Frontline: Time to Clean the Slate

Jan. 1, 2009
We all know what we’re supposed to do: Wipe the slate clean and make some resolutions.

I go through the routine every January and then forget about it by February.

This year is different. I resolve never to purchase anything from a certain company, which shall remain nameless. After weeks searching the Web, I finally found the perfect holiday gift. It was hand crafted, high quality and reasonably priced. The Web site accepted my payment, sent me an order confirmation, and my shopping was done. Pass the eggnog.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from the company. The message said I was out of luck because “the computer showed the item in stock, but when we went to pick the item in the warehouse, we discovered the computer was wrong.”

I suspect “the computer” is not some malicious entity set on creating stockouts and destroying customer relations. It is likely the result of good technology bolted onto bad processes.

Here’s my point: 2009 will be full of uncertainty as the economy wobbles and analysts speculate. Add policy changes driven by the incoming presidential administration. What will not change, though, are the fundamentals—the bare necessities—of effective material handling. These include accurate inventory, error-free data collection, smart slotting, well maintained equipment and smooth processes. That’s where the focus should be—on things we can control.

My decision to spend money elsewhere (and tell everyone I know never to shop there), is a direct result of the company ignoring the basics. When you manage all the “little things,” material handling becomes a competitive advantage. It transforms into a critical part of strategic decision making, worthy of the attention of the highest-ranking corporate officials.

Having the best product or idea in the world means nothing if you can’t get it from manufacturing to distribution and then to customers. Material handling executes concepts. It brings product into existence and facilitates delivery to customers.

Here at Material Handling Management, we’re focusing on fundamentals, too. This magazine is dedicated to providing market intelligence and creating a forum to connect leaders in the material handling community. The goal is to help you do your job more effectively and ultimately enhance your company’s profitability.

Our new “Inner Circle” column on page 4 is just one example of some of the new ideas you’ll be
seeing from MHM. Each month, industry-leading associations will provide an inside look at the challenges facing their members and outline strategies for overcoming them.

In addition, we selected food distribution as this issue’s theme because that segment faces extremely complex material handling challenges, minuscule margins and more. We hope their stories spark new ideas for material handling professionals in all industries. MHM’s New Year’s resolution is to be a must-have resource for your success. We want to hear from you, so please feel free to share suggestions, ideas, stories or feedback with us anytime. The slate is clean.

Mary Aichlmayr, Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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