Dedicated to deliver

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:00am

Tau Kung-yee is depot manager for TNT Express Worldwide (HK)

AS DEPOT MANAGER, I'm responsible for all the ground operations in Hong Kong. That involves managing a team of about 170 people, including warehouse staff, team leaders, supervisors and drivers. There are two depots, in Kowloon Bay and Kwai Fong, and one recently opened warehouse in Tsuen Wan. The depots are mainly for the express and courier services, while we use the warehouse for longer-term storage and value-added services like bar coding.

During the week I split my time between the locations and always start the day by doing a random spot check. It might be of driver routes, to see that data about an individual consignment has been scanned into the system or to make sure staff are in on time.

We handle an average of 6,000 inbound and outbound consignments a day and cannot afford to make mistakes. That means every part of the operation has to be monitored constantly and the whole team must be very time-sensitive.

Once a customer booking is confirmed for a pickup, the dispatcher will assign a driver and send order details to their wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs). Each driver has a defined area to cover and these are periodically reviewed to even out workloads. They are sent the customer's name, address, the origin and destination of the consignment, and the time to call. They will already have details about deliveries before they leave the depot and are expected to co-ordinate all assigned calls in their areas in the most efficient way.

Data from the PDAs can be analysed, and this is one of the sources I use to see what's going on.

In particular, I look for 'undeliverables' and the reason for them - wrong address, no one home, or company closed. I also keep an eye out for abnormal situations and regularly remind staff about proper contingency planning. They have all been trained to know what to do and to make judgments.

Back in the depot, outbound consignments are checked in, sorted, labelled and bagged for different flights. We have three shuttles a day from each depot to the TNT hub at the airport. The last one usually goes around 8.30pm to catch the late departures. Each change of status is updated in the system so that we can check exact locations, and so can the customers.

Every day is busy and it is impossible to leave early. After six years, I still find the work interesting and challenging. Of course there are problems in handling a large team and a fast-paced operation, but the company is 'people-focused' and puts a lot of emphasis on training in the necessary skills.