If time is money, then being lean is both. Thanks to mega retailers such as Wal-Mart, lean principles have rapidly spread to a variety of different manufacturers, such as consumer foods, apparel and food/beverage.

Over the past few years, these retailers have dramatically changed how they do business in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. How products are ordered, how inventory is moved throughout distribution centers and barcodes vs. rfid technology for inventory management have all been taken into consideration in order to work as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

While lean thinking has been rapidly expanding amongst large manufacturers and retailers, there are still a lot of companies that have hardly implemented any lean concepts.

At the end of the day, it’s about adding value for customers—but how can companies do that while also reaping in benefits for themselves?

Lean opportunities for wholesalers and retailers fall into three basic categories:

1) Retail Strategy
For lean concepts to be successfully applied within a retail or wholesale organization, departmental strategies need to be aligned with and support an overall lean company strategy in order to efficiently function as one lean, cohesive machine.

2) Merchandise Management
When it comes down to it, efficiently managing merchandise comes down to having the right product at the right price at the right time. To achieve this trifecta, developing, securing, pricing support and communicating the retailer’s merchandise offering effectively is of the utmost importance. Failing to manage merchandise using lean principles causes waste, taking away value from both the customer and the enterprise.

3) Store and Distribution Operations
Store and distribution operations tend to be where companies have the biggest amount of waste. Depending on how many stores are involved, it can be one of the hardest areas to manage, making lean principles seem unattainable. But distribution is all about optimizing trade-offs between handling costs and warehousing costs, maximizing the warehouse while maintaining low costs and minimizing time.

It’s All About the Customer
In a retail environment, it’s crucial to consider store operations and process improvements from the customers’ point of view before making lean improvements. Remember, what’s good for the customer is good for your business; it’s just about finding the right solution.

Analyzing in-store logistics can be very beneficial to becoming a lean organization. These “last 10 yards” of the supply chain can have a drastic impact on your bottom line—from employee productivity, to quality issues, to receiving processes, every little step in the last 10 yards is crucial to improve processes and increase profits.

In addition to those crucial last customer-facing moments in the retail environment, omni-channel marketing, such as e-commerce, adds an entirely new layer of challenges to becoming a lean organization.

Identifying where customers will see value across all channels and applying lean concepts to these areas is crucial in retail and wholesale environments in order to succeed in today’s competitive market.

 

 

You do not need a drone to provide excellent delivery service to your customers. We have been fascinated recently by Amazon’s commitment to delivery service within 30 minutes of placing an order, thanks to a drone zooming in and dropping a package right outside our doors. However, there is more to customer satisfaction than a high flying technological wonder.

What makes customers happy?
There is much more to a successful delivery than just a package showing up at the door. Your customers are probably happiest when:

  • They receive the product they order, not a substitute or something that was stored on the next shelf in the warehouse
  • The package is delivered to the correct address
  • The order arrives when scheduled

How to deliver on customer satisfaction?

For small to mid-sized businesses, there is a software solution for customer satisfaction. It is an Inventory Shipping Receiving and Picking (ISRP) system that calculates and tracks all data about the inventory, from receiving and storing products and receiving customer orders to picking, shipping and invoicing the items. You want the process to flow smoothly and if there are any glitches, you receive an immediate alert so you can take care of the problem right away.

ISRP software integrates the four main functions necessary for successfully filling customer orders:

  • ISRP Inventory is all about having an accurate and complete count of the inventory no matter what the location within the company operations. The system has the capacity for physical inventory and cycle counting. You can design queries and request reports that allow you to monitor and manage inventory.

Accessing this kind of information gives you the confidence to know you absolutely can fill the orders being received. You can build in reordering alerts so you never run out of product. You can track consumption over defined periods and cycles so you can plan ahead.

  • ISRP Shipping functionality validates all the details of your customer’s order and generates the shipping labels. The system is integrated with the delivery service provider such as FedEx or WorldShip so there is no need to risk errors by rekeying customer names and addresses.

The shipping information can also be exported to your billing department. Once again, eliminating the need to input the information again eliminates the risk of error. The customer will receive the items ordered and the correct invoice.

  • ISRP Receiving is the part of the software solution that enters all necessary data about the product you have ordered from a manufacturer or distributor. Such data typically includes a purchase order number, due date, vendor ID and the location where it is being stored. Errors are significantly reduced and the receiving process is speeded up as the information is validated by barcode or RFID tag readers. The product will now be easy to find to fill your customer’s order.
  • ISRP Picking imports the details of the customer order and validates the part number, location and quantity using a portable barcode or RFID tag reader. This efficient system reduces if not eliminates error so the customer will be assured of the correct product in the requested quantity arriving at the door.

What are the ISRP Advantages?

The primary advantage of using an ISRP software solution in your warehouse is all about accurate, complete, current information in order to fill orders efficiently. There is no more apologizing because you have to backorder an item or send a substitution. When a customer has spent time deciding on a product, you can be sure that is exactly what he wants to receive.

The customer data is all in the system so there is little chance of error in shipping labels. Having that functionality integrated with the system used by the courier who will actually be delivering the package is a great bonus feature. The risk of error just keeps on decreasing.

Customer satisfaction begins with the first step in the entire inventory process. If you know for sure that your purchase order is filled, received and stored in your warehouse, you are in a much better position to fill your customers’ orders to their complete satisfaction.

A drone dropping a package on their doorstep is not going to keep a customer happy. A delivery service arriving at the door with exactly what the customer ordered as a result of an efficient and accurate end-to-end ISRP system is impressive.

The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack Inc. offers state of the art ISRP software solutions that can be customized to meet your company’s needs. There is a web based option with cloud storage that can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. There is also a system that can be locally installed on your company server and might be appropriate for your operation. IntelliTrack professionals are always ready to discuss your needs and what works to satisfy your customers.

 

IntelliTrack’s Package Track Data Management Software recently received a Certificate of Networthiness (CoN).

Package Track makes mailroom management and proof of delivery easy and includes applications for Inventory, Stockroom, Check In-Out and Fixed Assets, in addition to Package Tracking.

With Package Track, warehouse employees can easily check-in packages and assign them to the proper receiving customer. In addition, the software features a ‘mailroom’ database that stores customer locations and contact notification information. Once a package is ready for pick-up, the application automatically sends an e-mail notification.

Package Track by IntelliTrack was granted the CoN based on its trusted standardized platform, configured per FDCC.

Learn more about the CoN for Package Track.

For those of you with our Data Management Software (DMS) you’ll be pleased to discover that version 9 of the product line has just been released. The DMS product line includes:

If you have any of the above software, version 9 is now available and supports the newer Microsoft Operating Systems, SQL Server Technologies and Microsoft 2010 and 2013 versions as follows:

WMS 9 Operating System Support
32-bit and 64-bit: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 SP2
64-bit: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

Other Microsoft Product Support
SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 Express, SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2 Express, SQL Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 Express

Microsoft Access 2010 SP2 (32-bit and 64-bit versions)
Microsoft Access 2013 SP1 (32-bit and 64-bit versions)

In addition to supporting newer technologies, version 9 of the DMS offers enhanced performance. For upgrading customers, a FREE data migration is included ($795) for a limited time. So, why wait? Get version 9 today! Simply contact us by calling 888.583.3008 or emailing sales@intellitrack.net and ask about version 9!

Don’t have anything from our DMS product line? Contact us to find the best software for your needs.

“Lean” principles were used to describe Toyota’s business model during the 1980s, but most of the basic principles—eliminate waste and provide the highest level of value to customers—are still true today. Manufacturers were first to adopt this methodology, but it’s extremely beneficial for anyone in the warehousing or distribution industry. And as demand for cold storage and commercial refrigeration is on the rise, lean principles are particularly crucial in the cold storage facility industry.

Efficiency is crucial for cold storage facility owners. Some key areas of focus in order to operate with lean principles are:

Storage
The first step to ensuring storage is at its best is to profile the storage area and address any potential inefficiencies. Analyzing the warehouse needs, such as the type of product, bulk vs. bin vs. pallet, and picking method are all factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Foundation
The Five S’s are crucial in setting the foundation for a lean organization:

Sortation
Keep everything sorted and separated properly, removing anything unnecessary from the process.

Straightening
Streamline and simplify processes and methods to make it easy for workers to work in the most efficient way possible.

Shining
Keep your operations clean—clutter-free and trash-free.

Standardization
Monitor processes to ensure consistency and best practices are being maintained.

Sustaining
Maintaining a productive, stabilized work environment, striving for continuous improvement.

Just-in-Time
The idea behind Just-in-Time (JIT) is to reduce the amount of unused inventory to reduce costs in the business. In warehouse operations, JIT is ideal for addressing inefficiencies in work processes and labor management. Using a warehouse management system (WMS) can help measure your work and identify problem areas in order to tweak the process.

Culture
People are what it really comes down to—lean initiatives are people-centric, so a company can only become a lean organization by transforming company culture. Education, ongoing communications, and incentives can all help create a team environment that leads to a lean organization.

eCommerce Problems
If you’ve ever thought about selling goods online, there’s a lot of different factors to consider, but one major factor that can hold a lot of people back is logistics. Logistics can be a nightmare for companies just beginning ecommerce—warehousing, delivery and fulfillment can all seem overwhelming.

eCommerce Solutions
Luckily, there’s Anchanto, a Singapore-based startup that wants to eliminate some of the troubles of running an online retailer. They offer companies a platform to outsource logistics, similar to Fulfillment by Amazon.

What began in 2012 has dramatically increased their capital and is now looking to expand its warehouse capacity by eight times, allowing Anchanto to ship 4,000 orders a day in Singapore. They also plan to expand operations to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangalore within the next six months.

“We developed the entire order processing and warehouse management system from scratch to make sure the system is compact to its core and it does what’s needed for business,” says Abhimanyu Kashikar, co-founder and CTO of Anchanto.

How it Works
Anchanto’s patent-pending auto-allocation algorithm for deliveries divides an area into smaller zones and allocates varying amounts of credit according to the performance of the logistics person and the difficulty of delivering to a particular location. The system calculates which delivery person is best suited for a particular area based on performance and estimates delivery times.

The Future of Logistics
As we begin to see more online startups, its no surprise that there are also other startups to support them. A startup that focuses solely on logistics makes sense—it’s the one aspect of business that online retailers fret most about.

Is outsourcing logistics a good way to begin an ecommerce business? Share your thoughts by commenting on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Learn more about warehouse management systems.

While companies like Amazon seem to have their logistics models down, what about the logistics of smaller companies in developing nations?

In North America and much of Europe, goods are delivered by parcel, with an ever-increasing number of couriers to support e-fulfillment. Since more consumers are making their purchases online than ever before, one company may use three different courier services in order to ensure packages are delivered as quickly as possible.

In countries like Nigeria, poor road infrastructure is a huge problem, but also a huge driver for e-commerce. Physically shopping in Lagos will often involve waiting in hours of traffic and then having to find vendors amidst the crowds of outdoor markets.

Although the demand for e-commerce is there, challenges also present themselves. Because of the poor road infrastructure and traffic, most of the couriers travel by motorcycle, which limits the amounts and sizes of products they can take. It’s hard to imagine e-commerce coming into more rural areas of the country—package tracking would definitely be a must. In addition, theft prevention is huge—each driver must be vetted—even spouses and other relatives are met to ensure good character. Security at the warehouse is also very important.

These logistical challenges are far greater than those of the US, but the reward could also be much greater, with online retail growing at a 17 percent CAGR. However, retailers in developing markets are still worried about financial and logistical infrastructure.

A recent study from MIT on supply-chain risk revealed that there is no correlation between the total amount a manufacturer spends with a supplier and the profit loss it would incur if that supply were suddenly interrupted. This finding defies what you might usually think.

Professor David Simchi-Levi of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering Systems Division applied quantitative analysis to Ford Motor Company’s supply chain and discovered that the suppliers who would cause the most damage to Ford’s profits are those that provide low-cost components.

“This helps explain why risk in a complex supply network often remains hidden,” says Simchi-Levi. “The risk occurs in unexpected locations and components of a manufacturer’s supply network.”

Risks can range from a minor hiatus in work to a major natural disaster. Sources of low-probability, but high-impact risk are difficult to identify.

However, manufacturers often assume their greatest supply-chain risk is linked to suppliers of high expenditure, which Simchi-Levi proved wrong.

Learn more about Simchi-Levi’s findings and how assessing risk can positively impact your supply chain.

Tomorrow is February 14—Valentine’s Day. While most people are thinking of their special someone’s, companies are thinking about logistics, transportation and distribution.

It’s estimated that over 2 billion Americans will be celebrating this year by purchasing flowers, cards, candy and other gifts. While everyone appreciates getting gifts, not everyone appreciates how they arrive.

The transportation and logistics industry plays a huge role in making your Valentine’s Day run smoothly. The trickiest part about shipping goods for Valentine’s Day is that the most popular gifts to give—candy and flowers—are perishable. Temperature-controlled transportation is crucial in order to ensure the goods arrive in good condition.

Did you know:

  • The National Retail Federation’s estimates that consumers will spend $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day
  • 36 million heart-shaped chocolate boxes are sold for Valentine’s Day each year
  • 110 million roses will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period

With all of these things happening in such a short amount of time, the right transportation, logistics and package tracking are essential for ensuring everything arrives on time and in good condition for Valentine’s Day.

As much as selling goods on eBay or sending a friend a package can be enjoyable, physically going to the post office, UPS or FedEx to mail a package can be a pain. There’s almost always a line, tons of packing options and countless questions about which tier of service you want. Pick the wrong one, and you could be paying double what you expected!

But, what if you could ship goods without visiting a courier? Meet Shyp—a San Francisco based start-up that wants to change the way we ship goods. Shyp customers simply take a picture of what they need to ship and a driver comes to pick it up—that’s it. Essentially, Shyp is the Uber of shipping.

The photograph helps Shyp drivers assess what packaging materials will be necessary and ensures the goods will fit in their vehicle. Once the driver picks up the goods, they are placed into a bag with a QR code on it that helps Shyp keep track of where each item is going.

Weighing, packing, printing and boxing the goods are all handled at Shyps’ warehouse. Once that process is complete, Shyp ensures the packages get to the correct carrier on time.

If you’re thinking a service like this is expensive, then think again. Customers are charged the USPS going rate. Shyp makes a profit by finding the most affordable carrier that meets its requirements and pays lower wholesale rates.

While Shyp was conceived to help consumers send packages, businesses have been very interested in the service. Shyp is still in private beta, but shipments are steadily growing through word-of-mouth. Some customers have even enlisted Shyp’s help to move their belongings across the country! Who needs moving vans?

Companies like Shyp could have a definite impact on the logistics game. It’s an ideal service for small or start-up companies that don’t have their own mailroom management process and don’t want to spend the time or hassle of handling their own shipping.

How do you think companies like Shyp will impact logistics? Share your thoughts by commenting on our Facebook or twitter pages.