Talking Operations With A Touch of Class

Rick MacDonald is facility manager for Huntingburg, IN-based home decor and cataloger Touch of Class, responsible for warehouse operations and maintenance, among other duties. MacDonald–also the son-in-law of Touch of Class president/CEO Fred Bell—took a few minutes out of his busy day to chat with O+F Advisor’s former editor Mark Del Franco.

What’s keeping you up at nights from an operations perspective?
I ‘d like to lower the amount of physical labor required to get the job done. Over the years, our business has morphed into a furniture and home furnishings catalog rather than a bed and bath catalog.

For example, when I started six years ago many of our products weighed 80 lbs. and less; today many items weigh 200 lbs. Our heaviest item is 380 lbs. These products need to be hand-wrestled off the container, and this fatigues our staff.

You guys were hurt by the APX going out of business fiasco [parcel consolidator APX abruptly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2006], and suddenly left looking for a vendor at the last minute. What have you learned from this?
We were all surprised by APX suddenly going out of business. As a matter of fact, two APX sales representatives were on their way to our offices only to find out they no longer had jobs. I don’t know if anyone could have foreseen that collapse coming.

When we went shopping for another vendor, we made sure to ask about their financial viability. We settled on Fedex Smartpost and as it turns out, our service is markedly better. Our package delivery, which used to take six to eight days, now takes four to six days.

If money is no object, what type of machinery would you like to have in your warehouse?
I ‘d love to have a laser dimensioning system. Right now we have a lot of things we have to measure by hand. I’d also like to have an extendable power roller that is capable to reaching the nose of a 50-ft. trailer to get product off the truck faster and more efficiently. We could use the power roller in the DC as well.

How has Touch of Class dealt with the issue of dimensional weight? Is it costing you more to ship the products?
When all the dimensional weight changes came down, we re-analyzed our stock boxes and it made sense to downsize them. Out of 32 boxes, we have six that are dimensionally weighted. We used to have 10 and downsized to get them under. We’re trying to pack things into non-dimensionally weighted boxes.

It used to be each provider had its own set of rules when it came to oversize packages or what’s now called dimensional weight. The U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service, and FedEx each had their own sets of rules and regulations. Now you don’t have to memorize three sets of rules anymore just to ship a box. And that will help the industry in the long run.

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