A retailer transforms their backroom operations from paper-based to digital to drive increased productivity and reduce labor spend.

The Challenge

A labor intensive, paper-based, back-room operation causes process inefficiencies

Running effective store operations in a discount retail store requires highly efficient backroom processes as this area commonly serves as the heart of the store. With thousands of products circulating through it each day, any glitches or inefficiencies can cause issues on the sales floor, ultimately leading to a negative impact on customer experience and sales. With a growing number of discount retail stores for consumers to choose from, the competition to differentiate is fierce. 

This domestic discount retailer was experiencing productivity issues and needed to streamline their backroom reporting. The current reporting process required associates to spend excess time running and printing various reports, leading to a surplus in paper documents, which decreased productivity and made long-term tracking very difficult. The need to accelerate this process and increase accuracy, paired with an organization-wide goal of going paperless, pushed the retailer to implement a mobile reporting application. The app centralized all backroom data enabling associates to access and update information on-the-go and quickly produce reports at the tap of a button. However, the technology alone did not shift backroom operations to peak optimization. A general operational processes review was required to understand how the new app was being integrated into the backroom operations in order to identify opportunities for further improvement.

The Solution 

Quantitative and qualitative assessments pinpoint areas to improve upon

West Monroe assessed the current state of the retailer’s backroom operations by shadowing associates as they completed their daily tasks, paying close attention to the time spent engaged with the app and the role it played in completing tasks. The team also gathered insight via real-time interviews with the associates. These observations and interviews enabled West Monroe to quantify and qualify the process efficiencies and gaps resulting from the current operational process and the new app.

The process data was analyzed and compared against industry best practices to identify task redundancy, process inefficiency, and potential steps to eliminate. For example, only one associate had the proper training or authority to sign off on certain documentation, such as approving a received trailer, changing order quantities, or quality control. Additionally, claims and inventory reports would be processed when the necessary information was already available in their system. These process inefficiencies and redundancies were inflating the backroom staffing numbers. On the technology side, the team noted that the new app helped reduce clicks in the claims process, eliminated paper checklists and printing, and required less associate movement around the backroom.
 
To alleviate the pressure of only having one associate able to sign off on documentation, West Monroe suggested a cross-training program to upskill additional team members on the documentation signing process. Also, any report or process that was touched multiple times or included redundant information was flagged and redesigned or eliminated from the associate tasks. Imperative tasks were standardized and documented so the team had a clear understanding of how to prioritize their time. To address the overstaffing issues, West Monroe quantified these new tasks, using Engineered Labor Standards (ELS) to effectively model a new back room labor demand.

The Impact 

The intersection of process improvements and technology creates opportunity for optimization

By maintaining optimal staffing levels, upskilling employees to share in the workload, prioritizing imperative tasks, and leveraging the app, the backroom team was able to reduce their labor spend by 40%.

This transition facilitated more efficient operations, improved scheduling flexibility, provided a more consistent customer experience, and drove revenue —all while making strides toward the company’s long-term operational goal of going paperless.

 
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