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 http://www.semarackinginspections.co.uk.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

World Water Day

Since its shipped around the world in bottles every day, lets take a look at some water facts.

View Interactive Version (via Able Skills ).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

arviem's CEO Talks About Becoming the "Google of Trade"

I first met Stefan Reidy, CEO and founder, of arviem several years ago when he was in NY City to speak with Forbes magazine for an article on his ideas for tracking freight containers using a variety of wireless technologies.

During the interview Reidy was incredibly enthusiastic about what this could mean for the future of supply chains. In fact, he liked the idea so much that he started up his own company less than two years later in 2008.

After recently reading about arviem's new collaboration with H.B. Fuller I decided to catch up and see how things are going.

1. First, the name, arviem, where does it come from?

Stefan Reidy (SR): When we founded the company, we were looking for a compelling name. We thought about hawk eye, cargo monitoring, etc. But if you Google these buzz words, you get thousands of hits and we probably would have problems in differentiating ourselves. In addition, most of the companies using such names are engineering companies or hardware companies - but certainly not service-companies as we are.

Brainstorming about the potential name with friends, someone came up with the idea of using the first letters of the last names of the original founders: R for Reidy and vM for van de Mheen. This resulted in RvM and spelled out ar - vi - em.

2. We've been hearing about the Internet of Things and its role in the supply chain for quite some time. Why do you think it has taken so long to catch on?

SR: The challenge is the business model. You have to be aware, that the supply chain or logistics market is a very fragmented market. In average 40 different parties are involved - and therefore the most important question is: To WHOM are you selling WHAT? The WHO hast to spend money, has to pay your product, your software, your service. But the WHO is only doing so, if there is a business case to justify the WHAT. It sounds very simple, like a business lesson for dummies. But I think it is the main reason for many failures in this topic.

4. Can you talk about your new partnership with HB Fuller?

SR: H.B. Fuller has products, which are temperature sensitive and products, which should reach the final destination on time in order not to slow down the clients production process. With real-time data we help H.B. Fuller to better manage these KPIs among others.

5. What are you using for sensors on the containers and how do they connect to the network?

SR: All our devices have the same sensor suite and same functionality. Only then we can also optimize the utilization of the devices. Without releasing any confidential details about the devices, we monitor temperature, humidity, shock and door security in combination with time and position. The data from the devices is sent via cellular or satellite to our back-end, where the data is combined with other data from other sources in order to make the most actionable information for our clients. 

6. Where do you see arviem in 5 years?

SR: We would like to become the "Google of Trade". We will be monitoring not only containers but all modes of transport -- down to the specific item. In combination with other data sources, we will be able to make use of “big data” and consult our clients in order to bring their supply chains to perfection.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Which Warehouse Locations Are Lean and Lucrative?

Of all the fearful factors that business owners and logistics managers have to deal with, one of the things they dread the most is idle inventory. As if supply chains aren’t boring enough as it is (or so people think!), the term idle inventory just exudes negativity. No company, whether mom and pop sized or international corporation sized, is ever content with anything business-related being idle or stagnant.
Movement is a universal mission for businesses of all shapes and sizes because it encompasses so many variations of change. Obviously, expansion and upward financial growth are the most well-received forms of movement within a business model, but lateral moves and tactical turns can also be highly regarded.
Achieving desired directional shifts starts with the implementation of effective strategies and changes. Improving the movement of goods and inventory, for example, means the current storage strategy needs to be assessed. Often times, after a thorough review, businesses realize that commercial warehouses are basically the secret to storage success. In the long run, leasing or owning a storage facility of this magnitude equates to asset acquisition.
Commercial warehouses have gained an increasing amount of attention over the years, and for good reason. These specialized storage structures are beneficial to companies across all niches and industries, they can be used for a variety of purposes and functions, and they can store virtually any type of inventory.
In order to effectively incorporate commercial warehouses into your business operations, a number of factors must be considered. One of the first, and most important questions that needs to be answered before anything is signed or spent is –  
How do you choose a warehouse location?
Picking the Place for Productivity
The reason why location plays such a significant role in warehouse management is because the storage facility will serve as a central hub, or at least that should be a primary goal. Deciding which warehouse location will be best for your business depends on the answers to these questions:
·   Will goods be delivered to the warehouse facility, picked up, or both?
·  Will boats be used to receive and export goods?
·   How far will drivers typically be traveling in order to distribute your inventory?
·   What kinds of trucks will be accessing the building?
·   How congested is the city where the warehouse buildings are?
·   What does the economy look like in the designated city?
·   What is the tax in the potential region?
·   How many, if any, major interstates are easily accessed from the location?
·   Where is the rental or leasing company located in relation to where the storage buildings are?
·   If additional square footage or more warehouses are needed in the future, will the particular location be able to accommodate those expansion needs?
Acquiring warehouse space is not a quick-fix business solution. It requires a significant amount of time, research, and patience. In addition to the geographical location, you must also consider factors such as short and long term costs, customization options, lease terms, and the reputation of the warehousing company. 

Remember – Slow and steady wins the race, especially when picking warehouse space!

This guest post was written by previous Supply Chains Rock contributor Kaitlyn Nakagoshi - Web Content Manager for The Ruthvens, a family-owned commercial warehouse company in Lakeland, Florida. Kaitlyn is a native Floridian who graduated from the University of South Florida with degrees in Business Management and Political Science. When she's not writing copy pages or blog posts, Kaitlyn enjoys hot yoga, online shopping, golf, college football Saturdays, and brunching on Sundays. She lives in Tampa, but hopes to soon trade in her east coast roots for a San Francisco zip code. Follow her on Twitter @TampaKaity.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Ship a 10 Meter High Sunflower

Yesterday, Airlight Energy, a Swiss-based supplier of solar power technology announced a collaboration with IBM Research to bring affordable solar technology to the market by 2017. The system can concentrate the sun’s radiation 2,000 times and convert 80 percent of it into useful energy to generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day—enough to power several average homes.

The High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system, which resembles a 10-meter-high sunflower, uses a 40-square-meter parabolic dish made of patented fiber-based concrete, which can be molded into nearly any shape in less than four hours and has mechanical characteristics similar to those of aluminum at one-fifth the cost.

I know about the project because I was involved and of course, with my SCM hat on, I asked about how the system will be shipped. While Airlight Energy hopes to partner with local firms to construct the systems they will initially build the sunflowers in Biasca, Switzerland and ship them in 40’ (12m x 2.5m x 2.5m) containers to the construction site. Below is a CAD model.



More details on the system can viewed in the video.

And if you are interested in testing one of the systems in your home town IBM and Airlight Energy are hosting a competition. For details visit ibm.biz/sunhcpvt