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News | March 20, 2017

DLA Distribution Korea launches UCARE program

By Dr. David Harris, Deputy Commander DLA Distribution Public Affairs

UCARE is an innovative new warehouse quality initiative recently launched at DLA Distribution Korea. Initially met with some skepticism, the program has quickly gained praise from warehouse workers and supervisors alike.  In a nutshell, the program assigns responsibility for specific aisles to specific workers.  Upon appointment as an aisle manager, a warehouseman assumes full responsibility for the care and condition of the materiel, racks and housekeeping within that aisle.  Aisle managers are responsible for re-warehousing when the density of locations does not meet standards, and ensuring a clean and neat appearance, or Dress Right Dress, as it is more commonly known.  Every warehouse aisle at DLA Distribution Korea now has an assigned, easily identifiable aisle manager.

Ownership is really at the heart of the program.  At the head of every aisle is a data plate with the aisle manager’s name and photo.  However, just identifying “ownership” is only the beginning. Below the aisle manager’s data plate is a stack of blank UCARE cards that allows anyone passing through the area to fill out and comment on any condition or issue of concern they may have observed within the aisle.  The aisle manager routinely checks the box for any comment cards so he or she can take care of the location and condition commented on. 

At the end of day, UCARE cards are submitted to supervisors with annotations of actions taken to remedy any issues or concerns, or to highlight actions that may require higher levels of review; such as facility, equipment or safety reviews.  Tae Chol Kim, a newly hired warehouseman and aisle manager of A02 Bins recently pointed out “It’s an opportunity to shift my point of view. As a new warehouse worker, my focus was solely to do the picks correctly, and I was not so concerned with how the locations looked.  It takes my time to go check UCARE cards, but I do feel more responsible now because my photo and name is up there. I want my aisles to look tidy and neat.”

Prior to the UCARE Program, senior managers emphasized the importance of keeping the warehouse organized, and fully expected workers to clean up after themselves.  In reality, when responsibility is not specifically defined or assigned everyone’s responsibility turns into nobody’s responsibility.  The employees tend to be more focused on production goals, and at times, can be overwhelmed with the volume of daily picks and stows.  After implementing UCARE, those same employees now take pride as assigned aisle managers.  They truly “own” those aisles.  Now, in addition to the picks and stows, they ensure the aisle with their names and photos are maintained in every regard, and kept up to par.  

Warehouse operations are a core Distribution function in every Distribution Center across the globe, and this program may be useful to those centers as well.  One unexpected benefit of the UCARE program was the increased communication and engagement among the entire warehouse team.  Section and branch leaders, quality assurance evaluators and members of the Continuous Process Improvement Team routinely meet with aisle managers to review and discuss issues raised on the comment cards in the UCARE program. This communication and collaboration process helps to reduce barriers between the warehouse workers and the office workers. Now it is our warehouse, and it will be our beautiful warehouse in the near future, as we press forward with the UCARE Program.

Mr. Edward Keener, warehouse lead materiel handler, succinctly summarized the great benefits of the UCARE program when he recently commented, “the UCARE program is a very beneficial program for both sides. Not only for the workers, but also for the supervisors, because it helps supervisors maintain accountability for every area. We know exactly who to talk to when something goes wrong, and the workers have a much greater sense of ownership in the distribution center. It gives them a greater sense of pride when things are done right.”