A couple of days ago, raplano asked in a comment to a recent post

Hey Walt, what is the current minimum acceptable APH to keep your job at RGIS? What APH do you have to reach to be “promoted” to Specialist?

1040 APH to reach Top Gun, right?

There are no simple answers to these questions. Every store has its own aph standards. Financial inventories tend require higher aph levels. To count at a top gun (the highest ranking) at a Houchens Save a Lot, you need to count at least 14300 pieces an hour based on the last aph list I received. On the other hand, in an upc scan clothing store the aph minimum for a top gun could be as low as 618 pieces an hour for the Bebe clothing chain. It is important to remember that aph levels are determined not by the difficulty of the inventory but rather by the amount of money that RGIS charges its customer. The higher the rate the lower the aph required.

If you want to be a specific ranking, you should ask the store supervisor at each and every inventory to tell you the aph minimums for each ranking.

I reckon that I should explain the ASET ratings just in case some punter that doesn’t work for RGIS has blundered into reading this.

A – Auditor: The lowest ranking. New hires are auditors and get the starting wage.
S – Specialist: The next step up. They earn 50 cents more than auditors in our district.
E – Expert: The next step up. They earn $1 more than specialists.
T – Top Gun: The best ranking. They earn $1.75 more than the expert.

I consider specialists and experts to be the backbone of the company. We do the shit work so that the top guns can count the easy stuff to keep their aph levels high. RGIS has the “protect the five” policy that ensures that the top 5 counters in an inventory get to cherry pick to keep up their top gun standing. In reality, this policy should be called “protect the five and fuck everyone else.”

By its very nature the ASET program is an unfair caste system that rewards the few and fucks over the many. Specialists and experts are the backbone of RGIS. Without them, the top guns would not be able to be top guns.

Every inventory counter has strengths and weaknesses. Some are better that scanning inventories. Others are better that financial inventories. There are a few who are good at both. Because of this, schedules can be manipulated by the managers to reward or punish. Scheduling someone for inventories that they do not excel at almost guarantees that they will lose their current ranking. Of course, the reverse is true as well. Scheduling someone for inventories that they are good at can lead to a higher ranking.

One of the most unfair things about the ASET program is that it judged on a quarterly basis. And within that quarter you are judged at 6 week intervals. Only the current quarter matters. It doesn’t matter how well you did for the previous quarters. In a very real sense, we are only as good as our last inventory.

I think the ASET program is both corrupt and bogus.

5 Responses to APH and ASET

  1. FYI, a good Top Gun holds there standing buy pulling high APHs not just because of placement, but because of the speed they move (physically), their skills counting quantities in large numbers (visual and mental acuity), their high level of accuracy, and their knowledge of inventory practices; which allows them to work independently (prowlers/unofficial flow leads/sweepers/unattended stockroom counters).

    I haven’t learned much about counting since my first year. But in the following 6 years as a Top Gun I’ve never seen anyone maintain a Top Gun position over the long haul without possessing the will to push themselves physically and mentally at 9 out of 10 inventories.

    And sure a lot of what they do becomes so instinctive that they don’t actually have to pay attention all the time, but there are also many occasions–especially when it’s busy–that their hard work and focus carries several new employees lack of skill and therefore acceptable APH.

    It’s hard work! And it’s worth noting that while proper placement helps a TG use their skills and maintain their momentum, I cant stress enough how big an impact having to sit and dig through a bin of Auto-Scan items that have to be manual overridden can kill the momentum of a TG who’s pulling 6000+ counting multiples at a K-Mart. If you want them to do it cause they key fast, and are accurate, save it for last!

    And yes, some get to TG and stay at TG for some time just because they are favored by supervisors… but they all fail eventually if they don’t poses the skills and attitude necessary to stand on their own.

    A lot of supervisors probably push them into the position because they either need someone to fill it, or they hope those people will manage to gain whats necessary to stay there. Unfortunately babied TGs generally don’t get the training or direction they need to reach that self sustaining state of existence.

    Likewise, a good TG also knows why they are in that position and why long term Specialists and Experts are in their position and they respect them and appreciate the hard work that they do. Ones productivity is not the only measure of a man, so to speak.

    • Walt Not Walt says:

      I started with RGIS in 1993 when Top Guns were Top Guns in a very different way than they are today. And, fwiw, I was a Top Gun in the 1990s (never went to Hawaii though) and then again in 2000s til the APH system was implemented. I still count at Top Gun aphs in financial inventories. I’m more of an expert in scanning inventories. I reckon I am a dinosaur.

      I can’t really disagree with you about anything you say. There are some Top Guns in my district that I am in awe of their counting abilities. And others, I think to myself, there but for fortune go I.

      My argument isn’t with the idea that some people have the physical and mental ability to count faster than others. My agrument is with the idea that the only measure of an employee’s worth is their aph rating.

      RGIS has the slogan “Accuracy is our primary concern.” Maybe things are different in your district. When was the last time anyone that you know got an award for being the most accurate inventory counter? Hell, do they even have that award in your district? They don’t in mine.

      ’nuff said.

      • FYI, I didn’t notice your timely response till just now, or I would have added:

        I started in NM, but worked mostly in the Seattle, WA area till 2011, where–last I knew–they still had raises (up to the recession cap), and bonuses for Prowlers and Super Prowlers in the appropriate stores.

        If I recall correctly, the trips for Top Top Guns was retired nationally not long after the company was bought by Blackstone. But they may have used the recession as an excuse for that too… not sure exactly, wasn’t concerned with it at the time.

        The Sweeper role has been retired outright (so no bonus there), but it’s still a good practice for Flow Leaders and/or others in special circumstances: for long dreadful sides in Lowes/Home Depot, or for newer employees, et cetera. Some people slow down when they get bogged down in massive areas, or when they get frustrated–which affects the overall APH. And a sweeper can be used to resolve that problem.

        Also,In mid-late 2011 I took a few months off, traveled, and started at a new district, in a new state, in a new division. Here there are no raises, each asset has a set wage. And there are no bonuses beyond Supervisors, Control Desk Operators, or Flow leaders.

        The Prowler adder role is still available in the systems for various stores, but they don’t train or utilise Prowlers here, and thusly they struggle to reach the base overall APH for virtually every store (I don’t know of one they don’t struggle in).

        It has also taken the management here almost two years to learn that I’m a skilled Super Prowler, and not just a Top Gun; though my skills are still severely underutilized at most inventories (and I get no bonus either way). Instead I’ve suffered through regularly watching unskilled and undriven ‘sometimes’ Top Guns (or others: new hires, specialist…) being carried by Management and Team Leaders via their choice to place them in the areas with the highest productivity potential; despite those peoples tendencies to only just barely, though not always, hit the base minimum to maintain their ASET status.

        Which of course makes perfect sense, because without the Prowler bonus, and raises, they make more money maintaining that minimum and working longer hours than pushing to maximize their own and the overall APH.

        Of course that’s not to dissimilar from the gambling modeled overall bonus system. In most districts, simply working slower, but at your minimum, will add 30 minutes more to any given inventory, and will increase your profits to an equal or greater amount than would the bonus you would have received had you and the team pushed as hard as possible and maximized the overall APH.

        The math only really starts to benefit the team when the store is going to last at least ~6 hours, even while pushing as hard as possible, and the team can reach the second or third benefit tier. For those who don’t know: If staffed properly few inventories last over 6 hours, especially if everyone is doing their jobs well.

        But then even if you do that you can lose all that in that one K-mart you go assist another district with 8 days later, where everyone crawls, the store takes 11+ hours, and your bonus dives far into the negative; despite all your hard work, and your own ability to maintain a decent APH at all the events you yourself attend.

        I understand your complaints as well, Walt. Did you ever find another job? I’ve been keeping my eye out for one for about a year, but I haven’t come across anything that speaks to my interest… I really like being a Prowler, you could say I’m a bit addicted to it even (I play hard too). It seems finding another job I can remain interested in for more than a year is going to be difficult.

        ~sorry if this is too wordy a comment for ya, I’m a talker~

      • in my previous post, when I wrote about team members adding 30min to an inventory by intentionally counting near but above their minimum, I meant as a team… it’s not likely a single person counting at their minimum can add 30min to an inventory (unless maybe they’re normally much faster and in a long inventory), I shoulda been more clear there… but then I live in a conceptual world, so I rarely speak in absolutes…. ~coughs, chokes, dies~

  2. Also, DMs can override promotions or demotions caused by the ASET system. Last I checked anyway.

    Some Op Managers may not let their DMs do this however. Some Ops seem to think of our work place in accordance with their own small minded existence. If competition and punitive measure were what they perceived as the strongest attributors to their success, why not use those for the staff of the districts they manage, right?

    Poor management skills, in a nutshell. Science has made it rather clear to those that look, education and recognition of hard work are ultimately what lead individuals, and therefore teams, to success.

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