Thursday, January 21, 2016

Q&A with Director of the Disaster Recovery Institute International

With all of the recent supply chain disasters being reported in the press I thought it would be interesting to ask Chloe Demrovsky, the executive director of the Disaster Recovery Institute International about the state of the global supply chain.
1.    We often hear about supply chain disasters, whether it’s in food or paints in toys. Is there a role for sensors and Internet of Things technologies to help prevent or limit such risks?

New technologies bring opportunity for improvement in the way we do things, but they also come with inherent risks. It is important that companies carefully assess the risks and analyze the value proposition before adopting them. It is important to balance the need to appear innovative by being an early adopter while asking the hard questions of whether or not this new technology will actually help your company deliver a better and safer product.

2.    It’s important for the US to limit risk, since our supply chain is global and interconnected, but isn't this a global problem?

Yes, it is undoubtedly a global problem. In today’s interconnected world, rare is the production process or supply chain that exists within one nation’s borders. The supply chain for food supply is increasingly fragmented, so the effects of a contamination can spread rapidly and can be more difficult to track and contain. For this reason, consumer advocates may want to focus on a company-driven approach to enforcing safety standards above a government-mandated solution.  Regulation has a critical role to play, but it is tougher to enact cross-border controls.  Companies will make safety and responsibility a priority if their customers ask for it.  We are seeing the effects of this already with the rise of social enterprise and corporate social responsibility that extends beyond charitable giving and into the core strategic planning of companies.

3.    As a consumer I am seeing more and more manufacturers put bar codes and QR codes on projects so we can track and trace down to the farms. Will this become more commonplace in the next few years or will government need to mandate it?

Companies put measures like this in place because of one of two reasons: either because it is mandated by the government through regulation or because their customers ask for it. These new measures are the result of consumer advocacy and companies should try to get ahead of the trend. They will appear forward-thinking and transparent. Trust in food companies is at record low levels and studies indicate that the only way to combat it is through transparency measures that do not resemble marketing ploys, but rather provide access to comprehensive information so that consumers can make informed buying decisions.

4.    What are the top tips you have to advise supply chain professionals to reduce the risk on such health hazards?

Implementing a robust risk management program that includes business continuity must be a priority. This program should be managed at the highest levels of an organization with input into strategic decision-making rather than letting it be passed off as a low-level functional responsibility. This requirement must be written into contractual agreements with suppliers and verified through joint exercising and two-way information sharing. A comprehensive program is the only way to ensure that there is an ongoing process in place to deal with issues of quality control from manufacture through delivery and disposal. Organizations must also conduct effects-based planning so that there is a crisis management plan in place before an incident occurs. The plan will enable an organization to face a crisis immediately and handle the response in a way that will improve safety and minimize damage to the organization.

Chloe Demrovsky is Executive Director of DRI. She designed and implemented DRI’s international market development strategy and manages a global network in over 50 countries.  Follow her @ChloeDemrovsky.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Day in The Life of a Packaging Box – From Warehouse to Recycle Facility

Last year I began accepting external authors for my blog, which is humbling to say the least. Here is another submission from the folks at Intella forklift parts. It's a humorous and clever look at logistics.


Forklift jack from Intella.
Good Morning! My day began early – before the sun was up – as I arrived at the Intella LiftParts Warehouse from ATIB Chargers. I was struck by a feeling of déjà vu, as if I’d been here before – but I’ll shake off that feeling to share my day with you.  I’m a packaging box carrying aftermarket forklift parts from the manufacturer to the distributor, then to customers everywhere.

I arrived this morning via a container truck – it was a bit bumpy, but the journey was quick. On arrival the driver checked me in and the warehouse team member registered my arrival with his scanner and unloaded the pallet on which I was traveling with his trusty forklift. Next, I traveled on the fork lift into the holding area and was placed with other packing boxes carrying similar cargo.

A short while later, the pallet packaging was broken open efficiently and I was taken to the picking area by the warehouse staff members. In case you don’t know the lingo, the picking area is where the “pickers” review orders and “pick” the packages to fill the orders. More scanning followed as I found my place among the other boxes and awaited order fulfillment.

My wait was short, as an order for the part I was carrying came in late in the morning, and the next phase of my journey began. Once again, I was scanned. If you aren’t familiar with warehouse and distribution, everything is made simpler and more efficient these days by warehouse management systems designed to improve both efficiency and customer service. I was picked and quickly routed to the shipping area where I was again scanned and then labeled for delivery. Next, I made my way via lift truck to the staging area to await pick-up and delivery.

A bit later in the afternoon, the UPS delivery driver picked me up along with lots of other packages processed that day to fill customer orders. As we made our way to the UPS facility for processing, I was again struck by the feeling that I had done this all before! But no matter, on the UPS delivery van, I made my way with the other packages to the UPS facility, we were again scanned, tagged, and routed to our intended destinations.

I arrived with my precious cargo, a forklift battery charger, safely inside at the intended destination the following morning. The customer signed for me and quickly removed the packing tape, to reveal the content. The new charger was hurriedly sent to the customer’s maintenance department to be installed near the forklift while I was broken down and placed in the company recycling bin for the next step of my journey – a trip to the Recycling Facility. While I waited, satisfied that I had done my job well, I was once again overcome by that strange feeling of déjà vu – as if I’d done this all before.

Guest Post by Intella forklift parts

Full disclosure, I take no compensation for running this article

Monday, November 23, 2015

24-Hour Snapshot of Europe's Logistic Industry

This infographic is a snapshot as to what exactly a logistic company can be dealing with every 24 hours without fail. It contains some simply astonishing facts that happen in a day while also showing just how important the industry is to Europe's economy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Will Drones Be the Future of Logistics?

No longer just a weapon, drones might be flying to your warehouse sooner than you think. The technology behind these miniature-unmanned aircrafts is improving every day. Simultaneously, the cost to own a drone is the lowest it’s ever been. Many in the warehousing industry have toyed with the idea that drones could be the new face of warehouse management and delivery logistics. While this is still a few years off, drone delivery systems are no longer a farfetched idea. 

Amazon recently announced that their company is actively testing drone package delivery, with hopes of delivering goods to consumers within 30 minutes. This might sound a bit alarming, but the company believes it could be possible in as little as four years. Patents, air regulations, and delivery accuracy still need to be tinkered with. After all, Amazon would essentially own the skies, forcing their competitors such as FedEx, UPS, and the US Mail to adapt or die. 

Drones could have another impact on the warehousing industry. As a much more realistic goal, drones could be the future of warehouse inventory. One drone can quickly scan every product, one shelf at a time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to send one guy and a handheld scanner up and down over and over again in order to scan the entire contents of a warehouse. Does it really take a 100 lb. hand truck to scan the products on the top shelf? Drones could do the same job in a fraction of the time. 

As we understand them now, drones rely on a GPS device to guide them through the world, with accuracy down to the last meter. But in a warehouse setting, drones won’t have the same unrestricted flight patterns. Tight corners, low ceilings and packed shelves will make it harder for the drone to get around. However, new drones will be equipped with intrinsic absolute navigation systems. Without relying on a GPS system, drones can use onboard sensor systems and vision processing systems to determine their proximity to the objects around them. They’ll be able to recognize barcodes, moving gracefully through tight spaces. Using drones for inventory will drastically cut down on labor costs and improve overall efficiency. Warehouses will need to hire drone technicians instead of more hands on deck. 

If and when this technology becomes available, the entire warehousing system will change overnight. If you’re thinking of purchasing a drone for your warehouse, it could arrive in 30 minutes or less.

Guest blog post by

Full disclosure: I am not compensated for posting guest blogs.