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Atlanta Dental Supply
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Douglas Hunter, Eldorado Trading Company
Welcome to the first in our series of Warehouse Champion interviews, where we ask warehouse technology project management experts how they became Warehouse Champions within their own operations.
Douglas Hunter is the Operations Manager at Colorado-based Eldorado Trading Company. Charged with overseeing the roll-out of Latitude WMS at Eldorado’s distribution facility, Mr. Hunter has proven to be a powerful advocate for the centrality of the warehouse in business operations.
How were you designated as a Warehouse Champion within your business? Did it happen according to specific process, or did you fall into the role due to your expertise?
I was already Operations Manager at Eldorado and used technology extensively, so I was assigned as Project Manager in the warehouse management system implementation.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you achieve your current position at your business, and did you originally see yourself working where you are?
I have been in warehousing for just under 20 years. I originally started out in warehousing with a small record store chain in Colorado Springs and worked at multiple warehouse facilities after that in leadership roles. I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 2001.
Eldorado presented me with a solid opportunity in 2003. My personal goals were leaning more toward working in a medical field, but time and opportunity have landed me in a challenging role that I have truly grown to love.
What does your average day look like?
I manage the general operational and logistical warehouse functions of our business. I review and maintain process and volume flow, prioritize workloads, resolve bottlenecks, and assure timely processing of orders with the highest levels of customer service.
What do you think is the most important skill that you have developed (that aids you in being a Warehouse Champion)?
I feel there are two really important skills, actually. The first would be analyzing and improving processes. We continuously review processes to ensure that we maintain best practices that increase performance and set the highest levels of customer service in our industries.
The second important skill is being good at employee training and development. I strive to help every staff member on my team, or even in some cases, the individuals I come into contact with through our business partnership networks, to reach their full potential. By applying both of these skills together, I do my part within our organization to maintain performance, motivation, efficiency, profitability, and customer service at a level that forces our competition to step-up their game or get left in the dust.
What challenges do you think most Warehouse Champions face when they get started with a project like a WMS implementation?
Our owner here at Eldorado has a favorite saying: “The only constant in business is change.” When you have done your research and found a new technology, equipment or process, you have to invest into it as much as you expect to get out of it.
I think a common misconception of warehouse technology is that it’s a plug-and-play solution, which will immediately solve all problems with no ongoing maintenance. That is hardly ever the case. Technology, equipment and processes must all be reviewed to assure that the equipment and the processes are evolving with the technology. During the recent Latitude User Conference, a presenter showed us a metaphorical math formula: OP + NT = EOP (Old Processes + New Technology = Expensive Old Processes). That statement hits the nail on the head! If you don’t put the effort into processes and equipment to keep pace with technology, you end up with expensive technology that will most likely not produce a return on investment as expected.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a Warehouse Champion in place who is 100% committed to the project, who can invest the time to accomplish their role, and who can guide staff to successfully reach all milestones of the project, on or ahead of schedule.
What advice do you have for someone who feels that they are suited to drive real progress in their warehouse, but aren’t sure how to get started?
Step up. Make it clear that you want the role if and when it is offered. Make suggestions based off previous professional experiences. Be the leader in researching the processes and technology that will improve performance.
If you want to drive real progress, first, do your research. Visit other facilities to find stronger practices that will complement the new technology. Read White Papers online or take a class that focuses in on your topic. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Best-in-class facilities share success stories and information on high performance processes.
Next, get top level support. If an owner or General Manager joins in at regular Project updates with the entire team, employees will see that the change is a team effort, not just the Warehouse Champion.
Finally, outline your project and set goals. Try to stay ahead of scheduled deadlines and lead by example. Work directly with the professionals in material handling companies, technology companies, and coach staff to understand the value of the changes being implemented. Assign your team workloads that are challenging yet obtainable, then follow through to assure your team is successful!
Success is not a natural phenomenon like a sunrise. Champions, no matter if they are in sports, business, or other leadership roles, reach their goals by hard work, personal drive, and the desire to obtain success.
Are you a Warehouse Champion in your organization? What do you think it takes to lead a warehouse through major technological changes? Tell us your opinion over on our Facebook page.