Breaking Down The Warehouse Walls

9/27/2013 by Anne Garnett

Breaking Down Warehouse Walls --- by Anne Garnett 

 For much of its history, the procedures and protocol of warehousing and logistics were confined mainly inside of four walls.  While to all outward appearances, that remains an accuracy, those hypothetical walls are beginning to break down, thanks to new ideas and technological advancements. 

Warehousing is not contained to the racking that makes up its infrastructure, or the forklifts that make up its materials handling equipment.  It is not even confined to the people who are instrumental in carrying out the day-to-day operations.  Warehousing and logistics extends much farther than that.  There is the conceptual connectivity that exists between warehouses, suppliers, manufacturers, and the consumer.  The power in logistics lies in the fact that all of these aspects are merged together in order to transport and store product from point A to point B in the most cohesive and cost-effective way while maintaining a high degree of quality in the handling and transportation.

The ultimate goal of storage and logistics, is to pair human intelligence with automation.  It requires that demand and supply be balanced, that variability does not become an obstacle to daily operations, and it is essential that inventory as well as capacity remain fluid in order to operate in the most efficient and economically wise way as possible.

In Merrill Douglas’ article,  The Bionic Warehouse, the use of technology and performance recognition programs to enhance labor productivity is explored.  This covers a range of ideas, from a pointed labor management system, a modules in  traditional WMS, mobile communication devices to Excel-based incentive modeling.  These companies are transforming human labor into a high standard of engineering performance through next-generation IT systems.

Technology is not the only new idea on the horizon when it comes to creating greater flexibility in managing time-to-demand requirements.  Many are re-creating distribution network strategies, materials handling as well as infrastructure design.  There is also the, sometimes, challenging task of uncovering hidden efficiencies while rooting out more obvious inefficiencies.  In, Innovative Warehouse Strategies: Four Walls, Three Takes, Joseph O’Reilly reveals how a consultant, integrator, and wholesaler approach warehouse and distribution innovation from the inside and out.

If one wants to move past all the “smoke and mirrors”, warehouse management is reduced to the fine art of moving inventory.  The most basic of the essential components in this challenge, is the pallet.  Picking the right pallet type can have the most impact on product quality and inventory flow.  This seeming simple solution becomes anything but, when the different criteria and requirements of product placement comes into play.

As a growing technological world makes its way to the front door of every warehouse, it is essential that the traditional warehouse becomes as “wall-less” as possible in order to meet the growing demands of customers, in a world that is constantly changing and that requires warehousing to keep up with it.


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