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You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If... You're Knock Knock Knocking on Container's Door

By Kate Vitasek | 03/29/2010 | 7:07 AM

Knock-knock. Who’s there? Empty. Empty who? Empty trailer, boss.

This edition adds an example of a highly questionable yard management activity to our roster of bad warehouse practices, courtesy of Michael Cole, Director of Transportation, Kraft who recently shared his story at Lehigh University's Center for Value Chain Research forum.

Mr Cole shared his former yard management woes with attendees at the conference.  “Kraft’s yard management solution used to involve a person who rode around on a bicycle and would knock on each trailer in the yard. They could tell if the trailer was empty or not by the sound the trailer made when they knocked.”

How very basic! Not very scientific - and definitely not efficient.  It’s certainly not best practice. It’s also not all that unusual apparently.

Upon hearing Michael’s story someone commented, “As a college student I did something similar as a yard checker for a year with Walmart. Except I didn’t have the bike! I had to walk, at night, through the yard. The yard was almost a mile long in one direction at the main site. We could tell whether the trailer was empty or full by the sound of a knock.”

Knocking around the yard may be okay for children playing in back of the house, but not at a warehouse facility. The good news is that there are much easier ways to get the information you need about what is often the least talked about and addressed bottleneck in the logistics system – the yard.

The good news?   Kraft has since adopted PINC Solutions’ Yard Hound management system, which provides real-time visibility of all yard activities and eliminates the need for manual yard checks, all on a web-based platform.   You can read about their efforts by download this PowerPoint presentation.

In a recent white paper, Finding the KPIs for Yard Management, the Berkeley, CA-based PINC says that while yard management is a critical link in logistics management, with a significant impact on the efficiency of the supply chain, many yards “still rely on manual processes to manage operations, creating a visibility gap such that accurate and timely data cannot be ascertained.” This hampers management’s ability to assess the operational performance of the yard, the paper continues.

Companies make significant investments in systems and technologies to track transportation assets, PINC says, but “few realize that transportation delays often take place not on the road, but while the assets are still in the yards at distribution centers, warehouses and manufacturing plants.” Because goods often go through multiple yards throughout the logistics lifecycle, “any inefficiencies or errors in the yard are amplified as the effects propagate through the supply chain network.”

Yard management challenges cited by PINC include long gate check-in processes, multiple or redundant moves, time-consuming yard checks, unproductive administrative time due to ineffective communications and a general lack of actionable information.

With apologies to Bob Dylan, knock-knock knocking at containers’ door from a bicycle just won’t do it.

I really love your feedback - and love your contributions to share those bad warehouse stories to help educate the profession on what NOT to do, and maybe what to do if you’re not doing it.

If you've got an example of a bad warehouse practice, send me your story and photo(s) to [email protected].

If I feature your example in one of my blogs, WERC will send you a free copy of the WERC Warehousing & Fulfillment Process Benchmark & Best Practices Guide (a $160 value).

Your submission can be anonymous if you like so you don't get your boss or company in trouble! I'll be collecting examples all year and the winner will receive a free warehouse assessment by Supply Chain Visions, a $10,000 value. The runner up will win a free conference registration to the WERC conference (a $1,375 value).

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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek is a nationally recognized innovator in the practice of supply chain management. Vitasek is founder of Supply Chain Visions—a boutique consulting firm specializing in supply chain management. She is also a faculty member at the University of Tennessee's Center for Executive Education. A prolific writer, Vitasek has authored the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' best-selling mini-book series, Supply Chain Process Standards, and has contributed to other management books as well. Along with Karl Manrodt of Georgia Southern University, she co-leads WERC's popular annual benchmarking study.

About Steve Murray

Steve Murray

Steve Murray is a Principal Consultant and Chief of Research for Supply Chain Visions, a boutique consulting firm specializing in supply chain management. Prior to joining Supply Chain Visions he held a variety of functional and management roles in the distribution and manufacturing sectors, including 15 year managing an IT consulting firm. Steve has been instrumental in development of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professional's "Supply Chain Management Process Standards", the Warehousing Education and Research Council's Warehousing & Fulfillment Process Benchmarking & Best Practice Guide" and the WERC "Warehouse Certification Program". He is lead auditor for the WERC's Certification Program.


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