Words by Hoe Ziqian
By prioritising the safety and well-being of its workers, electronic goods retailer and wholesaler ET Sound Enterprise has also managed to drive productivity improvements.
ET Sound Enterprise is a retailer and wholesaler specialising in electronic goods such as home and kitchen appliances and audio-visual equipment amongst others. Supply chain is a big part of the daily routine for the workers as they have to handle large volumes of goods, in boxes of all shapes and sizes.
At its warehouse in Kaki Bukit, the workers of ET Sound Enterprise were previously moving the goods manually either by hand or with the help of a trolley. Despite the use of the trolley, the workers still had to unload the goods by hand from the delivery truck before stacking them onto the trolley.
In a bid to speed up their work, the workers would usually attempt to load as many boxes as they could onto the trolley. The increased weight hinders their ability to manoeuvre around the warehouse premises and in some cases even result in the toppling of goods. The goods can weigh up to 10kg per box and during peak hours, each worker may have to shift up to 40 such boxes each day. If left unchecked, the strain and exertion is likely to take its toll on the workers, especially the older members of the team who are not as physically fit as their younger counterparts.
With concerns over work-related injuries and accidents especially for the older workers, ET Sound Enterprise made the decision to partner with NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to re-engineer and improve the work processes for its older workers by leveraging on the WorkPro Job Redesign scheme.
The solution came in the form of an electric reach truck. The reach truck replaces all manual movement of the goods, from the loading and unloading of delivery trucks to the stacking of inventory within the warehouse. With a maximum load of 1,300 kg, the reach truck has the capacity to handle a large volume of goods in a single load. This greatly reduces the stocking time by at least four times and minimises the risk of the older workers straining their backs while handling the products.
The challenges that ET Sound Enterprise face do not end there. Constrained by the existing layout of their warehouse, the workers have no choice but to manually move the goods from the ground floor to the second level via a narrow flight of stairs. With a limited range of movement due to the tight corners, the workers are susceptible to falls as a result of them losing their balance. Furthermore, the stairs can only accommodate one person carrying a single box at any point in time, resulting in the need for multiple trips even for a small load.
After a thorough review, the company decided to install a warehouse goods lift connecting the ground floor and the second level storage area. This has helped to simplify the moving process for the older workers. Instead of being limited to a single box each time, the older workers can now move a significant load of boxes into the lift using the electric reach truck. The same reach truck can then be used to unload the goods on the second level. Despite the simplicity of the solution, the productivity gains have been immense, as ET Sound Enterprise has slashed stocking time by at least five times.
The initiatives implemented by ET Sound Enterprise has proven that productivity and safety need not be mutually exclusive. The simple but effective improvements introduced to the warehouse work processes have helped its older workers manage their daily routine in an easier, safer and smarter manner. The company has also shared the productivity gains with its four older workers through a wage increment.
If you are facing similar challenges in your organisation and would like to leverage on government support to fund your productivity projects, contact e2i for an in-depth discussion.