It is time to clean away Taylorism mentality in warehouse production

Knowledge is an extremely important competitive advantage in all kinds of business. However, many companies make the big mistake of concentrating knowledge and competence on a few people at the top of the organization. This is unfortunately very common in organizations within warehouse logistics. For example, companies build up the warehouse in a number of departments and tasks and places staff permanent in a specific department and a specific task, for example picking, packing or goods receiving, then you work there year in, year out. In my opinion this is nothing else than Taylorism. The same philosophy Ford used in the beginning of 20th century, which means specialization of tasks and centralization of knowledge.  Either companies underestimate the staff’s ability to embrace broad knowledge or they overestimate the complexity of each specific task

Many innovations in production and logistics originates on ideas from employees. In order to encourage innovation that benefits the company, the staff must have a holistic perspective on the flow and this you achieve by giving the staff a broad competence regarding warehouse logistics.

If you have staff with broad competence and a holistic perspective at all levels of the organization, you drastically reduce the risk of serious wrong decisions that could damage your company.

Having warehouse staff who have expertise in the entire flow and many tasks in the warehouse is today a necessity if you want a cost-effective and competitive warehouse logistics. That is the meaning of agile and flexible. This is the only way to avoid sub-optimization and overcapacity in expensive man-hours.

If you are going to invest in a WMS and/or an automation solution, it is even more important that the company promote knowledge of the staff. I have seen several examples where you concentrate all knowledge about the systems to a few persons, the risk is big that you get unnecessary operational disturbances and that the staff instead become frustrated and tries to find “workarounds” that they feel is faster or easier. The systems should help you not hinder you. With knowledge and communication, you get an understanding and positive discussions how you could adapt the system for both your company and the staff’s best.

Taylorism is the opposite of Lean, remember that if your company is thinking about a lean implementation.

Below you find links to some articles I have written about sub-optimization and good leadership that promote knowledge.

Roberth Karlsson


  1. Totall agree with you. I have worked for companies where the warehouse works in its own private silo, and doesn’t understand or care about the overall day-to-day operational model. As a warehouse manager I have always encouraged job diversity and cross training, after all if someone is sick or on a break, you don’t want everything grindind to a halt because only they have the necessary head knowledge/skill set to handle a particular issue. keep up your blog, as I thoroughly enjoy your articles. Though I don’t think you could work in Australia on a 40 degree day!

  2. Agree. Staff must have a holistic perspective on the flow regarding warehouse logistics. It will improve the efficiency of work and decision making.

    Nowadays we are required work integrate or synthesize. I always encourage my team to have supply chain perspective , instead of just logistics warehouse perspective. We should look the industry with integrate of purchasing, logistic , warehousing, and financing.

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