If you're a wholesaler, are you scanning your inventory yet? Errors in shipping are expensive, and scanning should reduce your shipping errors to zero, according to consultant Ken Ackerman. Nor does scanning software have to be expensive - some wholesalers make the mistake of purchasing "Rolls Royce" software when a "VW" is all they need.

Do you know precisely when a shipment is to arrive? Many of the large retailers, such as Wal Mart and Home Depot, won't accept a shipment at their stores without an advance ship notice, which tells them exactly what is coming and when. "There's no excuses anymore for surprises," he said.

When some wholesalers said they often don't get advance notice of a shipment, Ackerman said they might do better to find another trucker. Ackerman also offered these four points of useful advice for wholesalers:

1) In the 21st century, information can be a cheap substitute for space and labor

A. You can rent rather than buy warehouse management software

B. Scanning can eliminate the checking function and reduce risk of error

C. ASNs can reduce the mysteries of receiving

D. Appointments can eliminate surprises at receiving and shipping docks

E. You can put a price on the warehousing function

2)You can cut the waste from materials handling

A. Keep fast movers close to the doors and in the "golden zone"

B. Maintain the ABC analysis to spot the 80/20 or 90/10 activity

C. Never separate receiving from shipping, unless you are manufacturing

D. Look for cross-dock opportunities

E. Use live loading and unloading - scanner can replace checker

F. Search for the bottlenecks - "hurry up and wait" - and eliminate them

G. Look for causes of damages and errors

H. Maintain productivity measures - people do what you inspect, not expect

3) Improve space utilization

A. It starts with layout - who controls put-away?

B. Goal is to reduce travel time

C. Consider order composition - units versus service parts

D. Fixed or random locations?

E. Pick path configuration

F. Aisles and storage vehicles

G. Store like items together

H. Plan and forecast - we have never found an elastic warehouse

4) Recognize warehousing as a profession

A. Industry's scarcest commodity today - honest and drug-free people

B. Promotion from within - both valuable and dangerous

C. Professionals improve through constant training and practice

D. Offer growth opportunities: WERC, trade magazines, books, seminars

E. Emphasize superior housekeeping

F. MBWA are MBAGQ are essential - DC versus "back room"

G. Use measurements and reward progress

H. Track employee retention

What's an ASP?

An Application Service Provider provides software and/or technical solutions that enable the exchange to work for particular clients. ASPs tend to focus on functionality. In the logistics world, these functionalities are inventory control processes, order management processes, communication, transportation and route optimization, workflow optimization, and the like. These systems, or applications, can be provided at an Exchange site on the Internet.

The key motivations for elevating warehousing processes to the Internet Exchange is to vastly improve the visibility of information about products and to rapidly deploy information about each activity.

Visibility is made available to all participants in the supply chain. Changes resulting from each activity are immediately updated, processes and then placed in full view of all affected parties.

(from Ackerman's Warehousing Forum, November 2000; contact The Ackerman Company, 2041 Riverside Drive, Suite 204, Columbus, Ohio 43221; 614-488-3165; www.warehousing-forum.com.)