Problem Solving 101

“We’ve got a huge problem! We shipped over 300 orders yesterday, and none of our clients got their shipping notifications.”

“Hurry up and re-boot the shipping work stations, they must be stuck!”

“What, that didn’t work?! Hurry up and re-record the shipments so we can update our customers!”

What seems to be a critical problem can often have a very simple solution.  In the heat of the moment, it’s key that we take a step back and collect our thoughts before jumping into a decision. It’s in the rush of trying to come up with a solution that we end up hurting ourselves and taking more time to solve the problem.

It happens to all of us. We want the quickest solution, but almost of the time, that solution does not actually solve the problem. It’s easy to forget about the basics of problem solving. However, we can find effective solutions by following these 6 easy steps:

  1. Define the problem

  2. Determine the root cause(s) of the problem

  3. Develop alternative solutions

  4. Select a solution

  5. Evaluate the outcome

1) Define the Problem

This step is often missed, yet it’s the most critical step in the process. Skipping this first step often winds up costing us even more time. In the example above, the problem isn’t that we need to get shipping notifications out to our clients as soon as possible. The problem is that our clients did not receive any of the shipping notifications for yesterday’s orders.

2) Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem

Now we need to figure out why the customers didn’t receive shipping notifications.

Here are a few possible causes:

  • The shipping workstation was never closed out
  • The processing stream that the orders ran through was not set up to generate shipping notifications
  • The shipping records did not contain the key identifier that ties them back to the orders that were placed
  • The automatic time to update the shipping records was never set

With several possible causes to the problem, it is extremely important to now examine each possibility.

Let’s take a look at each:

  • We checked with our shipping department and they swear that they closed out the shipping workstation last night
  • We examined the streams that the orders processed through, and they are set up to generate shipping notifications
  • The data from our shipping workstation was reviewed, and it all checks out
  • We checked the automatic time to update the shipping records

Found it! The automatic time to update the shipping records was never set.

3) Develop Alternative Solutions

I can’t believe we missed something that simple and were about to re-process all the shipments! We now need to create a list of alternative solutions. For example:

  • Set the automatic time and wait for tonight’s next post to see if they update
  • Manually push them through within the warehouse

4) Select a Solution

We will set the automatic update time for tonight, but manually push the shipments through that were never updated from last night. This way we can make sure that future shipments don’t have a delay, and we get our clients their much-needed shipping notifications from the night before.

5) Implement the Solution

We manually updated the shipping records with a push of a button and received a successful message that they all posted. We then check on one of the orders to make sure it was updated as Shipped Complete…which brings us to our last step.

6) Evaluate the Outcome

Sure enough, the order is shipped complete! See how easy that was? By taking a step back and covering the 6 steps of problem solving, we were able to come to a clear and efficient answer to our problem.

You can apply these steps to problem solving to any scenario. While problems may be inevitable, following this process can help reach faster, more effective results.

Need help solving your fulfillment problems? Contact a VeraCore fulfillment expert!