At Distributiecentrum E. den Dekker 100 employees at home and abroad are involved on a daily basis in the import and export of fresh plants to retailers and wholesalers throughout Europe. Naturally that entails a lot of automation. Yet until recently all the time recording and scheduling of staff was done by hand. Employees used pen and paper, WhatsApp, Excel lists and a lot of gut feeling; not the ideal situation. To improve efficiency on the basis of data E. den Dekker decided four years ago to work with the PEP total workforce platform for its permanent workers and for agency staff. Max Lumenta, Logistics Manager, talks about the situation before and after the introduction of PEP.
‘We work with several staffing agencies. Before we automated our time recording and personnel planning we filled out various types of timesheets and Excel lists by hand. That was of course extremely prone to error. Even spelling the wonderful but often complicated foreign names of our staff correctly was a challenge. We also recorded by hand the hours that they worked. Subsequently we tried to make error-free calculations based on all those notes. There was even a WhatsApp group to which we posted our requests so that the staffing agencies could tackle them. It seemed simple, but of course it lacked clarity. Scheduling of permanent workers was often done by word of mouth because we had no scheduling solution. In addition, we had inadequate insight into the hours that had actually been worked. This meant that we couldn’t measure our efficiency and productivity. Who started work at what time? What did someone do on a particular day? And how many hours did someone actually work? We didn’t have that data, so we could never call employees to account based on facts. Only on the basis of gut feeling.
‘We needed a time recording system so as to set up standards, targets and KPIs.’
‘One of the biggest cost items in a distribution centre is the personnel costs and that’s the case with us too. So it was strange that we had little insight and clarity in that area. That had to change! We wanted greater insight into our efficiency. We also wanted more insight into what customers were asking us for and what that was costing us: after all, every customer has different needs and wishes. For instance, certain customers want to have the containers packed more tightly. That’s something we can do but it takes more time, so it costs more. Before we started to work with PEP we had no insight into those extra costs. The same applied to the extra time we spent on customers that added something to the order at the last moment; we lacked insight. Our first step towards greater insight into our efficiency was to try to organise things differently from a logistical viewpoint. However, that very soon showed us that we needed a time recording system so as to set up standards, targets and KPIs. We wanted a system in which employees could clock in simply and which gave us clarity. We invited a number of parties, and PEP offered us exactly what we wanted. Our choice was easy to make. The implementation of PEP was arranged within a few days and then we were up and running. It all went very smoothly.
‘The handy thing about PEP is that we don’t have to register employees first. Permanent workers are issued with a card after only a couple of mouse clicks. And we don’t have to register agency staff at all. They come in, insert their card in the reader and that’s it. PEP is as simple as that. This was important to us because we often get new workers from the staffing agencies. They have to be able to work with our registration system straight away. New agency staff are now linked to the system by the staffing agency and there is nothing we have to do. Now everybody clocks in – both agency staff and permanent workers. As we all have to clock when we carry out a task in another department, we record all the hours to the appropriate place and we can always see how many hours have been worked at each cost centre. PEP’s flexible time clocks make this simpler too. You don’t need any extra cables or power points if you want to install a time clock at another cost centre. In fact I use three time clocks as flexible cost centres, when we start working for a new customer for example. The flexible time clock gives me an insight into how long we have been engaged on particular tasks. This enables me to keep these registrations separate from the normal everyday work. And it’s easy for me to tweak all of this in the system, without needing to have recourse to an expensive consultancy.
‘Thanks to PEP we can utilise our permanent workers and agency staff as efficiently as possible, in real time and accurate to the second.’
‘The data that we collect with PEP also gives us insight into why certain deadlines have not been met. Previously that insight was lacking and I had to work on the basis of assumptions. Now we can check, to the second, why plants didn’t arrive on time on the cart. And thanks to PEP our team leaders can ensure, to the second, that our permanent workers and agency staff are deployed as efficiently as possible: is someone’s input no longer required? The person concerned can then go home or can assist in another department where extra manpower is needed at that moment. In that case the person clocks in there at once, so that the time records for each cost centre are always accurate. We save a huge amount of money thanks to this real-time insight into our scheduled work and our deployment of staff, because we can make immediate adjustments whenever required.
‘As the PEP time recording system was working so well for us, we decided six months ago to do our work scheduling with PEP as well. One of the reasons was that we wanted an insight into what we had requested of a staffing agency and what we had actually got. Now our in-house deliberations and the collaboration with the staffing agencies are of better quality. For me, PEP is also a way of showing our purchase/sales department why something was late and how we solved the problem. We can see this from the difference between the scheduled hours and the hours actually worked.
‘We work a lot more economically now that we have better control over the number of workers we need.’
‘We are working noticeably a lot more economically than before, because we can adjust the number of workers required much more easily and have better control of the situation. We have the simplicity of PEP to thank for this. In addition, all workers now have a better and simpler insight into the hours they have worked, leave requests and outstanding leave. PEP keeps a record of all of these. And if ever we cannot resolve an issue, the PEP support department is really great! They know everything at the drop of a hat, or anyway within half an hour.’
Since 1986, from its base in the municipality of Westland, E. den Dekker has supplied at 48 hours’ notice all kinds of plants from 1500 different growers to supermarkets, retail outlets and warehouses throughout Europe. The fresh plants that E. den Dekker distributes are selected with the utmost care and are therefore always of high quality. E. den Dekker makes this guarantee of freshness possible thanks to a good track and trace system that shows where a plant has been and for how long. Max Lumenta has been working in plant exports for 30 years. He began in the sector as a production worker and is now Logistics Manager with E. den Dekker, where he enjoys the dynamic of his job.
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