Streamlining For Survival — The Port Of Los Angeles' Blueprint For Success
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission has released the findings of a report, written by Booz-Allen & Hamilton, on the Port of Los Angeles, and how it can be developed in the 1990s to improve its competitiveness and ensure its success as a critical resource in the lives of its residents.
The Port of Los Angeles is the leading containerport in the U.S., with billions of dollars worth of merchandise moving through the port yearly. Port-related activities account for $21 billion in industry sales, $5 billion in wages and salaries and $725 million in tax revenues each year. Booz-Allen & Hamilton's report found ways to contain costs, increase efficiency and provide greater value to customers, while maintaining the Port of LA as a strong, stable organization.
The Harbor Commission has moved aggressively to initiate development projects, fueled by competition from neighboring ports such as Long Beach, whose 60 percent smaller staff currently outproduces the Port of LA staff by 50-213 percent per employee. The Pier 300/ 400 Implementation Program, which includes the largest dredging project in U.S. history, is currently underway at the Port of LA.
The necessary railroad rights of way have been acquired to begin construction of the Alameda Corridor, a road and rail improvement program linking the port to rail facilities in downtown Los Angeles. The Board of Harbor Commissioners has also initiated a Futures Commercial Task Force to explore ways to begin development of commercial projects in local port communities. The Booz-Allen & Hamilton's report found that the Harbor Department is involved in numerous activities that support core maritime activities, but do not directly increase overall port productivity. The organization needs to place greater emphasis on customer service.
Another suggestion made by the report is to use part-time staff for non-emergency, non-core services to improve customer responsiveness and efficiency. The report also found that application of automation and technology would increase efficiency in the Harbor Department. Many of the Port of LA's construction activities, such as the Pier 300/400 Implementation Program, are not in need of the large management and engineering staffs that are currently in place. Although inefficiencies in port operations could be solved by downscaling employment rates, Booz-Allen & Hamilton's report did not suggest lay-offs, but employee attrition and retirement incentives. In the interest of streamlining operations, a vital recommendation made by the report was the need for change in the structural relationship between the City of Los Angeles and the Port. Some city-required procedures are costly and inefficient, and de-linking the port from the city could improve things. Leland Wong, chair of the Strategic Planning Task Force, and chairperson of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, responded positively to this recommendation, stating, "Because we are part of a somewhat antiquated government structure dating back to 1925, procedures are mandated which are costly and inefficient. Our employees are forced to spend far too much time on paperwork and are not able to spend enough time working with and assisting customers.
We must pursue City Charter reform to eliminate barriers to the Port's productivity and competitiveness." Approved on February 8,1995 by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, a Organizational Change Management Plan went into action, initiating a five phase project that will put recommendations of the Booz-Allen & Hamilton report into effect. According to Mr. Wong, implementation of the Booz-Allen & Hamilton report recommendations could result in a $10 million annual saving to the Port, funds that could be used to implement Mayor Richard Riordan's election promises of enhanced public safety, increased economic development, and modernizationof the city government of Los Angeles.