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There are so many changes taking place in warehousing and distribution, they might be called a revolution. For one thing, the industry is seeing significant consolidation; for another, warehouses are increasing in size and density.
A set of changes that might seem contradictory at first is the interest in growing globalization vs. the move to make operations more regional rather than "mega-regional," Pfleger says. Companies, no matter where they are based, are looking to increase their presence in the global marketplace. That means that not only are North American companies establishing operations in, say, Asia but companies based in Asia are setting up networks in Europe and the Americas as well. At the same time, the rising costs of transportation, not least because of energy, are forcing some to downsize operations in certain regions.
It's no surprise that technologies of interest to these companies center around boosting productivity and managing operations more effectively. Yale Distribution, which manufactures forklift trucks for the global marketplace, clearly is interested in integrating its product line in those operations.
The way to do that, Pfleger says, is in helping operators realize that the real question for them is not so much how to move product from point A to point B or whether to cross-dock but to see how whatever route they take can be accomplished in the most effective manner.
That involves more than speed, he says. Equipment must not only be fast, it must be flexible and adjustable. That's in part because equipment must satisfy many "influencers" today, which often include health and safety officers at companies.
That has led, in part, to introduction of ergonomic features. In and of themselves, they don't boost productivity, Pfleger says, but an employee who is more comfortable is one more productive because he or she is much more likely to want to be so.
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Keywords: supply chain management IT, value chain IT, logistics management, logistics IT solutions, warehouse management, WMS warehouse management, forklift technology
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