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You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…There’s A Basic Failure To Communicate

By Kate Vitasek | 10/17/2011 | 5:00 AM

Job one in running a smooth warehouse—and any business for that matter—is understanding what the customer wants and then communicating effectively and continuously. Even more important, the customer must understand what it wants. This basic idea went terribly wrong in this tale related by Ed Romaine, Chief Marketing Officer at Sapient Automation, and formerly VP Marketing at KardexRemstar.

 

 

“Is that a problem?” Ya think? I’d say that was definitely a major problem. I would love to have been a fly on the wall to see Ed’s reaction after hearing that! Not only is it a major miscommunication problem, it exposed a basic lack of understanding and awareness of what was happening and the nature of the deal itself on the part of the customer. After more than a year of setting things up and two weeks after the project was completed they change their mind?! What a frustrating waste of time, money and man-hours.

That type of scenario can be avoided by making sure the customer understands what it wants to happen and what will happen during every step of the process from the start. That includes receiving and management, transactions, slotting, storage and inventory control/strategy, communicating with suppliers and carriers about shipment status, and shipping and transportation management. The WERC Best Practices Guide outlines this entire process in a logical and step-by-fashion.

Unfortunately in Ed’s case somebody apparently wasn’t paying very much attention, or perhaps they were just really flakey.

A little communication can go a very long way.

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”


You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…You’re Not Using the Right Forklift

By Kate Vitasek | 10/03/2011 | 2:41 PM

Misusing the equipment, in this case forklifts, never works – it always catches up to you in terms of damage and big costs, as this bad warehouse tale of woe related by Doug Sampson, senior vice president at Acme Distribution illustrates:

 

 

 

Doug’s story exposes a warehouse with clueless and/or ill-trained managers and workers who either don’t know about the proper care and maintenance of their expensive forklifts, or they don’t care. An efficient and smooth-running warehouse begins with a fleet of smooth-running forklifts that are handled properly. In this case someone in charge apparently forgot to read the owner’s manual for its inside forklifts. If they had they might have seen warnings about the improper use of the equipment, and possibly ways to adapt the forklifts to handle both inside and outside storage chores.

It’s also interesting that that it took a third party—namely Doug—to notice the cause of the “out of control” forklift maintenance and repair charges. The problem was hiding in plain sight.

Proper use of the forklift fleet is basic to maintaining an efficient and safe workplace. As the WERC Best Practices Guide says, “Establishing basic workplace conditions is an essential first step in creating a safe and productive warehouse environment.”

Improper equipment use can “lead to waste, product damage and safety issues” including delays due to “defects, machine failures, or accidents,” the guide continues.

Take care and be aware of what’s happening with the single most valuable piece of equipment in the warehouse, because well, it’s just a big building without a well-tuned fleet of forklifts humming along.

You should never ask a tool to do more than it’s designed to do, and the same goes for forklifts.

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…There Are Footprints Atop The Stacks

By Kate Vitasek | 09/19/2011 | 5:00 AM

Here’s another short but shocking example of a bad warehouse, this one related by Geoff Sisko, senior consultant at Jack Kuchta LLC:

 

 

 

Notice that Geoff prefaced his brief remarks by saying the bottom beams were “shaped like a U.” That must have been a dead giveaway that maybe the stacks were bearing too much weight, requiring further investigation. I would love to have seen the expression on the investigator’s face when he or she discovered the footprints!

You’ll find no provision in the WERC Best Practices Guide’s section on cycle count that recommends standing on stacks to perform the task. In fact it undermines the process. The guide says the “real power of cycle count is in identifying problems and resolving the root cause so that the errors do not occur in the first place.” Standing on stacks for the cycle count is most definitely an error and a problem, both from a safety and training perspective and for the structural integrity of the stacks and racks.

Cycle count is necessary for inventory accuracy; standing on the stacks to do it is not!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”


You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…It’s A Bit Too Flammable

By Kate Vitasek | 09/05/2011 | 5:00 AM

Here’s a short but really frightening bad warehouse item courtesy of Liz Lasater, CEO Red Arrow Logistics.

 

 

 

As I said, that is a really scary warehouse situation, basically a disaster waiting to happen. A little common sense and foresight is in order when it comes to equipment choices and overall facility safety. Warehouse owners and managers don’t necessarily have to pore over the WERC Best Practices Guide to discover that propane-powered forklifts inside of a flammable warehouse are a volatile and dangerous mix.

The bottom line is to know your equipment, the predominant mix of inventory types in the warehouse that the equipment will handle and to mix and match the operation for the safest possible result. Constant training and education on the proper use of equipment and the best way to move and store hazardous cargoes is vital.

The Guide says, “Establishing basic workplace conditions is an essential first step in creating a safe and productive warehouse environment.” Good housekeeping is a critical requirement for any best-in-class warehouse, the Guide adds.

Using propane forklifts in a flammable environment is not good or safe housekeeping!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

 

 


You Might Have A Bad Warehouse…If The Cycle Count Doesn’t Add Up

By Kate Vitasek | 08/22/2011 | 5:00 AM

 
This week’s Bad Warehouse comes to us from Gary Roghers, Logistics Manager for DuraTech Industries. A few years back Gary transitioned to a new position, managing warehouse and shipping operations.
Cycle-counting-img

“It was the time of year for our annual physical count. This meant that we had customer service reps, office assistants, purchasing agents, shipping personnel and even janitors counting parts for an entire weekend. Everyone worked really hard and we completed the count and did the adjustments by the end of the day on Sunday.

“The problem was that our inventory was a bigger mess after the count then before we did it. The reason was that we had people working in an area that they either didn’t understand or felt that this was just a good way to pick up some extra overtime hours.” The accuracy of the finished goods inventory was around 85 percent, and the goal was about 95 percent.

“We had to fix this problem and fix it soon,” he said. He met with his shipping and warehouse personnel to discuss ways to: 1.) Fix the mess and 2.) Prevent it from recurring.

Eventually, they decided that to do a recount with the process owners—“the people who have to live with the inventory every day and who have to make those dreaded phone calls when the counts on an item are off. This would solve the first problem.

“Then we met again to determine a path that would allow us to keep the inventory on throughout the year instead of having it on for a little while in January.” They decided to do cycle counting on a daily basis, and roll through the entire warehouse every quarter.

Under the new process, Gary says, “We have hovered right around 95 percent for the past five years.”

He adds that “without a barcode scanning system in place and customers ordering in less than full package quantities we have a huge job of counting and the team pulls it off every quarter. My hat is off to this great group of people that not only came up with the plan to fix our problem but implemented it almost to perfection.”

Gary and his team hit on the best solutions to cope with the situation. They also followed WERC best practice guidelines by installing a system to count inventory on a cyclic schedule rather than once a year.

The WERC guide says that most effective cycle counting systems “require the counting of a certain number of items every workday with each item counted at a prescribed frequency.”  The main purpose of cycle counting is to "identify items with on-hand quantity errors, thus triggering research, identification, and elimination of the cause.”

Gary wound up handling a messy problem by solving it “by the book.”

I 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) toKate@scvisions.com. 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).”

You Might Have A Bad Warehouse…If It’s A Moving Warehouse!

By Kate Vitasek | 08/08/2011 | 5:00 AM

This Bad Warehouse item, courtesy of Catherine Cooper, EVP and chief information officer of OHL shows how scanning systems can backfire and cause chaos on the floor.

 

 

A little bit of knowledge about how WMS scanning and putaway systems work helped transform this warehouse in a short period of time from an otherwise orderly and organized operation to one with a big problem: product on the floor and empty racks.

Sorting it all out must have been a huge headache and a massive congestion problem. It was also a problem with preparation and sequencing. Rather than waiting for the sizing for the material to go into the proper location to occur, the workers short-circuited the operation by simply hitting a button and proceeding.

In this case the workers were able to circumvent standard WMS practices that feature putaway zones, staging and storage areas and final locations. The WERC Best Practices guide says the putaway process “is typically managed by one, or a mix of, these methods: staging product from the receiving area, based on the purchase order, based on the part number, or based on a putaway zone or by using direct delivery (putaway) to the storage location.” The guide continues:

“A putaway zone creates like groups, which may be defined by travel time (mapping out the warehouse storage areas), location of use (such as storage, replenishment, pick area, assembly area) or by product velocity. No matter how the zone is defined, the WMS assigns a storage location and a staging zone. The product is moved to the staging area for that zone to await transfer to the storage location. Staging by putaway zone uses less space, but requires a WMS that is capable of pre-slotting. Utilizing putaway zones will reduce travel time for lift trucks.”

The most efficient practice is to put away directly from receipt to final location. This uses the least space for staging, and product is handled less and ready for use sooner.

What happened at this warehouse was not what WERC contemplates for putaway. Using the warehouse floor as a general staging, storage or putaway zone had to create a nightmare of inefficiency!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

 


You Might Have A Bad Warehouse…If There Are Bats In The Belfry

By Kate Vitasek | 07/25/2011 | 5:00 AM

This bad warehouse story is brought to us by Lance Jordan, formerly with Weber Distribution and now senior manager, project management with Crown Bolt.

Lance suggests that sometimes your project plan for taking over a new warehouse might need to be “get an exterminator.”  Lance reveals his batty story in this short video.

 

 

 

Yes, getting rid of bats—and any other extraneous critters—is a good idea before installing a Warehouse Management System. In fact it’s a necessary inspection practice, especially for older buildings.

As the WERC Best Practices Guide notes, a WMS is software that manages and optimizes business processes and activities such as receiving, putaway, picking, shipping and inventory. The WMS menu definitely does not contemplate handling or processing the activities of bats residing in the upper reaches of a warehouse.

A WMS also will include support for radio frequency communication and real-time data transfer between the system and warehouse. Somehow I don’t think combining RFID functions with the sonar capabilities of a colony of bats would work well at all.

So Lance was very wise to call the exterminator first!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…The Beeps Go Eerily Silent

By Kate Vitasek | 07/11/2011 | 5:00 AM

This week's bad warehouse story is courtesy of Dr. Karl Manrodt. Karl is my friend, colleague and a co-author of my book, Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules That Will Transform Outsourcing. He provides a good reason why companies that are not experts in warehousing should consider outsourcing.

 

Karl's story reveals that throwing people and equipment at the work during busy periods is not an effective way to manage a warehouse. But the more important lesson is the lack of safety. Disconnecting forklift backup beepers is flawed thinking of the highest order and is an accident waiting to happen.

The WERC Best Practices Guide notes that lift truck accidents result in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. The guide continues: “Educating employees about how to behave around lift truck traffic is a minimum safety requirement, as are forklift training and certification programs.” I seriously doubt there is any training and certification program in existence that would accept the beeper practice that Karl saw.

The guide also says that technology can help make the workplace environment more productive as well as safe. “Warning devices that alert workers and lift truck operators that an area is occupied or that a lift truck is moving into or out of an area are common on today’s lift trucks.” Disabling those devices borders on the criminal.

WERC says better wasy to handle peak congestion areas include "no pedestrian" zones and well-marked traffic areas. Also, designing traffic flows that separate lift trucks from each other and from personnel “reduces accidents and increases fork truck efficiencies.”

And keep the backup beepers operational!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…It Has A Dirt Floor

By Kate Vitasek | 06/27/2011 | 5:00 AM

This weeks bad warehouse story comes courtesy of Tom Freese, principal of Tom Freese & Associates Inc., and involves a dirt floor in a "clean room."

  

I’d add to what Tom said about it being “a little hard to reconcile a dirt floor with a clean warehouse”: It’s impossible to reconcile a dirt floor with a warehouse, most especially any facility that handles food, perishables and in this instance, pharmaceuticals.

Job No. 1 at any warehouse, no matter what goes in and out, is establishing and maintaining a competent efficient, safe and clean operation.

It’s not that hard to keep a warehouse clean; on the other hand a dirty warehouse speaks volumes about the owner’s attitude and image. I can’t think of a situation where a warehouse best practice benchmark would include dirt or a dirt floor.

No matter how automated or filled with management systems a warehouse may be, proper maintenance and cleanliness is the most basic and necessary bell and whistle. The WERC Best Practices Guide says this: “Good housekeeping must be part of any best-in-class warehouse. Best-in-class processes cannot succeed in a workplace that is cluttered, disorganized, or dirty. Poor workplace conditions lead to waste, product damage and safety issues ... Establishing basic workplace conditions is an essential first step in creating a safe and productive warehouse environment.”

So even if you don’t have a dirt floor, always keep it clean!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

You Might Have A Bad Warehouse If…Ice Is Your Stopgap Solution

By Kate Vitasek | 06/13/2011 | 5:00 AM

 
Here’s a warehouse “you’ve got to be kidding” situation that a logistics expert who I’ll call “Fritz” shared.

Fritz relates that a few years ago, he picked up responsibility for a -20 degree facility in the Atlanta metro area.

“My first visit was a shock,” he writes. “I was in the freezer less than one minute when I walked up to a block of ice on the wall that was over 10 inches thick. I asked the warehouse manager how often they chipped ice.

 

Ice Block

"He said that they don't because the ice patches holes and keeps the heat out!”

Fritz then asked what the temperature in the freezer was and the manager said maybe -5 degrees on a good day but above zero in the summer. 

Keep in mind that that requirements were for the facility to be at -20 degrees. But wait it gets even better… or worse.

“I then noticed ice on the ceiling,” Fritz says. “Again, I inquired how often that ice was removed. I was told: ‘When it gets warm out it usually falls so we don't bother. That’s why we wear hard hats.’”

Unbelievable!!!!!  So much for Fritz’s first five minutes at a facility he was responsible for.

That is a shocking example on several fronts and a cold lesson in how not to handle a cold storage warehouse, from an operational, efficiency, training and safety perspective. 

As the WERC Best Practices Guide notes, storage and warehouse layout must be constantly assessed and upgraded—and not just when ice forms and melts on the walls and ceiling!

A best practice inventory control system includes requirements and procedures for “well-documented and defined processes,” addressing compliance issues (see the -20 degree requirement above), and proper storage practices that include good housekeeping and organization. In addition there has to be the “right company mindset,” which most certainly does not include solving the dangerous problem of falling ice blocks by wearing a hardhat.

So what happened? Fritz tells me he was able to build a new facility within six months after he came onboard. Whew!

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 Kate@scvisions.com. 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).”

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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