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Is Your Warehouse Ready For Winter?

This is a guest post by Dale Allen, National Service Manager of Rankin, a leading temporary heating and cooling company in the U.S.


winter

If winter is hard on a house, just imagine the strain it can put on a building nearly 10 times the size of the average American home. You’ve got more exposure to wind, a massive ceiling taking on the elements, and paved property that must withstand the forces of an angry Old Man Winter. With harsh precipitation and wildly fluctuating outdoor temperatures, it is crucial to your warehouse and everything in it that you are properly winterized. Now is the time to do it, as you have a brief lull between summer and winter.

Below are four tips for making sure your warehouse is ready for a brutal winter.

  1. Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready to Go

Climate control may seem like a luxury, but it’s a necessity. Cold is a damaging force. Of course, the reality is that many warehouses just aren’t equipped with heating and cooling systems capable of taking on the brute force of a harsh winter. And even if a warehouse is equipped with a permanent system, it’s not always cost-effective to blast it throughout your entire facility year-round — or even for the darkest months of winter. For that reason, it can help to have a temporary heating system at the ready. Portable climate control systems are very useful for protecting the most vulnerable areas of your warehouse, such as those with sensitive assets being stored, or even production lines where employees are working. They can also prevent localized structural damage from warping caused by fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

  1. Make Repairs Now, Before the Cold Sets In

You have a brief window of opportunity to repair the exterior of your facility, so use it wisely. From year to year, note where the drafts are so that you can reinforce those areas. Check windows, loading docks and doors to be sure they all close properly and are free of leaks.

  1. Stock up on Ammo Against the Snow

You’re going to need some salt, so get it now. Anticipate the worst. As the past few years have shown, a brutal winter can come without warning, and will stay as long as it wants. If that means a fresh coating of snow each day, you’ll be glad you got salt when you did. For that matter, be sure you have plenty of shovels handy for smaller jobs. And if your facility uses a plow, make sure it’s in working order. Further, if you’ve got potholes on your property, now is the time to fix them, as an icy winter will only make them worse.

  1. Prepare to Operate Like a Well-Oiled Machine

It may seem trivial now, but a strict, enforceable winter schedule can save you on energy costs. You don’t want a dock that is open for extended hours, for example, and you’ll want to schedule as best you can so that you can limit in-and-out traffic. Additionally, you’ll want snow plows at the ready so that vehicles can come and go as quickly as possible.

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Order Fulfillment From Start To Finish

Managing Fulfillment Orders Efficiently

Many components go into the physical process of order fulfillment.  It is essential that the process is a regimented program that has all of the working parts functioning as a whole.  Each element is an entity unto itself but must mesh with the others to create balance and flow throughout the fulfillment procedure.  An adjustment within any single component will have a ripple effect on the others.

From the time that the shipments arrive at the warehouse, the recording of quantities, staging and location of goods is performed and is visible to the warehouse and the customer.  Once that is achieved, the order fulfillment process begins and entails:

  • Managing the release of orders to the warehouse floor.
  • Ensuring accurate and expedient pick and pack functions.
  • Scheduling orders for delivery.

While the above may seem routine, there are many issues to consider to carrying them out with efficiency.  Issues such as:

  • Grouping orders by product assortment.
  • Arranging the mode of transportation with appropriate service levels that meet customer expectations.
  • Method of floor processing which could be pick and pack, pick to packing station and shipping schedules.

All of these functions can be performed manually or with software automation as long as the procedures are in place and leave room for flexibility and adjustment.  Once these are established, the fulfillment process will benefit from balance and flow.

Fulfillment Order Processing

The goal is to execute the specific requirements that the customer has set out.  This enhances the customer service experience and having an efficient processing system will save money or avoid unnecessary costs in other areas such as inventory control and transportation.

Managing and Controlling Inventory

As an integral part of the fulfillment process, inventory control systems are implemented to accommodate different product requirements.  For instance, products that do not have a shelf-life are easily monitored with the quantity available.  Conversely, products that require rotation to preserve their integrity may call for a FIFO (First in-First out) inventory control strategy.

Shipping Schedules

While the fulfillment function is in process, shipment schedules need to be arranged in accordance with the customer’s preference.  Different service levels that affect shipping costs, transit times and the nature of the packaged cargo are determined in order to meet the customer’s desired delivery date.  Modes of transportation could include airfreight, courier, local cartage, highway or parcel post.

Overview

Failure to efficiently execute the fulfillment process can be costly both from an economical and customer perception point of view.  Statistics show that the cost of distribution including order fulfillment is nearly half of the marketing budget of the product.  With this reality in mind, the distribution process is front and centre with supply chain managers and business owners.  Cost saving opportunities and constant operational improvement are at the forefront of many companies in order to maintain the flow and balance of the order processing that meets the customer’s demands.

Order Fulfillment

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3 Reasons It Makes Sense To Replace Old Lift Trucks

This is a guest post by Cheryl Bikowski, Marketing Communications Supervisor at Gamber-Johnson, the premier provider of computer mounts for equipment in the material handling industry.

 Lift Truck

The lift trucks and other equipment you use in your distribution warehouse are designed to last. When maintained properly, you should get a long service life out of them. However, there comes a time when you really need to replace the equipment you are using. New lift trucks can offer you benefits in your material handling operations. Here are three good questions you should consider when evaluating your equipment.

Does it meet safety standards?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines under Standards – 29 CFR 1910.178. Standards include labeling or identification of approval from a testing facility. Depending on the nature of your warehouse, some types of lift trucks may not be appropriate. For example, in areas that contain flammable vapors, lift trucks labeled as EE, ES or E are not acceptable. The lift must have an EX designation.

Lift trucks are considered unsafe if welds are broken or bolts are missing. While these are repairable issues, problems must be corrected immediately. If any portion of the overhead guard has been damaged, the vehicle must be taken out of service for repair. The repairs must meet safety standards.

You should also consider the ease of operation. If the forks are becoming bent or are difficult to adjust, you are sacrificing safety and efficiency. If the hydraulic system fails frequently, you face more than just a repair issue — you face a safety issue. Newer lift trucks are also available that offer more efficiency and meet or exceed EPA Tier 4 requirements.

Is it past reasonable repair?

Standard maintenance and repairs are expected for all warehouse equipment, including lift trucks. A well-maintained forklift should last 10 years or longer. After this point, you should expect more frequent and more expensive repairs. The older your lift is, the more difficult it can be to obtain quality parts. However, you must also consider the environment your equipment operates in. Harsh environments will reduce the expected lifespan of any equipment.

Add up the costs of repairing your lift truck and look at what you are spending on a yearly basis. You will reach a point when these costs exceed the cost of a new lift. If you have a lift truck that is frequently out for service, you must take the time lost into your considerations. You are either losing a piece of equipment you need for maximum efficiency or you may be renting a lift. This becomes an additional cost factor in repairs.

Your business should also look at other factors involved in your current lift truck and a replacement. Does your business use depreciation on your equipment for tax purposes? If the lift is past the point of providing a depreciation value, it may well be time for replacement. This is an issue that is normally considered by accounting departments, but it should be kept in mind.

Does your lift truck have mounting solutions?

Technology is everywhere and your material handling procedures can benefit from technology improvements. You need to get work done quickly while still maintaining safety standards. Warehouse management software programs will make your order picking and processing easier. Your operators will also need access to smartphones, laptops or tablets to access information.

Using the right software programs will greatly increase your efficiency. Operators can be guided to the exact areas where materials need to be stored or pulled. If required materials are missing from inventory, your operator can send an immediate message to alert your order department.

If materials need to be moved from one location to another, your operator can enter the quantity, date and new location, right from the lift truck. With immediate data input, you are much less likely to face forgotten information that could seriously affect your inventory procedures.

Lift truck operators need both hands to operate the equipment safely. They cannot juggle Wi-Fi devices while navigating loads. You also do not want expensive equipment bouncing around on the floor next to the driver. With the right mounting equipment, expensive devices are protected from falls and even vibration. Your operator can simply stop quickly to input the data and then continue with the job at hand. Mounting equipment can be added to older lifts, and many newer vehicles will come with solutions already in place.

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Top 7 Things You Need To Know When Working With Pallets

This is a guest post by Jerry Matos, a Product Specialist for Cherry’s Material Handling, an e-commerce store serving to the industrial warehouse and material handling industry.


Pallets make material moving and handling quick and efficient in industrial and distribution warehouses. Pallets can also present problems when they are not used correctly. Here are seven things you and your employees should know in order to handle pallets safely and get the most efficiency from them.

  1. Use Gloves to Protect Hands

The majority of pallets found in industrial or distribution facilities are manufactured from wood. This wood is rough-cut and not designed to have smooth edges. Any type of pallet handling should be performed with heavy-duty work gloves. Even the slightest slip can embed splinters in your employees’ hands. Depending on the type of pallet, these splinters could contain unwanted chemicals. Long sleeves and pants should be used to prevent scratches on arms and legs.

  1. Be Alert for Drops and Caught-Betweens

When pallets are being moved, employees need to be aware of where their hands and feet are during the process. This applies to manual movement or the use of a jack Palletsor lift truck. Workers should be wearing appropriate footwear to protect their feet in the event a pallet does fall. Caution is also required to prevent hands or fingers from becoming caught in between pallets, or between pallets and the floor or a shelf when the pallet is lowered.

  1. Stacking Correctly

Correct stacking, including how items are placed on pallets, how pallets are stacked on top of each other and how they are stored on shelving is critical.  When employees are placing materials on a pallet for moving, storing or shipping, they must make sure that the weight is distributed correctly. If the weight ends up all on one side, the pallet is likely to tip over.

This applies to stacking pallets as well. Keep weights centered and evenly distributed. If the stack begins to tilt, it must be immediately corrected before an accident occurs. Remember that if pallets are stored on shelving, there must be enough room to navigate a forklift or jack to remove the pallet when needed.

  1. Replace Defective Pallets

Wood pallets do not last forever. In fact, some manufacturers make one-time-use pallets. Pallets should have the IPPC logo to identify heat-treating or fumigation treatment. This is an indication of a more durable pallet. Once the wood begins to split or boards become loose, remove the pallet from service. It will no longer hold up to material handling needs.

Do not just throw your pallets away — they can be recycled. There is a large market for used pallets by individuals that enjoy woodworking and crafting. If you do not have a supplier that will pick them up for free, simply advertise that you have some available.

  1. Pallets are Not Ladders

Just as five-gallon buckets are not designed to work as ladders on a construction site, a stack of pallets should not be used as a ladder in your facility. They are not designed for climbing and standing. Pallets should never be used to create a personnel lift. Do not allow employees to change ceiling lights while standing on a pallet elevated by a forklift. The results are not good.

  1. Make Use of Material Handling Equipment

There is a large amount of equipment available that will make pallet handling easier for your employees. These items can increase productivity and safety in material handling. Lift tables are an excellent choice for raising pallets to the best level for loading and unloading materials. Workers will not need to perform as much bending and lifting, which will reduce back strain. Unloading or loading can be accomplished faster without sacrificing safety.

  1. Use Jacks and Lifts Correctly

Hand jacks or forklifts must be used correctly to ensure that pallets are moved safely. The tines of the lift should be in the center of the weight. Raise the forks slowly until the pallet is off the ground to make sure that the pallet does not slip and the wood does not break.

When pulling the forks out of the pallet, move slowly. Forks can become caught and drag the pallet or break away the wood. Never drive a lift with the load raised to a height that blocks the operator’s vision.

Optimizing Warehouse Space

Author/Editor Bio:

Jerry Matos is the Product Specialist at Cherry’s Material Handling. Cherry’s Material Handling is an e-commerce store serving to the industrial warehouse and material handling industry.

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A Window into Your Logistics Operations: Client Web Portals

Clients can be demanding. In today’s world, unless you supply your clients with real-time information, you could fall behind the countless other third-party logistics companies that do provide this service. Your clients want to know where their merchandise is located throughout the delivery process, so having the right warehouse management software (WMS) in place to ensure that these clients always have access to this information can help your business to grow. The system will also help you in tracking the merchandise that you are moving for these clients, so that you can streamline your warehouse and minimize your transportation times.

Client Web PortalsTruck

Once you have a WMS and/or transportation management system installed, you can give each client the ability to log in and check the status of his or her inventory and deliveries. That way, the client is aware of where their merchandise is at all times, even during the transportation process. This makes life much easier for your customer service representatives, as they will not have to look up this information every time a client calls with an inquiry. It also improves things from the client’s end, as he or she will always have access to this information. Because of this, you will not have to rely on your customer service department to look the information up on a constant basis. Peace of mind goes a long way for the client, and having access to a web portal provides it for customers daily.

The Process

While this software might seem complicated, the process behind it is actually very simple. Whenever a product enters your warehouse, it will be scanned (e.g via RF gun). The same can be said for any time a product leaves your warehouse for another destination. Any time that a product is scanned by one of your staff members, the software automatically updates the information that the clients access through the web portal. This provides your clients with real-time information around the clock, allowing you to give your customer the best possible service.

Space Management

In addition to the benefits that this type of software provides for your clients, it can also benefit you. Once the software is in place, you will know exactly how much product you have in your warehouse at all times, allowing you to manage your space efficiently. The more merchandise that you can store and transport for your clients, the more money your company will make. As a result, it makes sense
to avoid wasting space and to get the most out of it.

Tracking Inventory

The short-term benefits related to having WMS are obvious, but there are long-term benefits to consider as well. For starters, the program tracks your inventory while it in inside the warehouse, so Inventoryyou always know where it is located. You will also know who has moved the inventory, when it was moved, and where it was moved in the warehouse. This creates a culture of accountability for your workers, since they know that everything that they do will be tracked and recorded. This is a great way to keep your employees working hard, which saves money every day.

State of the Merchandise

Companies that store perishable items can also take advantage of this software, as it can track the expiry date on these items. This allows you to see when the product must be moved by and where it is being stored in the warehouse. This can help you and your clients avoid the problems associated with spoiled food and the money loss that goes along with it.

Access from Anywhere

Both you and your client will have access to all of this information from anywhere with an internet connection. This provides peace of mind for everyone involved, as there is very little chance of inventory going missing or being late on delivery. By providing your clients with a window into the entire logistics process, you can keep them informed and happy about your services.

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All Hands on Deck for the Omni-Channel Phenomenon

Implementing a successful Omni-channel distribution strategy requires incredible co-ordination between marketing, information technology, shipping, warehousing, transportation, logistics, suppliers, manufacturers, operations and merchandising — in other words, everyone who even thinks about buying, selling or delivering the product is directly involved in developing the strategy.

It requires careful planning, new business processes, dynamic re-configuration and coordination among all stakeholders. Today’s tech-savvy customer may want to order online for pick up in their local store, have it shipped directly to them from a click to buy button or place their order over the phone for same-day delivery.

Everyone involved in the back-end of the process needs to be on the same page when the buyer finally makes their decision to “push the button.”

Delivering an Extraordinary Customer Experience

The goal is to deliver an extraordinary customer experience across every single touch point. It is all too common to see a customer standing in a brick-and-mortar store talking on a cell phone to a friend, while looking up the product on their laptop.

Millennials and Generation Z buyers think nothing of showrooming. They grew up with it. They want what they want in the right size and color available now, and it needs to be less expensive than everything else they looked at. So, what is the big deal?

Oh, and by the way, if you do not have it, they will go to Amazon.com and have it delivered tomorrow – free. If the customer wants it tomorrow and they are across the country, regional warehouses need product on the shelf waiting for delivery to the retailer or the consumer directly.

The Omni-Channel Phenomenon — Channels Are Blurring

What seems like a simple and obvious buying experience to the consumer requires incredible coordination behind the scenes. All the people and systems behind the scenes, are ready to move when the buyer “clicks to buy” or takes the product off the shelf.

Instantaneous, real-time data goes from the point of purchase to all interested parties in the transaction. Delivering this instant gratification requires tremendous investment in integrated systems and coordination between all internal departments and external stakeholders.

Process Mapping With Everyone at the Table is More Important Than Ever

Practical Suggestions

  1. Engage all stake-holders and initiate focus groups to understand both consumer behavior and internal stakeholders — avoid conflicting metrics and channel conflict at all costs.
  2. Play out all the “what if’s” and known possibilities surrounding multiple buying scenarios.
  3. Develop flexible forecasting models based both on past data and future demand.
  4. Create dynamic work flows and process flows for each type of buying behavior to anticipate where the physical product needs to be and when it needs to be there.
  5. Investigate multiple delivery methods – Amazon is experimenting with drones.
  6. Evaluate existing systems and look for ways to streamline multi-directional delivery of data and product.
  7. Evaluate packaging and shipping methods for maximum efficiency, durability and safely.
  8. Consider sharing inventory across multiple stores and regional centers.
  9. Shorten the space and time from receiving to shipping.
  10. Dynamically reconfigure store and warehouse layouts to maximize floor space and minimize travel time.
  11. Review picking and staging methods to support multiple points of delivery.
  12. Constantly review EOQ’s and JIT based on the realities of new buying behaviors.

Summary

Omni-channel distribution is no longer just about distribution. It is about the entire system working together in a seamless fashion to deliver the customer what they want, where they want it, when they want it for less than every other alternative they evaluated.

It is all about who can move transactional data and physical product most efficiently and economically. This requires real time data movement and physical product handling strategies all working together as one seamless system.

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Introducing “Outside the Box” Technologies into Your Business

Thinking outside the box” is a mantra that has always been valuable in the business world. Simply put, it points to the idea that the most obvious answer to a question or solution to a problem may not be the appropriate one for the situation. By being prepared to think outside the box and embrace the unexpected, you’re opening both yourself and your organization up to a whole new world of possibilities, many of which would have previously seemed impossible with a more traditional viewpoint.

In today’s modern climate, technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that thinking “outside the box” isn’t just a recommendation – it’s practically a requirement. There are a few key “outside the box” technologies in particular that have potentially dramatic implications for third party logistics providers all over the world.

3D Printing

One of these bold new technologies is 3D printing, which is also commonly known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing involves the creation of almost any three dimensional object that you can think of through a process in which layers of material are continually laid down on a surface under the control of a computer. Using only a 3D printer, a connected computer and a digital design, nearly any type of object can be made to a user’s exact specifications using the appropriate type of material.

For third party logistics providers in particular, the potential of this is seemingly limitless. In a White Paper written by Ken Lyon and John Manners-Bell, they use the example of service parts to get this point across. If a spare part for a particular type of machine or vehicle is required, it can be printed quickly and dispatched to the appropriate location just as fast using only a 3D printer and anLogistics 3D Printing electronic design library.

Even if the part that is required is no longer being traditionally manufactured, an existing model can be scanned in 3D and additional parts can be made on demand. 3D printing stands to not only dramatically reduce costs normally associated with warehousing and inventory, but it also has the potential to completely redefine the supply chain management process in general.

Mobile Applications

Another “outside the box” technology that can be implemented into the third party logistics business involves embracing mobile applications. Implementing mobile technology in your business is something that is handled primarily through software, thanks largely to the fact that most people already have their own Internet-ready smartphones and other devices of that nature. More specifically, Web-based and mobile order and shipment management applications can be used to gain finer control over the supply chain process than ever before. When paired with location-based tracking technology, these advancements can be used to find the exact location of individual items at a moment’s notice.

Light Picking

Another example of a benefit to be achieved by thinking outside the box includes light picking technology, also commonly referred to as “pick to light.” In this type of deployment, a light-directed system is installed in a warehouse to expand what employees are capable of doing. Lights are installed above racks, bins and other types of areas where employees will be picking items from (hence the name). When a customer places an order for a particular item or even a set of items, an associated barcode is scanned by the operator.Light Picking

Based on the items that the customer is requiring, the lights above the respective bins will illuminate and contain specific pieces of information like how many items should be picked and more. Employees will no longer have to spend varying amounts of time searching high and low for particular items. The system itself will automatically identify not only the location of those items but the quantity that is desired. The process itself becomes substantially easier and faster, increasing productivity as a result. The only expenses associated with this type of deployment include the lights themselves, the installation for the system and the dedicated software used during the picking of orders.

These are just a few of the many examples of the benefits that are associated with implementing outside the box technologies in your business. Voice picking technology, waveless technology, Kiva robots and augmented reality picking are a few more examples of advancements that are just on the horizon.

There has been much discussion regarding these and other types of “outside the box” technological advancements. Many assume that technology like 3D printing will spell “doom” for third party logistics providers. If 3D printing becomes easier, more affordable and readily available, what need will businesses have for the providers themselves? That type of thinking is shortsighted, however, as with the right attitude these technologies can dramatically benefit 3PL providers, not harm them. 3D printing, mobile technology and more – such as enhanced automation and RF operators – can make it easier for 3PL providers to do their jobs, which will only result in stronger business and better service moving forward.

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Creating a Winning Work Culture

Creating a Winning Work Culture

Employees work to better your company through increased production, safety awareness and fast implementation of changes when they feel secure.

Security does not center solely on monetary gains. Workers who feel their supervisors respect them and the job they do have higher production output, fewer sick days and genuine pride in their jobs.

A unique and profitable company culture grows from this respect and trust.

Disrespect vs. respect

The old-fashioned boss-employee relationship does not work in today’s workplace. The attitude of “them against us” leads to:

  • High turnover
  • Increased theft
  • Loss of the company’s vision
  • Negative media attention

Employees who find little respect at work, serve the same disrespect to managers, coworkers and the workplace.

In a poll, how would your employees rate management?

Employees for one major retail holding company gave their CEO a 19 percent approval rating in a national poll.

Most employees rate their employer somewhere between the bottom 20 percent and the top 10 percent with trust as the deciding factor.

At companies like Google and SAS, over 95 percent of the employees rate management as ethical, trustworthy and respectful.

Of course, not every company can afford cafeterias, an onsite Frisbee golf course and nap pods like the top two companies on Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work for in 2014.

Trust: The foundation of a great company culture

Building trust in employees begins with hiring people with the right attitude and then developing their skills. Finding people who work well together and share a common goal comes before hiring the person who has all the technical skills.

Skill building will happen over the first few months of employment but an attitude rarely changes.

Hire people who will actively pursue the future success of the company and believe in the company’s:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Values

Of course, these key company elements hang throughout the building and everyone knows them by heart. But, what do employees do each day to expand and improve each element?

Problem solving and safety

Great working environments spring from workforces who share diverse perspectives on the same idea to reach a solution to problems. Employee input remains vital to warehousing success as they work with the people, equipment and processes every day.

Successful 3PL companies offer employees more than a job. Companies that provide educational opportunities and career path planning give employees reasons to improve.

An outstanding safety record makes any 3PL valuable to clients.

Warehouse safety-awareness programs that encourage employee ideas and implementation not only lower accident rates but also give workers incentive to identify potential hazards before an accident happens.

Appreciation

Incentives for safety awareness can include:

  • Employee of the Month recognition
  • A parking spot
  • A gift card to a local store

Employee appreciation does not always mean a pay raise or paid time off. Long-time team members who go beyond their job with perfect attendance and above standard job performance deserve gratitude.

Awarding these outstanding achievements with a personalized parking space costs little and brings happiness every day. Who can resist smiling when pulling into a parking place with their name on it?

Lead with care

  • Supply your team with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Keep equipment in good working condition by having operators complete a checklist each day and ordering repairs when needed.
  • Keep your employees engaged in their jobs by offering variety where possible.
  • Listen to worker concerns and accommodate those who need personal time or schedule changes for family matters. Many companies offer flexible schedules, compressed workweeks and telecommuting, which allow employees to find a balance between work and family. Having no balance between family and work is the number one cause of stress in the workplace. Relieving that stress lifts a huge weight off the company shoulders.
  • Inform employees about current business trends, financial insecurities, and coming benchmarks. Never lie or deceive employees about possible cuts in personnel or pay.
  • Let everyone speak and validate each contribution with positive feedback.

A great work culture grows from individuals learning to interact and work together for the good of your company. Prove your trustworthiness through ethical practices and treat your employees with respect.

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Mobile and Beyond – The Future of 3PL

The Future of 3PLBecause third party logistics providers play such an important role in the daily operations of many different types of businesses, it makes sense, to a certain extent, to always be looking toward the future to try to figure out what big advancements are on the horizon.

If you look back as recently as 10 years, the landscape of 3PL providers across the country has changed in a number of dramatic and integral ways. Popular thinking from experts, like 3PLStudy.com, has indicated that as 3PL providers continue to grow and evolve in the future, they will only ingrain themselves further into the day-to-day operations of businesses everywhere.

One of the major ways that third party logistics is expected to change in the future has to do with an increased emphasis on mobile applications of all types. Those in the industry are already seeing the beginning of this type of change. Work that was done on a desktop or, at best, on a laptop computer is now also available on a smartphone, tablet or some other type of portable device.

Current trends expect this emphasis on the mobile landscape to increase dramatically moving forward. The prominence of this trend was confirmed in the 2014 Third Party Logistics Study conducted by 3PLStudy.com. More specifically, the study indicated that paper records of all types and nearly every other function currently expected from a third party logistics provider will be available on mobile devices in the next 10 years for businesses to use while on the go.

Another important change in third party logistics has to do with an equally massive change in the economy and in business in general. Analysts, such as at Deloitte, are predicting a dramatic globalization of the economy to take place by 2020. As businesses continue to grow, they need to operate not just on a national scale but on the global landscape to thrive and continue to stay profitable. As technology continues to advance and connect businesses together in new and interesting ways, the world gets smaller as a result. Supply chains will only get more intricate and complex as costs begin to vary wildly based on the scope of a business. As a result, third party logistics providers will need to meet all of these demands in order to not only stay functional within this globalized business environment but to stay relevant at the same time.

Another key change that will take place in the future of third party logistics is an increased level of collaboration between 3PL providers and the shippers that they’re doing business with on a regular basis. Technology is already paving the way for this type of relationship to take place in the present day, so the natural evolution of that relationship is to take things to the next level. Thanks to online Web portals and mobile applications that allow for more intricately managed inventory by vendors, vendors will be able to monitor the inventory of a supplier themselves and make resupply decisions based on demand and current trends. This type of information sharing and others will become more and more critical as third party logistics providers will need to be as flexible as possible to help maintain the speed and integrity of the services that they’re offering to businesses on a daily basis.

We are living in a rapidly evolving and exciting time. The key is preparing yourself, so you can properly adapt to whatever comes your way. Remember to always be looking towards the future to stay ahead of the game.

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Harnessing the Power of Big Data

Big Data in LogisticsThere’s little doubt Big Data is rapidly transforming the third-party logistics industry. Companies that take advantage of what computerization and information technology have to offer will almost certainly have leg up over the competition, while also delivering better service and making operations more cost effective.

Harnessing the Data Stream

One of the challenges of working with Big Data is effective analysis and implementation of the massive amount of information that can now be generated. Now,more than ever, data is pouring in from all angles.

Innovative 3PL companies are already utilizing video cameras, RFID sensors, GPS trackers and other digital shipping tools, and those that aren’t are expected to implement these devices in their companies within the coming years. All of those devices are increasingly interfaced through tablets, smartphones and data processing centers.

Making data easier to process is key to learning how to improve operations. That means standardization between devices so everything and everyone is speaking the same language. It also means creating a uniform format, such as one broad customer satisfaction survey that helps computers spot trends more easily.

Effectively using this information is key to unlocking the potential of Big Data. When using this data properly, logistic companies can identify weak spots in supply chains and even identify employees that are not performing tasks as needed, just two important factors in the low-margin 3PL industry.

Dealing with Last-Mile Costs

Big Data is revolutionizing the way logistic companies deal with costly “last-mile,” often considered the most expensive part of the supply chain. Using Big Data, companies can now examine routes in real-time, determining the most efficient way to reach a destination. Big Data does this by examining all barriers to delivery, including geographic or situational factors, and then uses GPS to deliver the optimal route to employees.

Automated systems also help drivers and shippers determine the proper sequence of goods’ delivery, helping to reduce time spent in the field. Telematics’ software analyzes its own databases and incoming information based on variables like traffic and weather conditions to switch to a more effective route. If a recipient’s location changes or new information arises, systems can help drivers learn this information in real-time.

Strategic Planning and Efficient Operation
Big Data can increase operational efficiency and aid in company strategy. Using software that analyzes large data sets, companies can allocate fleet resources efficiently and determine important decisions like whether to expand warehousing in a certain area. Big Data does this by analyzing factors such as seasonal delivery patterns and providing maps of historical routes for comparison.

Another advantage Big Data has to offer is planning routes based on a large variety of factors, including schedules for planes, trucks and trains, while also creating more efficient systems for employee scheduling that correspond with deliveries and shipping routes. This can help 3PL companies manage their operations by taking into account the very latest information streams.

These systems can also input external information from different data sources automatically, helping operations learn about factors like product release dates, lost shipping containers, factory closures and even ongoing political developments.

Customer Service

3PL companies can quickly lose customers if they don’t respond to customer needs or signs of dissatisfaction. Big Data helps quickly identify customer complaints and input, while also measuring customer satisfaction in relation to other data, such as financial sector information.

For example, a customer might cut down on orders with a 3PL company, but external data feeds from financial services might indicate that this customer has, at the same time, increased their sales and revenue. This offers a clear sign that there is a problem with customer satisfaction and the possibility that they have turned to another service provider. Big Data can spot these patterns and help 3PL companies adjust accordingly.

With Big Data, companies also identify usage patterns of their customers and develop ways to foster brand loyalty in customers to reduce customer turnover, a key issue for many logistic companies.

Cloud Computing and Automation

Data services also allow companies to operate in the cloud, helping them process more data, keep backups of data and analyze data, all for far cheaper than it would cost a 3PL to buy the hardware and servers themselves.

One of the big future trends of 3PL is the use of automated technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Feeding information into robotics that perform repetitive tasks, such as sorting packages, requires building Big Data sets and then programming machines to perform a set task that increases efficiency. Although many 3PL companies do not yet make extensive use of automation, this trend is expected to change in the future, and Big Data will be an essential part of this development.

Logistics is already being revolutionized by Big Data, and as the technology advances, further big changes will force companies to adapt to Big Data out of their own interest and for the benefit of the customer.

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Warehouse Management Software Buyer Trends

We would like to share a new research report by Forrest Burnson, the Managing Editor for Software Advice, an organization that  provides detailed reviews, comparisons, and research to help other organizations choose the right software to meet their needs.

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Every year, Software Advice speaks to hundreds of businesses that are searching for the best warehouse management system (WMS) to fit their needs. These interactions give them tremendous insight into the needs of WMS buyers across a wide assortment of industries. They recently analyzed a random selection of 385 of these interactions to examine the main reasons buyers are seeking new WMS software.

Some key findings include:

  • Among big businesses, 72% wanted barcoding capabilities, and nearly one-fifth wanted RFID tracking capabilities.

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  • More than one-third of buyers are currently using manual methods (e.g. pen and paper) as their warehouse management solution.

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  • More than 25% of 3PL firms wanted a WMS that offers EDI capabilities.

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If you are in the process of evaluating potential WMS solutions or would like to simply learn out more about their findings, you can find the rest of their research here: warehouse management software buyer trends

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The True Value Adders – 3PL Service Providers

3PLs and their clients share a unique relationship. When a prospective client is sourcing for a potential firm to do business with, they are looking for a variety of key business offerings. To meet this demand, 3PL firms offer a number of key services to ensure their clients’ companies receive stellar service and increased value to the bottom line:

Expertise3PL Value Adds

A 3PL firm offers a high level of expertise in logistics and operations, resulting in a reduction of time, an improvement in carrier management, order tracking efficiencies, shipment visibility and reduced risk.

Analysis

Analyzing networks is a key process that cannot be avoided. 3PL firms are able to provide a detailed analysis of distribution and inventory while being able to make changes along the way. This keeps all changes, production and other factors up-to-date and removes the responsibility from the employees that may not have the know-how to do a thorough in-house analysis.

Cost-Containment

3PL firms have the ability to provide information on all production issues and ineffective processes, including having the ability to employ corrective measures within certain boundaries.

Strategic Capacity

3PL firms are able to strategically measure, evaluate and employ methods that will cater to an organization’s needs according to price and level of service. They are capable at resolving any issues and demands when analyzing and executing these methods using a large carrier network.

Compliance

No shipping organization can go without supply chain management. 3PL have the ability to create a reporting platform that will communicate with supply chain partners in a timely and accurate manner while providing objective feedback to improve processes.

Load Optimization

3PLs are able to give information on cost-savings achieved through load optimization based on times, dates and shipping details provided. This helps optimize all shipments, removing the in-house responsibility.

Systems Support

3PLs are able to provide adequate systems support, coordinating results with the expectations of current and future customers.

Reduction of Risks

3PLs are able to evaluate and diminish easily identifiable risks, giving perspectives on how to develop a program to address those risks that are harder to pinpoint and resolve.

In a general sense, these are some key business services that many 3PLs offer and should help organizations when determining whether or not their firm is making a difference in their bottom line and serving all their needs. 3PLs after all are proven experts in the field and a highly professional and experienced one can take care of all your logistics needs.

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Social Media in Third-Party Logistics

Social MediaTechnology continues to alter the way companies do business, placing a huge focus on customer engagement and product marketing. Although the use of social media is fairly new to the third-party logistics arena, companies are starting to take notice and incorporate a variety of platforms into their processes.

Why social media?

Why not? Social media has now become a significant part of the industry, with companies using social networks to market products, recruit new talent, advance sales and improve customer service. Social CRM in the Supply Chain, a report from IDC Research Services indicates that logistics companies who use social media platforms see increased benefits over companies that do not use social media. According to the report, 88 percent of the respondents have reported savings in time of over 10 percent, and a 60 percent reporting of improved satisfaction among supply chain vendors and partners.

Third-party logistics companies have successfully used LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs as outreach methods to enhance their business model. Used wisely, social media can open doors and create viable partnerships for current and future business.

Go-gulf.com reports a 74 percent research rate of a company’s social media presence by consumers prior to making their decision to purchase. This means that companies must use social media effectively in traditional marketing, enhancing relationships and increasing their exposure.

One of the major obstacles in building brand equity is understanding how clients and potential customers or prospects use social media to gather information. Researching which platforms are used by these individuals and providing a relevant stream of engaging content on a continuous basis is a quick way to build and retain audiences.

Social media helps create dialogue with prospective customers and current clients. Being able to address questions and participate in conversations using Twitter or other forums helps a company stay relevant and informed on what customers and clients need and want. Being engaged through social media also allows a company to introduce new innovative methods, ideas and products that are coming down the pipeline, enhancing other marketing efforts that may be a part of the current strategy.

Using social media can help the company’s overall bottom line, and the impact of online reviews should be taken very seriously. Using a fulfilment center that is active and engaged on social media platforms can increase brand equity and enhance brand image.

What are the best social media platforms for 3PL?

That depends on your scope and marketing strategy. For executives recruiting talent, LinkedIn has proven to be a great resource, with a large number of companies using this tool, with Facebook coming in at a close second. Although every platform is not for everyone, using Twitter for quick updates and conversations is a growing trend. Companies should also consider using blogs with informative content and visuals to keep clients and customers engaged.

Putting together a strategic team to assess which platform would be most useful is important, but at the minimum, using a blog, Twitter and LinkedIn can work wonders. While Facebook has its advantages, the trend of Facebook is dwindling in certain B2B scetors. Companies should focus on those platforms that will keep them highly engaged with their customers on a continuous basis that is simple, quick and effective.

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Cultivating a Successful Partnership with your Clients

Having a great product or service that people want to buy is the first step to any successful business. However, there are a number of other steps needed to complete a satisfactory transaction between a business and their customers.

In the Internet age, most customers order their products online, which means streamlined shipping, transportation and billing systems are critical to the success of most businesses. The better these systems are, the less amount of strain will be put on the shipping of various products and the less chance of orders not being properly fulfilled, all of which will result in a higher amount of customer satisfaction.

Below are some of the best ways to cultivate a successful relationship between your business and your clients, so your customers will be sure to get what they have paid for.

Make Sure Your Warehouse is Perfectly Organized

The better organized your warehouse with the location of all the different products you are selling, the more efficiently you can track and put together orders to be shipped, so that it is easy to send your products to customers. An alphabetized shelving system is one good idea, with all products organized based on the letter of what they start with. A numerical system can also be set up — whichever system works best for your warehouse. Make sure all your employees know this system like the back of their hands as well, so that it is like a second language when doing business.

Double Check All Orders

Every order that comes through the warehouse should be put together by your team and then should have another employee or employees whose sole responsibility is to cross check the orders, making sure they are exactly right every time. This will reduce the number of incorrect or incomplete orders and will also reduce the number of orders that are delivered to the wrong addresses.

Communicate with the Shipper

Communication is key in most relationships as you should regularly communicate what you need from the client and what they need from you. This should be done on a regular basis, so that everyone is on the same page and adjustments on both sides can be made to make all of the business run that much more smoothly. This may be on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on what you think your company needs, and it may take some time to get everything smoothed out regarding the efficiency of the whole process. Making the client understand exactly what you need through various charts and graphs that detail your business and where you need things to improve may also be helpful in this whole process, so consider presenting that to them as well.

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The Manual Way – An Outdated Warehousing Practice

Your warehousing practices can mean the difference between being productive versus using your labor for unnecessary tasks. If you’re not utilizing the most current warehouse management system available to you, then you’re just throwing your money away.

How Many Of These Outdated Warehousing Systems Are You Using?

  • Paper lists or paper forms of any kind for any reason
  • Manually writing down product locations or information
  • Any type of face to face communication
  • Manual batch processing
  • Anything else you’re doing manually

Think back to the time when everything was done manually, by hand, using only paper and a pencil. That seems like it was ages ago. Now compare that to today’s technology and how quickly you can send someone an email versus writing out a handwritten letter, addressing it, sealing it, putting a stamp on it, walking it to the mailbox and having it mailed out. Then you have to wait days until your receiver gets their letter.

You can make the same comparison when it comes to how you are running your business. Whenever you do something manually, it is the equivalent of handwriting a letter and sending it in the mail. It takes more time, there are more steps and quite a bit more effort involved. And the end result can’t be achieved in real-time, which means, while you’re waiting, you are losing money.

If you are still using outdated warehousing systems, don’t you think it’s time to upgrade to something that will make your staff and your business more efficient? It’s time to stop using paper. Why write something down on a piece of paper and then have to process it again once it gets to the next step. Then you rinse and repeat that same time-wasting process for each step of the entire warehousing process until your product reaches its final destination.

All those manual steps intermingled with the face to face communications that are necessary when you are not using an updated warehousing system just lead to a greater potential for human error and a huge waste of precious time, money and valuable resources!

Why You Should Consider Moving Away From A Manual System?

  1. Manual systems leave too much room for human error.
  2. Manual systems take more time and will cost you more in labor and supplies.
  3. Manual systems waste paper and valuable resources and are bad for the environment.
  4. Manual systems will make your company look less professional versus a company who utilizes all the latest technology.
  5. Manual systems make it hard to effectively multi-task all the functions within any given project.

The Take Away

Certainly everyone will agree that doing anything manually is not the best way to run a successful business. And it definitely won’t allow your company any room for unlimited growth without having to hire a much larger staff to maintain that growth.

Moving away from doing anything manually and purchasing a more modern warehousing solution is the absolute best way to grow your ROI and make your business as efficient and productive as possible. If you are still using any types of manual systems in your business, you’re losing money.

Manual Methods

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Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It

We would like to share an interesting blog post by Adam Bluemner, the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a service providing free software selection assistance.

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Cycle counting is an improved approach for inventory stock verification. In brief, cycle counting provides a method of splitting the inventory verification task out over time in order to create greater process efficiency and inventory records accuracy. It has two fundamental characteristics:

1.       Stock verification happens continuously over the year, rather than all at once.

2.       High value inventory items get additional attention.

Key points:

  • Industry experts attribute bin location accuracy rates of 95% or even 99% and overall efficiency gains of 5-10% to the implementation of a cycle counting program.
  • Cycle counting puts attention where your investment is by using a group assignment model based on item “value.” An item’s value is determined not by unit supply cost or number of inventory turns, but rather by the combination of the two factors.
  • The advantages of cycle counting over end-of-the-year stock verification intensifies as your organization’s investment in inventory increases.
  • Cycle counting doesn’t require a major investment in equipment, outside services, or human resources.

You can find the rest of this interesting article here: Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It

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Top Reasons for Considering an On-site WMS Solution over Cloud-Based

On-Site WMS Solutions

If you are a participant in the rapidly growing and increasingly competitive 3PL market space, you know you are forced to constantly evaluate every aspect of your operations. As information technology plays an increasingly vital role in all elements of logistics, making the right decisions today often determine your ability to succeed tomorrow. One of the pressing issues for many providers today is the issue of relying upon on-premise or cloud IT services.

Warehouse Management Systems

Grappling with everything from transportation to billing to warehouse management presents a complex challenge for many small to mid-sized companies. For those involved in any aspect of warehouse and distribution center management, the solutions begin at the choice of an effective WMS.

The initial decision you face is choosing between one of two directions. The first approach is the traditional method of installing a proprietary system onsite with total, local control of the hardware, software, and network. The second option is to access your WMS through the cloud, relying on the services of a cloud-based data center.

If you turn to the cloud, you face another decision. You can still choose your own, custom WMS, or you can use a web-based product sold as a Software as a Service WMS. There are, then, two key parts of your decision-making process. These are:

  • Keep your WMS customized and proprietary, whether it is on local hardware or managed via the cloud
  • Turn to a more generic, cloud-based WMS that you use in a SaaS environment

Develop Your Scorecard

In coming to a solution that is right for your business, you will balance a number of issues ranging from short-term installation costs to long-term ability to get the job done. If you are trying to decide between a custom installation and SaaS, here are a number of factors to include in that scorecard:

  1. The problem with “one-size fits all.” For all the benefits of a cloud-based SaaS product, the simple fact is that when it comes to effective WMS, it is rare for one package to provide the flexibility and functionality your circumstances requires. Be careful when compromising on essential features when a “simpler solution” seems attractive.
  2. Integration with automated warehouse and handling equipment. One area many packaged systems fall short is full integration with existing and to-be-purchased handling equipment. This usually represents a large capital investment that reflects your specific warehouse operations and needs. Any WMS that does not offer full capabilities in this area presents a major challenge to operational efficiency.
  3. Customer responsiveness. As with your warehouse infrastructure, you have built a customer base with your own style of operations and service. Be wary of any standard WMS that requires you to tinker with that formula of success. Likewise, always remember that your customers are interested in results, not with conforming to your IT needs.
  4. Accountability. If you have a vendor providing your own customized solution, they are accountable and responsive to you. Dealing with a remote vendor serving many customers with a packaged or even slightly modified package often presents problems.
  5. Legal issues. While your cloud SaaS vendor will provide a service agreement, many companies are unaware of their exposures if that remote vendor or data center fails or has other problems. Recapturing your applications and stored data presents a real, if minor, risk to your continuity of operations.

While the cloud is here to stay, the solution that works for you may include an onsite installation. Properly considering your options is the first step in making that decision.

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Retail Trends to Watch in 2014

The supply chain is always sensitive to trends, and retail is the trickiest of all. Consumers love to jump on new products and new ways to shop, and as online shopping continues to soar in popularity, the warehouse industry makes it possible for retailers to reach bigger markets and sell more products. However, new trends in e-commerce might change the role warehouses play in the future of retail.

Ship-from-Store Options

More and more shoppers are skipping brick-and-mortar stores to order from store websites instead. That might sound like good news for the warehouse industry, but there’s a new trend in ecommerce that threatens to bridge the gap between stores and behind-the-scenes warehouses: ship-from-store programs.

Major retail brands have long maintained national databases, to help them keep track of each store’s inventory. In the past, if a customer wanted something that wasn’t on store shelves, they could request it from another store, or the manager could add it to the next shipment from the warehouse.

Now, inventory databases are integrated into the online shopping experience. Shoppers can look up an item to see if their local store has it, but if not, they don’t have to drive to the next town. Instead, another store can ship it directly to their local store — or better yet, to their house. This process gradually inspired a larger trend among retail chains, turning stores into makeshift fulfillment centers for individual customer orders.

As online revenue continues to increase and customers expect more streamlined shopping experiences, more retailers will likely get on board, setting up ship-from-store programs. Future construction projects might even reflect this distribution center trend in the form of changed layouts or increased square footage. After all, they’ll have to designate more space for shipments and pick-ups. Ship-from-store options won’t render retail high-capacity warehouses irrelevant any time soon, but it’s still a trend worth watching.

Gimmicks, Specials & Bargain Websites 

Retail Trends

The warehouse and retail industries are symbiotic, creating a consistent flow of merchandise from a variety of different manufacturers. This is still very true in 2014, as the best brick-and-mortar stores thrive by embracing e-commerce and outsourcing their shipments and storage. However, savvy entrepreneurs are jumping onto the back end of the ecommerce trend. There are dozens of new retail companies that “exist” only online, without physical locations, and they rely on their interface to bring in customers who could purchase the same products elsewhere.

Warehouse managers must be able to assess any big change in demand, and decide whether staffing changes are also necessary to accommodate (or weather) it. As people with less retail experience jump into the retail business, managers will have to work harder to anticipate demand and coordinate their resources accordingly.

Shoppers are smarter than ever, and they’ll compare prices online even if they’re standing in a store aisle. The same gimmicks that sell products — limited-time sales and last-minute discounts — can throw off the predictability of the supply chain. When a brick-and-mortar store slashes the price of a hot electronic, pop-up electronics websites can respond with slightly lower prices, but warehouses must be able to accommodate that demand and get the products out.

As “free shipping” offers flood the Internet and online-only bargains keep shoppers in their pajamas, the demand for fulfillment centers will continue to grow. The warehouse industry can hold onto retail clients by focusing on capacity, efficiency and adaptability. Warehouses already make e-commerce look way easier than it really is; they can handle these new retail trends too.

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Utilizing New Technologies to Improve Warehouse Operations

M2M Technology

When attempting to make a warehouse operate more efficiently, there are few options that a third party logistics (3PL) provider can utilize. 3PL companies are specialized and focused on making sure their operations are functioning at peak efficiency.

The best news for shippers who don’t have a big budget for a crew to monitor inflow and outflow is that 3PL providers already have that infrastructure in place. The infrastructure is set up to such a degree that contracting with 3PL companies can turn out to be less costly in the end, as 3PL companies have perfected the process so your team doesn’t waste time troubleshooting.

M2M solutions have changed the way that technology can be used when it comes to warehouse operations. M2M or Machine to Machine refers to technologies that allow both wired and wireless systems to communicate with other devices of the same type. For example, storage and transportation is aided with the implementation of tracking labels that are smaller than your average UPC sticker but provide bar codes that enable managers to track location as well as temperature and the physical state products are in. If something is damaged, or removed from a storage area, M2M tech can alert companies automatically, allowing for 3PL service providers to deal with a problem before it takes hold.

Another M2M advancement that has been hitting the market in the last few years is the ability to monitor not just the temperature of the storage unit being used, but the individual temperatures of the products themselves. M2M solutions work to tell people if something has been damaged by being exposed to extreme temperatures much quicker.

Having this data at hand means the warehouse manager has a better understanding of what products are still viable at a glance and which need to be replaced. Using M2M logistic solutions keeps the return on investment when it comes to dealing with warehouse operations as high as possible. There are times when the ROI can have a razor thin margin between high and low, and getting as much information as possible about the products is the difference between turning a profit and recording a loss.

On-demand transportation is a relatively new offering from some 3PL service providers. On-demand transportation services take the worry of transportation management out of the hands of the warehouse operations chief. 3PL services handle the worries about transportation instead. On-demand transportation can still be somewhat costly and the return needs to be examined further, but for warehouses that are suffering from employment shortfalls, the option is there for the taking, even if it is only being used in the short term.

A good 3PL takes some of the trickiness away by offering up different solutions that are fully customizable and scalable. Having a one-size-fits-all approach in this type of business is counter productive. 3PLs are very good at making sure a warehouse operation is chugging along by tracking the actual product but also by making sure financial targets are being met. The inflows and outflows of a warehouse operation can be tricky depending on what sector of the market the business is operating in.

Sources

http://ipcommunications.tmcnet.com/topics/ip-communications/articles/31196-ramco-systems-savid-technologies-enter-strategic-alliance.htm

http://maves.com/Solutions.html

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Logistics in a World of 3D Printing

Logistics 3D Printing

It wasn’t too long ago that 3D printing was limited to science-fiction novels or incredibly expensive government and corporate prototypes. However, major advances over the past few years have made additive manufacturing, or “3D printing” as it is more commonly known, a very practical and increasingly cost-effective way to manufacture certain products. However, 3D printing technology is still very much in its infancy, and it is just now starting to become practical in specific industries.

How will the logistics industry will be affected by 3D printing?

One of the industries poised to be most affected by 3D printing is the logistics industry. After World War II, the global economy entered a period of time in which massive quantities of goods were produced in one country or region then shipped somewhere else on the planet far away from the product’s origin. Early on, this meant that the United States was shipping their goods around the world. More recently, robust logistical routes allowed countries like China and India to manufacture goods that could then be shipped to wealthier countries where consumers could actually afford the products being made. This scenario helped raise previously impoverished nations out of poverty, and was a boon for the global logistics industry.

3D printing is poised to completely revolutionize this status quo.

The good news for logistics companies

Fortunately, it is not all bad news for the logistics industry. While it is true that the ability to inexpensively produce manufactured goods in the destination country will reduce the amount of international freight being shipped, logistics companies will also see substantially reduced overheads.

The increased ability to customize products and materials will dramatically reduce warehouse requirements across the industry. Because products can be made to order, there will be less need for stockpiles of inventory. At the same time, next-generation 3D printing devices will reduce, if not eliminate, the need for low-level assembly line workers. With less money tied up in warehoused inventory, reduced warehouse requirements and less expensive payrolls, logistics companies will become more flexible and streamlined.

How logistics companies can survive and thrive in the new environment

While it is true that localized manufacturing will reduce the need to ship finished products across the world, it is important to remember that products that are 3D printed still require raw materials to be produced. Shipment of raw materials is likely to be even more important than it is today. Not only will large companies require direct shipments of the raw materials, but every household with a 3D printer will require shipments as well. Residential delivery of raw materials could be a massive boom sector for the logistics industry.

In addition to residential delivery, logistics companies can transition into more of a full-service entity. Logistics companies can move away from the 3PL model, in which a particular logistics company is only directly involved in one specific part of the supply chain. Instead, logistics managers can adopt a 4PL strategy, in which they serve as a comprehensive solution from raw material sourcing to home delivery.

Many experts believe that 3D printing has the potential to completely change the way the world economy works, and to dramatically increase the living standards of individuals across the globe. Inevitably, there will be some painful transition periods and rough patches, particularly for companies so integrated with the current economic order. However, with the proper foresight, logistics companies can adjust their business models to become even more important than they are today.

Sources:

http://www.manufacturing.net/blogs/2013/10/why-3d-printing-could-be-a-manufacturing-and-logistics-game-changer

http://cerasis.com/2014/02/10/3d-printing-supply-chain/

http://www.supplychain247.com/article/the_implications_of_3d_printing_for_the_global_logistics_industry/manufacturing

http://www.inddist.com/blogs/2014/02/why-3d-printing-could-be-manufacturing-and-logistics-game-changer

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100 Recommended References for Logistics IT

Since information technology is so integral to the success of the entire logistics industry, it is important to have a strong grasp on the fundamentals, and the available logistics IT services. Logistics IT providers, industry magazines, and general logistics news sources are all included on this list to provide as complete a picture as possible of the quickly evolving logistics IT space. These sites are not being ranked or rated comparatively, they are only being recommended as useful references for newcomers and veterans in logistics IT. This collection of 100 websites is intended to give readers, a primer on some of the best and most reliable logistics IT information available online: 100 Recommended References for Logistics IT.

00_recommended_references_for_logistics_it

 

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Ways to Organize and Optimize Warehouse Space

Optimizing Warehouse Space

Proper use of warehouse space can expedite shipping, increase safety and alleviate headaches. Organizing and optimizing space can also save companies up to 15 percent, according to Logistics Management, so it’s easy to see why it is important to make warehouse logistics a priority.

Increasing Shipping Speeds and Product Quality

Good optimization and organization can increase a business’ shipping speeds while insuring that the product quality is ideal.

The key to increasing shipping speeds is making sure that the most frequently purchased products are in the most convenient locations in the warehouse. The most popular products often change by season, so it is important to keep track of sales data. Before making storage plans, logistics managers should examine at least one year’s worth of sales figures. This will give a better overall idea of how products flow from the warehouse at certain times of the year.

Warehouses with diversified inventories can best manage a wide array of goods by using software that keeps track of SKUs, inventory, sales, projections and other important numbers. Many warehouse vendors provide this software as part of their storage package, and it is a popular choice for managing products.

As items are shipped to and from the warehouse, the product is scanned and the information is uploaded to the software, which is then accessible from an online dashboard. Implementing this software will help to optimize the placement of product throughout the warehouse.

Also, products that are best sellers should be left on pallets and not racked. This allows employees to quickly access the product and reduces wasted time racking items. This is especially true if the items are often purchased by the pallet or if the items are a part of cross-dock operations.

If products must be stored, consider using drive-in storage racks. Using this system can increase a warehouse’s storage density by up to 75 percent, according to Material Handling Industry.

Here are a few more tips for increasing speed of shipping and reducing space constraints:

  • Products with a limited shelf life should be put on a rotating system using shelving designed for quick and easy access.
  • Newer products should be shelved behind older products so that older products are easily accessed and shipped first.
  • Increase the productive use of floor space by up to 60 percent by using double-deep pallet racks.

Safety

Choosing the best shelving for product storage is an important part of increasing warehouse safety. When purchasing shelving and storage, there are a few things to consider.

First, how much will need to be stored? Take into account the size, height and weight of pallet loads. All shelving or storage solutions should more than compensate for product load to decrease the chances of items falling.

Second, the storage solution should allow for optimum product accessibility. For example, if products will be pulled using a counterbalanced lift truck, the storage area should be roomy enough for the operator to navigate the arms of the lift. If the lift arms rub against the sides of the shelving, the shelves could tilt or be damaged and eventually tip over.

Third, business owners need to consider how their equipment will complement the storage system. For example, if the warehouse has counterbalanced lift trucks (the most common warehouse vehicle) for product transport, the shelving cannot be taller than the truck’s 188-inch lift height.

By paying attention to how products are stored, a company can make large strides in customer satisfaction and ROI. Technology, types of storage systems and placement can all be used by businesses to achieve a much better warehouse system for their individual needs.

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Forklift Operation Safety Tips

Forklift SafetyAccording to Safety.BLR.com, every year, thousands of workers are seriously injured in forklift accidents, and about 100 workers die as a result of these accidents. Since forklifts may travel as fast as 10mph and weigh over 3 tons, they can become a great danger if not operated safely. Companies must implement the following forklift operation safety tips to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities.

General Forklift Precautions and Tips

Certain general forklift precautions and tips must be followed to ensure safe operation. Before every shift, examine the forklift to ensure no repairs are needed. If the forklift requires repairs or maintenance, do not operate it. At work sites or in a warehouse, follow designated roadways. ComplianceandSafety.com also notes that operating forklifts should never be left unattended. This is not only a safety hazard, but leaving keys in an unattended forklift is also illegal. Other general forklift precautions include refueling forklifts in well-ventilated areas, applying the parking brake when parking a forklift and understanding and sticking to the forklift’s lifting capacity.

Safety Tips for Forklift Operation

To operate a forklift safely, operators are required to go through a forklift safety training and certification course. According to OSHA, forklift training should include formal instruction, practical training and an evaluation of the trainee’s performance. Topics that should be covered in an OSHA approved training program include:

–          Operating instructions and precautions

–          Instrumentation and controls

–          Maneuvering and steering

–          Vehicle capacity and stability

–          Motor or engine operation

–          Maintenance and routine inspections

–          Operating limitations

–          Charging/recharging batteries and refueling

When operating a forklift, be attentive and alert, observing the surrounding environment. Avoid hazards, use a voice or horn to alert others in the area, avoid loading or unloading on ramps and be aware of changes to the operating environment.

Wear the seatbelt at all times. Many forklift accidents involve the forklift tipping over, and wearing the seatbelt helps to prevent crushing or being thrown off. Ensuring that the body is fully inside the frame is important, as is wearing the appropriate clothing, which includes a hard hat, hi-visibility jacket, tight clothing that will not be caught in the controls or gears, and sturdy footwear.

Tips for Carrying Loads Safely

Failing to carry loads safely with a forklift may result in an accident. Pay attention to load logistics, placing loads near the mast instead of near the front. Never load a forklift beyond the load capacity. When carrying a load, avoid instability problems by carrying them as low as possible. Strapping loads, or ensuring they are stable, helps avoid stability problems as well. For loads that obstruct the view of the operator, the forklift should be operated in reverse to improve visibility.

Essential Guidelines to Keep Others in the Area Safe

Unfortunately, forklifts may become a safety hazard to others in the area if operators fail to pay attention to their surroundings. Carefully look for other people when operating a forklift and avoid making fast moves, which could unseat the load and make it crash down on someone. Before backing up, check carefully to ensure that no one is behind you. Never allow anyone to walk under the forks or stand on the forks.

Forklifts perform an essential job at warehouses and construction sites, but they can be a hazard if not operated correctly. Workplace conditions, depending on the type of workplace, may make using a forklift even more dangerous. While proper training and following forklift requirements ensures that your company fulfills the legal requirements for forklift operation, following forklift operation safety tips also helps prevent workplace injuries and product damage.

Sources:

December 2009,  “Forklift Safety Tips”  http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/equipment-and-process-safety/forklift-safety/Forklift-Safety-Tips/

“Forklift Safety Tips: A Comprehensive Resource”  http://www.complianceandsafety.com/safety-tips/forklift-safety-tips.php

“Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Powered Industrial Trucks” https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9828#1910.178%28l%29

December 2009,  “Forklift Safety Tips”  http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/equipment-and-process-safety/forklift-safety/Forklift-Safety-Tips/

“Top Forklift Operator Safety Tips”  https://www.forkliftacademy.com/top-forklift-operator-safety-tips/

“ Safety and Healthy Topics: Powered Industrial Trucks – Forklifts”  https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/index.html

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Intricacies of Providing Warehouse Fulfillment Services

Having a consistent, well-structured fulfillment system in place is crucial to grow and increase profits for your organization.  The fulfillment process is lengthy, resulting in many areas where errors can occur.  Having a well thought-out and organized system that allows every employee to follow the same procedures each and every time will result in lower operating costs, especially when it comes to training employees in an industry that has a high employee turnover rate.  Let’s have a look at some areas where best practices can be put into place.

Fulfillment Services

Fulfillment Metrics

If you can’t measure it, then it can’t be improved on.  Since labor is one of the most expensive factors in operations, it’s important to set up Key Performance Indicators to measure labor hours to orders fulfilled.  Compare your measurements to your industry’s ‘Best In Class’ so you know where to improve.  Some common KPIs are ‘Cost Per Order’, ‘Order Accuracy’, ‘Inventory Accuracy’ and ‘Shipping Accuracy’.  KPIs are one of the best ways to monitor and improve on workflow.

Staff Retention and Training

Since labor is one of the most expensive operating costs, it’s imperative to have a great culture that reduces the employee turnover rate.  Create a formal training program, recognize and reward employees who go above and beyond their expected duties or who recommend cost saving ideas.  Provide feedback on a regular basis and incorporate raises and bonuses on a consistent basis.

Managers are an important asset in the fulfillment process.  Establish regular meetings to communicate changes that need to be relayed to employees, and set up a program that allows managers and employees to design a career path for themselves.  Let all employees be made aware of possible career opportunities and training courses that they could apply to.

Warehouse Capacity

It can be well worth the money to have an expert do an assessment of your warehouse to find ways to improve and increase the capacity of your facility.  In the long run, this can be much cheaper than moving to another warehouse and disrupting customer service.  A warehouse automation system is a must to compete in today’s marketplace and having one will help to increase capacity, fulfill orders in a timely and accurate manner and reduce costs per order.

RFID Technology     

Keeping track of and organizing inventory is a key component of any fulfillment process.  If you haven’t already implemented RFID in your inventory tracking, you soon will.  This is fast becoming an industry norm for the following reasons:

  • Inventory is continually monitored, resulting in less inventory shrinkage due to theft and misplacement.
  • Sorting and picking for orders are improved since RFID rags are read via radio frequencies so it is important how products are placed.  This can result in more effective utilization of warehouse space.
  • Products are monitored through the entire supply chain.  This reduces the time required to count products while loading and unloading, and lead time is reduced for arrival of an order.
  • Interruptions in supply can be more easily identified.  RFID technology is a necessity to reduce inventory costs for perishable items.
  • As soon as inventory levels reach a low level, an automatic order can be sent out.
  • Sales information is collected in real time and can be very useful to make intelligent business decisions to improve the profitability of your organization.

Conclusion

Create a performance evaluation to review your fulfillment process every six months.  Encourage employees to contribute to this evaluation and suggest improvements.  Consistently monitor your KPIs and incorporate ‘red flags’ into the KPI reporting so issues can be addressed quickly.  Being able to identify costly mistakes immediately will go a long way towards increasing business and profitability.

Sources:

http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/3999-How-to-Monitor-Prevent-Fulfillment-Errors

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/retail/master-in-store-fulfillment-think-like-a-warehouse-1061312/

http://www.fcbco.com/articles-and-whitepapers/articles/bid/129442/Trends-Best-Practices-and-Metrics-in-Fulfillment

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