Thursday, March 06, 2008

What can brown do for you? Margin of error

Ok now that I introduced you to the main players at UPS during my time, let me share a fun story about my first peak season. Now we were kind of in between building managers at the time. Leroy was still technically our manager, but another guy named Dean was making most of the calls it seemed. Since I was in the sort aisle, it was very important for us to "get down" (finish time) by 7:00 AM. That was pretty tough to do because of our set up and the number of trailers we had to process. Seriously, during peak season the we usually increased another 10 trailers a day...and still had to be done at the same time.

So Dean gives us this speech that he has never had a bad peak season and it wasn't going to be his first. Another funny thing he told us was that we weren't allowed to missed work during peak...even if we were sick. If we were sick we would have to throw up on his shoes before he would let us go home. I didn't realize how funny that sounded until I typed it right now.

Anyway, we weren't getting down on time. So one day Dean actually replaced me and Jordan with some sort sups from another sort. Now Dean thought we didn't know how to do our job, but these guys didn't get down any faster and they blew up the building with missorts. Missorts were a huge problem that never got solved during my 5 years there. Basically a missort is a package that goes to the wrong belt. Load side would put the package back on the return belt back to the sort aisle to be re-sorted (the travel time on the return belt was about 12 minutes). Not bad right? Well missorts would sometimes hit the 1,000's increasing the amount of packages sorted by 10% or more. It wasted time, wasted sorters, and caused havoc on load side.

So the "super" sups lasted one day because they blew up the building. So Jordan and I were back the following day. We started getting down on time or close to it, like 7:10 to 7:15 not great but respectable. Well Dean wasn't happy because the missorts were still a problem.

So Dean was talking to Jordan, Rob C. ,Rob S., Shon, and myself about the problem. Dean was talking about the missorts and what followed was one of the funniest conversations I ever heard. Keep in mind that Dean sounded just like Jim Mora when he gave his famous "playoffs" speech;

Rob C. - "well if they (load side) get 5,000 packages and only a couple hundred missorts that's not bad."

Dean - "not bad? what do you mean not bad? they shouldn't get any."

Rob - "what? you have to expect a margin of error."

Dean - "margin of error?!?! margin of error?!?!? what do you mean margin of error? There is no such thing."

Rob - "yeah there is...everything has a margin of error."

Dean - "margin of error?!?!? Shon what is he talking about?"

That was pretty much the conversation, Rob was convinced that sorters couldn't be perfect and he was right. But the "margin of error" we had going on was way too high. The way Dean asked Shon about Rob, was kinda like "get this fool away from me". I kinda learned, but obviously not enough, that part-time sups opinions weren't worth much.

We would joke about the margin of error for a long fact every now and then when missorts were brought up we would recreate the famous "margin of error" speech.

I think this is one of the reasons the entire back side was "re-deployed" after this peak season.

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