Different businesses have different ways to measure productivity. A manufacturing business may look at the number of items produced an hour. A repair firm can count the number of calls completed each day. In shipping and receiving, accuracy -- whether the customer received the project he ordered -- is just as important a benchmark as speed.
Choosing a Metric
To start measuring productivity, you choose benchmarks. With shipping, for instance, you might ask how often your company delivers the product to the customer on time, with no damage and all necessary paperwork. For receiving, you might ask how fast items get unpacked and how often they're stored in the right location. Other metrics might be the time spent unpacking shipments or the error rate in which vendors ship you the wrong goods.
Once you settle on a benchmark, you need to collect data. In the 21st century, software can help track inventory, list shipments and identify where items are stored. If customer satisfaction is part of your metric, you'll also need to monitor customer complaints over late or defective shipments. Periodically you may want to make a physical inventory and confirm that the figures are accurate, as theft or mistakes may have introduced errors.
Once you have data on your benchmarks, you can start measuring productivity. Using the information you've gathered, you can identify which employees perform particularly well or whether one shipping/receiving facility meets the benchmarks more cost-efficiently than another. If your receiving crew members are extremely fast in getting items shelved but show a high rate of error, they may be less productive than a different shift that shelves slower but doesn't make mistakes.
You can compare the results of your analysis to the industry standard to decide if shipping and receiving need improvement. If they do, there are different tactics you can try. You can increase staffing to speed things up or possibly trim staff down. You can offer employee incentives and see if that improves the accuracy and speed with which workers handle received shipments. The exact approach depends on the problems you think need fixing.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.