April 21, 2011

Check out the Demo Stage Presentations at WERC's Annual Conference 2011 in Orlando

Fifteen vendors will offer special sessions on their products and services as part of the WIRE exhibit. As you schedule your time at the WERC conference, remember to factor in these sessions where you can get details and ideas for new equipment and systems. Register online or call us at 630-990-0001 and we'll get you signed up.More

DC automation raises operational complexity issues for many companies
Distribution Digest
Materials handling logistic processes are inherently complex and are becoming more so all the time. About a year ago Distribution Digest released a tool to assess a distribution centers complexity. Free to readers, this easy-to-use tool provides a numerical value for comparison purposes. It will be revisited later this year, and plans are under way to make a few minor changes based on input from readers and industry experts. Highly automated systems generally are considered to be more complex than semi-automated or manual operations. As the trend toward DC automation continues, understanding operational complexity is becoming more critical. Companies should proceed with caution when applying complex solutions to an already complex process. They could wind up with "complexity squared."More

3 steps to improving supply chain management
In the past decade, volumes have been written about the value of supply chain visibility and execution systems. It's hard to argue with the concept. When everyone's systems are working together to fulfill orders perfectly, execute on-time shipments and provide early alerts to problems, life is good. But creating a perfectly meshed supply chain is easier said than done. Very few supply chain communities are made up entirely of companies with best-in-class supply chain applications. The strategic investment required to integrate diverse systems and scattered data resources while developing the necessary technical expertise can be daunting.More

4 ways to boost sustainability with strategic merchandising supply chain efforts
Environmental Leader
If you look on the shelves in just about any store today, you are hard pressed to find a product that is not emblazoned with some form of "green" label on it. And it's no accident. CPG companies know that sustainability is no longer just a fad; consumers' demand for environmentally friendly products is not waning. In fact, it has grown so strong that consumers no longer just want green products, they also want to know the companies that make — and sell — those products are doing good for the world across their operations.More

5 questions to test supply chain competitiveness
In Riverwood Solutions' annual survey of supply chain executives in the electronics industry, it is asked if the respondents' CEO views supply chain as a competitive advantage, and if they believe their company's supply chain is more nimble than their competitors. By a 3-to-1 margin, consistently more affirmative answers were found to the first question than the second. Clearly, many executives think supply chain can be a source of competitive advantage, but they don't believe their supply chain is delivering that advantage.More

Cliff Holste: Underperforming DC systems often result of decisions based on non-substantiated data
Supply Chain Digest
To ensure that system planning will accomplish the company's objectives, system planners, developers and logistics managers must avoid turning assumptions and/or presumptions into facts. The old adage "garbage in equals garbage out" is more truth than fiction. Planning based on "funny" numbers can yield disappointing results. These two terms, assume and presume, are nearly synonymous, and many dictionaries include one in the definition of the other. The element that is most common in the definitions of these two terms is acceptance without significant investigation.More

Bob Jaffin: Close your reverse logistics loops
Material Handling & Logistics
Today's literature on logistics and supply chain management is putting a relatively new (and long-overdue) focus on "reverse logistics." One of the most widely accepted definitions of reverse logistics reads as follows: "Reverse logistics is all activity associated with a product/service after the point of sale, the ultimate goal being to optimize or make more efficient aftermarket activity, thus saving money and environmental resources." If diagrammed, that process would illustrate an open-ended life-cycle management concept. While the strengths and the importance of reverse logistics may be demonstrated and supported by both a definition and a diagram, failure to close that loop turns reverse logistics into a purely reactive portion of the life cycle rather than the critical link in the life cycle that provides continuous improvement.More

John Westerveld: It's Earth Day for the supply chain, too!
The 21st Century Supply Chain
April 22 is Earth Day. Like many people, our family will do the superficial things that people do on Earth Day like turn down the lights and pick up trash that people throw along the side of our road. However, Earth Day needs to be more than just superficial actions. It should be a time to reflect on how what we do as individuals affects the environment. Likewise, a company's environmental policies must be more than superficial actions designed to get good PR and instead be instilled in the corporate culture. The fun thing is that when this happens, when environmental factors are embedded in corporate culture, the benefits can be surprising.More

Capacity tightens in trucking sector
Material Handling & Logistics
FTR Associates' Shippers' Condition Index continues to decline, reflecting tightening capacity in the trucking sector. The short term forecast for the SCI calls for continued deterioration from the current reading of -7.7 as the outlook for capacity shortages worsens. The SCI sums up the market influences that affect shippers; a reading above zero suggests a favorable shipping environment, while a reading below zero is unfavorable.More

8 tips to beat the high cost of shipping
Material Handling & Logistics
Relief for America's small businesses appears to be far off as the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects gas prices to average around $3.70 a gallon during the peak driving season (April through September), and exceeding $4.00 during the summer. To that end, Unishippers Global Logistics, a small package and freight shipping reseller, is offering expert shipping advice to the many small businesses that are being severely affected by high gasoline prices. One area small businesses are hit hardest by increased gas prices is their shipping operations. Because of the large volume of gasoline carriers consume, they have had to institute higher fuel surcharges for their deliveries. These increased rates affect not only what small businesses pay to have something shipped, but also what they pay to have something delivered.More

Bob Shecterle: Companies must overhaul their attitudes about risk
Will new regulations be effective in preventing any repeat of the global financial crisis? I suppose we can all agree that to some degree regulations are important. But, as a new report points out, new rules alone will not be sufficient. In addition to regulatory oversight, companies need to completely revise their own attitudes toward risk as well. The report, released by Korn/Ferry International, is based on interviews with chairmen, CEOs and board directors of leading companies including Kingfisher, Legal & General, Balfour Beatty and National Grid in the U.K.; Deutsche Bank, UBS, Nestlé and Lagardère Group in mainland Europe; and CB&I, U.S. Steel and Owens Corning in the U.S.More

5 steps for giving productive feedback
While giving and receiving feedback can be a delicate process, there's no doubting its value in helping to identify issues and solve them. Business owners should manage feedback in a positive way so that it can do what it's intended to do: Help improve and grow business.More

Clifford F. Lynch: Hell hath no fury like an LSP scorned
DC Velocity
As any shipper who's been there will tell you, ending a logistics outsourcing arrangement is never easy. Even if it's an amicable split, the dissolution process is likely to be a bumpy road. If hard feelings develop, things can get downright ugly. In my March column, I mentioned some of the difficulties that can arise when a client terminates an agreement with a logistics service provider for cause. But early contract cancellations are just one potential minefield. Even a routine non-renewal of a contract can lead to trouble if the LSP believes the decision is based on personalities not service. What typically triggers this type of flare-up is a management change at one of the companies.More

General Mills continues to lead way in corporate social responsibility efforts
The Green Supply Chain
It's sometimes easy to forget that green supply chain and environmental sustainability increasingly are viewed as a subset of the broader theme of corporate social responsibility. That situation once again was brought into sharp relief with recent release of General Mills' 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility report, which for the past several years has been among the most impressive issued by a U.S.-based company. The report is divided into three sections: heath, community and environment.More

Dan Gilmore: Rebuilding supply chains for the future
Supply Chain Digest
I will admit to being somewhat overly focused on the "supply chain of the future." Why? Several reasons. First, I really believe we are on the cusp of new, dramatically different levels of automation, in everything from case picking in distribution centers to real-time supply chain decision support, that will have a game-changing effect on supply chain practice. Second, I very much like the concept of historical eras and "inflection points." So, my quick summary is that we have seen the foundation era when supply chain thinking first took hold; the technology era of the mid-1990s through the dot com collapse of 2000-01, when supply chain software took dramatic leaps forward and became seen as essential to supply chain success, to the point of mania in some case.More

Supply chain security in a high-risk world
Supply Chain Management Review
Supply Chain Management Review interviewed security expert Barry Brandman in its July/August 2003 issue, not long after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The threats to the security of supply chains certainly have not abated since that interview; if anything, they have only intensified. So now seems to be the perfect time to revisit the subject of supply chain security. And, once again, Barry Brandman is the logical go-to guy. Brandman is president of New Jersey-based Danbee Investigations, which provides professional investigative, auditing and security consulting services to hundreds of major companies. Brandman has developed a particular expertise in logistics and supply chain management.More

Michael Burkett: Strategic value in supply chain evident at meeting of European supply chain professionals
Recently, I participated in the Extended Supply Chain conference in London. Presenting throughout the day were leaders directly responsible for management or financial accountability of the European supply chains for several top companies, including Microsoft's vice president of supply chain for EMEA and Asia/Pacific, the CFO for Samsung Electronics Benelux, Dell's global vice president of logistics and fulfillment and the vice president of supply chain and information technology for Bridgestone Europe. As part of the day's discussion, I posed two survey questions to the audience to discern the role of supply chain within their organizations.More

ProMat 2011: Interview with Gary Forger
DC Velocity
Gary Forger, senior vice president of professional development for the Material Handling Industry of America, talks about the educational conference held at last month's ProMat as well as ongoing educational efforts at MHIA.More