8 posts categorized "Weblogs"

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should Use Twitter

By Kate Lee | 02/24/2014 | 11:13 PM | Categories: Weblogs

Twitter is one of the more powerful platforms to influence consumers and grow a business. Is your business on Twitter? If not, here are three reasons why your business should be on Twitter:

1.       Be Found

When business consumers are searching for products and services, they typically start online.   According to a recent study by Pardot, 72 percent of B2B buyers begin their research with Google.  Other starting points for research: personal networks (15.58%), Yahoo (5.53%), Bing (2.76%), LinkedIn (2.51%) and social networks (2.01%). 

Having a strong presence on Twitter- which has nearly a billion users – will significantly increase your business’ search engine rank and increase visibility.  Why is this important?  If you don’t rank well you won’t be found – 75 percent of users don’t scroll past the first page of search results.

2.       Provide Customer Service – In Real Time

Twitter is an increasingly effective way to provide customer service – and a channel to which many consumers are turning. Your customers may run into issues with your product or service and not have the opportunity to simply make a phone call to a call center or customer service center to take care of this issue. Furthermore, in this day and age, people are using mobile devices more often for their business needs, and Twitter – being a primarily mobile social media network – provides an excellent outlet for customer service representatives to help customers in need. Customer service representatives can communicate more effectively and execute troubleshooting techniques with Twitter than with most other platforms due to the ease of accessibility.

The number of companies handling more than 25 percent customer service inquires via social media has increased from nine percent (2012) to 18 percent (18 percent).  Even as more consumers are turning to social media for customer service, many companies are falling flat with respect to providing quality customer service.  Only 36 percent of consumers report that their customer service inquiry was dealt with efficiently and effectively.  This an opportunity for companies who can/do provide excellent and timely customer service via social media - a J.D. Power and Associates study found that 87 percent of consumers reported that their online social interaction with the company positively impacted the likelihood that they'd purchase from the brand, and that the responsiveness of the service representatives were a key of that satisfaction.

3.       Keep an Eye Your Competitors

Since Twitter is a public platform, ite nables you to see what your competitors are doing. When performing an industry or business related search, Twitter can provide valuable insights into what kind of information and services your competitors are providing for their customers as well as help you keep an eye on significant achievements – and sometimes, failures – that your competitors will experience, helping you to make important decisions.


Social technologies at work

By Kate Lee | 02/17/2014 | 7:12 PM | Categories: Weblogs

Social technologies offer business enormous potential – potential to unlock value and to increase productivity.  How enormous is this potential?  The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) looked at four sectors (consumer packaged goods, consumer financial services, professional services, and advanced manufacturing) in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and France and found that social technologies could unlock between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion across these sectors on an annual basis.  With respect to productivity, MGI found that social technologies have the potential of raising the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers by 20 to 25 percent.

What are social technologies?  Gartner, Inc. defines social technologies as: “Any technology that facilities social interaction and is enabled by a communications capability, such as the Internet or a mobile device.”  Examples of social technologies are: blogs, social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), social business software (e.g., Jive, Moxie), and supply chain operating networks (e.g., GT Nexus, E2Open, One Network).

Social technologies are powerful tools because they improve communication and collaboration.  MGI estimates that a shift from channels designed for one-to-one communication (e.g., phone, email) to social channels could reduce the time an employee spends on email by 25 percent per week and the amount an employee spends searching for content and expertise by 35 percent per week. 

To capture the potential value offered by social technologies companies need to go beyond purchasing social enterprise software or having employees sign up for Twitter.  To capture the potential value, companies must incorporate the social technologies into daily use, establish a culture of openness, and must also have widespread participation.

Don’t get discouraged by this.  James Manyika, Michael Chui, and Hugo Sarrazin (all from McKinsey) note that establishing a culture that supports social technologies is worth it:

It may take years to establish the conditions of openness and to build trust across the organization, but the companies that accomplish this transformation will not only reap the greatest benefits from social technologies, they will also find that they are faster on their feet, more adaptable, and much more capable of absorbing — and acting on — new ideas. Not a bad investment.

Not a bad investment at all.

Why visibility is an essential business strategy

By Kate Lee | 02/10/2014 | 7:28 PM | Categories: Weblogs

A recent study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board’s (CEB) Marketing Leadership Council found that the average customer progresses nearly 60 percent of the way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging with a sales rep.

Where are customers looking for and finding information?  Customers are turning to the internet and social media.  If they are looking for your company – what are they finding?  A key finding of the CEB study was: “companies that fail to ‘show up strong’ in this context are underserving potential customers and are at risk of losing mindshare and, ultimately, sales opportunities.”  This is largely due to when customers tend to buy.  Specifically, 80 to 90 percent of prospects who first engage with a company are not ready to buy.  Forty percent of these prospects will be ready to buy within a year and 80 to 90 percent will be ready to buy within two years.

Improving your company’s visibility can be achieved by establishing a presence and by optimizing your presence.  This is inclusive of launching a company blog, participating in social media, creating YouTube videos focused on your company’s products and services, and ensuring that your website is easily navigable and provides both current and potential customers with the information and services they need.

There are several tactics that can be used to increase visibility and help with measurement efforts include leveraging multiple digital platforms, regular analytics reporting, mobile optimization and content curation – a more recent trend which marketers and business owners have found as an effective method by which to establish online influence.

Both Kinaxis and SJF Material Handling Equipment have invested in becoming visible and both have seen positive results.

Kinaxis, a supply chain management company, launched an online social media campaign with the objective of doubling leads and web traffic numbers.  The campaign included two online comedy series (Suitemates and The Late Late Supply Chain Show) and the launch of the company’s 21st Century Supply Chain Blog.  The campaign was successful – traffic increased by 2.7 times and leads increased by 3.2 times.

SJF Material Handling Equipment the largest stocking distributor of new and used material handling equipment in the United States, has a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. The company reports that nearly 20 percent of their website traffic is driven by social media.  Stafford Sterner, President, notes “If you’re trying to reach out to totally new markets, then you might want to do Facebook and Twitter.  If you’re comfortable building that relationship with people or companies you’re close to, then it’s LinkedIn.”

Being visible is an essential part of any business strategy.  Take the time to make your company visible. 

What is social media and why you should care

By Kate Lee | 02/04/2014 | 8:47 AM | Categories: Weblogs

Research conducted by Adrian Gonzalez, founder and president of Adelante SCM, found that 30 percent of respondents (supply chain professionals) reported that their companies block access to social media sites.  One of the reasons for the lack of participation in social media by these companies is likely due to a lack of understanding of what social media is and the role it can play in business.  As noted by Gonzalez: “many supply chain executives and companies are stuck on the starting line because they can’t get past the word ‘social’ and the perception it creates.” 

In a 2013 article in MIT Sloan Management Review, Gerald C. Kane, Associate Professor at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, wrote: “When asked to define social media, most people probably rely on something similar to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity: ‘I know it when I see it.’”  Unfortunately this approach to defining social media tends to perpetuate stereotypes and does not accurately reflect what social media is and how it can be utilized by business.    What, then, is social media?  Social media is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” These websites and applications are inclusive of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.  Social media is part of a larger framework called social technologies.  The McKinsey Global Institute defines social technologies as: “IT products and services that enable the formation and operation of online communities, where participants have distributed access to content and distributed rights to create, add, and/or modify content."  Social technologies are inclusive of Yammer, Jive, Moxie, and Supply Chain Operating Networks such as Descartes, GT Nexus, Elemica, E2open, LeanLogistics, and One Network.  Also included in social technologies are network-based business intelligence and analytics.

Clara Shih, CEO and Founder of Hearsay Social, and Lisa Shalett, Managing Director and Head of Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy at Goldman Sachs, call attention to the fact that when you get right down to it, social media encompasses “a set of new and innovative ways for businesses and customers to do what they have always done: build relationships, exchange information, read and write reviews, and leverage trusted networks of friends and experts.”  Furthermore, engaging in social media and utilizing social technologies provides business with the tools to manage status, social networks, and established relationships—all drivers of firm performance.  Social media and social networking also enable companies to be able to better manage risk, create demand, define their reputation, innovate, enhance business intelligence, and improve productivity.

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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