Social media influencers have the power to set trends in fashion, style, music, diet, and language by promoting carefully curated imagery to their followers. Storage media influencers do not exist – but maybe they should!
If walking into your warehouse feels like taking a trip back to another era, then it is time to reevaluate your storage equipment. By periodically reviewing the latest trends in storage media and making appropriate updates, you can maintain or improve your facility’s efficiency even as your business climate changes.
For example, during a past site visit I encountered a frustrated operations manager who was trying to figure out why shipping costs were increasing even though the number of orders and cases shipped held steady. After several audits, the manager found a dramatic increase in the number of exception picks that required additional shipments. He was certain this was a problem that could be easily fixed; after all, he had the latest slotting software, had seen plenty of poorly used locations, and had the product on hand in every case.
But the answer may not be as easy as re-slotting. Slotting works only when you have the correct mix of storage media.
Using the appropriate storage media allows you to improve your company’s bottom line by making the most of valuable facility space and improving productivity across nearly all of your facility’s operations, from put-away to replenishment/picking to shipping. It also enhances your ability to adjust to business changes, both expected and unexpected.
Observe the Signs
Do you see any of the following in your DC? If so, that’s your signal to begin a storage media mix review:
The first step in finding a solution is getting your hands on the right SKU-specific data, such as packaging specifications, inventory levels, and demand. This information is probably already available in your enterprise system and financial or sales files. For information that is hard to find, operational surveys, field checks, and educated assumptions are more reliable than you may initially think.
To properly determine the mix of storage media for your facility, you need to determine a finish line or time frame for data projections. Consider industry trends, customer service goals, and your company’s strategic plans and objectives. Don’t be afraid to use educated assumptions for unknowns, and cover your backside by being conservative in your projections.
Finding the most effective solution may seem daunting when you consider the wide range of storage options and possible combinations. So first, examine major groups of SKUs with common traits. Second, combine selections for SKU groups to build storage media mixes. Finally, conduct apples-to-apples comparisons of storage media combinations, including a status quo alternative. Quantitative (space, labor, costs) and qualitative (work environment, flexibility, customer service) factors will help identify the option that will best serve your needs. If you need to reconfigure, the results of your comparison will clearly indicate the benefits and provide an adequate return on investment.
Finalize your Plans
Of course, other steps and decisions are required to fully realize the benefits of installing the right storage media. The following strategies will enable you to derive maximum benefit from the equipment you select:
Realize the Benefits
What benefits can you expect from this exercise? At a minimum you should be able to:
Simply put, be a storage media influencer: Analyze the effectiveness of your storage media combinations and adjust proactively. This forward thinking move will provide noteworthy and tangible benefits that can be felt in virtually every area of your facility.
—Howard Turner, St. Onge Company