Article | October 16, 2020
Order picking is the most resource-intensive operation of a warehouse or fulfillment center. More than 55% of the operating cost for a warehouse is related to order picking, and fulfillment centers, the number stands at 50%. It is the process that can bring in the most cost savings with an effective, streamlined and efficient order picking system. One of the most important components of your order picking system is the warehouse order picking cart. Order picking carts are used to move inventory from the warehouse shelves to sorting or packing stations. They make it easier for warehouse associates to carry multiple items at a time or to carry large, unwieldy items. When it is possible to carry multiple items on a trip, it drastically reduces the distance traveled by associates on foot. It also helps to reduce physical fatigue and improves efficiency dramatically.
Article | April 19, 2020
Innovations such as AI and automation have been tipped to kickstart the Fourth Revolution. While the technology is being widely adopted, it is constantly evolving. Therefore, there is uncertainty surrounding its overall impact, particularly on professional roles within the supply chain. Some fear that the technology will replace its human counterparts, while other experts suggest it will work in unison with humans, supporting them to focus on higher value opportunities. Amidst all of this uncertainty one thing is for certain: AI and automation will change how we operate.
Article | April 15, 2020
The rapid growth of e-commerce continues to create new challenges for retailers as they plan distribution strategies. One of those challenges is managing the high volume of returns. One in three shoppers returns items, and more than half read a company’s returns policy before making a purchase. Retailers lose $50 billion annually due to inefficiencies in processing returns, and distribution centers handling returns need 15% to 20% more space than a traditional facility.
Article | April 20, 2021
You might be wondering what the benefits are of benchmarking. Well, imagine you are training for a 100 metre sprint in your district. What would be the key number, or metric that you would need to know?
It would, of course, be what the winning time was when this race was last run in your district. Without that information, you don’t know what you’re trying to target. It would be impossible to know if you’ll have any chance at all of winning the race.
It’s exactly the same in business. If, for example, you are concerned about the pick rates in your warehouse, or your transport costs, or your inventory accuracy, benchmarking can help you because it can show you exactly where your performance is compared to others in your industry.
A few years ago, I was working with an automotive parts business. They had a little issue with their picking productivity in the warehouse. They wondered how good it was, whether they could improve it. They actually thought it was okay.
We looked at the figures and compared them with other businesses. This helped us realise that their picking productivity should be three times better than it was. And believe it or not, over a few months they did begin to improve their productivity.
Why? Because benchmarking opened their eyes to the fact that they were at a level quite far below others in the industry.
That’s the beauty of benchmarking. Until you know what others are doing, you can’t be sure how good your performance is.
If you’ve never tried benchmarking, there are three ways you could do it.
1. Informal Benchmarking
This exercise would involve you measuring particular functions or aspects of your business and comparing that against other parts of your business. Let’s say you have a warehouse operating in one city and another operating in another city. You might start to measure the same metrics and see which one is performing better.
You might know other people in the industry who are also operating warehouses so you might agree to share some data with them.
This is probably the easiest way to start off, but it has some downsides:
You’re only measuring against a very small sample size. If all of you in the pool are not that good, how would you know what good is?
You have to make sure that the businesses are similar and you are measuring things in exactly the same way. It’s very important in benchmarking to have a standard way of applying the metric.
2. Formal Benchmarking
This can work for much larger businesses. Perhaps you have operations in many different countries. You could agree a formal structure for how you are going to measure performance. You could do monthly or quarterly benchmarks with all the parts of your international organisation. You could learn from each other and share best practice.
This method is okay but you’re not getting access to a very large pool of results to measure yourself against. You will find that companies are very reluctant to give out benchmarking data. You might also be operating in an environment where the performance is quite low right across the business.
3. Hire a Professional Benchmarking Firm
This is the ultimate way to do it, although there are not a lot of professional benchmarking firms such as ours around. If you do manage to find one, you will quickly realise that there are significant benefits to be had by bringing in the professionals:
The metrics are put together in exactly the same way: When we do a benchmarking exercise for our consulting clients, we go through a very robust data-gathering process and then make sure all the costs, for example, are in the same buckets as everyone else’s in the database.
You gain access to a big pool of results: Professionals have measured hundreds, if not thousands, of companies. This enables you to say, ‘Our company is this size, it operates in this industry, these are the characteristics of our supply chain, who else in that pool of results is like us? We want to be measured against them.”
It’s no good measuring the performance of a grocery retailer, for example, against an industrial product supplier. They have different supply chains. You need to be measuring like with like.