It’s a jungle in the DC

Did you hear the one about the guy who attended an industry conference and a reality television show broke out? That’s what happened during “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Fulfillment ‘Survivor’ Style,” a session at last month’s National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment (NCOF) inspired by the reality show Survivor. Industry experts presented actionable tips to attendees, who periodically “voted off” panelists until only the one who they felt had provided the most useful advice remained.

John Giangrande, account executive with Nashville, TN-based distribution consulting and systems provider Fortna and the champion among the panelists, offered a number of warehouse-related suggestions:

  • Consider having your pickers pick orders directly into the shipping packages; if your system is automated, try having workers dump the automated picks directly into the outgoing cartons.

  • Limit yourself to two or three sizes of shipping cartons if at all possible. This saves space in the distribution center and may enable you to get better volume discounts on corrugated.

  • Assess your storage media needs; two to four types of racking and other media are optimal for most warehouses.

Among the tips offered by runner-up Sharon Gardner, CEO of Delray Beach, FL-based solutions provider VendorNet:

  • Formalize a system of advanced sender notifications (ASNs) with your vendors. Having them notify you of the shipping status of your inbound products will enable you to schedule warehouse operations and staff more accurately.

  • Assign the processing of mail orders (assuming you still receive any) to at-home workers who can enter them into your system via a Web interface.

  • In need of staff? Tap into the Gray Panthers or other organizations of mature adults, especially for seasonal help. They may not work as fast as younger employees, but they’re more reliable and often have more-flexible schedules.

Mark Taylor, the CEO of Plymouth, MI-based Taylor Systems Engineering Corp. and the defending champion from the 2005 Survivor session, advised using a third-party insurer rather than the parcel carrier’s insurance for outbound packages with a value of more than $100. Doing so, he said, can cut your cost by up to 53%.

Bill Monk, director of operations and transportation for Newark, OH-based baskets merchant The Longaberger Corp., suggested among other things cross-training your returns processing and quality assurance teams. This way, the returns processors will be sure not to restock products that aren’t in salable condition.

Vice president of logistics for Coppell, TX-based The Container Store, Amy Carovillano, introduced the term “slappers.” She defined these as products that can go out in the same packaging they came in; all you have to do is “slap” the mailing labels on them. She recommended identifying these products and zoning them separately in the DC.

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