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You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If… You Can’t See the Product or the Aisle

By Kate Vitasek | 02/28/2011 | 5:05 AM

After a too-long hiatus I’m back and loaded with group of tasty illustrations of the wacky art and weird science of running a bad warehouse.

One reason for my backlog of bad warehouse stories comes courtesy of long-time industry veteran Art Liebeskind of Howard Way and Associates, based in Baltimore.

Art relates he has seen many overseas warehouses - especially overseas - that have a bad practice of having the lights shine brightly on the top of the racks rather than in the aisles, as shown in the illustration. 

The explanation given by the warehouse manager for this curious practice was that it was easier for the electrician to reach the ceiling while standing on top of the racks. At least there’s a certain amount of perverse logic in that approach, but as Art says, “It's a little bit like putting a reading light under your favorite reading chair.”

Putting the lights in the right place is only part of the problem, Art continues. “They must be bright enough to see clearly.” This was not the case in the warehouse.

Normally, we try to point out a reference that will help solve the problem. One would normally expect that the “Architectural Standards Handbook” would help. Unfortunately, the Handbook recommendation for warehouse lighting is an intensity of 15 foot-candles. A foot-candle (or fc) is a measure of the intensity of light falling on a surface, equal to one lumen per square foot.

Art explains, “By means of comparison, 15 foot-candles is not enough light to easily read a newspaper. Just imagine the difficulty of accurately choosing two similar but different materials based on the fine print of the label. Sometimes it just slows you down, other times it can lead to tragedy and a lawsuit.

“In either case, it is preferable to light warehouse areas (particularly order selection slots) with 80 to 100 foot candles of light.”

The moral to be gained from a cautionary tale like this is that although logistics is a (mostly) rational discipline, sometimes warehousing requires just plain common sense. And Art is one of those wise folks in the industry with just that.

When I say Art is a warehouse veteran I really mean it. He definitely beats me when it comes to the number of warehouse he’s visited. By Art’s count he has seen the insides of more than 1000 warehouses during his career.

Art is a big fan of the Bad Warehouse Blog and sent along several of the bad warehouse practices he has seen (or maybe seen in dim light). His favorites involve what he calls "common sense warehousing" and I'll co-author the next few blogs with him as he shares more of his favorites.  

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 WERC Warehouse Certification 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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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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