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Information on the products and techniques to better store, handle, and move products in your facility.

Free download: “10 Ways to use Material Handling to Increase Security”

January 17, 2008

material handling and security brochure

We have uploaded the (free!) PDF of our latest paper, “10 Ways to use Material Handling to Increase Security.” It’s a quick, 4-page read with an additional page on identification systems that can help you quickly sort out the nature of what is being conveyed for a higher level of security and efficiency. It’s free, printable, and worth your time. You might ask why a material handling company is concerned with security. I might ask why one wouldn’t be concerned with security. Sure, Cisco-Eagle doesn’t sell cameras or alarm systems. We don’t consult on personnel or security systems, but what we do is inseparable from  security, because the way you store and handle valuable items is impossible to separate from the way you secure them…

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Getting lean (but not mean) in your warehouse operation

December 30, 2007

cover for lean warehousing book

Sure, we’ve heard all the talk of lean manufacturing, but what about lean warehousing? I’ve been in facilities that have straightened production lines in pursuit of lean principles, and those lines included storage factors and materials handling, but I’ve never seen it specifically done in a distribution operation. Many warehousing operations have probably applied aspects of lean in the warehousing process, but how many have, from top to bottom, implemented a lean warehousing program?

The original concept of lean was designed for mass production of identical or similar items, so a straight conversion to warehousing, where volumes aren’t massive or standardized, isn’t a given. You can’t apply the science of lean exactly the same way, but you can definitely apply it.

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Am I Wasting Time: is Cross-Docking a Viable Consideration for my Company?

December 19, 2007

cross docking conveyor system

This article is the second in a series of articles on cross docking

In concept and on paper cross docking looks great, but, what about actual implementation? What kind of return do we get on this investment? The short answer is the implementation can be challenging. However, with planning, a committed team of upstream and downstream participants, and possibly even a pilot program, it can pay significant benefits.

Cross docking does not have to be complicated. Some, even today, execute cross-docking using human-readable paper documentation as the driver. As mentioned in the original brief, cross docking can cover a wide range of distribution activities. In one door and directly out the other is one approach. Many cross dockers also add value in the brief (hopefully) interval between receiving and shipping. Others send product to a temporary buffer in the interval, in many of these cases an automated system (mini-load, AS/RS, etc.) serves as the buffer.

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This article is part of a series of articles on Cross Docking. Click on a link below to view one of the other articles.
  1. Cross Docking: Is it Right For Me?
  2. Am I Wasting Time: is Cross-Docking a Viable Consideration for my Company?
  3. Cross Docking: What are the facility layout considerations?
  4. Cross Docking: A retailer improves supply chain

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Cross Docking: Is it Right For Me?

December 5, 2007

This article is the first in a series of articles on the subject of cross docking.

Basic cross docking illustrationJudging by the number of inquiries we receive relative to inventory management in distribution, a look at cross docking practices seems to make sense. This will be the first of a series of briefs on cross docking, how and where it works, and a look at some best practice ideas that might be useful to those of you in the distribution business (of all sizes). I’ll also be providing you links to some excellent online references for more information.

Most everyone is familiar with how those like Wal-Mart took the cross docking model, and essentially redefined supply chain efficiency. The results achieved are well-documented. For those of us involved with mid-size organizations, a compelling case can be made for considering cross dock principles in our distribution centers. If you are able to move material from receiving dock to shipping dock, and bypass storage, consider what you gain. Costs associated with holding inventory, protecting it, insuring it, picking it, counting it, and so forth.

Although the “cross docking” term is well ingrained in our supply chain lingo, it is important to understand the concept also applies elsewhere in our distribution centers (more on that later), notwithstanding what you call it. Let’s begin.

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This article is part of a series of articles on Cross Docking. Click on a link below to view one of the other articles.
  1. Cross Docking: Is it Right For Me?
  2. Am I Wasting Time: is Cross-Docking a Viable Consideration for my Company?
  3. Cross Docking: What are the facility layout considerations?
  4. Cross Docking: A retailer improves supply chain

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Posted in Automation, Cross Docking, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Educational and training opportunities for warehousing and distribution professionals…

November 19, 2007

WERC (the Warehousing Education and Research Council) does some great work.The group offers a terrific online research library with tons of links to web pages and PDF’s on everything from case studies to equipment analysis to facilities issues, people, processes, metrics and tons more. Another excellent resource is always WERC’s annual conference (May 2009 in Chicago) as well as local conferences like the ones we have attended in Dallas the last couple of years. The national event has Stephen Covey, author of The Speed of Trust this year.

Its self-study guides are good, and inexpensive at $14.95 for members and just $29 for nonmembers, with detailed information on personnel, processes, and more.

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Along with the cost of a gallon of gas, your transportation costs are rising (but fuel isn’t the only reason)

November 14, 2007

It’s more immediate of course, when the cost at the pump jumps, but rising fuel costs are a reality in your shipping operations whether you are pushing product to customers or bringing it into your facility. We’ve all seen the fuel surcharges and continually-rising freight rates.

According to Operations & Fulfillment, labor developments may have just as much impact over the next few years. Over the next 5 years, the latest UPS contract amounts to a $9 per hour labor cost increase, which will certainly make its way downstream to shipping charges. Developments in other companies such as FedEx and labor negotiations across the shipping and freight world mean that even if fuel prices stabilize, it’ll cost you more to ship and receive products.

Curt Barry’s article at Operations & Fulfillment recommends some of the steps you can take:

  1. Look at transportation in the context of the total supply chain efficiency. (see Curt’s article for tips).
  2. Institute vendor compliance policies, include routing guides for inbound carriers. Do not permit vendor-controlled freight.
  3. For high returns businesses, use return services.
  4. Join an inbound freight consortium with contracted carriers and negotiated best rates.
  5. Do your homework. You have to understand your volume and shipping characteristics, etc.
  6. Consider a freight consultant, which can reduce costs 15% to 25%.

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Is supply chain sustainability more than a marketing ploy?

November 12, 2007

“Being a good steward of the environment and in our communities, and being an efficient and profitable business, are not mutually exclusive. In fact they are one in the same.”
— Lee Scott, CEO Wal-Mart, Twenty First Century Leadership, October 24, 2005

Whatever you believe about the issues surrounding climate change, sustainability, and all things “green”, there are certainly people paying attention, and if your business serves consumers, they may be paying attention to the way you conduct business, from the way you make things, handle them in your operations, ship, and handle them.

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Is the midwest the best location for your distribution center?

October 31, 2007

That’s what Todd Yadzi of the 3PL TAGG Logistics thinks, and writes in this Operations & Fulfillment article, “DC Operations Why Midwest is Best”. His basic premise is that operations on either coast slow an entire supply chain down and increase its costs. Part of this comes from the proximity issue (I suppose he’s thinking that you would spend more on a coastal DC’s for each coast than you would for one larger operation in the middle of the country). It makes sense in that land, labor and utilities are less expensive down the center than they are near the larger urban centers. He believes that if you’re shipping from coastal ports to your facility, it still makes economic sense to move product inland due to the higher carrying and transportation costs.

Take that a step (and a few years) further: as the NAFTA corridor matures, you will see areas that align with it receiving larger and larger amounts of cargo, not only from Central America, but from other areas as the Port of Houston capacity grows. This is already happening, and all that growth will travel north from Texas and into the heartland.

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