Two “Can’t Miss” Sessions at NCOF 2008

Nearly 20 years after its beginnings, the 2008 National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment (NCOF) continues to offer attendees a wealth of opportunities to benchmark themselves against competitors, share ideas with colleagues, and find new and exciting ways to improve operations, as well as their bottom lines. Let me share with you two of my favorite sessions from this year’s conference that I think will provide you with extremely important takeaways — ones you can actually implement when you get back to your operations.

Trends in Order Fulfillment

Susan Rider, president of Rider & Associates, Upton, KY, will present results of a survey of operations and fulfillment personnel. Rider says work force productivity and operational efficiencies are the leading issues facing order fulfillment houses, according to the survey.

Fifty percent of those who responded to the survey said people issues were their No. 1 concern, 33% of those who responded said value added services, and 33% of those who responded said technology were their leading concerns.

The availability of people that want to go to work in an order fulfillment house is a challenge, along with retaining those people, Rider says. The language barrier is also an issue at many order fulfillment houses.

“You have to change your mindset if you want to have good, valuable employees,” she points out. “Your instructions and training manuals have to be in multiple languages, and you need to be sure your processes are explained very clearly.”

Order fulfillment houses are also looking to evaluate software technology to increase productivity and operational efficiencies in order to cut costs out of the facilities, the survey said.

Rider says the survey shows that order fulfillment houses across vertical industries, such as food and clothing, are faced with the challenge that consumers are requiring information at an expeditious level, so it is harder to keep up. The survey also indicates that many fulfillment houses are increasing value added services (personalization) to get a marketing edge over their competition.

Attendees will hear what the trends are in order fulfillment, challenges effecting other fulfillment houses, and some rules of thumb on how to solve those challenges.

Parcel Packaging That Works

Bill Kipp, associate executive director of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), will discuss approaches to designing parcel packages, which address the issues of controlling both costs and in-transit damage.

He will describe the hazards of distribution, provide qualitative guidelines for protective-package design, and present methodologies and benefits of pre-shipment laboratory tests.

Kipp’s presentation will focus on Test Procedure 3A, which is a general simulation test for individual packaged products shipped through a parcel delivery system. The test is appropriate for four different package types commonly distributed as individual packages, either by air or ground. The types include standard, small, flat, and elongated packages. The basic requirements are atmospheric pre-conditioning; random vibration, with and without, top load; and shock testing.

Not only are there numerous educational opportunities for operations and fulfillment personnel at NCOF, but after nearly 20 years, the conference remains the only forum where this segment of the work force can meet and discuss similar challenges with their peers. The networking opportunity is a can’t-miss portion of NCOF.

Angela Eastin
NCOF Show Director