Low-cost, high-yield solutions

The recession is over; for some. But for the most part, consumer confidence is rising and people are buying again. The pipelines are filling up with the orders of companies that had the foresight to anticipate this swing.

Was yours one of those companies? If so, I hope you're ready for what'll be coming into your warehouse or distribution center.

If you are ready, you probably used the business downturn to re-evaluate and improve your business processes. You're playing by a new set of rules on a new playing field. But even if your team is getting bigger now and you're equipping them with new tools, the competitive advantage isn't automatically yours. The advantage goes to those who've mastered the basics. And you don't always need a consultant to guide you through those.

Let's Start Things Off with Receiving

Ideally, you should have a one-day or same-day dock-to-stock policy. That is, receive material and stock it within 24 hours. The benefits of this policy include eliminating inventory errors caused by poaching receipts to fill orders, reduced receiving area footprint because of turnover of the dock space, increased order fill, eliminated congestion at the dock doors, and increased safety.

To manage the docks, you need to control them.

  • Are you scheduling receipts?

  • Do so and you'll minimize peaks and valleys and level-out manpower requirements so they're easier to schedule. A planned receipt schedule may also allow you to eliminate a lift truck.

  • In your workstations, do your associates have the proper tools, in the right quantities to do their jobs?

  • Are pallets readily available for unloading trucks or sorting out SKUs?

  • If your operation includes weigh counting receipts, are you forcing associates to take their receipt to one scale for counting, or do you have enough scales to match the anticipated need?

  • Would a cart-mounted scale that can be moved to the receipt improve processing?

  • Do your associates have benches or are they working at the pallet to check-in and sort material? People work more efficiently and have fewer injuries when they are standing.

  • The proper tools include adequate lighting. The smaller the numbers are on a packing list, carton label, or individual piece requires more light to see them without straining your eyes. Eye strain leads to fatigue and reduced productivity.

  • At point of receipt, are you bar coding or labeling your inventory?

  • If so, are you printing on demand and do you have enough printers strategically placed to minimize the wait and travel times of the receiving staff?

  • Can you have your supplier apply the bar code? Find out the net savings/cost by having it done “up-stream.”

  • Can you pre-print bar codes and attach them to the receiving copy of the P.O.?

  • If you are using the packing list to receive and verify the receipt, is it printed so it supports the receiving process? Is it printed in SKU order? In P.O. order for a consolidated receipt?

  • Are the SKU numbers and quantities easy to find on the Packing List? Are they bolded so they stand out?

  • Check with your suppliers to see what they can do to improve your receiving process.

  • If your receipts remain on the dock until the next day, are they segregated and identified for FIFO processing? Many companies color code their receipts with dots. Each color represents the day the item was received. This gives management a quick visual status of the dock and how long material has been awaiting receipt.

These simple ideas can result in increased throughput at the dock and increase the availability of product for sale. Do you have some simple or inexpensive ideas like these that have increased throughput or productivity? Let's share them. My e-mail is [email protected].

Next month we'll look at storage media and how matching the inventory and the media can save time and space.

Over the next few issues we'll take a fresh look at basics, covering concerns most warehouses and distribution operations share. These involve receiving, stocking, picking, packing, shipping, slotting, storage media, conveyors, safety, software, lift trucks, and the facility itself. We'll include the input of MHM's new editorial advisory board (more about them next month) and their network of colleagues. But MHM's editors want to be proactive too, so I'm asking you now for topics you'd like covered by our experts in the coming months. Or, if you have had a problem in one of these areas and have implemented a simple solution, we'd like to hear from you. Why not be recognized for your brilliance?

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