More than a good news story

Wal­lara Lo­gis­tics sup­ports em­ploy­ees of all abil­i­ties and the re­sults are re­ward­ing

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS RICKY FRENCH

We visit the Mel­bourne fa­cil­ity of Wal­lara Lo­gis­tics to nd out more about how the busi­ness op­er­ates

It’s a sunny, late win­ter’s day when ATN vis­its Wal­lara Lo­gis­tics in Mel­bourne’s south- eastern sub­urb of Keys­bor­ough. But the sun is also shin­ing in­side the ware­house for a unique group of work­ers who are get­ting more out of their em­ploy­ment than just a pay cheque at the end of the week.

Wal­lara Lo­gis­tics is an arm of Wal­lara, a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion set up in 1959 that now pro­vides mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment to peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

But don’t jump to con­clu­sions. Gen­eral man­ager Garry Baker is quick to point out he doesn’t want peo­ple to get the wrong idea about what the or­gan­i­sa­tion is about. While it might be all heart, their real heart lies in pro­vid­ing a top-qual­ity, mea­sure­able 3PL ser­vice.

“We’re not stand­ing out front hold­ing a ‘Please help us’ sign. We mar­ket our­selves as a com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion,” he says.

The 3PL side of the or­gan­i­sa­tion is rel­a­tively new, be­gin­ning at a mi­cro level in 2010. But its growth has been fast. The ware­house space now cov­ers more than 8000 square me­tres. Busi­ness has grown more than 400 per cent in six years, and boasts some en­vi­able con­tracts.

Baker puts this down to at­ten­tion to de­tail, a hands-on ap­proach and a clear un­der­stand­ing that KPIs and cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­ni­als win con­tracts, not ap­peals to char­ity.

“We sell on com­mer­cial grounds,” he says. “There’s not one cus­tomer who has come to us be­cause of so­cial or cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity. Our nice back­story is sec­ond.”

ALL-ROUND SUP­PORT

“We used to be re­ferred to in the dim, dark ages as a shel­tered work­shop,” Baker says.

The new busi­ness model re­volves around

peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties en­gag­ing with the work­force and the com­mu­nity to make them equal with any­one else in the com­mu­nity.

“That means do­ing a mean­ing­ful job and feel­ing part of the com­mu­nity. That builds their self-es­teem.”

The work­ers with dis­abil­i­ties are called “sup­ported work­ers”. The or­gan­i­sa­tion also em­ploys full-award staff to su­per­vise and do qual­ity-con­trol check­ing.

“We don’t call it ‘ dis­abil­i­ties’ here. We call it ‘ dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties’.” Op­er­a­tions man­ager Si­mon O’Brien chimes in: “Or ‘ dif­fa­bil­i­ties’.”

It’s not just a feel-good phrase, ei­ther. If you know how to har­ness it right, ‘dif­fa­bil­i­ties’ of­ten give a bet­ter re­sult.

The lo­gis­tics arm of Wal­lara is di­vided into assem­bly and pack­ag­ing in one ware­house, and 3PL warehousing in the other two. The sup­ported work­ers in assem­bly and pack­ag­ing run a pro­duc­tion line of pack­ing, la­belling, glu­ing and mak­ing up re­tail prod­ucts for a di­verse range of cus­tomers. While it might be con­sid­ered repet­i­tive and te­dious for some, it’s work that suits the skill set of the sup­ported work­ers, Baker says.

The sup­ported work­ers demon­strate a high de­gree of ac­cu­racy and ap­ti­tude for the tasks, ow­ing largely to their un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion to fol­low­ing in­struc­tions.

“Peo­ple with dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties tend to lis­ten to what you say,” ex­plains Baker. They don’t try to cheat the sys­tem or try to find a short­cut. Once you give them a process, they stick to that process.”

This re­sults in high ac­cu­racy when it comes to warehousing, ac­cord­ing to Baker. It’s a mat­ter of psy­che. Whereas to save time you or I might scan one box eight times when pick­ing eight boxes of the same item, a sup­ported worker will al­ways scan ev­ery box in­di­vid­u­ally. Ev­ery­thing is an in­di­vid­ual pick.

“It takes longer but it’s more ac­cu­rate,” Baker says. “Our cus­tomers love our ac­cu­racy.”

Su­per­vi­sors also do a quan­tity check on a scan-pick be­fore it’s packed, with ev­ery­thing hav­ing a se­condary check.

“We know it’s been picked 100 per cent be­cause of our process. There are SOPs for ev­ery­thing we do.”

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

Baker’s pre­de­ces­sor and the pre­vi­ous CEO signed a 10-year lease on the Keys­bor­ough build­ing in 2010, then left the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Baker stepped in, ef­fec­tively in­her­it­ing a decade-long lease and no busi­ness.

“We were lucky to get our first cus­tomer,” says Baker, which was the col­lectable toy Beanie Kids. “And in 18 months we’d out­grown our fac­tory, so we leased a sec­ond build­ing next door.”

Over the next two years Wal­lara mar­keted heav­ily and won more cus­tomers, fill­ing its 3500-square-me­tre space. The big Mary Kay con­tract came in 2014, and they’re cur­rently go­ing through a con­tract re­newal.

WIN-WIN PHI­LOS­O­PHY

One of the chal­lenges any 3PL lo­gis­tics or­gan­i­sa­tion faces is con­vinc­ing po­ten­tial cus­tomers to use a 3PL in the third place.

Wal­lara mar­kets its pitch as, “We love do­ing the jobs you don’t.”

This is par­tic­u­larly true for the assem­bly and pack­ag­ing side of the busi­ness. As men­tioned, one of Wal­lara’s ma­jor clients is Mary Kay Cos­met­ics. Out on the assem­bly floor, raw cos­metic prod­ucts ar­rive and are read­ied for assem­bly into re­tail packs. Ta­bles are set up in a com­mu­nal area and the sup­ported are each as­signed a task.

Above: Sup­ported work­ers in the pack­ag­ing and assem­bly ware­house

Top: Wal­lara’s Lo­gis­tic’s 10-tonne Fuso taut­liner Op­po­site: Wal­lara Lo­gis­tics gen­eral man­ager Garry Baker

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