Executive Briefings

Times May Be Tough - But Don't Wait to Automate

Companies stand to realize some major efficiencies in their supply chains if they act now to automate their inventory storage and retrieval systems, says Gary Frank, vice president of automated systems with Westfalia Technologies.

In tough economic times, companies tend to behave the same way as individuals: they tighten their belts. But there are benefits to be had from investing now in new technology for inventory storage and retrieval, Frank says in a video interview with SupplyChainBrain. Notwithstanding the fact that his company deals directly in that area, he argues that many companies have been running their supply chains in the same manner for years. "The supply chain has been ignored, or not addressed very actively," he says. "There are dollars that can be saved by shortening the length of the supply chain, and becoming more efficient."

When assessing the potential value of new storage and retrieval technology, budget-conscious managers might complain that too many "intangibles" are involved. How, for example, can they nail down the true impact of multiple scenarios, from renovating an existing facility to moving into a new one?

Certain cost elements are obvious, says Frank, labor among them. The purchase of a high-rise storage system could reduce the overall size of the property. Beyond that, there are hard benefits to speeding up the movement of costly inventory through the system. "The key is getting that product on the shelf, in front of the customer for the longest period of time," says Frank. "I always say, if you just sit down and work through some models, you can actually establish some values for them."

Picking is another area that's ripe for innovation, says. Outbound merchandise can be arranged in a manner that makes it easier for the receiver to place stock on the shelves. By building pallets intelligently, suppliers can minimize the need for sorting at the other end.

Consumer spending will eventually rebound, and when it does, companies should be ready with systems that promote maximum efficiency. At the very least, Frank says, they should begin planning for new investments in storage and retrieval technology. "This might be a very opportune time to put things in place," he adds, "so that when economy does come back, you have not lost any time."

To see this video interview in its entirety, Click Here.

In tough economic times, companies tend to behave the same way as individuals: they tighten their belts. But there are benefits to be had from investing now in new technology for inventory storage and retrieval, Frank says in a video interview with SupplyChainBrain. Notwithstanding the fact that his company deals directly in that area, he argues that many companies have been running their supply chains in the same manner for years. "The supply chain has been ignored, or not addressed very actively," he says. "There are dollars that can be saved by shortening the length of the supply chain, and becoming more efficient."

When assessing the potential value of new storage and retrieval technology, budget-conscious managers might complain that too many "intangibles" are involved. How, for example, can they nail down the true impact of multiple scenarios, from renovating an existing facility to moving into a new one?

Certain cost elements are obvious, says Frank, labor among them. The purchase of a high-rise storage system could reduce the overall size of the property. Beyond that, there are hard benefits to speeding up the movement of costly inventory through the system. "The key is getting that product on the shelf, in front of the customer for the longest period of time," says Frank. "I always say, if you just sit down and work through some models, you can actually establish some values for them."

Picking is another area that's ripe for innovation, says. Outbound merchandise can be arranged in a manner that makes it easier for the receiver to place stock on the shelves. By building pallets intelligently, suppliers can minimize the need for sorting at the other end.

Consumer spending will eventually rebound, and when it does, companies should be ready with systems that promote maximum efficiency. At the very least, Frank says, they should begin planning for new investments in storage and retrieval technology. "This might be a very opportune time to put things in place," he adds, "so that when economy does come back, you have not lost any time."

To see this video interview in its entirety, Click Here.