Everything interesting, new and useful about the logistics and 3PL Industry

Archive for January, 2014

Benefits of Greening the Warehouse

Going green or lean in your warehouse by streamlining processes and introducing cost saving initiatives can bring many benefits.  To stay competitive and be on the leading edge, going green is a win-win process.  Here are some steps to take to make your warehouse more energy-efficient, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.

Lighting

The energy and carbon reduction firm Envido has discovered that the biggest expense in a warehouse is the lighting which can be as much as 65 percent of operating costs.

Intelligent lighting (using sensors) can be incorporated into your lighting system, resulting in as much as a 10 per cent decrease in lighting power consumption.  This type of system takes the available daylight and the occupancy in the building to determine whether lighting should be turned on and how much brightness is required.

Fluorescent lighting is more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs, and if you are willing to pay the extra expense, LED lighting is the most efficient option available.  The technology for LED lighting is moving quickly, so prices may come down in the next few years.  Skylights and solar panels are another way to introduce natural lighting to keep expenses down.  Installing lights closer to the work areas will also reduce the amount of lighting required.

Heating

Programmable thermostats are much more efficient than temperature-controlled thermostats.  Being able to program when the heat should come on instead of letting the temperature decide will result in major energy savings.

Consider adding more automation to your warehouse.  Having an automated warehouse requires less square footage, resulting in less energy to heat.  An industrial fan is a great way to circulate warm air.  When warm air rises, the fan will push it back down to the work areas.  The same is true in the summer when cool air rises.

Green or Living Roof

A living roof is a truly wonderful experience for the workplace, the environment and the community where you operate your business.  Not only does it reduce operating costs, but the benefits such as attracting birds to the vegetation provides a nice space for employees on lunch breaks.  Studies have shown that a living roof can reduce energy consumption by as much as 6 per cent and reduce indoor temperature by 3.6 degree Fahrenheit in the summer.  Solar panels installed on a living roof can produce up to 16 percent more energy than a regular roof.  Building a living roof may also qualify your company for tax breaks and lower municipal fees.

Forklifts

Forklifts are an integral part of any warehouse.  Using hydrogen fuel cells for your forklifts will result in greater productivity and reduced costs.  Fuel cells have the ability to store energy as hydrogen gas and convert to electricity when needed.  Costs are reduced by no longer having the need to purchase batteries or chargers, or pay for the manpower to maintain them.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The 3 Rs can sometimes be overlooked, but they are very easy to implement to create a greener warehouse.  Reducing lighting and heating as mentioned above can have major cost savings.  Reduce paper by offering electronic invoices, and send products digitally if that makes sense for your goods.  Reuse incoming boxes by using labels to re-address. Bubble and paper wrapping can be reused, and remember to recycle if these items can’t be reused.

Encourage your employees to develop a green mindset.  Offer incentives and rewards for workers who come up with innovative and green solutions for the workplace.

By everyone doing their part to take care of the planet, your company will not go unnoticed by today’s consumers who are much more environmentally conscious.

 

Sources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960148111006604

Share Button

2014 Warehouse Management System Software Survey

The folks over at Software Advice — a WMS software research company — recently released their 2014 Warehouse Management System Software UserView survey to look a little closer at market data on WMS software, and you are invited to participate.

We encourage you to to offer your feedback, and tell Software Advice what the benefits of your system are, as well as what challenges you face. You’ll also be asked how you access your tools, and how you plan to invest in WMS solutions this year. The survey updates in real-time, and only takes a few minutes to complete. Click here to check it out!

Share Button

Business Contingency Planning 101: Handling the Most Common Unexpected Disasters

Whether you’re a new entrepreneur with a small-scale start up business, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you have to be ready when the unexpected occurs. Common unanticipated problems can range from managerial no-shows on crunch days to extensive power outages and machinery breakdowns. How do you cope with seemingly insurmountable problems when the success of your business is on the line?

Here are a few of the most common unexpected business catastrophes — and ways to deal with them.

No-Shows

Employee no-shows can be a disaster, especially if a major product or project is due. To counteract unexpected absenteeism, have a contingency system put in place so that others can step in and handle the job. If you need to bring in outside help, find a resource for extra last-minute assistance that can be available when you need it.

Machinery and Computer Breakdowns

Machinery breakdowns can hold up important deliveries, while computer breakdowns can virtually paralyze a company. Put together a pool of talented mechanics who can be on call to take care of your machinery problems during emergencies. Likewise, create a list of IT experts who can be available in case of computer malfunctions. Always make sure your list includes several specialists, so you have back-ups if your first choices aren’t available.

Power Outages

Unless they’re caused by your own electrical system, there’s not much you can do about power outages, but you can put together a contingency plan to deal with them. Whether you’re a manufacturer with a delivery due or a software developer with a deadline to meet, you should immediately let your client know what’s going on, and that delay is unavoidable because the situation is out of your hands. If your business is at risk, consider moving operations to another location for a few days. You can prepare for this beforehand by setting up a contingency plan to rent, in case of emergencies, space and equipment in another available manufacturing plant, warehouse or office.

Weather Disasters

As a business owner, the best thing you can do is to stay on top of weather conditions and prepare for the worst ahead of time. If flooding or power outages are expected, or if snowstorms are going to keep your employees home for a day or two, contact your clients and let them know what’s going on. If they’re local, they’re probably in the same boat as you are. Likewise, if you can, set up a skeleton staff of employees who are close by and can make it in to work, and get as much done as you can under the circumstances. The main thing is that you don’t want to put your employees — or yourself — at risk.

Being Prepared

Even if you’ve had smooth sailing so far, you never know when the wind will change, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself by taking preventive steps. For example, before hiring key staff members, call their former employers and ask if there were ever any attendance issues. Also, impress upon your new hires why they need to be there when it’s crunch time.

Likewise, get the best insurance you can afford. Insurance can protect you when the power goes out, when you lose days due to weather-related problems and even when machinery breaks down. Get coverage that will protect you in a variety of worst-case scenarios — and don’t be late with those premium payments.

In the end, it’s best to be prepared for just about anything. Set up contingency plans among your employees and independent contractors, and always keep emergency service contact information close at hand. Being prepared is the best way to meet with disasters head-on when — or if — they ever occur in your business.

Share Button

How to Be an Expert Change Manager

Regardless of how carefully you plan the introduction of changes in procedure, your new system won’t fully succeed unless your employees “buy in” to it. People become emotionally attached to their familiar way of doing things, and even though the new system will end up saving time and money, employees may still react negatively at first if you don’t follow a few important steps. Here are the crucial management tips you’ll need to win over your staff and ensure that they’re on board with changes from day one.

Communicate your vision

Many employees go through the day focused only on accomplishing the individual tasks in front of them. When change is in the air, they may feel resistant, partly because they aren’t aware of the larger context. If you make the effort to clarify your vision and strategic planning for the company’s future direction, your staff will more easily see themselves as part of the team. We all respond much more positively to change when we have a clear picture of where we’re meant to end up. Also, it’s important that each employee feels valued by management, so he or she needs to recognize how their individual efforts are needed in order to achieve the envisioned future.

A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers notes, “research shows that nearly 75 percent of all organizational change programs fail, not because leadership didn’t adequately address infrastructure, process, or IT issues, but because they didn’t create the necessary groundswell of support among employees.”

Empathize with your employees

Employees are more likely to remain stuck in positions of resistance and uncertainty if they believe that management is clueless about how their work day really feels. Presumably one of the reasons you decided to introduce a new system is because you want to make your staff’s jobs easier and more efficient; be sure to communicate that fact ahead of time.

Before installing a new software solution, meet with your staff and discuss the way in which the new system will relieve some of the pressure points of their day. The Wall Street Journal says, “One way to demonstrate empathy with employees is to be more honest with them”, and it’s true. Your discussion needs to move in both directions: ask them to share their concerns with you, and then listen closely to what they have to say. They may need to vent, and it’s important to allow them this opportunity. The nature of their concerns should be your management road-map for the coming months.

Involve employees in decisions

This is a tip so basic that every manager is aware of it, at least theoretically, but it’s easy to skip over actually carrying it out. While holding meetings and soliciting feedback from staff may be time-consuming, it is an important building block for successfully implementing adoption of new systems. Even if you already have a specific new program in mind, you can still seek input as to some of the details of implementation. This is a good time to recognize and play to the strengths of each individual staff member.

Follow up by listening to feedback

The cycle of good change management doesn’t end when a new system is in place and fully operational. Employees will have strong reactions to how the new system is affecting them, and no manager can afford to ignore those reactions.

Even the most user-friendly software solution involves a learning curve, and employees who are struggling to master new procedures need to be mentored and supported. If employees experience difficulty in executing some of the new functions, often a minor adjustment can make all the difference between frustration and fulfillment.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the act of putting change in place often stimulates creative ideas for further innovation, and any suggestions of this type deserve credit as a form of commitment to the organization.

Approaching the change process from an employee-centric point of view will provide the smoothest path to implementing successful solutions.

Share Button

Logistics Management in Third-Party Logistics

Logistics Management

Logistics management is essential in today’s global marketplace, whether you run a small shop that handles a few tons of merchandise each year, or your company ships and receives from multiple warehouses in far-flung locales. The last thing you want is to lose products, waste time or squander any operational resource because of inefficient third-party logistics (3PL). Luckily, 3PL solutions helps you solve logistics problems in warehouse settings, especially as they relate to increasing ROI, efficiency and productivity. Effective 3PL software provides the following 9 key benefits to your logistics management:

1. Security

3PL software is more expansive that a typical warehouse management system (WMS). It integrates several layers of security, which is an essential feature if your company handles sensitive materials or private products with high confidentiality options. In what is now the Internet’s era, data can be accessed via the cloud, so it’s good to have strong encryption layers in your 3PL application.

2. Reliability

You don’t want a WMS that malfunctions in the middle of an important shipment, do you? Nobody wants to lose money because of unreliable software, so choosing a solid program like 3PL software indirectly increases your ROI, logistical efficiency and customer satisfaction levels.

3. Transparency

Everything is transparent in a 3PL management suite. You see what goes out, what comes in, the final inventory balance and with which various logistics services providers you’re partnering. The beauty of the program is that you can track everything everywhere all the time.

4. 3PL Invoicing

Your ROI goes up when you can correctly bill customers on time. Inefficiency is no longer an issue in your operations when you use a 3PL program, because the system automatically generates invoices based on inputted data. Make sure that you key in proper codes, data and pricing information for all clients to make the most out of your 3PL program.

5. Item Ownership at the Warehouse Location Level

You can track item ownership at the warehouse level, an important feature that gives you peace of mind when you handle several different items at multiple locations. Whether it is raw material, a work-in-process or a finished product, the software helps you track inventory in real time.

6. Self-Service: Customer Access to Their Data

Logistics problems often arise when clients can’t access or see their inventory data in the supply chain. With 3PL software, this is one headache you won’t have to worry about. 3PL software embeds functionalities that add value to clients through real-time and effective access to their shipping, receiving and ending-balance information.

7. Multiple Communication Channels

Multi-channel communication is another highly-valued feature in a 3PL program. Unlike the standard WMS, which manages inventory within proprietary warehouses for one company, 3PL management software takes care of logistics for thousands of client-owned products. Multiple communication channels become essential here as each client has specific requirements about the way products are manufactured, invoiced, packed and shipped. These channels include everything from cloud-based services to email and built-in messaging features.

8. Cost Tracking

It’s good to bill customers on time and correctly, but it’s even better to track costs for those clients. That way, you add value to clients’ operations by showing them not only their logistics expenses, but also their operational costs such as materials, labor and production overhead. Providing such services boosts your company’s bottom line and ROI because it adds tangible value to clients, which increases their loyalty and improves your brand’s reputation.

9. Industry Standard Flexibility

3PL applications have industry standard flexibility, meaning they give you state-of-the-art features as well as options that abide by the latest government regulations and industry best practices.

Share Button