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How has the Role of Forklift Trucks Evolved in Warehousing Operations Landscape Amid Flourishing E-commerce Presence Worldwide?

forklift trucks

How has the Role of Forklift Trucks Evolved in Warehousing Operations Landscape Amid Flourishing E-commerce Presence Worldwide?

The rising global prevalence of technology and connectivity has set off a significant transformation of the industrial landscape, especially in the retail domain. As the world moves to an increasingly digitized platform, e-commerce, or electronic commerce, commonly associated with online shopping, is rapidly establishing itself as a favored retail choice among consumers. In fact, studies have shown that almost 95% of all shopping will be facilitated through e-commerce by 2040.

With such a prolific rise expected in e-commerce adoption over the forthcoming years, the demand for robust warehousing and distribution facilities takes significant precedence. This, in turn, augments the need for efficient material handling systems and components to ensure proper storage, loading, transport activities in the warehouses.

Since product transport is one of the most integral roles in the e-commerce distribution ecosystem, the forklift market is likely to garner tremendous interest as retail and shopping activities continue their transition to the online platform.

What are forklifts?

Forklift trucks, also known as jitneys or lift trucks, refer to a class of vehicles designed for industrial use. These systems comprise a power-operated platform attached to the front, which can be raised or lowered as required to lift or move cargo. The term forklift is derived from these platforms, which are usually in the form of fork-like prongs. Lift trucks are used across myriad industrial sectors for the efficient transport of goods and materials.

The origins of these systems can be traced back to 1887, when the first material handling equipment, known as a two-wheel hand truck, was created using a combination of wheels and iron axles. However, the history of the modern forklift is more commonly associated with the invention of the Tructractor by the Clark Equipment Company, in 1917. The machine, which is often credited as being the first forklift, was essentially a tractor with an attachment for product handling, bearing only a minor resemblance to their modern-day successors.

Since its inception, the forklift industry has undergone several evolutions. The industrial impact of this material handling equipment over the years has been profound, evidenced most prominently during its contribution to boosting efficiency and productivity in workforces during World War I and World War II eras.

Rising prevalence of e-commerce solutions amid turbulent global conditions

While e-commerce itself is on its way to establishing a firm presence in the retail landscape, the ongoing global crisis stemming from the coronavirus outbreak has brought about a significant shift in consumer preferences and behavior. The rise in demand across the globe for essential and daily goods, alongside limitations due to social distancing and quarantine protocols has breathed new life into the e-commerce journey, as more and more people turn towards online portals for safer and quicker shopping experiences.

Fueled by this expansion of e-commerce, logistics systems, including warehouses and distribution facilities have grown tremendously in number, thus accelerating the demand for lift trucks and other warehouse solutions.

E-commerce solutions are most attractive to consumers due to the various benefits and conveniences they offer over conventional shopping experiences, including free and faster delivery of products, hassle-free returns and exchanges, and wider selections, among others. In order to fulfill these benefits, warehouse and distribution operations need to be extremely efficient, in terms of timely movement and transport of products to and from the facility, making the role of forklift trucks a crucial one for the industry.

Many prominent figures in the e-commerce and retail-associated industries have taken heed of this and started to develop innovative warehouse transport technologies to cater to the rapidly surging demand for online products. A notable example of this is global delivery service DHL, which has implemented several technologies including AI, self-driving vehicles and robotic lift trucks, etc., at its North America warehouses, to accommodate evolving product demand.

Technological advancements shaping the forklift industry

The forklift industry has witnessed several advancements over the years. These progressions, which range from mobility solution to automation to power source technology evolution, each assert a considerable impact on the way the modern fork truck functions.

Chief among these advancements is the emergence of environmentally friendly forklift technologies, given the burgeoning costs of fuels and the rising impact of climate change on the global ecological structure. According to some studies, energy-efficient lift trucks can last over 20-30% longer than their internal combustion engine-based counterparts.

In light of this knowledge, several companies have forayed into the development of energy-efficient electric forklifts to cater to the evolving warehousing demand from the retail industry. For instance, GMH (Godrej Material Handling) has recently unveiled the three-wheel Bravo Electric Forklift for the 1.6-2 ton category, equipped with an advanced battery solution for optimum product transport and handling.

Apart from the ecological standpoint, forklift trucks have also undergone a significant transformation in terms of mobility, as was evidenced by the launch of the Sidewinder ATX-3000 forklift by Vetex, which is an omnidirectional lift truck, owing to a series of rollers used in place of traditional solid or pneumatic tires.

Automation has asserted its impact across the industrial spectrum in myriad applications, and fork truck technology is no different. Automated lift trucks are equipped with a host of sophisticated technological systems including guidance systems that help them self-navigate through warehouses and facilitate automatic pick-up and drop of products, with little to no human intervention required.

These systems are reshaping the way forklift trucks function across various industries including warehouse, automotive, manufacturing, and more. The Raymond Corporation has recently introduced an automated lift truck stacker that leverages vision-guidance technology from Seegrid Corporation, to enable autonomous stacking from pick-up to delivery locations.

Source: Global Market Insights

supply management

Six Steps to Writing a Reliable Supply Management Plan

Whether you operate in the eCommerce industry, shipping, or physical retail with your own warehousing, a supply management plan is a must. Procuring goods and raw materials for further refinement, production, and overall monetization in an organized manner is a necessity of modern global industries.

According to Jigsaw Business Group, over one-third of businesses don’t have a clear image of how their suppliers and supply management is performing. Additionally, 37 percent of firms perform no practices for supply risk management, with only 8 percent performing above-average in these conditions. This showcases a larger issue in the supply management department of many large international businesses that rely on stable procurement without proper precautions and planning.

In worst cases, it can lead to loss of reputation, important clientele, and subsequent bankruptcy as a result of ad hoc management. To avoid that, outlining and implementing a supply management plan of your own is more than welcome going further into 2020. With that, let’s take a look at the specific benefits of having such a reliable plan in place, as well as the steps to get there.

The Advantages of a Supply Management Plan

Let’s briefly discuss the purpose of supply management before we dive into writing a plan centered on its implementation. As the name might suggest, supply management revolves around active tracking, procurement, and management of raw materials, production supplies, or items for handling and shipping. A standardized supply management plan is a welcome addition to any B2B-reliant business as it will effectively streamline your processes of ordering items from suppliers.

While rudimentary requests and correspondence can be achieved with writing tools such as WoWGrade and Evernote, creating a template for easy supply procurement is advised. Having such a document in place and available to your sales and supply departments can lead to highly beneficial outcomes for your business, including:

-Faster, more efficient cooperation with constant supply partners

-Minimized margin for supply procurement errors or mismanagement

-Increased production efficiency, turnaround time and bottom-line ROI

Writing the Supply Management Plan

1. Internal Company Survey

To achieve the most out of your supply management plan writing initiative, you should audit your current supply pipeline carefully. Assess the status of your supply routine, paperwork, existing communication channels, and QA processes before writing a plan outline for future use.

It’s important to take a good look at how things function in your company at the moment to identify bottlenecks and improvement opportunities early on. Additionally, forming a supply management plan task force can also prove useful since it will give several employees a clear goal in writing the document.

2. Assemble your Writing Stack

Writing a supply management plan is not unlike writing any other form of business document. Meaning, it should be done in a planned manner to avoid mistakes, related to both grammar and legalities. To ensure just that, several cloud-based writing platforms are available for your convenience:

Grammarly – platform dedicated to spell-checking, proofreading and error-free writing

Trust My Paper – outsourcing platform with numerous professional editors available for writing assistance

Hemingway – tool designed with readability and sentence construction in mind, useful for supply documents

Grab My Essay – platform which houses numerous editing, rewriting and on-demand writing services

Thesaurus – a vocabulary tool useful for industry-specific terminology required for supply procurement

Studicus – in addition to procurement documents, various types of correspondence can be outsourced here

3. Supply Management Plan Overview

The easiest way to get ahead on your supply management plan writing is to start with the outline and move things forward from there. An outline represents a set of subheadings and categories that will be filled with important procurement information once the order is about to be made.

Given its nature, some of the elements it should contain include storage information, transportation details, special order requirements, personnel information, etc. Use editing and formatting tools such as Supreme Dissertations and Readable to create legible documents for your B2B procurement and correspondence. Make a clear plan of which items are primary to your business to give the supplier enough information on how to proceed with your order.

4. Supply Requirements & Timelines

Once your outline is in place, it’s important to include fields for numeric data in your supply management plan. Information on the number of your orders, types of materials you’ve requested, as well as the optimal delivery timeline field, is essential in the document. These details can be outlined via writing platforms such as Best Essay Education or even Google Docs depending on the complexity of your typical procurements.

In practice, the supply requirements and timeline fields will be the first items your suppliers and B2B partners will scan through to ensure their availability. To further improve the document’s legibility, you can include easy-to-spot contact information in regards to your sales department. This will allow for a faster approval process and further streamline your supply management in light of newly-outlined standardization documents.

5. Detail the QA Standards

Lastly, risk management is a pivotal factor in the supply chain management, one which can make or break your pipeline’s efficacy going forward. The supply management plan you outline and ship to B2B partners must require detailed information on the QA standards of your company.

Shipping items such as hazardous materials, medical equipment, chemical compounds, and other dangerous elements will naturally require careful handling, shipping, and storage of said goods. Be upfront with your suppliers in regard to QA standards. This is especially welcome if you order materials from abroad – your shipments and B2B relations will be that much more stable as a result.

Supply Management Plan Implementation

While supply management trends continue to spiral toward digitalization, written procurement documents are still vital for effective B2B communication and shipping of essential goods. Create an outline that reflects both your service portfolio and internal work ethics using the above-discussed steps as guidelines.

Don’t be afraid to revise and reformat your own supply management plan as much as necessary before settling for a standardized template for company-wide use. Once you get a handle on your procurement writing pipeline, supply chain management of your warehousing and shipping requests will become that much simpler.

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Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.

warehouse

Top 10 Solutions for Common Warehouse Problems

Warehouse Engineers attended the Modex Conference looking for low-cost solutions to improve warehouse operations. As a previous warehouse manager, I understand traveling isn’t always an option because you have to get orders out the door. No reason to fret, Warehouse Engineers has you covered with 10 solutions to common warehouse problems.

Problem 1: Cycle counts

We’ve all been there… the quarterly cycle count or worse, the full annual. Ware eliminates the cycle counting dilemma. Yes, that’s right, Ware deploys fleets of drones, powered by machine learning, to perform cycle counts. Ware creates the software and analytics that lets the drones do the work, saving time and money.

Problem 2: Tracing orders

Ever had an order delayed by the rail or carrier?

Me!!! I’ve been on the phone with the carrier asking where is my order?

Pallet Alliance developed a platform to track individual pallets from end to end of the supply chain with IoT connectivity. Intellipallets integrate with existing wooden pallets providing efficient tracking of shipments. Once the pallets become “intelligent” they provide information like transit location or stationary time. Now you will know when your order is stuck in a rail yard.

Problem 3: BOL Paperwork

Why does the customer call for the BOL that you can’t seem to find?

BOLs are a necessary evil. You must get the driver to sign for the order, then store the order for years. The process creates so much paperwork, and it’s even harder to track individual BOLs. I hate when the customer calls for a BOL from 3 months ago. The smart people at SMART BOL developed an automated solution for bill of lading signing and document retention. Yes, there’s an app for drivers to sign the BOL and the signature magically goes into the cloud.

Problem 4: Communication Boards

I’ve struggled with outlining a whiteboard for daily huddles. The magnets are not straight, the markers start to fade. Sometimes I spent more time preparing for the meeting than the actual meeting itself. Visual Workplace is a source for Lean & 5S Supplies. They have great templates for KPI Tracking and daily huddles. Visual Workplace can also print dry erase board overlays for kaizen events and root cause analysis.

Problem 5: Workstations

We all know the value of 5S, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” But what if you don’t have a place for everything? Literally, while you are setting tools in order, you are missing a place for a tool. With PioneerIWS, you can easily build a custom workflow to meet your needs. Their Flexturs can be transformed into mobile workstations, shelves, and packaging stations. Setting and Sustaining workstations are a lot easier with PioneerIWS.

Problem 6: Shifted Rail Cars

Ever been nervous about opening a box car?

I’ve been there, crossing my fingers hoping that the pallets are still upright.

Of course, the pallets have shifted and spilled over. Have you ever seen a rail car full of spilled tomato paste, yuck! Shifted cars are a no-win for everyone involved. Filing a claim with the rail line is so difficult, most people don’t bother. The rail always points the finger at the packaging and swears they never hump cars. Next time I have this problem, I’m calling Southern Bracing Systems (SBS) for a solution. SBS manufactures a patented Ty-Gard 2000® approved by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to keep orders in tack. They also provide expert training for AAR-approved cargo securement equipment and cargo restraint systems uniquely designed to prevent damage in transit.

Problem 7: Missing Labels

In wet or grimy conditions, labels just won’t la

I’ve had to label entire warehouses: entry doors, ramps, racks, etc… Sometimes a label just doesn’t work. The Patmark 1533 provides a solution for quick, custom permanent applications. MarkinBOX is the world’s most compact portable marking machine system. Combined with a carbide pin, you can mark on a vast range of surfaces like racks and bins. I wish I had the Patmark 1533 when I 5S’d a battery storage room.

Problem 8: Data Overload

We’ve all heard the phrase “big data” but what do we do with it?

Big data creates value when leaders can make data-driven decisions. With all the data coming from the WMS, ERP, and time clocks, who has time to consolidate the data for reporting? Easy Metrics solves the big data problem by providing custom reports and KPIs for your team. I know tracking labor can be burdensome, at times requiring a full administrator. Easy metrics make it easy for everyone.

Problem 9: Packaging Dimensions

Length, Width, Height…. And where is my tape measuring?

We’ve all had to answer those questions when preparing parcel for delivery. It’s so frustrating when you have a large or heavy box that you need assistance with to get all the dimensions. Sizensor designed an app to instantly capture parcel dimensions. Sizensor has a lot of benefits around the warehouse-like planning a load diagram for new products. Consider how easy the app is to install and use, it’s a win.

Problem 10: Warehouse Space

We need more space.

No warehouse manager wants to tell their president or sales team those words. I’ve lead tens of projects to increase density and utilization. We go vertical, we consolidate, move things around, but sometimes just need more space. When you literally need to pop up a warehouse, ClearSpan is your solution. ClearSpan warehouses can be custom designs or turnkey solutions for the appropriate storage solution.

There you have it, ten solutions for common problems within a warehouse. I hope this information is useful and please share with your colleagues. Collaboration and networking is another benefit of attending conferences. All the companies listed above have great salespeople Warehouse Engineers interacted with. If these are great ideas, and you don’t have the capacity to manage the project contact Warehouse Engineers.
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Brandon Ashby, the managing partner, is a certified Project Management Professional who can manage the project for you.
warehouse

MAN AND MACHINE ARE KEY TO CREATING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN TODAY’S SUPPLY-CHAIN WAREHOUSE

When it comes to warehousing and the use of robotics to manage and maintain a competitive supply chain, the conversations usually begin with the potential for these powerhouse machines to replace workers and eliminate the need for humans in the facility. As this might be the case in some situations, the bigger concern surrounds how to successfully create an environment where both humans and robots are able to safely collaborate, creating more efficiencies within the warehouse sector while at the same time optimizing the processes many still operate manually.

This is the concept of interconnecting the mind and abilities of these machines to support human workers, not replace them. The truth of the matter is, there are some things humans can do that robots simply cannot do, and the fear of robots replacing humans is backwards compared to what is really going on in meetings between warehouse managers and creators of autonomous solutions.

Dan Khasis, founder of Route4Me, a unique route optimization software platform, takes a deeper look at the emerging relationship between robotics and warehouses and dissects the reality of what is really going on when managing the supply chain inside the modern warehouse. “There’s this perception and risk associated with the subjects of robotics and job security,” he concedes. “It is very common to see a lot of warehouses that are based on the location, the retailer, the company, where their worker population is unionized. Many times, the situation starts with C-level executives who discover the technology that can drive efficiencies in the warehouse, save money and that work very well.”

“However, word gets back to the union workers that the expectation is for them to work twice as much in the same amount of time and they quickly realize it isn’t realistic or possible,” Khasis continues. “At that point, technology adoption is eliminated because people cannot be replaced. At that point, they accept the inefficiencies and turn to loopholes to deal with the issues that are clearly present. It is not the worker’s fault, but there is a struggle with getting warehouse workers onboard with these new technologies in addition to the long hours that are required to keep up.”

Khasis goes on to explain that the ability to do the picking and packing in the warehouse is still one of the biggest pain points in the warehousing sector. An example he cites is weight restrictions and what makes sense in terms of safety and simplicity. Can one send a robot to pick up a fridge that weighs 800 pounds versus utilizing someone in a forklift to lift the fridge? Sure, but some would question how a robot could prove to be more beneficial than a forklift in situations like these.

“There are basic and common risks associated with robotics, such as employees getting injured, and the technology exists to avoid such accidents,” Khasis says. “In terms of a hybrid model, you’re able to have things such as augmented reality where if one is driving through the warehouse, there’s clearly the safety component in question. There are heavy items throughout the warehouse that are elevated and there needs to be a population of properly trained employees to minimize these risks along with the technology to support it.”

Heavy lifting comes into play with this pain point and Khasis emphasizes that well-trained individuals are more favorable over advanced technology in these cases. With every advancement comes risk and it’s about measuring the risk against current and potential resources that determines the best way to optimize operations while mitigating these risks. The warehouse sector is aiming to operate optimally and safely as that is where competitive advantage is ultimately found.

“The hybrid warehouses that are half robots and half autonomous are still an open question regarding the interaction between human workers and robots because there will undoubtedly be issues with how they collaborate together,” Khasis points out. “For example, will there be a specific area for robots and one area for the workers, how we will address collision avoidance, and how they will actually collaborate are the bigger questions still in the process of being solved?”

Leadership in the warehouse sector is experiencing a technological disconnect as well. While many news headlines boast the latest big-name companies adopting a new form of advanced technology, there are still many large companies operating the good old-fashioned way: via Microsoft Excel or another manual process and dismissing the option of advanced technology completely. This isn’t a bad thing, but Khasis emphasizes that these companies could maximize their bottom lines by adopting technologies that aren’t incompatible with emerging technology.

“There’s a generational shift in the warehouse,” he says. “For example, the VP or director in today’s warehouse might not have faith in the modern technology approaches available. We sometimes have friendly arguments with our own customers explaining how something might not ‘look’ better but mathematically and in terms of optimization, it is paramount in comparison and when broken down. There are both trends and realities that differ from what people are talking about versus what’s actually happening.”

Khasis continues: “Many warehouses out there are still using legacy software and there’s a significant amount of big industry players who still have not modernized their systems. Part of that modernization is moving stuff to the cloud and as they move things up to the cloud, opportunities will open up for them to take advantage of newer technologies. These newer technologies on the market are not backward compatible with the relatively obsolete systems that are closed off and still very much in use. They simply do not interact well with other systems.”

For warehouses, proactive measures through advanced technologies are phasing out antiquated systems that require a retrospective approach to the process. Processes Microsoft Excel are still very much part of the manual process Khasis says breaks the dynamic between the adoption of technology and the desired bottom-dollar impact.

“Few companies actually understand what they need to have in each warehouse and when they need it,” he says, “and the way to successfully identify what consumers are demanding is best found through reliable and integrated e-commerce data. In some cases, the warehouse directors will project certain time frames for specific items based on the previous year rather than analyzing data revealing search activity increases within the e-commerce sector.”

These data predictions and trends monitoring can give matchless insight on upcoming and unpredictable events that other manual processes simply cannot accomplish. Weather changes, for example, and alerting warehouses of what to keep in stock versus assuming patterns in spending can make big differences in gaining that advantage over competitors. E-commerce monitoring through this data can give ample information in real-time without the need of someone else providing trend forecasting. This brings extra work costs down for the warehouse worker and increases time savings overall, all while driving the bottom dollar up.

Khasis emphasizes the importance and role advanced technologies will have in providing more opportunities in optimization and human-robot collaborations. With advanced technologies, warehouse managers can better predict what types of deliveries are on the horizon and prepare their warehouse more efficiently, streamlining the process and interactions between automation and warehouse workers.

“The warehouse does not live in a vacuum and it must be able to adapt to upstream and downstream systems. For example, if a shipment is coming in and you have the capability of knowing what is on that vehicle and where it needs to g—assuming you have the technology available to share that information—you can then have the human workers and robots collaborate to make room for that to go smoothly. This can include advanced space allocation, unloader coordination and advanced warehouse space preparations.”

Autonomous vehicles will soon have to adapt to the warehouse as well. The issue of inter-compatibility will undoubtedly be of question.

“One cannot send a delivery vehicle or any other type of truck with a different height from the warehouse because the robots can’t access it,” Khasis notes. “The concept of inter-compatibility between internal robotics and external autonomous systems will be particularly important in the near future. We believe that in order for there to be efficiencies, there must be integration, and everything needs to collaborate.

“Our patent–called Autonomous Supply Chain, and the point of this is to reiterate that a warehouse can have the best software on the market but if it isn’t compatible or the timing isn’t right, then it doesn’t matter. That brings up the question of timing and what determines the right time and how it impacts planning which is very important.”

Without the key element of integration, the most advanced technology simply will not present the results sought for competitive advantage in the warehouse, negating the desired effects from the dollars spent on adopting them. For companies seeking to redefine the warehouse, they must consider in what ways integration is possible and affordable.

“We look at all the assets including the people, the vehicles, the potential shipments on the way in and out of the country, the warehouse and its capabilities and location, and figure the best way to optimize routes,” Khasis says. “For some of the biggest global companies, this is still being done with manual interpretations, which includes reporting analysis after the fact. There is little preventable action with this type of process, and it takes more of a retrospective approach.”

The option of accepting inefficiencies is simply not going to cut it anymore. Processes are changing, technology is becoming the new standard, and people are needed that are open to learning and adopting methods of work that increase productivity while supporting long-term and short-term goals in the supply chain.

“The goal of Autonomous Supply Chain is to get in front of the problems and decisions rather than behind them while utilizing an advanced technology that can collaborate across the board,” Khasis says. “By incorporating all techniques across different business units and different business entities, the process is streamlined. When this is all put together, we are estimating anywhere from 25 to 50 percent value creation, savings and profit increase mainly because a lot of this process is currently human dependent.”

More than ever before, the concept of synchronization in the supply chain is needed. Customer demands will continue to rise and become more complex as time goes by. In the age of Amazon and next-day delivery, the warehouse simply cannot afford to operate with one or the other–being robots or humans. Both are a crucial part of the bigger picture that have a significant impact on business.

“The warehouse location is equally important, and the industry is extremely behind in understanding warehouse site selection,” Khasis says. “If you have a warehouse in the wrong area–even with 100 percent support from the union with the best robots on the market—it is going to be difficult because now you need different people fulfilling roles that weren’t accounted for, such as drivers. Sure, you might have a cheaper warehouse but if the location isn’t carefully considered, your savings are quickly dissolved in other valuables that weren’t modeled into the original budget. This process is also still manually done throughout the industry and can be optimized using our software.”

Each element in the process will undoubtedly impact the success and outcome of your warehouse, beginning with site selection to worker population to technology integration. In an age where business goes to people instead of people going to businesses, ensuring all parts are synchronized is a critical part of the bigger picture of gaining and maintaining competitive advantage and keeping up with an evergreen marketplace.

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Dan Khasis is a technology entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Route4Me, a unique route optimization software. 

commercial

How to Reduce Commercial Warehousing Costs

With an unpredictable market, erratic economy, and huge competition, it can be quite difficult to get a warehouse business running smoothly. Your goal is to maximize profit while cutting down on production and operation costs. Well, that is not always easy. One of the biggest issues that create setbacks is spending money on things you don’t need to keep a business running. My goal is to show you how to reduce commercial warehousing costs, and increase your earnings while keeping the quality of the service on a satisfying level.

The Primary Goal

The primary goal of every professional warehouse must be to reduce commercial warehousing costs. Since all items must be in buy-ready condition, and in their proper place, you must have enough funding to keep this well-oiled machinery running smoothly. If you wish to improve the efficiency, speed, and accuracy in your warehouse, this strategy is a must. Let’s see how to achieve that.

Optimize Your Storage by Reducing Space

Optimizing your warehouse space is crucial for peak performance of your facilities. If we think about expenses, one of the major contributors is land cost. Since the productivity rate of the warehouse depends on the speed of locating the item and loading it onto the truck, you must think of the best system.

Optimize your aisles by carefully calculating the necessary length and width. Learn the dimensions of forklifts, and reduce extra space by moving the racks closer. Furthermore, sorting the packages on the racks makes everything easier.

When we think about square footage, it is crucial to go narrow and tall. That is the best way to reduce warehouse space, without losing productivity and effectiveness. Nevertheless, it is important to factor in the safety requirements of your workers, and provide enough space for them to work without constrictions.

Protecting the Inventory

Every warehouse has its own financial problems. Damaged inventory is most certainly one of the biggest culprits for the loss of money. Smart inventory management helps you keep your inventory protected.

One of the first approaches to take is to tightly stick to the packing and storage procedures. Extensive employee training is imperative for a smoothly-operated business without many losses.

Furthermore, it is not just the damage to the inventory that causes loss of money. It happens many times that a package is lost. That not only dries out your budget, but it is also bad customer service. Implementing proper control systems like RFID, VDP or RF is the best solution.

Finally, increasing overall security by installing top-of-the-art security systems will prevent theft, which is also a huge issue in many warehouses.

Cross-Docking

Cutting out the middleman and transferring a package directly to the customer is a great way to reduce commercial warehousing costs. This system is called cross-docking, and while many are aware of it, not everyone is using it. It is a great way to save both money and time, and improve store management, shipping, delivery, labor costs, etc.

Energy Cost Reduction

Reducing your utility bills is a great way to simultaneously reduce commercial warehousing costs. Better insulation, automatic lighting system, and water consumption reduction are just some of the ways to achieve this.

The more windows you have, the more natural light enters the warehouse. If you install hands-free faucets or automatic flush toilets with low flow, you will see great results.

All these changes require funding, but it is a long-term investment that always pays out in the end.

Used Containers vs. New Containers

Buying new containers for your warehouse seems appealing. Everyone likes to have new things straight out of the factory. However, that can be a costly investment. Instead, you should turn your focus towards used containers. You can find plenty in good condition, at a lower cost.

Believe it or not, you can save up to 40% on the smart purchase of used containers. All vendors keep them in superb condition, and all the containers are cleaned and inspected before selling. With such great savings, it really isn’t that difficult to see the benefits of used containers over new ones.

Cutting Down Labor-Related Expenses

When we talk about cutting down labor-related expenses, we are not referring to reducing employees’ salaries. That is not the way to go about this. However, it is important to properly manage your employees. Having idle workers is only draining your budget.

A great solution is to put everything you have into employee retention. If you keep your employees satisfied and give them an opportunity to develop, they will stay with you. Over time, they will turn into experienced employees that really have no cost. That strategy is much more affordable than hiring and training new employees.

Furthermore, the automation of warehouses is also an option. Machines can run as long as you need them. However, do not forget to factor in the installation and maintenance costs. Nevertheless, it is the main strategy of the future to reduce commercial warehousing costs.

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Joshua Collins is a business owner with a degree in economics, with over 10 years of experience. In his spare time, he runs a blog about startups and writes articles for multiple companies, like ccmover.com and many others. He is offering his advice both to young entrepreneurs looking to find a way into the small business industry and to experienced business owners looking for ways to increase earnings. Furthermore, his vast knowledge of marketing strategies provides a great foundation for any business and helps in reducing costs and increasing effectiveness and productivity.

vietnam

Is Vietnam the Next China: Myth vs. Reality

The ongoing US-China trade war has brought a renewed urgency in recent months resulting in my crisscrossing this tiny nation from the northern capital of Hanoi to the country’s economic epicenter to the south, Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon, and every stop in between. Once viewed as an emerging market with potential, Vietnam today is considered the hottest “go-to” sourcing destination as supply chains uproot from China and President Trump and President Xi continue to work out their disagreements.

However, despite logging thousands of miles of travel and spending days upon days conducting factory audits in the remotest corners of the country, I’ve discovered Vietnam’s manufacturing industry and export products may not live up to the hype as China’s best alternative.

Myth #1: Vietnam manufacturing is on par with China.

One striking difference I noticed immediately is that Vietnam’s manufacturing is at least 10-15 years behind China. On my factory tours, I witnessed outdated machinery, lack of modern equipment and saw few signs of the latest supply chain best practices, including LEAN certification standards and supply chain manufacturing principles in action. In my daily research on vetting manufacturers, I consistently come across poorly designed websites- if I am lucky to find one at all, sales pages listing professional contacts using Gmail and Yahoo accounts, and often encounter few staff members who can converse or speak English well. These deficiencies contribute to the challenging task of sourcing products meeting global export standards.

Myth #2: Vietnam’s pricing is cheaper than China.  

With labor about one-third of China, the cost of living and land is much cheaper than its northern neighbor, many falsely believe that Vietnam-made products automatically translate into big savings.

There are three contributing factors:

1. In nearly every industry, Vietnam lacks quality raw materials and must import them from China, thereby, increasing costs

2.  As new foreign direct investments set record highs, industrial park land costs have increased dramatically to coincide with this boom

3. Manufacturers (well aware that the US-China trade war has put American buyers in a corner) have raised their prices accordingly.

These all contribute to the drowning out of any major cost savings. In my experience, several times North American buyers have responded that my Vietnam price offer is wildly off the mark and not competitive with their current China suppliers, China tariff included. 

Myth #3: In Vietnam, you can expect to find everything as in China.

In the world of manufacturing and supply chain, I constantly hear: “Just start sourcing from Vietnam.” That would be all fine and dandy assuming an apples to apples comparison, but Vietnam is anything but China. Over the past two decades, China has perfected their manufacturing and supply chains to the point of employing robotics and automation churning out sophisticated products by the millions. Just take a trip to the hugely popular Canton Fair or attend one of the hundreds of trade shows and expos throughout the year; you will find every product imaginable, in every variant and color, too.

Furthermore, China has the most up-to-date and modern infrastructure—from container ports, highways, railways, and warehouses—to deliver goods globally. In contrast, Vietnam only in recent years has started to emerge onto the manufacturing scene, known mostly for light furniture, textiles, sewing, and electronics parts. 

Exasperated by the US-China trade war, Vietnam’s manufacturing industry has been red hot, however, it’s not an equivalent replacement for China. Buyers can expect less-than-stellar quality products and choices than what China offers, met with challenging business practices and frustration due to the lack of manufacturing transparency, data, and information. While Vietnam might be a manufacturing dream destination for many of your gains, it might be just that in the end: a pipe dream.