Post-War Strategies

Jun 01, 2003 9:30 PM  By

The war in Iraq is over, consumer confidence has improved somewhat, and retail sales are picking up. So can we hurry up and go back to the way we were, please?

For most companies — and perhaps for American business as a whole — there may be no going back. At several industry meetings held in the past two months, the prevailing theme was how to transform practices ingrained for decades. From dozens of conference presentations and interviews with fulfillment pundits, O+F has culled five important items for your to-do list:

  1. Change

    In these troubled times, change can turn possible death into survival. To resuscitate moribund trucking company Yellow Transportation, CEO William Zollars used as his beacon a saying attributed to Continental Airlines head Gordon Bethune: “Change everything fast and all at once.”

  2. Measure

    Do the math. “We ask what is the value-add of each position and function to the operation,” says Kenneth Miesemer, director of distribution operations for Hershey Foods Corporation. “We probably over-measure our operations, but we have gotten a great deal of benefit from that. We measure down to the task level.”

  3. Train

    When The Gillette Company installed an integrated WMS/TMS program, its main problem was not the technology but the difficulty of getting users up to speed, according to distribution manager Terrill Velin. “If I could change one thing, it would be taking more time to train.”

  4. Upgrade

    It pays to invest in radio frequency identification tags, voice-recognition applications, PDAs, and the like. A survey of 212 warehouses conducted by Dr. Ed Frazelle for The Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech found that high levels of information-handling automation correlated with superior warehouse performance.

  5. Outsource

    3PLs can be great allies. Hershey Foods, for instance, outsources its entire distribution network and collaborates extensively with suppliers, says Miesemer. “We do VMI, CPFR, special displays, fund-raiser displays, things that help us work with clients to increase sales.”