Friday, May 30, 2014

Have an “oops” day..

For most companies today there is great room for improvement in the supply chain. It is cautious, reactive and traditional. We have designed it to be that way. Companies want a supply chain that is more aligned and agile. But, guess what? We have not designed it to be that way.

Supply Chain leaders will state in one breath that they want to be innovative and try new technologies; however, in the next sentence, they will ask for a definitive Return on Investment (ROI) for a project. How can you drive innovation if you hamstring yourself to only take a step to try a project with a definitive ROI? 

While we sell software tools for the supply chain sometimes it's important to take a step back as well and before throwing technology at a problem, see where it's needed most. Then work with your technology partner build a long lasting solution. 

I encourage everyone to have an “oops” day. What is an “oops” day? It is a day for you to have a mea culpa meeting with your team. It is a meeting where you don’t pretend anymore that everything is wonderful. And, where teams don’t prepare pretty charts to tell you everything is glorious. Instead, you book the biggest conference room in the building (or just all head to the lunchroom)  and invite a everyone to review what happened last year.

To get ready for your meeting ask each person to write down the number of “oops” moments, or issues, that they felt over the last year. As part of the meeting, record all of the misses on chart paper and tape them to the wall.
(This is why you need a big wall and lots of paper.)

An “oops moment” could be:

  • A product sold more than expected and you could not meet the customer service goals. 
  • A Product quality issue for example reliability issues with a new product or a launch that created problems. 
  • A product that undersold in the market. you bought too much inventory and the company was stuck with product to be written off. 
  • Employee turnover was high and there were not enough people to perform all the work.
After putting them on the wall, step back and ask a series of questions:

What are the root issues?
Where are we failing?
What are we doing well?

Then ask the group to work in smaller groups to answer the questions of:

  • What data is available that we could use to be more responsive?
  • Could new forms of analytics help?  ( This is where TSH can help....) 
  • How could we improve outcomes through better work? 
  • Example: S&OP - Setup standard operating procedures and follow them? 
Then give the group an innovation fund. Ask them where you should spend your money to drive iterative progress. And then choose a task to get started.

For more interesting idea's on how to transform your supply chain visit 
I think that there is promise in the adoption of new forms of analytics. It is an iterative process. but as we utilize new tools we can do more with less and create better solutions to our problems. 

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Robots for the Rest of Us...

Maybe you are not ready for robots just yet, but here are some tips that will get you part of the way there. 

The high-tech warehouse is taking shape as organizations seek to get ahead of the material handling systems challenges of the 21st Century supply chain. A big component of that formation is automation, but it has to be more strategic than just throwing machines at a problem.

Nearly three in four managers rank distribution center (DC) automation as the No. 1 way to increase productivity, according to a survey by Intermec Technologies. Customer demands to move more product faster through more channels combined with a shrinking labor pool have driven organizations to automate processes in their DCs.

Yet while many organizations have started automating, the parts don’t always add up to a holistic system. With nearly 3,000 hours lost each year to DC inefficiencies, Intermec reports, organizations can’t afford to have a single element out of sync.

An Integrated System

Fragmented attempts to automate individual solutions is a step in the right direction, but what’s missing is a layer that coordinates all the pieces, communicates with the warehouse management system (WMS), provides high-level analysis of the operation, and keeps the entire DC working efficiently. This crucial layer is commonly skipped during WMS implementations and no thought is given to the tight integration needed to your ERP system. By building a system a layer above individual equipment, it can easily make adjustments throughout a warehouse. It can modify automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), conveyor speeds and sortation devices to create efficiencies that would be nearly impossible to achieve by adjusting each part individually.

An overview of the entire material handling system lets managers easily see where adjustments, improvements and maintenance need to be performed.  Suppose there are four jams a day on conveyor 12. Each one chips away at your system’s productivity. Six in 10 managers say that large savings can be realized by recovering just seconds from the workday.

By Integrating tightly with our vendor partners TSH offers the abilty to capture all of the workflow information into one database that turns raw data into useful information for consistent efficiency checks. The database can the also monitor for quick resolution to issues. As a result, you can make adjustments to reduce conveyor jams and plan for now and for the future — especially for the multi-channel future of shipping making headlines today.

Coordinating All Moving Parts

Targeted analysis is particularly valuable for organizations that are either practicing or planning to move into multi-channel distribution. The MDS System allows you to set up several types of fulfillment channels within the same facility by making the logistics of moving product more flexible. Bulk and Single Piece Pick, Wave picking, LUM (logical unit of measure) are all features that require tight integration into the picking technology. 

For example, a Healthcare Distributor that sells online and ships to hospitals can use a robot to place cartons on a conveyor system. Based on information from MDS, it will route those cartons to a packing station to fulfill quantities that make up less than a full case or may route the entire carton for a  replenishment outbound order. In the case of order quantities less than a full case, the pack station operator selects the proper quantity, and then the MDS System routes the remainder to a relevant storage location.

Every DC and fulfillment center has different priorities, so you also want to be sure the System you choose has enough flexibility to evolve with the changing marketplace.

A modular MDS System will work better in most organizations than “one-size-fits-all” software. Modular approaches let you start small and build out as needed, keeping costs down while letting you focus on the areas with the best ROI. Or you can introduce it all at once — whatever works best for your needs.

In most supply chain organizations, the most glaring need is for visibility into how the operation is working. MDS will allow you to view the operation end-to-end and better understand how the components fit into the whole, leading to an optimized flow.

When it comes to moving goods through a fulfillment center or DC to their final destinations, you can only go as fast as the slowest point. 

And if you don’t know where that point is, it will be incredibly difficult to meet your ever-escalating performance metrics and deliver customer satisfaction.

Although investing in automated equipment is a step in the right direction, you’ll never realize the full value of that investment if all that equipment runs independently. MDS can help you align your entire material handling operation and keep all the components running smoothly.

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What to do with those cheap flat panels....

Digital Signage for your Warehouse and Offices

As I wandered through Costco last week looking at all the flat panels and how the costs have dropped, it occurs to me that there is a place for them in the warehouse and possibly the office.

Many times workers are looking in the rear view mirror of the business, making choices based on goals and achievements made last week, last quarter, or last year. digital signage puts the focus on the future. In your company you may have spreadsheets, bar graphs, and charts, posted on the walls,  Well that's about how we did yesterday. Real-time information, though, can let workers see how they have done in the first few hours of the shift and what they have to do going forward.

Increasingly, warehouse operations are looking to digital signage to provide that sort of real-time data. That's part of a bigger move toward the technology: The worldwide digital signage marketplace is predicted to have strong growth, increasing annually at a rate of about 9 percent, between 2014 and 2020,

MarketsandMarkets predicts. By 2020, the market could be worth as much as $14.87 billion, the firm estimates.

By putting digital signs on the warehouse floor, organizations can provide a variety of information to workers, from progress toward set goals to safety reminders and corporate announcements. "It's all around employee motivation," . "The organization might announce that a shift is ending early because the workers are ahead, or they might put up anniversary announcements or notes about free pizza."

Digital signage solutions provide a lot of flexibility to users.  for example, it lets organizations choose to send real-time performance data to desktop computers, mobile devices, or to employee-facing digital signage and to send individualized and targeted content to each device. The end result is a measurable gain in productivity.

One study by Manufacturing Plant found that warehouses with digital signage systems captured a 20 percent boost in manufacturing productivity as well as concurrent reductions in defects, rework, and scrap, they reported a 10.3 percent increase in productivity by distribution centers immediately following introduction of real-time scoreboards.

Keep it Simple:

You have to make sure that goals and progress can be seen from far away, like green is good and red is not. You can get on board with two or three screens for $1,000 to $3,000 - make sure to place them were easily accessible and with most able to connect via WiFi you can ditch the wires and just get some power, connect them to your wireless network and send Real Time MDS Screens or Notes to the display.

If you want skip the Wifi Models, think about adding a chrome cast for 35 dollars and you are good to go.

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.