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

Posts tagged “warehouse management

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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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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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.

top-features-wms

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

current-methods-wms

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

edi-client-portal-preference-wms

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 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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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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Encouraging Safety Practices in the Warehouse Environment

Supply chain managers looking to implement warehouses locally or globally need to carefully consider the conditions of the working environment. Conditions which promote safety will aid in achieving the highest productivity and efficiency of processes possible. A critical factor at play is promoting a healthy work environment with plenty of room for employees to work to their fullest potential as well as increasing employee satisfaction.

Setting a Standard for Safety

Planning for future growth, which could require more employees to work within a facility or implementing additional facilities, should be considered. However, a set safety standard that encourages employees to take safety into their own hands through rewards can keep the number of additional employees needed to a minimum. This is because safe and satisfied employees are more productive, more efficient and ultimately more likely to stay with the company. Employees who stay with the company relieve supply chain managers of the responsibility of training new employees. With skill and practice comes efficiency.

Employee Satisfaction and Comfort

For the greatest efficiency and highest productivity, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences, it’s crucial that warehouses be designed for comfort to increase employee satisfaction. Employees who have enough space to work in will feel less crowded, which increases productivity. Planning ahead is important to ensure that company growth and increase in product demand does not result in the number of employees exceeding the space available to them. Employees who are more comfortable in general, satisfied with their working conditions, and who have plenty of space to move about in are more likely to smoothly handle an increase in product production if need be.

Planning for Future Growth

The University of Pretoria’s report, Faculty Design: Achieving Overall Efficiency in the Warehouse Environment, explains that designing facilities requires a strategic plan focusing on global implications for potential growth. With a set standard throughout all company facilities, current and future, basic warehouse functions (pg 8) can be considered and a facility’s life cycle can be efficiently implemented for optimum safety.

Case Study: Apple

University of Pretoria’s report cites Apple as a case study when discussing the most efficient layout of a warehouse, which can be viewed in full on page 11. It is important to note that collecting data concerning the needs and status of the warehouse environment is the first step Apple takes. It then designs and plans for the productive processes and flow of materials through the warehouse. It ultimately ends with implementing the layout, though there are several standardized steps to be carefully considered in between the data collection and implementation phases.

Case Study: Office Depot

Office Depot puts the personal responsibility for workplace safety into the hands of its employees, by motivating them and improving their morale. It implemented a single automated safety program for all sites, so that standards were the same throughout the company. Employees who completed their work safely were rewarded, leaving them happier through autonomy and personal responsibility. This also saved supervisors time and the company money.

What should supply chain managers consider when implementing a set standard to optimize productivity and efficiency?

· Employee safety, which relies on personal responsibility, depends much on the health of the employee.

· Employee health can be cultivated through addressing psychological needs of employees, not just through hand washing or providing sick days.

· Employees will be more productive if they are paid a proper wage. When paid below a living wage, they will become burnt out and work will become sloppy, resulting in errors that can cost not just company dollars but also lives.

· Employees who are satisfied and rewarded for their safety efforts will stay with the company longer, avoiding the learning curve of training new employees. This increases efficiency throughout warehouses.

Sources:

http://www.cashort.com/Libraries/Safety_Performance/Office_Depot_White_Paper.sflb.ashx

http://www.wbdg.org/design/warehouse.php

http://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/16554/Serote_Facility(2010).pdf?sequence=1

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Voice-Picking Technology in Warehouse Management

Voice-picking technology for warehouse management has been in use for two decades. However, recent advancements in the third-party logistics software (3PL) have made these centralized warehouse systems much more efficient. Also known as voice-directed warehouse management (VDW), this kind of software was conceived so that warehouse pickers could work with their hands and eyes free from clipboard and tablet-related constraints.

Modern 3PL software takes 1990s VDW to an incredible new level, because it allows not only voice picking but also inventory, billing and order management. Thanks to this type of software, warehouse management has become a much more streamlined, efficient and safe process.

How Voice Picking Works

Speech recognition and synthesis technologies are at the heart of voice picking software. These systems have become infinitely more effective over the course of the last 20 years, which means that 3PL software today can identify specific warehouse workers and keep itemized data. For the software to work, warehouse pickers are outfitted with their own small computer device and an ear piece; the computer works as a mobile receiver and transmitter to relay data to and from the centralized source. When an individual picker receives a message or a work order, he or she will hear the message out loud and respond the same way. This system works over a radio frequency on a local area network.

3PL Software in the Warehouse and the Office

The primary reason why 3PL software has become a best practice guideline for warehouse managers is simple: It raises productivity and keeps data organized. Instead of centralized management that relies on constant group and one-on-one meetings with pickers and other employees, managers have a central unit that sends messages, schedules and inventory data wherever it needs to go.

This is especially helpful when the office and the warehouse are not in the same location, as is the case with many companies. The amount of scheduling, rescheduling, messaging and stock takes can turn into a mountain of paperwork, which can become lost and disorganized. Paper-free is not only an environmentally sound option for warehousing companies, but it is a more organized way to do business.

Benefits and Voice-Picking Setup

The benefits of using 3PL software are the range of high-tech companies who have great products to offer. Much of today’s top voice-recognition software is open-sourced, which means that you are not cornered into purchasing from one company with the only high-functioning yet expensive software. Your choices are broad, and allow you to make sure that the system you are buying really has what your particular organization needs.

Each individual picker will need to be outfitted with his or her own computer and headset, as well as attend training to learn how to use them. Managers will also need to undergo a training session to understand how to communicate with pickers on the floor. It’s a simple process that may need to be repeated as the software gets updated and more advanced; but productivity will increase overall.

Voice-picking software is especially effective for frozen warehouse units, since workers need to wear thick clothing and gloves that inhibit them from effectively handling paper invoices and operating tablets. Furthermore, keeping warehouse pickers in full control of their eyes and hands will ensure that they are more aware of their surroundings, thus lowering the rate of injuries.

3PL is a sound, modern choice for warehouse management.

Sources:

http://www.voicepicking.com/

http://www.voxware.com/in-your-world/voice-picking-in-the-warehouse/

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