Monday, July 27, 2015

Will less health and safety regulation mean a more economic or a more dangerous British supply chain?

I was at the SEMA seminar this June (which is pretty much like Glastonbury for anybody in the construction, manufacturing, or warehousing industry) and there were a few things I noticed. Aside from all the in depth stuff about changes in health and safety codes, there was an emphasis on SEMA strengthening their relationship with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). SEMA want to turn their Codes of Practice into law and they claimed that HSE will help them do this. This is great news for SEMA (of course), yet the whole thing is actually part of a much bigger story.

In a government report, HSE says they have reduced regulations and “red tape” by 84% and have done this “without compromising or diluting health and safety protections for workers”. Now I’m sure the “Health and Safety Gone Mad!” crowd will claim that this is a victory for common sense. And, at first glance, it seems like they may be right. 72% of people surveyed in the report said that they struggle to keep on top of changes to health and safety law, and 64% of people said they weren’t sure which ones applied to them. Surely then, less of this sort of confusion is a good thing? Businesses can now spend more time doing what they do, thus speeding up the British supply chain.

And it’s not just opinion that is on the side of Tory policy, as economists claim that the British manufacturing is on the rise. Growth of British manufacturing that was picking up speed at the start of this year is set to continue. This, added to Cameron’s creation of two million new jobs since he came to power (the so-called “jobs miracle”), seems to suggest that the conservative attitude towards health and safety is helping the British supply chain. Rather than wrapping workers in cotton wool, they’ve let them get on with it and, as result, production has increased, right?

Sure, that’s one way of looking at things. Another way of looking at it is that businesses are being put in danger by an increasingly hands-off approach to health and safety. During the 15 years before the current government came to power, fatalities at work were decreasing. Over the last seven years, they have stayed the same. HSE claim they have reduced regulation “without compromising” on safety. And this is correct. Safety has not been compromised, it has been consistent for seven years. What has been compromised, however, is the progress of safety.

The problem with all these statistics is that correlation is does not always imply causation, as this graph showing the correlation between consumption of margarine and divorce rates in Maine clearly demonstrates. In other words, it may be the case that Cameron’s laissez faire approach to HSE has contributed to a stronger British supply chain. Yet, it may also be case that his policy has nothing to do with it and that HSE needs urgent investment. This is certainly what his critics believe as they argue that a HSE “timebomb”, caused by reduced spending, will lead to an big increase in work related deaths in the near future.

Health and safety regulation is part of the British supply chain for a reason. It has its place and, if a government ignores it, they do so at their peril. The government need to tread very carefully from this point onwards. Cameron may be right about the British supply chain today, but that does not mean that he will be right tomorrow.

Justin O’Sullivan is a business journalist whose years of experience as the founder of SEMA Racking Inspections makes him an expert on the construction, warehousing, and manufacturing industry as well as the British supply chain.

DISCLOSURE: This blog or its editor accepts any financial payment for the posting of this article. I include it based solely on its content.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Future of European Logistics

I thought this was pretty clever from the folks at SnapParcel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

For Niche Business Fields, Consider a Supply Chain Consultant with Industry Experience

Jamie Saltos, Kapco Global
Whether you are a local business or a global enterprise, if you spend time moving a product from point A to point B, figuring out the best way to manage your supply chain is critical. And while it may not be the most glamorous part of your business, the thoughtful orchestration of purchasing, inventory management, product delivery and logistics can mean the difference between success and failure. In industries such as component manufacturing and distribution, where the part or product is one cog in a larger operational machine, an upset in delivery capability and response time can have repercussions that reverberate down a string of interdependent businesses, with the end result being a negative experience for a customer you may never see.
To keep this from happening, businesses often hire third-party consultants who strategically improve internal supply chains with an eye on higher levels of efficiency, lower overall costs and increased productivity. But when it comes to complex niche industries, not any supply chain consultant will do. In order to get the most from those consulting bucks and to make sure any strategic planning will go the distance, it’s often a good idea to hire a consultant with a proven track record and a reputation for know-how within your industry.
This particular brand of supply chain expert understands the constraints and opportunities unique to your industry and the locations in which you operate. They are current on trade regulations and quality assurance laws pertaining to your components and the larger machinery for which they are built. They understand the needs and goals of not just your clients, but also your client’s end users. This knowledge allows expert consultants to identify gaps in your business processes and help you develop effective strategies to close these gaps in the most efficient way possible without any negative impact to the bigger chain of which you are part.
A real-world example of this comes from the commercial aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry. Millions of people each year across the globe depend on well-functioning MRO departments, as these departments are responsible for procuring, housing, delivering, repairing, replacing and upgrading thousands of aircraft products and parts each year. These departments are responsible for the safety and maintenance of the aircraft that keep us traveling safely and without delay. Global commercial aviation MRO departments must be able to coordinate across continents while always maintaining a critical emphasis on safety, regulatory compliance and timeliness.
This means the MRO component suppliers servicing this industry must have their act together, and any supply chain consultant brought in to help must have a deep understanding of how the entire chain links together, in addition to having an assimilative knowledge regarding the needs and goals of all potentially impacted parties.
An expert consultant should be able to strategize for the effective distribution of a component without exposing the supplier to undue risk. And because the timely delivery of components is of paramount importance, consultants should have a solid knowledge of how the MRO industry is growing at this moment, while looking forward to potential changes that the world economy could have on MRO departments in the future. Meanwhile, that same consultant also needs to keep an eye on government regulations, international shipping laws and updates to industry standards that, if ignored, could jeopardize a supplier’s entire operation.
Strategic global supply chain management is complex and multi-faceted. Placed within the landscape of a heavily regulated niche industry, it becomes even more complicated. Tapping into the competence and expertise of an industry-specific supply chain consultant can be one way to make sure no detail is overlooked and each business along the greater chain is accounted for. It can also shorten the onboarding process, which can help get your business where it wants to be quicker and more efficiently—which is, after all, the point of supply chain management in the first place.
This guest post is written by Jamie Saltos, marketing director for Kapco Global. Follow them on Twitter @Kapco_Global.
Full disclosure, I received no compensation for posting this article.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Most Common Warehouse Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

My first job in high school was at the Sunbeam bread company. Every Sunday I would head over to the warehouse at 5AM and sort the various orders for the delivery drivers.

In addition to the smell of bread and yeast it was a grueling job. Lifting the trays with 12 loaves and sliding them in the racks completely manually wasn't easy and injuries were pretty regular. So when I was approached by Justin to write this article I thought it could be of some use for the next 16 year-old loading up bread for Sunbeam. 


If we said there was a one size fits all answer as to how to effectively run and manage a warehouse then we would be lying. Experience of staff, layout of the warehouse and supply chain are just some of the things to take into account when looking at how to best run your warehouse.

However, there are always a number of common rules you should be following to be successful, on the flip side this means  there are also a few popular mistakes and areas in which companies seem to get it wrong too.

So if you’re in need of a few pointers on how to stay one step ahead when it comes to warehouse management, check out our list of common warehouse mistakes and learn how to avoid them. Don’t recognise any of these issues? Great! However, we would still recommend taking a note of them and ensuring that staff remain vigilant.

Holding onto paperwork

Smaller warehouses may consider themselves a pick and pack business with no need for technology. Whilst this may seem simpler at first, paperwork is a sure fire way to slow down your processes and is often the cause of delays, lost documents and even missing stock.

It can seem a huge effort to switch to a digital system but you don’t need to contact Bill Gates just yet. A warehouse management system needn’t be expensive nor over complicated and there are plenty of simple, effective applications available to suit all budgets. There is an upfront cost but it’ll pay off in the long run.

Keeping excess stock

Most warehouses could play host to an episode of Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder and despite years of many preaching lean practice and inventory reduction holding on to old stock is still one of the most common warehouse mistakes made, everywhere!
Wholesalers are particularly guilty of this, often buying huge quantities of products to make use of bulk discounts which can soon become an abundance of unsaleable inventory.

By reducing inventory levels, your supply chain is leaner and you have less money tied up in stock, resulting in a much stronger cash flow. Avoid offers that are too good to be true and learn when to turn down an ‘unbelievable’ discount.

Not optimising picking paths

Ever worked in a warehouse? Nope, well some seem to make picking paths like a game of temple run: left, left, left, over the the tree trunk… By not utilising efficient picking paths, warehouses significantly lower their picking rate. Whilst this may not seem that important it can have a huge effect of supply chain cycle times and is also costing you more in labour costs of packers having to travel further and longer.

It’s not always easy to pick out a clear, straight picking run but with some prior thinking and a bit of time and effort you can optimise routes to be as efficient as possible.

Lack of health and safety management

High racking, forklifts, heavy boxes and busy schedules, what could possibly go wrong? Even a tidy warehouse isn’t necessarily safe.  A good health and safety office within a warehouse should be capable of spotting hidden hazards as well as the more obvious risks.

Just because a staff member hasn’t had an accident yet, it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen and the consequences can be lethal. Warehouses are dangerous environments and any accidents or near misses should be analysed as to the cause and eliminated where possible. This is not only going to save time and money but will also save employees from injury.

Not paying attention to housekeeping

For most warehouse managers, cleaning and housekeeping is probably bottom of a long list of things they want/need to do. Aisles with old unused pallets, shrink wrap and messy loading docks are all signs of a warehouse that isn’t being tidied properly. A lack of housekeeping isn’t just a risk to safety, it also results in a lack of efficiency. Mess creates obstructions and restricts a smooth flow of people and goods through the warehouse.

The easiest way to eliminate mess and clutter is to enforce a regime of housekeeping, with time set aside at the end of each shift for cleaning and tidying. By keeping the warehouse space tidy, the next shift is able to start work on time without delay of cleaning up before work begins.

Rushing the goods in process

Warehousing is a case of goods in vs goods out. When the pressure is on and there is a large number of customers orders to get out of the warehouse and dispatched on time it can be easy to forget about what’s happening on the other side.

One of the keys to effective warehousing is ensuring the goods in process are efficient and that dedicated staff are trained and utilised for the procedure. Whilst many think it’s a case of signing a box and have a quick chat with your delivery driver, intake procedures can be quite specialised and it is important to have the right staff for the job. 

No staff development

Busy schedules and tight budgets are a sure fire way of putting staff development and training low down on the priority list. However, in a high risk environment it’s important that employees receive the training they deserve and have their development needs provided for, opening up options for individual growth.

It’s important to remember that it costs much less the keep existing employees motivated and engaged than it does to rehire and train new staff. By taking some time out so provide new resources to staff training and development you can build a strong work force of competent and committed employees.

Justin O’Sullivan is a SEMA Approved Inspector with over 25 years experience in the industry storage equipment industry. Justin lives and works in North London providing SEMA approved pallet racking inspections and training for SME’s in London and the South East of England. He runs

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for running this article, nor did I offer any to the author.