15 Tips to a More Effective Distribution Center
A fast-paced session titled 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes for Your Distribution Center at the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Las Vegas, left attendees with a bevy of new strategies and solutions that they can implement in their businesses. Timothy Holody, COO/general manager of cross-channel retailer Seta/Palm Beach Jewelry, Lance Curran, warehouse director of online apparel retailer Threadless; Mike Peel, director of small parcel solutions at C.H. Robinson Worldwide; and Ed Hathaway, vice president of business at Logistech Solutions dispensed the tips in rapid-fire format. Here are just some of the tips:
1. Assign an aisle to each employee in your warehouse. Make that person responsible for the cleanup of that aisle, said Holody. As an incentive to keep your warehouse clean, reward prizes to the employees with the cleanest aisles.
2. Teach your warehouse staff to look for signs of fraud when filling and shipping orders, said Curran. Following up on Curran's thought, Holody suggested rewarding employees who catch a fraudulent order with some sort of bonus pay. They're saving you money by identifying instances of fraud, so give them a piece of those savings, he added.
3. Again addressing the issue of fraud, Hathaway advised that attendees should build a functionality into their databases to flag potential instances of fraud in all order fields (e.g., address block), not just the country code.
4. Stop doing a year-end physical inventory audit, Holody said. Cycle counts are more accurate and timely, he said.
5. Consider rail for your transportation needs, said Peel, noting that this is particularly relevant now with the rising fuel surcharges traditional carriers are charging.
6. Organize your warehouse so that your fastest moving products are close in proximity to your pickers, said Curran. For Threadless.com, this means the products are displayed on its homepage.
7. Attendance by itself isn't the only factor to look at when evaluating a warehouse employee's performance, Holody said. In fact, he doesn't even view it as a top five consideration, adding that he would much rather have an employee who's occasionally late but can box 100 orders per hour over an employee who's consistently on time but boxes only 60 orders per hour.
8. Automate your claims process with your carrier, said Hathaway. His company had its IT team develop a button its call-center staff could click that sends an immediate fax to FedEx when there's a claim for a lost or undelivered package. Hathaway noted that nearly 95 percent of his company's claims are paid in full within 30 days of the claim being placed.
9. Don't tell your packaging vendor exactly what size box you need, said Holody. If you do, the vendor will create custom boxes for you that are more expensive than buying standard-size boxes. Just choose the standard-size box closest in size to the one that you need.
10. Streamline your accounting functions, advised Peel. For example, stop accepting paper invoices for parcels; take them electronically. Doing so will save valuable time.
11. If you're a manager, beat your employees into work each day, said Curran. Your face should be the first thing your employees see when they get to work each day. Setting a good example will help earn their respect.
12. Social media also has a place in the warehouse, said Curran. Use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to monitor what other people are saying about you, share the fun of your brand (e.g., contests and promotions) and handle customer service inquiries.
13. Bring marketing and merchandising staff into your returns department to let them see firsthand what products are being returned and why, as well as what customers are saying, advised Holody.
14. Investigate using a cold-seal material for your boxes, said Holody. It's cheap, effective and can be used manually or via automation, he added.
15. Use Google Docs to communicate with your warehouse staff, said Curran. Promotional calendars, warehouse rules and regulations, data benchmarks and more can be shared via this free tool.