the initial plan, which was not feasible was that it would have like lots of cameras on every side. So is the idea that a person had to earlier pick it up oriented, and then pick up a hand scanner and then scan it and then put it back. Is that part of the, like the activities that you all were trying to cut out with this implementation?

Abhishek: That is right. So the way current receiving operation worked was when the operator gets the, let's say router out of that box, we have Cognex scanners, which are like cameras. So they had to orient it in a certain way, so that was like some excess movements that were involved in there.

Siddhit: Right.

Abhishek: After orienting in a certain way, it took like two to three seconds and then once the barcode is received in, it was put back on the conveyor. And then the way we have this current process is let's say the person is trying to receive it in and let's say, it's a scrap. Let's say we don't need it; the person would literally use a chalk and mark that unit saying physically.

Siddhit: Oh wow, really.

Abhishek: It's going to be scrapped down there and at the end would see these units without chalk mark on it. And then they say, oh this is a scraps, I'm going to start somewhere else. So we were spending like this time to the market or trying to orient it in a certain way, also trying to eliminate that time. And also these workstations were fixed and we had like six workstations to receive it in and just because we had like 50 different sorts so there could be 50 different items coming in. And the reason they had to pull back on the conveyor to go down like 20 feet, some other person who touch the product again is because of the number of sorts that are required. So it was physically not possible for each workstation to have these many like areas to put these products away, because there was some physical constraints. So that's why they had to pull it back on the conveyor go down and then someone else would pick it up, we move it on a cart and then they would pick it up again, scan it and then based on what the system says, it's supposed to go, they would move to that final home and then a scan it backward just to make sure confirm that it's going to the right location. So this was a challenge we had the fault design, as I said, was trying to address those two or three seconds, but the cost was very expensive.

Siddhit: Yeah, and then you were explaining like the other ones. So sorry, that's when I interrupted you and you were going to explain what you all did next, please go on.

AbhishekT: So next what we looked at was, so as I said, these workstations were fixed and then just because they were fixed, we couldn't have the operator walk to a certain area, they had to go through a step where they had to put the things back on the conveyor to go down, certain amount of feet to be picked up again. So we were thinking, what if we try to make that operation like mobile or something which could be easily moved, like using a scanner, handheld scanner, or something. So we started looking at like using AR glasses, like the Google glasses is what we have in [inaudible26:44] to us.

Siddhit: That's pretty cool.

Abhishek: These are augmented reality glasses, so we started looking into this technology by working with one of the solution vendors. So the concept was that instead of having these fix workstations, the users would be wearing these glasses, so someone would still have to open up the box and put it back in but down when the user stroller back on that, the user would pick up these units or use glasses to scan the serial numbers which is in the glasses. And then based on where it's supposed to go, they would either move it directly to the final location, or if it's like a slow moving product, it would go to a twostep process. So did some analysis to understand the velocity of the products coming in, so I broke these products down into two different groups: high moving products and slow moving products. High moving products would go through a one-step process where the user would pick it up, receive it in, and then directly go to its final home in one touch. But if it's like a slow moving productive, it would go to a twostep process where they would pick it up, receive it and go to a card and then someone else would take the card and then move it to its final home. But that was only for, let's say, 20% of the product but 70 to 80% of the products would only go through a one touch process. So the team like this concept, it made sense because performing this analysis further and the amount of time, which would be saved with using a touch for 70% of the volume, we were looking at an improvement of almost 17% for improvement for this operation.

Siddhit: It's very, very, very cool what you just shared, especially like changing the whole mechanism of how someone scans now. For me to understand this correctly, so when they wear these glasses, do they just look at the barcode and it gets automatically scanned or how does that mechanism actually scan the barcode?

Abhishek: So there are two ways actually, so when you wear these glasses, it has a camera. So these AR glasses are essentially like smartphones sitting on I frame. So there's an option of using the camera directly from these glasses, or you also have an option of having a ring scanner, which communicates. The main benefit we have with this, is when operate let's say, tries to use their camera from the AR glasses, they pick up a certain product and then they look right into it. So there is a vision which is right in the top left or right corner, where does the screeners, but you could literally see like a camera as to what you're seeing through it and all you have to do is, phase the unit into the camera and then it's going to scan it. And then good thing about having this screen right front of you was that we had visual guidance in terms of when we receive a product in there was like a layout you would see on the screen, which would tell them exactly where to put that on the floor. So the layout they would see on the floor would map the layout, they would see in that screen. So it's going to tell them exactly to put it in this spot. So it helps them with the visual guidance as well, which also help with the quality concerns as well.

Siddhit: Yeah, that is super cool, this is probably the most interesting and futuristic use of technology I've seen to solve like a problem. And the whole idea of making it very hands-free also probably helps and it also moves a lot of the problems with like where to put the barcode camera that is usually fixed. In this case now, since you all decided that you don't want to really get the human touch completely out, you'd rather use the human touch and they will just orient the product and just look at it, yeah that's pretty cool. So I really enjoyed that example, Abhishek. So thank you for sharing that, I think Ryder and you did a great job in providing a very elegant solution to something that could have become very, very capital-intensive, and huge with that MRI style system of cameras. Which are used in many other places like in the assembly lines they are used but then that is like very, very large pieces like cars, right. So kind of makes sense over there and they have a very high volume also, just to see if two seconds it was a great idea to just use something as small as these smartphone eyeglasses to take in something that is basically like a photograph, right? So essentially, you don't have to do any other thing, all it needs is a status check or an update on where this part has to end up. So a fantastic solution, so kudos to your team for thinking through it and applying something like this. Now, can you like explain to us in your line of work, there must be a lot of other non-technical issues because there's a lot of project management, there's a lot of warehouse management, there is a lot of communication and scheduling and many such non-technical problems. So can you give us a challenge that you face that wasn't entirely technical, but it gave you a hard time?

Abhishek: Sure, so again, it goes back to my current position at Ryder logistic, we support the shipping side as well. So let's say orders come in either from the customer, or let's say a retail store or garage workshop center. And the team, which is called as bulk shipping is where an operator or would get the order and then they would go and start picking these products and then these products would all go like on a big pareto per se, I would say. And then these paretos would be shipped either to like a line haul of final mile, this is a term we use. So for final mile is something which is, it will go directly to the end customer, whoever order this product and line haul is basically, it means that these products from here would go from the distributor center to a cross-docking operation. Which is from where it will be sorted further and be delivered directly to the end customer. So this was like a bulk shipping operation, so this is a problem I faced when I just joined that team. So the team was literally struggling with the shipping of the products on time. So there was a KPI, which the team was monitored, which was on-time shipping KPI. Which is a key performance indicator as a team they were actually performing really bad. So the goal was actually 99.90, at that point they were at 96.9. So they were really behind on the metric was really bad. And so not being able to ship these products on time, the customer, which is Verizon was not about happy at the time. So from a financial performance perspective, the operation was also like losing a lot of force, spending a lot of money on labor, I would say and the margins were also really bad, which was like negative 80%. So I wanted to look into this issue to see why the team was unable to ship products on time and just because the team was not able to ship products on time, we spend a lot on excess labor just to make sure they were able to ship the products.

We Ship the products out, and which also led to excess over time and then literally stressing the operators in that operation. So I started looking into this problem as to why the operation was not having a good financial performance at the same time, not being able to ship on time. So I started looking, trying to understand what the problem was. So I used like a tool which Ryder uses, which is RCCM, which is root cause, correct countermeasures it's similar to an A3. So it was a problem to be solved, so trying to make sure the problem was understood accurately and then I stated working with the team to brainstorm as to what could be the potential causes for the problem. So we were trying to use tools like the cause and effect tool, trying to break it down to different causes as to why it was causing it to not ship the production time. So then a number of things that were identified. So there were some areas where there were gaps in the process, there was an area where there was an issue with accountability, as well as having a lack of problem solving mindset. So for the sake of this, I only focus on like accountability and lack of problem solving just to make sure it's not technical.

So the one issue I found with in this operation is the operators use to pick something and then they would pick it and stage it to be loaded. So they used to be a lot of times and these paretos were actually being audited by the quality team to make sure the products were picked accurately to ensure the customers were getting the right products. Also, one big gap I saw was that there were a lot of errors that are found by the auditors, but there was no feedback going to these operators. So there was no way for these people who are picking to know if they were doing a good job or a bad job. So there was no feedback loop per se, and without having this feedback. They didn't know how they were doing, if they had to improve or they had to continue at the same pace. So I made sure that by working with the approval team members, there was a feedback process being put in as to whenever these defects are found, make sure that feedback went directly to the operator. So they knew that something had to be changed and then further look was required in terms of did the operator require more training or whatever that is not trying to blame the operator, but trying to find gaps in terms of his access or more training required or is there any other support required to ensure the operator was doing the right job.

So there was under gap in terms of lack in problem solving and this is what I say, is whenever operator used to go to go pick a product, whenever they came across an issue, they used to try to work around those problems rather than trying to alert the team leads or their supervisors trying to work around it. And then what used to happen is if one operator faced that problem, most likely some other operator would come across the same problem just because that problem was not fixed in the first place. So it used to cause like a domino effect where things kept dragging, which ended up requiring more and more hours, which also ended up requiring excess overtime and which is what was impacting performance and I wouldn't blame them. Just because what used to happen is even though they used to explain those problems to the supervisors or team leads of that area, nothing used to happen, there would be no actions. So over time everyone just gave up and then they would just walk around and then try to get as many orders as possible and then be done with it.

Siddhit: Like a lot of culture issue, just the mindset issue that this is a problem instead of solving it. It used to just get pushed to the side and ignored and then that, like you said, caused a lot of domino effects.

Abhishek: That's right. And again, the reason that used to happen is because even though the operators explain those problems to the supervisors and then maybe supervisors try to fixing that problem, there was no support from whoever was supposed to be supporting that whether it be quality team or someone from engineering, which is where I was from or it could be a system side, which is a warehouse management system. So if something was not set up correctly in the system, so over time just because there were no actions, everyone just gave up and they all tried working around it. But I knew that there was a big opportunity where if we knew those problems from the people who are actually working there, and if we start solving those problems one by one, over time we would be in a much better state. So what I did was I started like, we kind of added a task force per se, which is where if a problem came up, I created a tracker or something on SharePoint. So anytime a problem occurred, we started tracking it, I as operations team lead track each and every time a problem occurred and then made sure that I was looking into those problems, trying to categorize it into different buckets, doing a protocol to ensure that I was focusing on the right problems and then working with the right thing to actually get it resolved. And over time, once I started doing this and started fixing more and more problems, then started giving that feedback to the operator saying, thanks for bringing up this problem. We looked into it and it was resolved, so you should no longer be seeing this issue and if you do, please let us know again.

So trying to get that feedback and trying to make these operators empower in terms of their ideas or sedations are being considered and we are working on it to fix it. So that gave them more confidence on the operation team side are bringing more and more problems and that's how the whole cycle began, also that's how the team was able to eliminate a lot of issues. And overtime, the whole operation got into a much better state, so in years 2018 and 2019, the team saw good, drastic improvement in performance and on-time shipping improved from 96.9% to almost 99.99%. Also the, the margins, which is the margin improved like 90% from 2018 to 2019 and then again, 60% from 2019 to 2020. So there was a big drastic improvement, this is by looking into these two problems, which was with accountability, as well as having a problem solving mindset as to fixing the problems as soon as it's occurred and trying to give that feedback to the associates, to let them know if they were doing a good job, or if there were any gaps and if any of training was required. So this is how I was able to tackle this problem in this operation

Siddhit: That is very impressive and the numbers were also, very telling of how big the change was and this looked like 100% change management and culture change, it's one of those problems in which you can't see anything wrong physically and doing things requires like zero technical insight or no tools or anything, but with a lot of like, just showing up there, listening to people, finding what they have to save for the process and how it's going wrong. And then somebody actually takes that feedback and puts it into action is what really solve it. So for the listeners, I'm sure this might be known to many people, but a Pareto chart is essentially used to divide all of your, it could be sales in Abhishek case, it was the issues happening in the warehouse where 20% of the issues are causing 80% of the damage, right? So he basically used this chart to figure out what is it that he has to first hit that and then he really looked at the accountability and the problem solving mindset and made sure that this was a problem that they would take care of and not just walk around. And also take down like a log in the SharePoint with what is happening, which are the problems, what is the severity and so on and so forth. So one of these things that many engineers don't really consider, but this happens more often than the technical problems, which is all of these culture and attitude issues that are very, very hard to solve. Their change management is very hard, there are a lot of managers and supervisors who may not want or welcome that change. So I'd say Abhishek this is probably a more difficult task than your Google glasses challenge, right? Because everyone was ready for a solution in that case but in this case, they may not be completely open or they may not be completely amenable to someone like you coming in and saying that this has to be done this way, you need to solve it, and you need to start looking at it. So kudos to you again, and the team for inculcating that culture. So a really good example as well and thank you for sharing this.

Abhishek: Yeah, and again, this is something I'm not going to take credit for because it was again, a team effort and only because of everyone and support from the team and willing to make a change it's because we were able to make this project a success. So yeah, I just want to make sure I put it out there.

Siddhit: Right, of course. But those numbers were nevertheless very impressive, 90% differences in margin and so on and so forth, that's a great success story. So Abhishek, moving on to like the next question, if you had like a magic wand to change one thing about your industry or your job or your work, or the whole field of manufacturing or supply-chain, what would that be and why?

Abhishek: So this an interesting question. So one thing I come across a lot by working in the supply-chain industry, so let's say in a distributed center, we have these complicated warehouse management systems per se, and without widgets it's really difficult to get anything work in the right way. So these systems are really important, but a lot of times the challenges I face is just because the site is using a particular system or a warehouse management system, for example. A lot of times that constraints within that system with this, what I mean is a lot of times, if I want to process to be designed a certain way, most likely that's not going to happen just because the system works differently and then most likely what's going to happen is I would have to change my process to match how the system is designed rather than being the other way where the system should be designed around how the process should actually be. And so just to make a certain change in the system, it requires so much effort where we have to work with IT, like a whole it team. Which are the developers and it takes a lot of time and effort in terms of understanding how expensive it's going to be, how long it's going to be required to code something.

So if there was only a way to make it easy, where I could just build my own process and implemented in the system, and then things would work the way I really want it to be rather than going through a whole IT team and coding these systems and trying to, again work within the constraints of the system just because that's how the system has been designed and then me having to change the process to make it work around that system. So if there was a way to make it easy and very user-friendly where anyone, let's say in operations could do it, it would be a big one. It would also save a lot of time and effort and money, I would say of a lot of teams, where they could just, let's say that someone had an idea, we would just make that flow in the system and then just execute it, try it out. If it doesn't work, you iterate, you try it again, you make some changes. So having the continual feedback loop and once you find the right flow, you just execute it and move it into production. And that's it rather than trying to go through these long processes where you design it, and then you have to test it and test environment, and then deployed into production. So if there was a way to make that happen, I would say, it would save a lot of time and effort to a lot of people.

Siddhit: So AB that's very exciting because I do have something to say about it, but before I do I want to understand it a little more. When you say that they are actually like the system, you know it's different from like your process, does it mean that the system is different based on which client you're servicing, like on behalf of Ryder or what do you mean that when you need a change or if like it's not according to the process, like where does the change happening?

Abhishek: So when, I mean, system it means, let's say we use of warehouse management system called Scale. So let's say a certain receiving process or a picking process would be designed in a certain way within that WMS system, but if I want to create my own process or I want to create.

Siddhit: Sorry, what is the WMS system?

Abhishek: It's a warehouse management system, yes like a manufacturing.

Siddhit: Right, okay.

Abhishek: But that's something what we use in addition to our warehousing operation. So there are time in system where if I want to create my own process, but if there is a similar process already in the system, I would have to make it such that my process, I have to change that process to make sure it matches the steps within that WMS system, I would say. Just because that's how that WMS system has been designed and there are constraints and there's no way I can make it work, based on how I really want that process to work, if you understood what I'm trying to say.

Siddhit: Yeah, I completely understand what you're saying. So well, Pashi is a manufacturing execution system, but the beauty of Pashi is that it's used wherever, any kind of machine like a device, like a barcode reader, or like a packing machine or how a conveyor is used. Pashi can be used in any of those locations and the way the things are designed in Pashi is that you as a person on the operation side, not a controls engineer or an IT engineer, but an operations person. Would drag and drop these devices and connect them in the kind of flow that you need and then wherever you think that there's a change in the process or if there's a new client, which operates things in a completely different way. And there's a different order to doing things in the warehouse, you have certain different systems, like maybe it's last in first out or now it's like first in last out, whatever it is. But you can then switch over these blocks back and forth the way you want and then just commit it the way you are like giving a change to it. Like it's like a commit system in which if I make a change, everyone knows that this is the change that has been made but if I think it's not good, I can always revert back to the previous version or I can revert to any version that had been made so far by anybody because all of that would be recorded. So it would be like a ledger of changes and you could have these different versions, like as if it was a Google docs with different version history, and you can just switch back and forth to whatever version you wanted.

You could clone the line and just like use another line, which was very similar and then make changes if you just wanted everything like 90% of it, same but you wanted to change only 10%. Plus you could collaborate with your supplier in this case, like your customer and they could see your workflow in the same workspace, like our design view at the same time, as you. Again, like a Google docs, that would be visible and it would be very easy, there would be no programming needed to design this workflow. But if you needed some custom logic, the Go programming language, which is a preferred language where you are talking to machines, it can be used by the IT team to embed this custom code which might be very complicated, or it might be very one-off but in general it would be completely no code. So this is what Pashi does for all kinds of manufacturing operations and although we haven't yet had any supply-chain, clients it's basically something that can be connected to any piece of hardware that has some controlling, microchip or intelligence or PLC or any kind of device like barcodes or conveyors, like I said, or packing machines or any of those devices. So yeah, that is the whole intention of Pashi is to make it very simple, you don't need the involvement of IT. You don't need the involvement of like controls engineers except for when they are very specialized cases. So this is very interesting to me and this was one of the core driving forces behind the creation of Pashi is to make it very simple for the production engineer to change process logic as and when required.

Abhishek: So yeah, I would say this would be great on a warehousing or distribution side as well, having that flexibility and the power given to operations team to design something on their own rather than trying to work with someone outside who doesn't really understand how the process works. Which would definitely help make the whole process efficient and faster as well as have the team try out new ideas, more frequently rather than trying to worried about how long it's going to take or how much money it's going to cause them to make a certain change. So yeah, I would say this would be something that would really work for a warehousing distribution side as well.

Siddhit: Fantastic, this is something I learned today and supply-chain within the four walls of the factory is also, something in our consideration but distribution like by itself, like in a warehouse facility is also placed where you test out many, many different process logics on somethings I wasn't familiar. So now I know, I've learned it from you so thank you for that and I think that is a great magic wand answer. It was very practical, it was very real, it wasn't fantastical, it seemed like a real present problem. The magic wand can solve this quite easily, so yeah, great answer Abhishek. Moving on, like to this, fifth surprise question that you probably don't know, or if you heard one of the episodes maybe you do is, in 2051 if your grandchild were to enter a factory or in your case like a warehouse, right? Or if you could go forward in time to be in 2051 and see the warehouse of the future, what would it look like?

Abhishek: So maybe I can tackle warehouse, maybe you might have already heard of the factory examples from other people. I would say my answer will not be very different from them and again, a lot of these inspirations come from, I would say science fiction movies. It's only because of ideas you get from these movies, a lot of things have been made possible because of that is what I would say. So let's say in 2051, and that's again, what I might say is not even 2051 it could be happening in like five or 10 years from now. So what I imagine is it's a whole, like a dark factory or dark distribution, warehouse is what I would call it. When I mean dark meaning lights-out just because it's all robotics and when a order comes in and things just get picked up automatically and then we just don't have to do anything. I would say there would be just one person maybe monitoring that operation from a control tower, per se, just in case if anything goes down or if there's any support required.

Again, we could have robots fix other robots as well, but I could say that we could have mechanics and those specialized technicians just to fix those robots only if required. And then that's it, I'm in no activity at all, no humans. So all dark out, saving electricity is something I would say. And yeah, and you just order something and then just products just comes out and then you'll have drones flying all over just to deliver products and you never have to get out of your home, you can order everything from a smartphone or using smart speaker or voice, I would say and stuff just gets delivered to your home or not even home into your freight house and that's something which even might happens in the current state. So I mean, that's what I can imagine in 2051 could be and again, not all industries, some industries might get there sooner than the others. But maybe by 2051, everyone, it would be a common scenario for it doesn't matter if it's a small or medium size company or a large corporation, billion-dollar corporation, it could be something which is a common part given by default. So that's what I can imagine on what 2051 would be.

Siddhit: Yeah, that's very close to what I also think Abhishek and I've heard of the term dark factory already. So people are already thinking about those kinds of benefits, right? No heating, no electricity, none of that required, no Isles, you don't really needed other than for the AGVs or guided vehicles. So no safety incidents also, so lots of benefits. Especially, with warehousing, I feel that it might come there faster in a warehouse that in machining or in assembly or something like that. Simply because there are a lot of things that do not even need human finessing with warehousing, if they are basically routing of material or they're storing or stacking of lots of boxes, this can be probably achieved faster in a warehouse than in a factory. So, absolutely, that's a great answer there and drones, again, people are already investing in it, some of them have experimented with it. So again, like you said, this could be possible at least for warehouses in the next like 10 years or so.

Abhishek: Yes, absolutely.

Siddhit: Yeah.

Abhishek: These are these examples, there are concept videos around it also. It could be faster for certain industries and come easiest, it's going to be sooner. But there'll be like smaller companies, which might take time to get there at accepting the new technology, it's going to take a while. So yeah, maybe by 2051 by default, everyone would begin that way is what I would say.

Siddhit: Yeah, well I really enjoyed this conversation, I enjoyed all of your answers. I learned so much about the warehousing problems and the warehousing industry and how work is done and how third party solutions are used by large companies like Verizon and you guys are the ones behind the scenes, making sure that the packages, get returned or refunded and whatnot on time or even shipped, you know, the new stuff. And we don't think much about it when we go back to the Verizon store or the T-Mobile store and give something back, that's where your team at Ryder really springing to action with all of these improvements, right? So the Google glass example and the change management example it was very nice to hear, and it was getting in touch with you again, and thank you so much for giving the time to come on the episode.

Abhishek: Thanks Siddhit, I enjoyed the conversation as well, and I'm glad you learned a lot from this, and I'm sure I've learned a lot as well. Especially from like hearing about Pashi so I'm really excited to see where Pashi go, in terms of trying to solve problems for other industry as well, like supply-chain or any other industry per se, so looking forward to that as well.

Siddhit: Yeah, who knows, maybe we might be on a call with you.

Abhishek: For sure, yeah. Good luck with your journey as well to make it happen.

Siddhit: Awesome, alright see you.

Abhishek: Thanks.

Outro:[Background music] If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe to the Means Of Production Podcast, for more stories from people behind all the manufactured goods we use, love and depended on. This episode was made possible by Pashi, the operating system for manufacturing. Pashi unifies the entire production process for any product encompassing operator instruction and data Interpol interfaces, stage logic and parameter thresholding, machine interfacing and configuration through port programming and coordination and stage to stage to production flow control into a single Pashi program. Check us out at pashi.com and until we meet again, have a fantastic day, and take care.

Music from Uppbeat: "Falling" by Zayner. License code: SYFMAQN9WWBAPCSU


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