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Distance makes
the heart grow fonder

By Sam Pym

An interesting aspect of my job is that I manage a distribution centre that’s located 4,000 kilometres from its head office.

I know that my expanded team is always there when I need them, but that hasn’t stopped me from developing, over time, a slightly different approach to management from that of my colleagues. Our realities may be different at times, but so are our clients. Culture, geography, needs: all this diversity has an impact on our environment. But despite this pan-Canadian reality, our clients have to be served with all the attention and rigour they deserve, no matter where they’re located.

Naturally, the different distribution centres make sure that our processes are aligned in order to remain a unified corporate entity, but that doesn’t stop us, as managers, from allowing a certain degree of creativity through the adoption of specific processes, especially where such processes lead to a better alignment with the client. When deciding on what direction to take, we are always guided by our understanding of the client, its needs and its expectations.

Our Calgary distribution centre has over 30 employees.
I like to think of us as a “one-stop shop” for the veterinary profession in Alberta.

The geographical distance of our distribution centre from head office doesn’t prevent me from having close relationships with my colleagues. In fact, technology allows us to stay in close contact. Thanks to a number of communication tools, we’re able to have daily exchanges, to the point that we often nearly forget the physical distance that separates us.

This richness and camaraderie are complemented by a healthy spirit of competition. Let’s be honest: the Calgary distribution centre is the champion when it comes to the quality of orders…even if it’s just by a small margin! My colleagues in the other provinces are always looking for ways to perfect their processes in order to unseat my team from the number-one position that we’ve held for quite some time. You could say that this friendly rivalry adds a bit of spice to our daily life!

It also confirms the fact that improving the level of service is a constant and shared priority for our respective teams. When I was hired 11 years ago, our error rate was one for every 50 lines*. Today, this rate is one for every 2,000 lines. For our clients, it’s reassuring to know that we are 100% focused on ensuring the quality of the orders we ship to them.

A lot of companies are focused on productivity. I’m not saying that productivity isn’t important, but I don’t believe that quality should ever be left out of the equation. By placing the emphasis on quality, we can get the best of two worlds, since by improving quality we also improve our productivity.

It’s the best of both worlds, not only for us, but more importantly for the client.

*In our jargon, one line is equivalent to a serie of the same product picked for shipping.

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