Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Pieter Theunissen

Change is a package deal when delivering parcels

Change is part and parcel of the courier industry, and no one knows better than Pieter Theunissen that a change in one cog of the wheel brings change in all the others too.  He saw that first-hand when RAM Hand-to-Hand Couriers switched from manual to automated processes in its parcel-handling warehouses.

“We went from a 15-step process to a nine-step process, and everything worked fine in the warehouse but we suddenly had a large increase in the number of parcels coming back undelivered,” says Theunissen, RAM’s National Distribution Centre Manager. “It was clear that the new process was having an impact on Customer Services’ ability to cope with all the parcels coming through for delivery.”

That was about three years ago, about the same time as he enrolled for his BCom studies through The Da Vinci Institute. The sudden increase in the parcel non-delivery rate made the impact of change on customer services the natural choice for the topic of Theunissen’s work-based challenge.

He started off with some research on parcel distribution and delivery rates, and then tapped into the satisfaction levels of customers, using the company’s customer satisfaction survey results. He then introduced an employee satisfaction survey to gauge employees’ feelings and attitudes towards RAM’s parcel-handling processes.

Unblocking the bottlenecks

It quickly became apparent that a lack of teamwork was one of the biggest reasons for the parcel bottlenecks; another was the need for better coordination of deliveries between customer services and customers.

“I worked with the Customer Services Manager and we changed the whole process. We introduced scanners so that we can see in real time exactly where each vehicle is and when the customer has signed for a parcel. Customer Services also started making appointments for deliveries.”

Back in the warehouse, another innovation was the introduction of cross-functional teams of 12 to 16 people. “Each team consisted of operations people, customer services, drivers and finances, and each team had their own delivery targets and incentives,” Theunissen says.

This worked so well that before long, productivity was up and the non-delivery rate was down. “Three years ago, a team of 16 was handling 8 000 parcels a day. They can now push 22 500 boxes a day, and the delivery rate is high.”

Employee satisfaction was also up, as measured by the six-monthly employee satisfaction that RAM has regularly conducted since he took the initiative with the first one.

His work-placed challenge has had a definite influence on these improvements, and the company’s chief executive officer has invited him to keep on suggesting changes for still more improvements.

“For me, the exposure to senior management was one of the biggest benefits of my work-based challenge,” says Theunissen, whose BCom graduation was in September 2017. “We have developed a relationship and as a result, I can now go to management and tell them what I would like to do to help make this an even better business, and I know they’ll listen.”