Proactive vs. Reactive: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Smokey Bear Bobble HeadDo you work at a place where management is always running around trying to put out the latest fire? Does your workplace need to work on fire prevention? Do you have managers that spend all their time being reactive and not enough being proactive? You know, doing the little things that make things run a bit smoother. Supervisors that come up with strategies and procedures that solve problems before they arise or at least before they happen again and again. At Big Brown most supervisors tend to be like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, except while she started fires with her mind, our supervisors tend to start them by not using theirs at all.

At Big Brown, roughly the same thing happens every night. We unload packages from trailers. We sort them and send them via a conveyor belt system to be loaded into other trailers. I work on a load line, one of five areas in my building where we load trailers with packages to make the next leg of their journey. We pull the packages off the belt and send them into the trailers to be loaded. This happens five days a week, every week, every year, year after year.

The volume of packages down the conveyor comes roughly the same everyday. The same trailers get their volume at about the same time everyday. Yet the supervisors can’t seem to have enough loaders in the right places, at the right times, to load these packages. This gets the trailer backed up. This makes it hard to get all the boxes and such into the trailer they are supposed to go into. Which means these packages have to be handled and re-handled multiple times before they can get loaded and sent on their way.

When the same trailers get hit with volume at roughly the same time each night and there isn’t anyone there to load them, something is wrong. Yet this happens nightly. Once the trailer is backed up and problems are starting to arise, then the supervisors send people in to try and clean up the mess. Like a bunch of firefighters sent in to put out a wildfire. Yet we all know there are prevention strategies to be followed that limit the risk of forest fires along with limiting the damage if one should get sparked.

For example: We have a trailer on our line for packages heading to Canada. This trailer tends to get a lot of volume right off the bat. Yet many times there isn’t even a trailer, let alone someone to load it. So we end up pulling these boxes out of other trailers and getting off to a bad start almost nightly because there is no place to put them or no one to load them or both. This creates the greater possibility of packages ending up in the wrong trailer, being sent to the wrong destination and delaying delivery. Also, the more a package gets handled, the greater the chance of its being damaged. What would you do in this situation? It seems quite obvious to me.

As with many workplaces, what is needed is a proactive mentality to be instilled in the workforce, especially those who are in charge of the operation. What we need is more Smokey Bears and a lot fewer mindless Drew Barrymores.

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