Executive Briefings

Improving Inventory Management in 2015 - and Beyond

With a new year comes a renewed focus on inventory and how to manage it. All systems and aspects of the supply chain must match up with customer demands in the ever-present and evolving omnichannel environment. After all, customers can order goods from anywhere on any smart device, and their expectations are that they will pick up their goods, or have their merchandise delivered to any place – on their terms. People want quick results – or else they will find another outlet from which to shop.

Improving Inventory Management in 2015 – and Beyond

For warehouse and distribution facilities, no serious conversation on the subject of inventory management can be broached without talking about improving storage capabilities and the necessary products to achieve business goals – be they racking, shelving, ASRS systems, or even carousels. Service levels and lead times are just a few of the important metrics impacted by those supply chain and inventory-management decisions, so it behooves management to take a very serious look at how decisions like purchasing storage, laying it out, and deciding whether or not to automate it, will impact those metrics.

The process of purchasing storage products can be a daunting task.  While purchasing and warehouse officials may confer about the issues surrounding storage, the conversation must not stop there.

Other factors have to be considered.  Here are five recommendations:

Initiate a thorough study of inventory management to maximize investment dollars and determine how storage hardware can best be utilized.  For retail stores, that means determining whether they will fulfill internet orders from a back room or pick products directly from the store floor.  For a warehouse itself, it means examining the movement of goods, how  quickly orders must be fulfilled, and determining the best ways to pick products, considering that some goods are small and fast movers, while others may be large in stature but slow movers.  All the scenarios have to be taken into account  

Identify objectives for the project.  Manpower, stock availability, picking strategy and the warehouse environment must be addressed.  A review of short-term goals also will inevitably lead to exploration of future plans and growth strategies

Explore company nuances in the areas of budgets, time, regulations and facility layouts/constraints.  For example, a constraint such as a building column cannot be ignored without facing severe consequences.  A line of pallet racking could be interrupted by a column, forcing the need to move the entire line, or eliminating a bay, resulting in wasted space.  Physical characteristics of the products and packaging also need to be examined thoroughly relative to building constraints.  Picking, packing and other essential functions also must be factored into the layout

Have future expansion in mind.  When selecting products, product interchangeability is paramount.  On one hand, for example, many types of teardrop pallet rack claim to be interchangeable.  In reality, there may be very subtle differences which result in them not being interchangeable at all.  On the other hand, utilizing a trusted brand might mean that the need to retrofit existing storage products such as shelving will not require entire new units but just new, taller posts

Identify the quantity of shipments you are dealing with and make a determination regarding the best way to handle the workflow.  Know when to utilize a consultant to help you identify the thresholds between doing things manually, or opting to automate.

Once companies consider these things, then they’ll be ready to explore the myriad of storage choices in the marketplace – things like open or closed shelving, heavy duty or regular duty designations, wood or metal decks. Other important choices involve weight capacity, height, shelf size and shelving material.   All decisions, of course, must fall within the confines of fire codes and seismic requirements.

And that’s where they need to ask for expert advice and purchase from reputable sources.

Not all wire shelving, for example, is made to the same technical specifications or quality level.  There is often a huge difference between wire shelving built specifically for industrial purposes and the kind made in developing countries, or sold from a retail website.

Choosing the wrong products can end up creating unintended consequences in the long run, none which serve a business well – especially in the always-on distribution environment referenced earlier. 

By focusing the search on supplies and equipment vetted by experts in warehouse and industrial operations, businesses benefit from a total cost of ownership mindset.  They ensure they’re only looking at products that will enhance their environments, and that they’re making the best choices for their needs – and, in turn, their customers.  And they also will achieve their overarching goals – better inventory management now and into the future.

Source: Wynright Corp.

For warehouse and distribution facilities, no serious conversation on the subject of inventory management can be broached without talking about improving storage capabilities and the necessary products to achieve business goals – be they racking, shelving, ASRS systems, or even carousels. Service levels and lead times are just a few of the important metrics impacted by those supply chain and inventory-management decisions, so it behooves management to take a very serious look at how decisions like purchasing storage, laying it out, and deciding whether or not to automate it, will impact those metrics.

The process of purchasing storage products can be a daunting task.  While purchasing and warehouse officials may confer about the issues surrounding storage, the conversation must not stop there.

Other factors have to be considered.  Here are five recommendations:

Initiate a thorough study of inventory management to maximize investment dollars and determine how storage hardware can best be utilized.  For retail stores, that means determining whether they will fulfill internet orders from a back room or pick products directly from the store floor.  For a warehouse itself, it means examining the movement of goods, how  quickly orders must be fulfilled, and determining the best ways to pick products, considering that some goods are small and fast movers, while others may be large in stature but slow movers.  All the scenarios have to be taken into account  

Identify objectives for the project.  Manpower, stock availability, picking strategy and the warehouse environment must be addressed.  A review of short-term goals also will inevitably lead to exploration of future plans and growth strategies

Explore company nuances in the areas of budgets, time, regulations and facility layouts/constraints.  For example, a constraint such as a building column cannot be ignored without facing severe consequences.  A line of pallet racking could be interrupted by a column, forcing the need to move the entire line, or eliminating a bay, resulting in wasted space.  Physical characteristics of the products and packaging also need to be examined thoroughly relative to building constraints.  Picking, packing and other essential functions also must be factored into the layout

Have future expansion in mind.  When selecting products, product interchangeability is paramount.  On one hand, for example, many types of teardrop pallet rack claim to be interchangeable.  In reality, there may be very subtle differences which result in them not being interchangeable at all.  On the other hand, utilizing a trusted brand might mean that the need to retrofit existing storage products such as shelving will not require entire new units but just new, taller posts

Identify the quantity of shipments you are dealing with and make a determination regarding the best way to handle the workflow.  Know when to utilize a consultant to help you identify the thresholds between doing things manually, or opting to automate.

Once companies consider these things, then they’ll be ready to explore the myriad of storage choices in the marketplace – things like open or closed shelving, heavy duty or regular duty designations, wood or metal decks. Other important choices involve weight capacity, height, shelf size and shelving material.   All decisions, of course, must fall within the confines of fire codes and seismic requirements.

And that’s where they need to ask for expert advice and purchase from reputable sources.

Not all wire shelving, for example, is made to the same technical specifications or quality level.  There is often a huge difference between wire shelving built specifically for industrial purposes and the kind made in developing countries, or sold from a retail website.

Choosing the wrong products can end up creating unintended consequences in the long run, none which serve a business well – especially in the always-on distribution environment referenced earlier. 

By focusing the search on supplies and equipment vetted by experts in warehouse and industrial operations, businesses benefit from a total cost of ownership mindset.  They ensure they’re only looking at products that will enhance their environments, and that they’re making the best choices for their needs – and, in turn, their customers.  And they also will achieve their overarching goals – better inventory management now and into the future.

Source: Wynright Corp.

Improving Inventory Management in 2015 – and Beyond