Tuesday, November 01, 2016

What does the future have in store for the humble warehouse?

Guest blogger Rachel Stires
The warehouse of today is a far cry from its humble beginnings. What started as a way to prevent famine has now turned into a powerhouse that effects the entire supply chain. 

The warehouse has evolved drastically during its history, but one change that has been vital to its growth is the automation of various processes. When I say automation, I mean the usage of computers and machines to make up for what humans cannot do. 

Here’s how these processes have helped the warehouse, and what they mean for its future.

1.  Better inventory management and control: Back in the day, inventory was kept track of with the use of the pen and paper. While anybody can be thorough and efficient, human error is still inevitable and can lead to misrepresentation of inventory. This can result in a lot of things, such as orders or stock being misrepresented. By automating this process with computers such as barcode scanners, wireless, and mobile computers, we have been able to avoid mistakes like this. Not only that, but utilizing technology helps increase the flow of inventory, as well as the fill rate.

2.  Improved Productivity: People are great and while they get a lot done, computers help to improve productivity in all operations of the warehouse. Whether it’s inventory, where software can keep track of the flow of goods and the stock of the warehouse, or warehouse management, where software helps direct and support management and staff. In the past, we had to rely on people for all this, and it left room for human error and miscommunication. By incorporating technology, companies can ease the burden on their staff and improve satisfaction in the workplace. This also boosts employee motivation, which feeds directly back into productivity. By streamlining the system, you encourage employees to be a seamless part of it.

3.  Fully Automated Warehouses: In the future, we will see warehouses where almost every process can be automated, and in many ways the future has already arrived. Robots have become an integral part of major warehouses like those run by Amazon. They assist workers in picking items from inventory, and have helped make the process more efficient. In the future, these robots could assist or take over for humans in tasks that are too labor intensive or menial.  This could help enhance productivity, but many people are worried that it will lead to job loss. The future of the job market depends on the development of these robots.

There’s still a long road ahead for total warehouse automation, but the changes and advancements made so far have optimized processes and made it a lot easier on workers, management, and their customers. The future holds many opportunities to further streamline warehouses, but it’s still amazing to look back at all that has been achieved in the past years and just how far we have come with technology.

Rachel Stires is a media relations specialist for Versatile Mobile. In her free time she enjoys writing and keeping up with various industries, including logistics and aviation.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Consumers Are Transforming Supply Chain

For an industry that is transformed by the everyday behaviour of consumers, supply chain should not only respond to socio-economic growth, but help to facilitate it. In this digital age, supply chain systems are of much greater importance to the consumer.

A movement towards online shopping, coupled with improved social connectivity and technology has led to a culture of instant demand and satisfaction. In order to understand exactly how the industry is being changed by this, it is necessary to acknowledge the impact of the consumer.

The Online Shopper
The significant shift from an in-store demand to online shopping is having an incredible impact on the supply chain process for retailers. This completely new type of shopper desires a seamless experience from the basket to their doorstep.

They have a broad knowledge of the market and a heightened interest in the supply chain. It is a consumer that expects to know where the product is coming from, how it is made and the amount left in stock. Above all, they want to know these things now.

Retailers must operate under the weight of this expectation, where one error in stocktake or product quality could cost them a customer for life. In a world where consumers can purchase anything they want, from whichever company they choose, it is up to supply chain professionals to help position brands to deliver an unrivalled experience.

Instant Culture
Perhaps the largest impact on supply chain from Gen Y is a sense of instant demand and satisfaction. If Jack wants a new couch for his apartment, he could search and buy one during his lunch break. With orders placed in a matter of minutes, and all through an app on his phone, Jack could kit out his entire residence in an afternoon.

These products are then expected to arrive in a timely manner, by which I mean a short number of days. It is this increasing standard that continues to shape the supply chain industry into one that is faster, more agile and able to overcome problems.

The delivery of goods and services is a prime example of this. Companies compete with shipping that is cheap and quick, if not free. Consumers also demand the ability to track the process of the products until the final moment of delivery. This has forced businesses to pay careful attention to their supply chain system. If even a minor delay occurs, it has to be dealt with swiftly, before the consumer cancels their order and buys from the competition.

Social Media
Social media channels are often described as a double edged sword, and not without good reason. When used correctly, they can propel a business onto the world stage almost overnight. But with more than 1.7 billion people across the globe connecting online, even the smallest error in judgement could spell disaster.

These platforms offer a unique opportunity for supply chain professionals to access real-time feedback. A single click onto the company Facebook page could reveal a lost customer order, complaint about the purchasing experience or glowing recommendation, laid out for the world to see.

This has transformed the supply chain industry completely, where a more transparent system means that companies can predict demand, gain insight into consumer trends and ultimately use social media to establish a more efficient process. As more consumers take to the internet to share, discuss and interact with the brands they buy from, monitoring supply chain interactions and identifying innovations have never been easier.

Author Bio

Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, she is passionate about adult and lifelong learning. She has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. Helen also works with a select group of organisations consulting in People Management & Development, Education and Change.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Top 5 Skills To Look For When Hiring A Truck Driver

By: Morgan Mandriota, TeamOne Logistics

Employee turnover rates in the trucking industry are high due to the job’s long hours, stressful conditions, and lack of properly executed driver staffing . As an employer looking to hire new drivers, there are certain skills you should require that will both help your company thrive and ensure that you have a team of workers on which you can rely. 

Here are the five skills to look out for when hiring a new truck driver:

1. Basic maintenance ability. While there are maintenance people who work to keep fleets in tip-top shape, many situations arise on the road that drivers must know how to handle on their own. Simple things like changing a flat tire, fuse, light bulb, and fluids are all necessary skills to have for the job. On that note, your potential driver needs to be able to at least perform a basic diagnostic of what is wrong in order to address and fix the problem in the first place!

2. People skills. That’s right, a truck driver must be a people person. Although they may be isolated in the cab of a truck for most of the day, they still have to deal with the people on both ends of their trip. Customers on the loading and receiving ends need to know that they can trust the person carrying their cargo. Additionally, a good driver always stays on the good side of his or her dispatchers because they may have control over route assignments. 

3. Reliability and self-motivation. Getting to and from each location in a timely manner with all goods accounted for is one of the most crucial parts of the job. Drivers must be both reliable and self-motivated. Organizational skills also fall under this category, as a great trucker will be able to complete their paperwork and electronic logging, as well as arrange their schedules efficiently. They must be able to stay on top of their work and keep their knowledge and skill sets up-to-date in order to work to the best of their ability. After all, since they work without immediate supervision most of the time, it’s really up to them to make sure things go smoothly.

4. Alertness. This is important for any type of driver, business or recreational, but when looking for a truck driver, this is absolutely vital. Being defensive and aware of surroundings is key to remaining safe and arriving at destinations on time. There are many factors to consider, such as the condition of the truck, what’s going on with the road ahead, and what other drivers around them are doing. Staff must be alert to what standard conditions are in case anything is out of the ordinary. Whether it’s a strange smell or just the way the truck feels on the road, they should be able to recognize that there is a problem and be able to address it.

5. Proper qualifications. Of course, the basic requirement of the job includes having a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). This test ensures that potential drivers know the rules and regulations necessary for properly carrying heavy cargo. However, this is just the minimum! An excellent driver goes above and beyond, keeping up to date with company and government regulations and holding a near-perfect driving record. There are available courses that truck drivers can take beyond those for the CDL that will provide them with technical training and other valuable industry information. 

It goes without saying that these aren’t the only skills that a great truck driver should possess. However, as an employer, if you keep in mind these five basic characteristics during the hiring process, your company is sure to gain employees that set your company apart and provide a service standard that excels in the transportation field.

I take no compensation for posting this blog.

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.

Bio
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.

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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