The making of a UPS driver
I always enjoy reading about UPS, with their roots and background of strong Industrial Engineering. Not Lean, per se, but a strong focus on finding the best way to do things. This article from FORTUNE gives some good insight into that approach. The focus of the article is on changes UPS is making to make their training more relevant and effective for younger employees, but it seems like a good approach and maybe somewhat reminiscent of the Training Within Industry approach to training and employee development.
UPS is known for specifying small details, such as avoiding left turns (which are slower and cause delays). I actually saw my neighborhood UPS driver waiting to make a left turn Friday in our area, so they can’t manage to avoid it 100%. Granted, it wasn’t a left turn onto a real major street, but he did have to wait for another car, namely me.
So, back to the FORTUNE article. The author watched the driver demonstrate and explain their standardized work, including:
At 9:08, he demonstrated “three points of contact” – UPS for stepping off the truck – with a hand holding the handrail, one foot on the package-car step, and one foot on the ground below, to minimize impact on the ankles.
Here’s a great example of “explaining why.” That’s the best method for exiting a vehicle because it reduces wear and tear on the body, not because some manager said you have to do it that way. They have training that simulates and tests to see if employees are learning that proper method. The training is hands-on and participatory, instead of being lecture based. Did anyone, of any generation, ever learn effectively from lectures and procedure manuals?
Down the line, another package car is equipped with force sensors in its handrail, in its bottom step, and on a large plate on the ground below. In a job as physical as a UPS driver’s is – he must be able to “continuously lift and lower packages that range up to 70 pounds each … while ‘unloading’ at a rate of 800 to 1,300 packages per hour and while ‘loading’ at a rate of 500 to 800 packages per hour,” says a casual list of essential job functions – one of the most difficult things to teach young Supermen is how frail their bodies really are. Grow lax with your three points of contact and you can be sure you’ll be growing old – with a hobble and a cane – before your time. And what better way to show that than with a computer-generated force diagram? Students take a few hops off the truck with and without the handrail, and immediately, they can see a representation of the impact on their bodies.
Generation Y is called “Generation Why?” as if it’s a negative. In the Toyota Production System, we want people to ask why and to challenge things. Managers and leaders have a responsibility to explain why — that’s a major component of the respect for people principle. Questioning things is only considered bad in a very traditional, top-down organization.
Because the young people they’re trying to train aren’t just Generation Y, they’re Generation Why? – a tribe of disbelievers who’ve learned to question absolutely everything. And they need the obstacle course of Integrad not because they won’t take notes in a lecture but because without these demonstrations they may not believe a word of what they hear.
Anyway, lots of interesting stuff there.