Why creating more value for customers remains at the Heart of the Spatial Global philosophy.

Mike Wallis explains ‘Lean Processes’ - his experience in starting in Logistics in the 1980’s and the common sense practices still used today.


Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

In the early 1980’s we had not heard of lean, but I had swathes of evidence in front of me of the inefficiency in the logistics market. I also had the benefit of being new to the sector, (albeit having worked in my first warehouse at the age of 12), just completed a law degree, where the answer is concise, but the research is deep, a lot of working class common sense and willingness to challenge authority.


Now for the evidence that engaged me in a crusade of change and empowerment:

  • A set of operating procedures with inbuilt inefficiency and no mention of activity or resource planning.
  • A supervision team more engaged with basic procedures than hands on, in the detail of the operation looking for improvements.
  • Total lack of detailed volume or resource planning, based on the belief that every day was different and could not be forecasted.


As a new Deputy Manager I started to create my own principles

On moving to a newly opening depot as Deputy Manager I set it up very differently to produce some operating principles I still use today.

  1. Ignore or change bad instructions, experiment and improve; Don’t ask head office!
  2. Segregate processes for clearly different product / order types: Inverse Synergy.
  3. Use the product and order characteristics to gain efficiency: Lowest Common Denominator.
    1. You will know LCD from Maths at school. In logistics operations it works like this: Each number represents a level of efficiency; 2,4,8,16,32,64 of which 2 is the LCD and 64 represents the best efficiency, say a full pallet pick or a full truck of one sku.
    2. You have to deal with the 2, every customer has a single unit pick for a single customer, low volume, high fixed time and administration. They will be the majority of transactions but in total small volume.
    3. The key issue here is that this “2” process becomes the base process; in the Manual, IT aligned to it.
    4. In effect we slow down the more efficient orders to that of the LCD.
    5. The job is to identify the 4, 8, 16 etc process and intervene with some form of fast track process, or more suitable handling method. Increasing the overall productivity rate.
  4. In order to extract these efficiency benefits and identify “lean” processes you need a culture of Active Management, taking short-term and long-term decisions;
    1. That is on the floor; in the details, with the hands-on team, in the analysis of data.
    2. At my new depot there was no office for warehouse supervisors to retreat to, 8 hours on the floor, eyes open, engaged, questioning what they saw.
  5. Set yourself up to succeed in this and not revert to the “2” process and its inefficiency, Plan the volume and resource
    1. Our customers activity has a pattern, it repeats and is largely predictable;
    2. Make your own plan, dummy volumes, resources to match and have tools to adjust as it happens live.


Mike Wallis LLB, FCILT Executive Chairman
Spatial Global Limited


Mike Wallis is Executive Chairman of Spatial Global and has been a Main Board Director of parent company The Keswick Enterprises Group since 2005.  He is also Partner in Graphene Partners and Director of Tibbett Logistics – both Keswick Enterprises companies.

Mike has worked in freight forwarding, contract logistics, warehousing and transport the majority of his career. Clients have included some of the world’s most interesting companies, including Walmart, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Unilever, Woolworth’s South Africa, Coles Myers Australia, B&Q and Whitbread. His roles at Tibbett & Britten included Retail Director UK, Development Director South Africa, and Global Retail Strategy Director.

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