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Routine Standardization (Part 5)

Last month we finished with some comments about UPS efficiencies and the incredible savings realized by rerouting their drivers to turn right, not left. Let’s take a closer look at UPS, some of their innovations and how they relate to RS. What follows is a brief summary and some personal commentary on a section concerning UPS titled “Productivity” found in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.


“UPS knows time is money, and it is obsessed with using data to increase productivity. Jack Levis, UPS’s director of process management, told NPR that “one minute per driver per day over the course of a year adds up to $14.5 million,” and “one minute of idle per driver per day is worth $500,000 of fuel at the end of the year.” The handheld computer drivers carry around, called a “DIAD” (Delivery Information Acquisition Device), tracks their every move.


Let me insert a few comments here. Sorry for the interruption, but there is simply too much packed into that paragraph, to fail to elaborate.


First, pardon me if the word “obsessed” isn’t all that politically correct in today’s world. There’s really nothing wrong with the word, but it does conjure up some negative thoughts. However, when it comes to productivity, I love it. What a compliment. UPS is obsessed with, in this case, “using data” to increase productivity. They are obsessed with productivity in general and the resulting efficiencies.


We are all familiar with the word “fan” as it is used in sports, of musicians or in a variety of venues. Did you know it comes from the word “fanatic,” which is a synonymous with “obsessive”? Rewind to the 16th century and the origin of “fanatic.” It was used to describe behavior or speech that might result from possession by a god or demon. In the 17th century it was closely related with the word “maniac.” Not exactly words you’d expect to be suitable for business acumen—or are they? How big of a fan are you when it comes to RS? Got any maniac in you?


I noticed a few quotes on the UPS website that fit well here: “Every day, UPS is faced with a complex challenge. How do we deliver more while using less?” “Efficiency is everything for United Parcel Service. Save time, space and money, and get there when promised. Efficiency is so much a part of the culture at UPS that to save space inside the dispatch centers the signature brown trucks are even parked just 5 inches apart with rearview mirrors overlapping.”


They refer to their massive fleet of delivery vehicles as rolling laboratories. The insinuation is that they are constantly studying everything they do. Is that how we view our offices, job sites, how well we execute, as well as our subcontractors and suppliers? Does this sound anything like what you and your organization are doing every day? Essentially that’s what RS is all about.


So then, it’s a good time to ask ourselves what it is business-wise that we are obsessed with. If you’re not obsessed with certain key components in business, watch out for competitors who are.


Doing great business is an obsession. Leaders and companies that are obsessed get it done, and it typically gets on the nerves of others who do not share such obsession. That is true, internally and externally, but for different reasons. Don’t be surprised by that. It isn’t for everyone. What about you?


Jim Winestock, a UPS vice president in Atlanta, said, “I know it drives my wife crazy, but I’ve been known to pass up drug stores, three or four on the left-hand side of the road, just to get to the one on the right-hand side of the road.” Yes, there is a line that you don’t want to cross, one where you can become borderline ridiculous.


It’s not as though UPS never makes a left turn; estimates are they do so about 10 percent of the time. Tasha Hovland, an industrial engineering manager, said regarding the right turn rule, “A guesstimate, I would probably say 90 percent. I mean we really, really hate left turns at UPS.” But when they do turn left, it’s because they know it makes sense to do so and it isn’t often. “They have a combination of not just experience, but computers, codes and programming that allows them to plot out right-turn routes in minutes.”


And did you notice Jack Levis’ title in the opening quote? Director of process management! Who manages your processes? (You do have processes, don’t you?) When it comes to process management and RS, they are inseparably related and very dear to my heart. Hopefully yours is as well.


Finally, why is UPS so obsessed with productivity? Ponder this mind-boggling excerpt: “One minute per driver per day over the course of a year adds up to $14.5 million,” and “one minute of idle per driver per day is worth $500,000 of fuel at the end of the year.”

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought, innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at [email protected].

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