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The emerging conventional wisdom about good supply-chain management techniques doesn't necessarily apply within the four walls of a warehouse--not, at least, without some modifications. That's the conclusion of Dutch warehousing expert Jeroen van den Berg. In a new book entitled "Integral Warehouse Management: The Next General in Transparency, Collaboration and Warehouse Management Systems," he says that managers must look beyond the obvious goals in order to optimize distribution methods. "A whole generation of logisticians have made us believe that reducing inventories, shortening response times and eliminating activities were the ultimate goals in supply-chain optimization," van den Berg says. And while those efforts have indeed lowered inventory expense and boosted service levels, they have also increased the cost of transportation and warehousing. His book argues that supply-chain managers aren't making adequate use of logistics data generated by modern information systems. "In practice," he says, "little is done with these data." Van den Berg sets out to show how the effective use of information can lead to more streamlined and transparent processes, boost the intelligence of warehouse-management systems and generate advanced analytics for fostering collaboration in the supply chain. Van den Berg, who runs a consulting firm that bears his name, has in the past advocated the strict measurement of order accuracy, urging managers to focus on correct products, packaging and documentation. They should perform random checks prior to shipping while monitoring customer complaints, he says. A formal stock-taking procedure can identify the main causes of inventory discrepancies, with further attention paid to the biggest problem areas. Complete documentation of administrative and physical processes, from order intake to delivery, can help to reduce cycle times. Among the factors to be tracked include how much time an order spends on each of those processes, van den Berg says.
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