137 Tips for a Fully Charged Supply Chain
1. Dive in with your suppliers. Ask what cost and efficiency benefits your vendors are providing by using their carriers or shipping schedules. The customer pays one way or another, so push for carriers that demonstrate service and reliability, not those who move operational or cost inefficiencies from a vendor's dock to the customer's dock.
2. Set and apply compliance standards. Communicate expectations around overages, shortages, documentation, and damage. Whether you control the freight or not, focus requirements (or penalties) on issues with measurable impact. Many programs spell out fines as a backstop, but more often they exist to encourage problem-solving.
3. Look for sponsorship from the C-suite. Because logistics and transportation groups might not speak the language of procurement, find shared parameters that make inbound a must-do initiative. Consider go/no-go metrics in terms of impact to product margin, inventory cycle time, and safety stock.
4. Use technology for cost comparison. Many vendors provide freight allowances for purchase orders or can be convinced to include them. However, it is a heavy lift to determine what is more cost-effective when managing a high volume of vendor shipments. Use a transportation management system (TMS) to compare allowances against real-time market costs.
5. Make visibility a prerequisite. Improving visibility can help operational planning, avoid lumper charges, and set customer expectations more effectively. Go beyond the advance shipping notification and push for enhanced shipment visibility during supplier negotiations. In-transit geolocation technology and predictive parcel updates have become more accessible through technology and 3PLs.
6. Review networks and match freight flow. Utilize inbound carrier capacity by matching outbound freight. Creating opportunities for carriers to plan loaded miles in two directions can be as simple as a map with an overlay of suppliers, distribution centers, and customer locations to visualize opportunities. Network or center of gravity studies can help uncover the value your location or schedules create for both vendors and carriers.
7. Consolidate loads, choose the best mode. The cost to unload 10 to 14 less-than-truckload shipments can be more than five times the cost of unloading a single truckload. Everyone wants to ship a full truck, and the right third-party logistics (3PL) provider or TMS can identify when loads can be consolidated from purchase orders or through milk runs across geographically similar vendors. Wins here add up.
8. Remember the yard. Most purchasing groups can appreciate improvements in receiving cycle time. Aim to improve yard flow by implementing appointment scheduling in a user-friendly supplier portal.
9. Choose how you control wisely. Inbound freight is a final frontier in supply chain management strategies for good reason. Appreciate whether the effort to analyze or take control of your inbound freight requires more overhead than your organization is ready to invest in. Consider choosing a partner who can validate whether there is an opportunity or if the status quo makes sense.
10. Review inbound freight and repeat. When vendors change or distribution centers move, an inbound freight analysis can become obsolete. Set a regular cadence of review internally or with a service partner.
11. Utilize appointment scheduling tools. An inbound and outbound appointment scheduling tool prevents product from sitting in staging locations for too long, which risks crowding in the staging areas as well as high product temperatures.
12. Implement high-speed, narrow doors. High-speed, insulated doors keep temperature energy loss costs to a minimum. Consider installing narrower doors, as it is rare for two lift trucks to pass through the door at the same time. Having separate entrance and exit doors is a great way to save on energy costs.
13. Ensure workforce safety. At minimum, cold storage facilities need to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state guidelines to ensure that workers take breaks and don't work in the freezer for too long. On average, freezer warehouses have higher labor turnover than normal warehouses, so it is important to be flexible and understand your workforce's wants, needs, and overall safety.
14. Maximize storage and storage density. The cost of operating a cold storage warehouse is high, so consider best practices to maximize cubic storage. Storage solutions, such as double deep racking, pallet flow racks, or an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), allow for storing more product in the same area.
15. Enable full EDI integration. Cold storage warehouses should encourage vendors to provide electronic data interchange (EDI) integration capabilities. EDI saves receivers from having to record data via radio frequency device or paper. Not only are these methods difficult to record with gloves, but they also increase the risk of product getting out of its allowable temperature range.
16. Invest in advanced cold chain monitoring. Onboard temperature monitoring equipment can offer real-time visibility and mitigate the risk of loss due to product temperature. Advanced data gathering across the supply chain can ensure product safety and optimize the supply chain network.
17. Understand the requirements. It is common for customers and government regulators to have specific requirements around shelf life, product dating, product mixing, labeling, tracking, and tracing. It is imperative to use a warehouse management system that can handle advanced configuration around these needs. Due to the Food Safety Modernization Act, being able to document all steps in the supply chain is crucial.
18. Consider automation. Automation can reduce the number of workers and time spent in the freezer. Some examples include an AS/RS, a palletizer, a pallet inverter, or robots that can bring product to ambient rooms for picking.
19. Try different cycle counting processes. To limit the amount of time spent in the freezer environment, enable a count-back or count-to-zero process for your pickers. A count-back is when pickers count how much product is left in a location after a pick. A count-to-zero prompts pickers to confirm that pick locations are empty when they are depleted.
20. Invest in freezer-rated equipment. Purchase vehicles, radio frequency devices, and material handling equipment that are specifically made for a freezer environment. This equipment interacts better with gloves, and the batteries degrade slower in the cold than normal equipment.
21. Tap your 3PL's range of services. Warehousing, fulfillment, transportation, value-added services, technology—the more help you can obtain from one provider, the more seamless, scalable, and cost-effective your supply chain will be. Centralizing logistics helps to ensure that you provide consistent service and offers better predictability and reliable deliveries. If getting closer to your customer is a priority, consider leveraging your provider's facility network.
22. Compare apples-to-apples (the science). A well-structured RFP and timeline help create a fair and equitable environment for those interested and a fit to propose their capabilities against the defined design and requirements. Providers might try to disrupt this process for many reasons, but that is OK and expected for good reasons: They want the business and they want to help you.
23. Understand the 3PL's uniqueness (the art). Due to market structure and complexities around business requirements, it is important to evaluate the providers outside of the RFP and defined process. Your 3PLs are important to your vendor/supplier/customer/carrier partners, and they all need to be an extension of your team. Evaluate 3PLs like they are future colleagues.
24. Services, experience and size matter. While prospective logistics providers will describe their differentiators, do your homework and thoroughly vet them to learn their true capabilities and competencies. That's the way to identify a true match.
25. Start at the end. Before entering a 3PL partnership, consider how you will define its success. Improving the customer experience? Enhancing your brand? Gaining visibility? Offering fast or free delivery? All of the above? Clearly defining your desired outcome can help identify priorities and give clear direction to your provider. Then confirm that your 3PL can accommodate those requirements.
26. Nail down necessary capabilities and resources. Document your requirements thoroughly by creating an itemized list of requirements for achieving your desired outcome, such as strategically located facilities, a robust inventory management system, customization capabilities, and call center support, among others. This detailed solution design and requirements document communicates who, what, why, and how.
27. Make a business case to outsource or switch to a 3PL. Assuming it is not a foregone conclusion, it is important to take the time to determine the value—potential return on investment, switching costs, process, and systems implications—around the outsourcing decision. This can take time, not just from an analysis perspective, but also from a cultural or organizational perspective.
28. Consider your customers' service-level expectations. Do your customers expect same- or next-day shipments, or would they be satisfied with two- or three-day service? Are products one-size-fits-all or is personalization required? Communicate these expectations to your 3PL so it can design a solution that meets them.
29. Negotiate. Pricing and negotiations should come after you identify the right partner. These should be long-term engagements, with savings goals, targets, and contingencies based on near-term returns and more partner-friendly pricing based on longer-term needs for service and growth—for all parties.
30. Include service-level agreements. Tie service-level agreements to financial incentives for all parties. Everyone has cost, profit, and inflation considerations, so think broadly about how this will play into pricing, which all too often is one-sided.
31. Sign a contract. The contracting phase is a tell-tale sign for how the organizations will mesh culturally. Good future partners figure out how to work together through the terms and conditions process, just like they will through operational or systems difficulties.
32. Identify the right players. There are a lot of logistics service providers in the market, so determining the right type of partner—whether industry-specific, commodity-specific, technology/automation-driven, geographic, and/or scalability-driven—is crucial.
33. Look at the time. Once your provider knows your exact requirements and parameters, establish a clear timeline. Whenever possible, make the 3PL aware of seasonal variations, promotional activity, storage component needs, and inbound/outbound delivery requirements to avoid surprises.
34. Anticipate growth. Your business is always changing and, ideally, growing. Confirm that your provider can scale space, staff, and technology to accommodate your needs—now and in the future. Typically, a shared space environment offers the most flexibility with the least commitment.
35. Decide on support team members. Have the core project teams and operators on both sides meet to understand who will be working together. It will be obvious if the right team members are involved for a successful relationship. It comes down to the people.
36. Raising the bar. Your 3PL should pay careful attention to solution design and utilize proven processes to uphold service excellence. Confirm that it leverages methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma to ensure quality and accuracy. Expect your 3PL to spur continuous improvement by sharing innovative ideas to reduce costs, and improve productivity and service.
37. Keep an open mind about new ideas. An experienced provider might propose a solution you hadn't even considered—adding a distribution node, redesigning the flow of goods through the warehouse, moving product configuration or customization closer to the consumer. Don't be afraid to tap the 3PL's knowledge and best practices.
38. Trust your partner. Your 3PL partner's success depends on your success. They will recommend only actions that are in your best interests.
39. Stay in touch. With advanced technologies and KPIs in place, verbal communication can get lost. However, communication and collaboration are the keys to continuous improvement. Set and stick to a communication schedule.
40. Prepare for the unknown.< Supply chain disruptions—labor stoppages, technology outages, and other risks—can significantly affect your bottom line, so work proactively with your 3PL on disaster preparedness. Brainstorm what-if scenarios and plan for them./p>
41. Share data. A well-run supply chain depends on data. For example, sharing projected order volumes can help your 3PL secure sufficient space and staffing and prevent service issues. The 3PL can use detailed shipment history to conduct a transportation analysis and determine the most cost-effective network configuration.
42. Collaborate. Recognize your 3PL as a trusted partner who shares your business goals. It has a vested interest in your success and values your input and feedback.
43. Focus on the customer experience. Ensure that your online store's ordering system is easy to use and customers can quickly find the right products. To achieve the right balance, segment SKUs based on what you think customers will buy versus trying to put too much out there and risking the high costs of inventory duplication.
44. Make same-day fulfillment happen. Tools in your arsenal could include system-based, accurate inventory levels by location; inventory positioned close to buyers; customized fulfillment that focuses on expedited delivery; and a delivery platform with options that ensure the right product arrives at the right place and at precisely the right minute.
45. Think big. Shipping big and heavy items requires big solutions and customized delivery options. If you regularly ship heavy items, consider supplementing your service offerings with additional options such as in-home delivery or assembly. Customers are often willing to pay an additional fee for better final delivery service.
46. Keep score. Smart companies use daily scorecards to gather, compare, and disseminate meaningful, actionable intelligence. Sending a regular performance monitor to company leaders can identify trouble areas today, and lead to future success.
47. Economize on transportation. Use a transportation management system in your fulfillment process to provide insight into the most economical shipping mode, offer product tracking capabilities, and help meet customer service expectations, including same-day and next-day shipping.
48. Promise same-day fulfillment only if you can deliver. If you can’t achieve same-day fulfillment, offer a different version, such as same-day shipping for orders placed before a cut-off time, or pickup of an online order at a retail location.
49. Audit freight bills. By using an audit process across all modes, companies know the rate they paid so they can hold carriers accountable for accurate billing. This also enables shippers to identify service gaps and make good decisions going forward.
50. Grow outward. Look beyond today's configuration placement in ways that benefit the consumer experience—backed by purchasing data and freight cost audits. Your company will be better prepared to support increased demand and changes in customers' delivery expectations.
51. React to the consumer, respond to the competition. As consumers look for more information, be prepared to respond to their demands. Making data such as reviews and shipping information readily available gives consumers confidence in your products. Meanwhile, take note of your competition and prepare to move in directions they aren't—giving you the edge when it comes to winning the customer.
52. Sweat the details to maintain SKU-level profitability. Measure SKU-level profit by analyzing landed costs of inventory items, making sure you offer the right products at the right price. Selling a $10 item that costs $12 to produce, market, and ship makes no sense.
53. Align transportation service levels with customer demands. Consumers have become accustomed to next-day delivery thanks to Amazon Prime. Can or should other retailers follow? Retailers should first understand their customers' needs and wants and then make smart transportation decisions that align with those needs yet are still financially feasible.
54. Alter your pickup lines. Offering alternative pickup locations is not only good customer service but can also help reduce shipping costs.
55. Hang out with the crowd. Utilizing various crowd-sourced providers for last-mile delivery can be extremely cost effective—depending on the retailers' costs and strategy.
56. Get small. Utilize regional small parcel providers. By focusing on a particular part of the United States where demand is greatest, retailers can opt to use just one or create a nationwide network with several of these providers.
57. Seek hidden shipping costs. Accessorial fees—residential delivery fees, fuel surcharges, and requiring a signature upon delivery—can increase shipping costs. Review your invoices regularly to make sure you're not paying more than you should.
58. Fulfill products in stores. A growing preference for many retailers is to fulfill products in stores versus warehouses. This allows for quicker delivery and potentially lower inventory costs.
59. Manage returns effectively. Managing returns is a necessity in keeping costs down and customers happy. Solutions such as free shipping for returns and returns to stores are popular among retailers.
60. Know your fulfillment options. There are a growing number of fulfillment options from Fulfillment by Amazon, Shopify, UPS, and FedEx, to in-house and more. Know your options but, more importantly, know your cost limits and evaluate. You might be surprised.
61. Consider on-demand warehousing. Warehousing is moving closer to the end customer to provide faster last-mile delivery. This can be pricey. One option is on-demand warehousing. UPS offers a similar solution that may suffice depending on strategy and cost.
62. Skip the warehouse. In drop-shipping, a business is not required to keep products in stock. Instead, the store sells the product and passes the sales order to a third-party supplier who then ships the order to the customer. Sounds great but drawbacks include being at the mercy of your supplier for product quality, fulfillment speed, or return policies.
Robotics & Automation
63. Commit to optimizing warehouse efficiencies. Optimizing warehouse space, equipment utilization, and labor will help determine if your company is ready for automation and also identify priorities for implementing automated solutions.
64. Invest in education and training. Educating forklift operators and technicians will help you achieve better results.
65. Get lean. Lean management is a long-term operational discipline that systematically seeks to improve efficiency and quality by identifying expenditures and eliminating waste in time and materials.
66. Gather measurable data. Implement processes and telematics solutions that provide measurable data and consistent utilization, including performance metrics and scheduled maintenance. Collecting data and implementing intelligent warehouse solutions identifies issues such as hidden costs.
67. Establish operational baseline efficiencies. Even the most advanced technologies won't make your warehouse more efficient if you don't know how to measure and interpret the data. By analyzing data, identifying the problem, and applying a solution, you can create a more optimized warehouse that streamlines operations, creates more space for product, increases workforce productivity, and identifies the equipment most suitable for specific tasks.
68. Implement a LMS. An effective labor management system (LMS) provides business analytics that are key to improving how your workforce works and maximizing labor utilization. An LMS can identify and implement best practices to control costs, increase margins, make well-informed staffing decisions, and analyze trends for effective forecasting.
69. Fire up the energy. The future of the material handling industry lies not only in automation and telematics, but also in pioneering alternative energy solutions to operate more efficiently and sustainably.
70. Do what's right. It is not always necessary to jump into full automation. With shared autonomy, a human and autonomous forklift could see a problem remotely and quickly remedy it. Shared autonomy reduces human fatigue, improves warehouse throughput, and focuses on value-added processes.
71. It's not once and done. Don't be of the mindset that when you go through the optimization process once, you're done. There are always opportunities to improve. Ongoing data
monitoring and analysis provide a road map to maximum operating efficiencies.
Supply Chain Leadership
72. Have a vision and dream big. Put in the work with your team to find a niche that allows you to revolutionize logistics. Be creative and set your sights on something far-fetched. A great vision should feel beyond your reach. If you could do X in 15 or 20 years, what would it be?
73. Calibrate your culture. Core values are the compass that guides your team's behaviors. These values should be easily recognizable in the best employees. Make them your own, and use them to calibrate everything you do, aligning everyone on your team to a common heading.
74. Plot your seasons and celebrate wins. Track progress toward your vision, honor the milestones along the journey, and build in time to relax and reflect. Find your battle rhythm, and make sure the milestones consider the need for people to recharge. Allow the team to celebrate both at work together and away as individuals. Cultivate this healthy balance and have fun.
75. Brand a clear mission. Who, what, and why are you delivering today? Make the mission as concise and clear as possible. A mission statement ensures you stay grounded in what brings profit and success today, so you can think about tomorrow. Make it visible. Everyone on your team has a purpose tied to this brand; make sure they feel it.
76. Know your role. Every link in the chain—every person, every function—is critical. Make sure your team understands the communication and products they own, so every link in the chain is just as strong as the previous and next. Document the playbook for the positions on your team, and make sure people work together and understand each other's distinct purpose to avoid turf battles and power struggles.
77. Over communicate; control the message. We live in a world overflowing with information, and it is your job to calm the noise. Your communication must reverberate across 360 degrees—forward visioning, backward reflecting, and sideways sharing. Know your customers, stakeholders, suppliers, and team members. Constantly drive transparency of your messaging.
78. Drop anchor. Each operation has critical anchor points that hold your chain in place. Don't take these strong backs for granted. Invest in and maintain your anchor points and constantly evaluate how they are doing. Reward the success they enable and create more anchors along the value stream.
79. Engineer flexibility. Prepare for change; it is constant. Engineer and design pivot points along your value stream. Forecast mitigation actions and prepare succession strategies. Built-in flexibility will allow you to weather the storm when the environment suddenly changes, and it will.
80. Delegate and empower. Know how to manage risk, at all levels. Pre-define levels of authority for cost, schedule, and technical levers, then push that control to the lowest level by empowering those closest to the work. Collect and track data to assess the health of your teams' decisions and adjust based on risk tolerance. Data should drive decisions at every level, and everyone needs to be empowered to make decisions with good data.
81. Be vulnerable. Bosses are not superheroes, nor are they mythical creatures. Be great by staying humble and approachable. Be thoughtful and thankful, and show appreciation to everyone who enables your team's successes. Make sure everyone sees the person you are—share your story and inspire theirs.
82. Set goals to spark action. An organization doesn't need to know exactly how it will reach a sustainability goal when it sets it. Often, achieving the goals requires a combination of both larger, more sweeping actions, and small, incremental steps.
83. Go straight to the top. As with any worthwhile undertaking, a commitment from leadership is critical. Leadership needs to understand the business case so they can dedicate resources and help determine goals and priorities that align with organizational targets.
84. It's a no-brainer. Simple and inexpensive changes can impact energy and cost savings. For example, the return on investment from switching to LED lights can be as quick as a year or two, and the result is a net-green positive on your supply chain.
85. Strive for diversity. Bring together employees from different departments to allow for a range of expertise. Working with individuals from different departments also creates champions of sustainability initiatives across the organization.
86. Pick the low-hanging fruit. Typically, inventory levels and placement are easy pickings. More product means more space, labor, equipment, waste, and energy consumption. Invest in a good warehouse management system or partner with a 3PL.
87. Establish a baseline and start measuring. Once companies identify the drivers of waste, they need to measure how much is occurring. What percentage and what types of products are going to landfills or compost? Knowing that a particular product is being discarded at a higher rate than similar items can help identify actions to reduce waste and cut costs.
88. Walk through your supply chain operations from beginning to end. At each step, stop and ask why. Now, ask the same question four more times. The "Five Whys" technique is an effective tool to expose weaknesses and redundancies in your green supply chain.
89. Look back. Empty trucks returning to the point of origin chew up costs. Loading products onto those trucks means fewer trips and less wasted fuel. The first step is to look internally for products that can fill the trucks. If no options are available internally, many brokers can identify potential backhaul partners.
90. Get lean and mean. Implementing lean operations is the most strategic way to green your supply chain. From the CEO to the assembly line, every member of a lean organization relentlessly seeks out waste and eliminates it. If a system or process does not add value, lose it.
91. Eye up transportation. Companies often can reduce the amount of energy used to transport materials and products. Look at your network and how you can consolidate shipments to minimize the number of trucks.
92. Analyze warehouse design efficiency. A layout that reduces the number of times an item is handled and cuts the distance traveled between actions can reduce both labor and energy costs. An efficient layout allows many companies to work within a smaller facility, or avoid expanding.
93. Think outside the box. One large office equipment manufacturer with a closed-loop distribution network replaced cardboard packaging with collapsible, returnable plastic totes, diverting 300,000 large cardboard boxes from landfills annually.
94. Plug in your operations. Many service providers offer lease and maintenance options for alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicles. Consider electrifying your fleet through a lease program to minimize risk and maximize efficiency.
95. Optimize packaging. Experiment to identify products that can be safely shipped in smaller boxes or even envelopes.
96. Analyze returns. Many companies can process returns more efficiently, and with less resource use, within a central returns location.
97. Focus on total lifecycle cost. When purchasing green products and applying environmentally friendly processes, look not just at the purchase price, but also at the total cost of ownership. Consider the energy, water, and labor required to maintain, operate, clean, and dispose of an item, as well as the initial investment. Once you include these factors in the calculations, green products often become competitive.
98. Maintain focus. It doesn't make sense to put off greening your supply chain. Nor does it make sense to work at it sporadically. Get engaged and keep a continual focus on your supply chain.
99. Do what's right. When it's a toss-up, go green. Your customers will thank you.
Technology: Inventory Management
100. Examine key pain points. Excessive storage costs, low inventory turnover rates, and stock-outs can add up to substantial financial losses. Figure out how to avoid or mitigate pain points by using a flexible inventory management system.
101. Evaluate how long it takes your staff to manually check inventory. Reduce hours wasted on physical counts and lost to human error with a solution that can automatically track inventory from its point of origin to when it's in the hands of the end user.
102. Brainstorm with your entire team. Have a discussion with your sales and marketing teams, talk to your warehouse manager and run a few customer focus groups to figure out where new opportunities exist. Collaborating with all these stakeholders will help you optimize inventory management in a way that allows you to better meet the needs of your business.
103. Prepare for expansion. Select an inventory management solution that provides only what your company needs at the time to lower upfront investment and user training. However, the solution must be able to grow and evolve right along with you. Flexible platforms leave the door open for changes.
104. Determine your current solutions' limitations. Do you struggle with complicated, time-consuming inventory reconciliation processes? Do you constantly have to manually change inventory levels after physical counts to reflect actual in-stock positions? If so, you're losing money and customers.
105. Decide what your company truly needs. Today's cloud-based software systems can be tailored to your exact needs, so think outside the box as to what your business needs.
106. Establish a unified inventory system for the entire team. With leading cloud inventory management software, information can be readily shared with all users and stakeholders in real time. That leads to better decision-making around purchasing and fulfillment and helps you come closer to striking the perfect inventory balance.
107. Walk, crawl, then run. Use a step-by-step approach during the software selection and implementation process to ensure you build your inventory management approach on a strong foundation and set that system (and company) up for future success.
TECHNOLOGY: Selecting a TMS
108. Form a diverse selection committee. Include finance, operations, and safety in the decision-making to make sure your huge investment works for the entire organization.
109. Select a forward-thinking and connected partner. EDI is the past; APIs and blockchain are the future. Your provider must adapt quickly, embrace change and connect with third-party providers and their critical tools. If your provider is slow to integrate, you will lose ground to competitors.
110. Don't (necessarily) purchase the helpdesk. Consider purchasing the helpdesk for the first year, but it may be less expensive to pay hourly. Price it out. Have one or two super-users who can be the last line of defense before contacting the TMS provider and incurring billable hours.
111. Measure ROI on modules. Most systems offer a base package and a plethora of add-on modules. Start small then expand when you can fully utilize the extra power. Price the add-ons initially so you know your future expenditures. Ask for discounts if you purchase multiple packages.
112. Upgrade and expand regularly. Invest in your TMS as you would an employee. Budget annual recurring costs for upgrades and new modules. If you don't upgrade, you are falling behind your competition. Before you commit to a TMS provider, determine the typical upgrade and migration costs, and how long it takes to implement.
113. Check references. You will get deeper insights from users than from the salesperson. Ask about pain points, missing features, and bugs or quirks. Talk to a few different areas at the company, not just IT.
114. Keep modifications in check. Modifications are expensive and you typically must pay to port them to each new upgrade. Purchase a TMS that you can use as is or modify your process to work with the TMS.
115. Invest in training. You can have the best tool, but unless your team knows how to utilize all the features, you are squandering your investment.
116. Think about all your modes. Consider truckload, LTL, air, and intermodal. Many TMS solutions work well in some modes; few work well in all. Make sure that the system you choose meets your core competencies and does not hamper future expansion.
TECHNOLOGY: Leveraging the Internet of Things (IOT)
117. Monitor and track supplies accurately in real time. Supply chain visibility from end to end means things get done right the first time—and on time.
118. Improve customer expectations with real-time shipment updates. Integrate IoT devices such as electronic logging devices, GPS, and telematics into your logistics processes to track the status of trucks in the delivery cycle so you can easily update clients if a delivery will be delayed.
119. Analyze data regularly. The data collected from IoT devices helps you gain insights into carrier performance, lead times, and other key performance indicators that enable continuous improvement.
120. Integrate information to optimize routes and consolidate loads. Streamline logistics from dispatch through delivery by sending dispatch information directly to the truck. Drivers will know their next assignment without having to return to the office or home.
121. Minimize cargo theft. Implementing tracking sensors on pallets, cartons, and trucks lets you know where items are at all times. If a truck goes missing, you can track its location and hopefully recover the items or deter the theft.
122. Streamline workflows and billing/payment. IoT devices can improve workflows by sending information directly to clients or management. You can digitally generate quotes, pay drivers, and invoice customers.
123. Ensure product quality. Use temperature gauges and other IoT devices to reduce spoilage and ensure that products arrive at their location in the best possible condition and quality.
124. Reduce human error. IoT lets you bypass manual entry, which is often fraught with human error. Fewer errors also means a reduction in wasted time and effort, which leads to cost savings.
125. Pay carriers quickly. Carriers can decide who they want to do business with, so become a preferred shipper. Treat your carriers as partners and pay them quickly.
126. Evaluate changing regulations, guidance, and safety standards. Good warehousing always includes understanding the rules by which you must operate—not just for compliance, but for the health of your employees and their families.
127. Know who you lost to layoff/furlough. In most warehouses, especially smaller operations, reliable workers end up performing a lot of tasks. Sometimes, those tasks bind together or gloss over operating challenges. Evaluate your team, identify who is no longer there, and dig into their roles and responsibilities.
128. Expect shifting sands. Leaders and managers should let returning staff know that every day will be an adventure, and cultivate resiliency in their teams. Priorities and focus will shift, so the best guidance we can give our teams is to be open to change. Offer them confidence that you'll be right there with them.
129. Prioritize your operations. Facilities may not have the staffing to support 10 number-one priorities, so be ready to communicate the risks to operations that move down the list. A common prioritization is picking, packing, receiving and putaway, and inventory control activities (e.g., cycle counting, consolidation). The focus is on immediate fulfillment activities, then refilling the warehouse, and finally ensuring inventory validity. Allocate your resources to accomplish those goals in that order, be transparent on the costs of this type of focus, and be ready to adjust.
130. Improve the customer experience with enhanced customer service. Differentiate your organization by providing better on-time delivery, ensuring orders are delivered safely and efficiently. Proactively alert customers if there is a delay in a shipment.
131. Stabilize your own suppliers. As much trouble as you're having, imagine your own vendor's warehouses. Corrugated, cleaning/office supplies, and even availability of trailers or containers, are all affected by the same challenges you face. Check and verify. If new lead times are needed prior to placing orders, ensure you understand and communicate them.
132. Audit all freight invoice charges. A high percentage of freight bills are incorrect, and if you don't review them, you are leaving money on the table.
133. Create a personnel plan. Decisions around headcount can be difficult, but usually the need is apparent. It is a challenge to know who and how many to hire and when, so it is worth a strategy session with your leadership to understand the trigger points for bringing on temporary or full-time employees.
134. Tighten up fulfillment accuracy. If you're delivering into the retail channel or direct to consumers, take a fresh look at your shipping accuracy. Your business worked hard to earn that sale during a recession, and the costs to correct a mistake will only be amplified. Reducing errors will yield greater than normal benefits to your financial performance.
135. Set goals and give updates. The workers you've managed to retain are probably the strongest employees you have. With that team, and in this environment, you might ask for better individual performances or facility goals than you've ever had. Use your strongest team to accomplish the most work.
136. Decide if it is time to invest. Cloud-based warehouse management systems (WMS) find their value in letting you do more with less. Now is the time, as order volume and a recessed economy may create a window for this improvement.
137. Keep a keen eye on your goals. Celebrate every win. Managers are under tremendous stress and every hourly employee is just as burdened. We have an opportunity to run warehouses tightly and professionally—and use every dollar and every man-hour to its fullest.