Is Your New Warehouse Illegal?

From Southern California to Washington, D.C., new warehouses are springing up overnight to meet market demands. There’s one time-consuming phase of warehouse build-out, however, that shouldn’t be bypassed regardless of how much of a hurry you’re in.

As reported by Site Selection Group, the demand for new warehousing is spurred by e-commerce’s continued exponential growth, where volume and speed-to-market are critical success factors. Warehouses can be constructed relatively quickly – an average of 81 days in the U.S. – but the permitting process for racking systems can potentially slow your build-out to a crawl, extending your timeline and costs.

Of course, the short-term costs of a longer timeline are far outweighed by the long-term costs of injuries and product losses (not to mention fines) in the event of racking system failures. It’s important to work with an experienced storage consultant who will design and install safe, reliable storage racks. Their expertise could help you speed up permit sign-offs from the building department and the fire department.

Building a strictly legal environment for your employees and your products will ultimately save you big-time in terms of safety and liability. Read more here about permitting, and see a video showing what happens when unpermitted racking fails in a seismic event.

 

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RFID Debate: Sheep’s Privacy is Violated

RFID technology has brought new levels of efficiency and accuracy to a host of industries. Manufacturing, logistics, retail, health care, museum curation — all kinds of businesses have benefited. While some have voiced concerns about privacy, their concerns have actually improved the quality of RFID tech, as developers address security issues.

But no previous privacy objections approached the level of protests of French farmers outraged by a government mandate that sheep be tagged with RFID chips. This may seem slightly ridiculous to us in the U.S., where we’ve been tagging animals with RFID chips for years. Even in France, horses have been RFID-tagged for more than 7 years. But the agriculture ministry’s demand that sheep be tagged was a step too far for the average French farmer. “We don’t need software to tell us how our ewes are feeling,” said one farmer.

Outraged shepherds marched in protest, and the ministry reviewed its decision. As it turned out, the farmers’ basic objection – beneath the hype of privacy for sheep – was the industrialization of farming and the threat to their ancient way of living in touch with the land and their livestock.

While it can be argued that RFID isn’t essential to the French small-scale farmer, the technology is undeniably a vital part of doing business in the 21st century. The ROI is well documented, and businesses that don’t adopt RFID may find themselves falling behind their competitors. In fact, some industry leaders make RFID capability a requirement for their suppliers.

Are you RFID-enabled? Tell us your story.

 

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Logistics Management – Legal Air Space for Drones

Concerns about safety and legalities are restricting the use of drones everywhere, except in one rather surprising place: the great indoors of mega-warehouses.

It’s completely legal to fly drones inside a private space, and logistics experts are putting drones to use inside large warehouses to automate certain tasks. Warehouses are finite spaces, and they can be mapped into drones’ programming for highly accurate flights. With the added ability to read RFID tags, drones can perform the mundane labor-intensive “cycle counting” that maintains an accurate inventory.

Walmart, one of the nation’s largest warehousers, has instituted a pilot program (no pun intended) to automate inventory management with drones. They estimate that a drone will be able to accurately check as much inventory in one day as a human employee can in a month – an impressive improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. And there’s the added factor of personnel safety: warehouse employees don’t have to climb ladders or operate lifts to count inventory.

Indoor drone usage isn’t right for every warehouse and every logistics manager. Ceiling height, interior walls, and racking systems all must be considered before moving to drone automation. And drones themselves are not cheap, particularly when spatial programming and RFID readers enter the equation. But for some businesses, it could be well worth the investment. Consult with a storage professional to see if drones are right for your warehouse operations.

 

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The “Always-On” Supply Chain – Are You Ready?

Economists and logistics pundits are hailing the advent of the “always-on” supply chain – one in which information is as valuable as goods. From drones to the Internet of Things, smart technology is changing the supply chain landscape.

A recent report from MHI, the materials handling and logistics trade organization, listed eight technologies that are key to the always-on supply chain:

  • Predictive analytics
  • Robotics and automation
  • Sensors and automatic identification
  • Wearable and mobile technology
  • Driverless vehicles and drones
  • Inventory and network optimization tools
  • Cloud computing and storage
  • 3D printing

As information flows freely throughout the supply chain, shipping modes will be modified. Warehousing needs will alter. Training and staffing requirements will change. These changes will have a profound effect on the way we all do business. Ask yourself if your business is ready for the always-on supply chain, and consult with your storage professionals to make sure you’re ahead of the curve.

 

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The Supply Chain Bottleneck at U.S. Ports

When the new mega-size container ship “Benjamin Franklin” docked in the Ports of Los Angeles in late 2015, it marked the beginning of a new shipping era. The ship can carry 18,000 containers. Placed end to end, the containers would reach from Boston to Hartford, a distance of nearly 100 miles. That’s a lot of containers!

And that number of containers has logistics experts worried. Their concern: The land-side infrastructure of ports on the US west coast cannot handle such a large influx of containers at one time. Trucks will not be able to get in and out of the ports quickly enough to move all those containers off the docks and make room for the next ship waiting its turn to unload, says Jared Vineyard, blogging for Universal Cargo.

This congestion starts a domino effect that is felt all the way down the supply chain – transportation delays increase, warehouses aren’t restocked on time, and retailers will feel the squeeze. Despite the increased shipping capacity, American shoppers may actually experience shortages of their favorite consumer goods. To keep retail shelves stocked, wholesalers and warehouse managers should be looking at ways to increase their own storage capacity ahead of the bottleneck that could be building at the seaports.

 

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The Remarkable Future of the Supply Chain

Drones, 3D printing – the past few years have seen innovations that could prove highly disruptive to the traditional supply chain. Lora Cecere, CEO of Supply Chain Insights, serves up her predictions for the 2030 supply chain in this post. The highlights include:

  1. Autonomous Supply Chain. Sensors, robotics, and GPS combined into an adaptive, cognitive system that automates manufacturing and warehouse management, and reduces heavy machinery downtime through sensors and connectivity.
  1. Safe and Secure Supply Chain. An automated chain of custody will reduce spoilage, secure hazardous shipments, and guard against fakery in everything from purses to pharmaceuticals.
  1. 3D Printing. Everything from spare parts to medical devices will be individualized and printed as needed.
  1. Learning Systems and Network of Networks. Manufacturers, shippers, and consumers will know where any customized order is in the process, at any time, in any place, thanks to supply chain systems that learn cognitively, and a network that talks to all other networks.

What do these changes mean for your business? Is your business ready for this brave new world? And where do storage systems fit into the big picture?

 

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5 Steps to Lean Warehouse Management

Warehouses aren’t in the business of manufacturing, so it might seem irrelevant to apply the precepts of Lean Manufacturing to the logistics industry. However, says author Jeff Maree, there are surprising bottom-line advantages to managing a “lean warehouse.”

Lean manufacturing seeks to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and add value – the famous Japanese principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Maree, writing in Manufacturing Transformation, outlines five ways to apply the same principle in warehouse management.

  1. Technology – Barcoding, RFID, AS/RS, and other such systems reduce errors and improve efficient flow.
  2. Touch – Well-planned and implemented technology reduces the number of times an item is touched. Fewer touches means lower costs.
  3. Racks – The right storage solution will dovetail with the right technology solution to maximize space utilization, reducing real estate costs.
  4. Just in time – Tracking inflow and outflow over time lets lean warehouses maintain inventory at just-in-time levels, to keep storage use optimal.
  5. Partners – From software suppliers to storage providers, the right professional partners will support the lean warehouse in its goal of continuous improvement.

Manufacturers are reaping the financial benefits of lean-manufacturing productivity. Shouldn’t warehouse managers enjoy the same kinds of gains?

 

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How RFID Is Saving Macy’s Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Surveys say 47% of shoppers prefer shopping online. Sounds like the end of retail is near! However, shopping online does not necessarily translate to buying online. Macy’s is using RFID’s rich data capabilities to make sure that whatever is advertised online is actually available in stores, giving shoppers the convenience of online shopping combined with the immediacy of in-store purchasing.

Bill Connell, Macy’s senior VP of logistics and operations, cites the speed and reliability of RFID inventory control as part of their omnichannel retail scheme. RFID allows store employees to scan inventory on the retail floor several times a day and replenish stock immediately, something that was completely impractical with other inventory control systems. Shoppers who see something on Macy’s website today and want to wear it tonight will always find that specific item in the store – a valuable advantage in the competitive world of retail. Read the complete story at http://bit.ly/1qEiRAS.

 

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From Museum Storage to Exhibition: The Story of an Artifact’s Travelling Companion

You may have sat next to one of them on a transatlantic flight, or walked behind one of them on the way to baggage claim, or stood in line with one of them at Customs. You didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but these people were members of an exclusive and little-known clan: the art couriers. When museums loan their fine art or rare historical artifacts to other museums, they call on the services of professional art couriers to accompany the items from storage to exhibition venue. Each courier develops specialized skills; for example, Lynn Grant, who wrote this story: http://bit.ly/1iHdiHv, is a rigging expert and is often hired to travel with heavy, bulky artifacts.

As Grant points out, it seems like a glamorous job, but if you’ve ever experienced a delayed flight or a visa issue, imagine how the problems would multiply if you were responsible for the safe arrival of priceless works of art. Nevertheless, for art experts with itchy feet, it can be an ideal career.

 

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Air Force Boots Get Their Marching Orders From RFID

When you’re shipping thousands of pairs of military boots each month, as combat footwear supplier Wellco does, shipping errors can get expensive; to quote a famous senator, “Pretty soon you’re talking about real money!” So when Wellco made the commitment to RFID, they jumped in with both feet. Each and every pair of boots Wellco makes for the Air Force gets an RFID tag, while cloud-based software tracks the order. RFID scanners identify and verify the contents of shipping cartons, and further down the line, additional RFID tags identify the cartons assembled on pallets, adding another layer of order verification. Senior Network Administrator David Mason reports greater fulfillment efficiency and a considerable reduction in expensive order errors. Read the whole story: http://bit.ly/1hIik7f

 

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