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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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.
- Technology – Barcoding, RFID, AS/RS, and other such systems reduce errors and improve efficient flow.
- Touch – Well-planned and implemented technology reduces the number of times an item is touched. Fewer touches means lower costs.
- Racks – The right storage solution will dovetail with the right technology solution to maximize space utilization, reducing real estate costs.
- Just in time – Tracking inflow and outflow over time lets lean warehouses maintain inventory at just-in-time levels, to keep storage use optimal.
- 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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It’s no secret that Amazon’s warehouse management is state-of-the-art. In its pursuit of ever-faster fulfillment, Amazon has started using a robot-assisted picking system named Kiva. Dave Clark, Amazon’s V.P. of worldwide operations, says, “Kiva’s doing the part that’s not that complicated. It’s just moving inventory around.” People do the part that requires judgement, confirming that the item is the correct one (and whether it meets Santa’s standards).
In additional to efficiency gains, one of the great benefits of the robotic system is a net gain in storage space – robots don’t need aisles. Storage racks can be condensed to increase capacity without expanding the warehouse’s footprint – a cost-savings gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Read the full story at: http://wrd.cm/16KebkB
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