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You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…The Invoices Are Hanging Out

By Kate Vitasek | 11/14/2011 | 5:00 AM

Is it really possible that loose paper invoices could flap around a warehouse in the twenty-first century?

2-invoiceWell Tom Napier, Sr. Account Manager, Automation Division at PSI Engineering tells us that it is not only possible, it actually happened.

Tom recently wrote that on a site tour he noticed that there was a “large backlog of cartons at each of the 22 pack stations, so much so that extra personnel were stacking cartons upon cartons after a case taper, just before they reached the operators.”

When he wandered over to take a closer look at this procedure he also saw that for each of the full cartons, one per order, an operator was “taking the packing slip from the printer, folding it in half on the short edge, then stuffing it under the already taped flap, leaving a little bit hanging out, so the consignee could see that their INVOICE was in that carton.”

Later, Tom asked the distribution manager conducting the tour if they ever had any issues with their documents getting lost. As Tom relates, the answer was pretty much what you might expect: “He made a funny face and admitted that was a problem and sometimes caused delays in payment as the paperwork didn’t always reach its destination.” Tom adds, “I didn’t want to ask him if their customers minded that just about anyone handling their shipments could see what each of their customers was paying for the product.”

That’s not only a case of a highly questionable invoicing system it also takes the idea of transparency a bit too far for comfort.

The WERC Best Practices Guide notes the benefits of proper product labeling and identification, but the invoice itself should definitely not be a part of this process!

The guide says: “Good and Best Practice companies use electronic downloading and generation of shipping documents from the system of record. All documents and labels are produced by the system, including all export documents, shipping documents and labels based on customer specific requirements and governmental regulations.” Shipping documentation commonly includes the bill of lading, the commercial invoice, shippers export declaration, export packing list, certificate of origin, NAFTA certificate, and the export license. The idea that hardcopies of these documents would be taped to a shipping carton is almost unimaginable.

Thankfully, there is a happy ending to the story.

Tom noted that after his visit, “We ended up with a nice automation order about nine months later.”

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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