Archives for January 2014

5 ways to be more productive at work

By Kate Lee | 01/27/2014 | 10:30 PM | Categories: Weblogs

Productivity is the Holy Grail.  While technology and caffeine can provide a bit of a boost, to be more productive at work you need to go beyond your iPhone and beyond the coffee maker.  Here are 5 things you can do to be more productive at work.

1.  Find your quiet place

In March 2013 Harris Interactive conducted a survey on workplace productivity on behalf of Ask.com.  Sixty-one percent of respondents listed noisy colleagues as their biggest workplace distraction.  Eighty-six percent of respondents stated that to hit maximum productivity they work alone. 

To increase your productivity, find a quiet spot where you can be alone to do your work.  If you can’t shut the door, try other ways to reduce distractions and noise.  For example, shut off your ringer, hang a do not disturb sign outside of your work space, and consider investing in noise cancelling headphones.

2.  Stop multitasking

Multitasking has gotten elevated to celebrity status for all the wrong reasons.  Multitasking is thought of as a way to get more done in less time.  The reality is that researchers have found that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40 percent.  Stop multitasking and focus on the task at hand.

3.  Reduce the number of meetings

An Inc. article names meetings as the number way to kill productivity.  The article points to research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research which found that office workers spend an average of four hours per week in meetings, and that these workers reported feeling like half of that time was time wasted. The article also points to a Salary.com survey which found that 47 percent of workers believe meetings are the biggest time-waster at the office.

To increase your productivity, reduce the number of meetings you attend.  That is, attend the meetings you need to be at and don’t attend the meetings you really don’t need to attend.  Similarly, think before you schedule a meeting – is the meeting really necessary?

4.  Learn to delegate

Research conducted by Julian Birkinshaw, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, and Jordan Cohen, productivity expert at PA Consulting Group, found that executives spend 41 percent of their time performing tasks that offer little personal satisfaction and which could be handled, competently, by others.  Why?  According to Cohen: “We’ve been socialized with the idea that completing a task is an accomplishment, but in today's business world, an entrepreneur's time can be better served by doing the tasks that matter most to the success of their business and delegating the rest."

Birkinshaw and Cohen offer exercises and strategies around delegation in their article in the Harvard Business Review.

5.  Create a system

Develop a system that works for you.  Some ideas:

    • Develop a standard structure for your day and/or week (obviously with some flexibility built in);
    • Create a methodology for reading, responding to, and dealing with emails;
    • Write a to do list and stick with it.

What are your biggest barriers to productivity?  What have you done to increase your productivity at work?

Pick to light and put to light improve warehouse productivity

By Kate Lee | 01/21/2014 | 5:54 PM | Categories: Weblogs

On average, 55 percent of warehouse costs are associated with order picking.  Recent research by Intermec found that mis-picks alone cost businesses nearly $390,000 per year.  Pick to light and put to light are two innovations that can cut costs significantly. 

Pick to light is an order fulfillment system that uses a light indicator system that shows operators where an item is to be picked and displays the quantity needed to be retrieved.  Pick to light is a good solution when a small number of SKUs (20%) comprise a large percentage of order volume (80%).

According to Lightening Pick Technologies the average increase in pick rate productivity is greater than 40 percent with pick to light solutions.  Similarly, Bastian Solutions reports that with pick to light individual operator productivity can be increased by up to four or five times over traditional, paper-based picking solutions.

Put to light uses the same technology as pick to light, but is used in retail distribution centers and is designed to replenish stock in stores.  Put to light is a good solution when the number of orders is small and generally consistent on a day-to-day basis. Put to light is also beneficial for SKU independent companies with a large number of SKUs.


In addition to increased productivity, the following benefits can be realized with pick to light solution and put to light solutions:

  • Increased accuracy (generally greater than 99 percent)
  • Shorter order cycle times
  • Improved customer service
  • Increased throughput
  • Lower operational costs
  • Improved transparency
  • Quick ROI

Do you use pick to light or put to light?  What has been your experience?  What benefits have you realized?

Innovations that will take your warehouse efficiency to new levels

By Kate Lee | 01/15/2014 | 2:42 AM | Categories: Weblogs

The shag rug, your grandmother’s avocado refrigerator, or how about a pair of legwarmers scrunched at the ankles? Fads come and go—in pop culture and in business. But, cutting costs and increasing revenue are always on trend. In 2014, new innovations and ever-evolving technologies are poised to take your warehouse efficiency to new levels. The competitive advantage of speed, and real-time service offerings are reoccurring themes that you’ll see across the board—from robots to voice tasking. Labor-saving technologies that can increase productivity and revenue include:

Real-time Location Systems

  • eliminate the need to manually record inventory
  • scan 1000 tags per second
  • allow you to follow an item once it has left your facility with real-time tracking

Pick to Light and Put to Light

  • increases picker productivity and accuracy
  • provides accountability for every pick
  • lowers power consumption, lowering energy costs
  • provides real-time shortening of orders and replenishment

Warehouse Robotics Technology

  • offers 99.99% accuracy outranking human workers in efficiency and speed
  • introduces human exclusion zones which improve warehouse safety
  • performs around the clock with only a five minute charging period per hour 

Voice Tasking

  • creates a safer work environment
  • increases productivity and accuracy
  • boosts job satisfaction and lowers employee turnover

Each one of these technologies is changing the functionality of distribution centers and warehouse management globally. Let’s look more closely at Voice Tasking.

Voice Tasking Basics

On a typical day with voice tasking, the warehouse management system (WMS) creates daily assignments for its distribution center employees. Each person’s assignment travels by a radio frequency network from the WMS to a small, mobile computer worn by the employee. The computer translates the task into verbal commands, which the worker listens to through a hands free headset. When the employee has completed the task, he speaks into his headset. At this point, the voice recognition software translates the spoken response into data that travels back to the WMS and the process repeats.

It sounds simple and it is. By replacing paper-based, error-prone systems with this uber-efficient, voice directed work, organizations experience:

  • a safer work environment—because voice tasking is hands-free and eyes-free, employees can focus on their work with their heads up which is a better position for safety awareness; hands-free also helps eliminate stressful multi-tasking common in distribution centers
  • improved accuracy—clear and concise verbal commands (available in the worker’s own language and/or accent) result in fewer mistakes and greater precision
  • increased productivity—since the employee is in constant dialogue with the voice tasking system he is accountable at all times; side conversations drop away; again, the hands-free, eyes-free paradigm allows the worker to focus on their task full attention, and;
  • less training and less turnover—step-by-step instructions allow employees to perform more complex tasks with less training, increasing their sense of pride and job satisfaction.

As C-suite executives grapple with future technology investments they can’t help but notice that voice directed work could become a critical strategy in their organization’s supply chain. To the point, Jim Laverty, Upp Technology President recently spoke on a panel of WMS technology solutions experts, highlighting the biggest trends to watch for in 2014. Laverty said,

“The increasing sophistication of true cloud platforms like irms|360 Enterprise allows 3PLs to easily add advanced technology to their facilities. With the advanced technology of the cloud and the cost savings, more and more 3PLs are able to add Robotics and Voice automation to their warehouse and have an immediate, measurable impact on productivity.”

Voice tasking offers a substantial way to help organizations boost productivity, make their supply chain more efficient, and maximize ROI. It’s clearly a trend to follow. 

Your dirty secret: obsolete inventory

By Kate Lee | 01/07/2014 | 9:22 PM | Categories: Weblogs

Do you have obsolete inventory?  Chances are your answer is going to be no, or perhaps you’ll humor me and admit that you do have “some” – albeit an inconsequential amount.  The reality; however, is that a significant portion of your warehouse is likely home to obsolete inventory.  Obsolete inventory is your warehouse’s dirty secret.  Here are four reasons why you need to fess up to this secret and clear out obsolete inventory.

1.      Face it, the Discman is not coming back

You have pallets and pallets of an amazing product taking up a portion of your warehouse.  You don’t categorize this as obsolete inventory because you know the product will be in vogue…soon.  Let’s be honest, that day is probably not ever going to come.  If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it is likely a duck.  Time to make it official and classify said inventory as obsolete.

2.      Don’t ask don’t tell is kaput

Obsolete inventory carries a lot of baggage with it.  Specifically: How and why did the inventory become obsolete?  What is the inventory going to cost the company?  How much has it cost the company already?  Because managers (as well as companies) often do not want to: 1) learn the truth and 2) face the truth, they do not ask the necessary questions at the right time.  Ask the questions.  Look at the data. 

3.      Knowing is (more than) half the battle

Ignorance is not bliss.  Current technologies enable companies to know what is happening with their inventory – in real time.  This is not the technology of the future; it is the technology of today.  In the majority of cases, the cost of utilizing this technology far outweighs the costs of not using it.

 4.      Lighting money on fire never makes sense

The cost of obsolete inventory is staggering.  Industrial Supply Magazine reports that excess and obsolete inventory costs the typical distributor 25 percent per year.  What this boils down to is that – each year - $100,000 of obsolete product costs your business $25,000 due to storage, damage, shrinkage, and the cost of money each year. The magazine’s Distribution Board asks:  “What could you have done with that $25,000 to grow your business?” 

If that didn’t get your attention, this might.  Jeffrey Barry of F. Curtis Barry & Company shares the story of a client who called saying they were running out of warehouse space: “One of our consulting clients has $550 million in annual sales, 135 stores and a b-to-b catalog and e-commerce business.  We had designed a warehouse which was to last five years.  Three years into its life, they called to say they were running out of space.  Our analysis of the 17,000 products in inventory showed that 60,000 sq. ft. of the 350,000 sq. ft. total was tied up in obsolete and inactive inventory.  This was news to them; their inventory management system did not focus on age of inventory or fast and slow sellers, and they did not have a continuing inventory process for liquidating slow moving items.  Among those in top management (who did not have experience managing inventory), the feeling was that there really wasn’t such a thing as inventory carrying cost.  Their attitude was, “We’ve already paid for the inventory and we own the warehouse outright.”  But they didn’t take into account the cost to prematurely expand ($2.5 to $3.0 million); opportunity costs for doing something else with invested capital; taxes and insurance; and labor to maintain the inventory.  All this amounts to a sizable expense.”

Keeping obsolete inventory in your warehouse is equivalent to setting money on fire - expensive and just not that smart.

Don’t let obsolete inventory jeopardize the success of your company.  Fess up and do something about it.

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 Elizabeth Hines

Elizabeth Hines

Elizabeth is a content strategist with 12+ years of experience in content development, branding, marketing, and communications. As the creative/editorial director at Fronetics, she oversees all efforts related to content and creative assets, including strategy design and brand development.

She has written extensively about supply chain and logistics, and has developed content strategies across a number of verticals, including the B2B space. Prior to joining Fronetics, Elizabeth worked at Boston University, Prospectiv, and Cengage Learning.


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