DC managers are primarily focused on achieving the logistics targets for their warehouse operation. The KPIs related to the cost, logistics service, efficiency, and quality of the shipments are measured daily and continuous improvement plans are often in place to improve these metrics. In addition to being efficient, the warehouse operation should also be a safe environment for the operators. Although safety is always regarded as important, many DC managers are regularly afraid that increasing “safety” will have a negative effect on efficiency, productivity, and throughput capacity. We have found, however, that the opposite is actually the case. Safe warehouses are also well performing warehouses.
Election “Safest Warehouse of The Netherlands”
In The Netherlands, the most common location for European distribution centers in Western Europe, there was an annual contest called “The Safest Warehouse of The Netherlands”. From 2006 until 2021, this contest’s goal was to highlight good examples of safe warehouse operations, their best practices, and show how those examples can help others to improve the safety in their operations as well. Warehouses could sign up for the contest and the DC operations were audited by experts in the field of Logistics Operations, Ergonomics, Material Handling Equipment, Safety, Temporary Labor, etc. The participants received an audit report about the status of the “safety” in their warehouses. St. Onge Company was actively involved in the jury and review process as the logistics expert and supported by auditing the logistics concept.
One of the main conclusions of the election each year was that the safest warehouse, the warehouse winning the election, also scored very highly on the logistics KPIs. We found that the safest warehouses were also best-in-class performing warehouses.
Safety in warehouses must be sustainable
To be sure that the safety in the warehouses was sustainable, contestants had to demonstrate a high logistics productivity, high logistics quality, good logistics service. They needed to show the ability to be flexible to adjust in a safe way to continuously changing market requirements. The reason for this rule was that if the warehouse operation would not perform well, that the pressure to change and improve the warehouse operation would increase and that the implemented changes could reduce the safety level of the operation.
Winners of the “Safest Warehouse of The Netherlands” award
There were several similarities between the top nominees and the winners of the election.
Some examples from the safest warehouses are:
Several winners and nominees reported a year on year efficiency improvement of 3% to 4% per year since they started with a program of continuous improvement of the operations while also paying continuous attention to safety. Increasing the safety in the warehouse was in general a combined effort to improve the efficiency, logistics performance, ergonomics, and logistics quality of the warehouse operation.
We would like to wish you success with improving the performance and safety of your warehouse!
—Eric Hereijgers, St. Onge Company
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From thousands of entries, we are one of only 591 companies honored.
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