Live from NCOF: It’s a Jungle in Here

Orlando, FL—Congratulations are in order for John Giangrande: The account executive with distribution consulting and systems provider Fortna was the winner of the NCOF version of “Survivor.” In “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Fulfillment ‘Survivor’ Style,” a session hosted by Catherine Cooper, president of consultancy Q4, Giangrande was one of six industry experts who had to present actionable tips; the attendees periodically “voted off” panelists until only the one they felt had provided the most useful advice remained.

Among the tips from Giangrande:

  • 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 your corrugated.
  • Take a careful assessment of your storage media needs; two to four types of racking and other media are optimal for most warehouses.

Sharon Gardner, CEO of solutions provider VendorNet, was the runner-up. Among her suggestions:

  • 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 and efficiently.
  • If you still receive orders via mail, assign the processing of those orders to at-home workers who can enter them into your system via a Web interface.
  • If you can’t afford year-round 24-hour IT support, whether it’s inhouse or from an outside provider, be sure to request it prior to your peak seasons.
  • 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, often have more-flexible schedules, and can spread the word should you need to recruit additional staffers.

Mark Taylor, the CEO of Taylor Systems Engineering Corp. and the defending champion, was the fourth panelist voted off. Among his advice: If you ship out packages with a value of more than $100, don’t pay your parcel carrier for insurance; you can save up to 53% by using a third-party insurer instead.

Fellow panelist Bill Monk, director of operations and transportation for 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.

Another panelist, The Container Store’s vice president of logistics, 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.