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Practical handling solutions

12 December 2012

A hands-on feel helps logistics professionals get the answers they need as the Warehouse Technology Group features guest manufacturer Crown Lift Trucks

The Warehouse Technology Group (WTG) got a thumbs up
from attendee

A hands-on feel helps logistics professionals get the answers they need as the Warehouse Technology Group features guest manufacturer Crown Lift Trucks

The Warehouse Technology Group (WTG) got a thumbs up from attendees at its recent Manchester event. The WTG has created a fully operational warehouse to showcase storage and handling equipment, give warehouse professionals a chance to quiz suppliers, and provide a facility for training.

I attended the the group's last event, held at Mantra Learning's facilities in Manchester in May, and was impressed by the positive feedback of attendees, who used it to gain insight on products and solutions that could help solve issues in their logistical operations.

Simon Ogden, operations director at fitted kitchen market supplier LDL Components and Carl Walsh, warehouse manager at LDL, attended the event and were impressed by what was on show.

LDL bulk sorts in its warehouse, and its picks could be one kitchen hinge or a full articulated lorry load. It deals with kitchen furniture manufacturers who are small (one man band operations) that need quick stock availability and it deals with the likes of Magnet, which has strict stipulations on pallet height, labelling etc.

Walsh says of their motivation for attending the event that "we want to come to events like this and cherry pick the best ideas and products for ourselves".

One aspect of the day which particularly grabbed the attention of LDL was the Chess Logistics seminar on WMS. Ogden explains: "Today, the seminar on WMS has been very interesting.We have a very good software system but its not a WMS. One thing we want to improve is stock accuracy, it's not poor, but it could be better.

We see WMS as a way of assisting our business to become more efficient and to give us more accountability with warehouse operatives." The company is also very conscious of the relationship between space and money, adds Walsh. "We want to squeeze as much our of our warehouse as we can.Maybe the next decision towards improving that is a narrow aisle truck.We use Crown at the moment, so I was talking to them this morning about possibilities here." Crown Lift Trucks was a guest at the event and showcased warehouse trucks, its first counterbalance truck, the C5, and its InfoLink fleet management system.

As well as going to an event like this with an agenda, LDL says it is good to keep an open mind as things can pop up that aren't necessarily on the radar but prove useful.

Ogden says: "We hadn't considered Interroll but seeing its presentation this morning has got us thinking that maybe that might assist us.

"We're really keen on stock replenishment.We may replenish our stock in the morning but get a surge in the afternoon. Our business is hand to mouth, we don't have customers giving us forward orders that we can then schedule into deliveries, it just doesn't happen. Everything we do is instantaneous. If an order comes in, it is picked immediately, it gets dispatched immediately.

"Therefore we never know on any one day what we're going to get a run on product-wise. The product may be in its location, may be full at 8.00, but at 1.00 we may need to disrupt stacker truck drivers and get them to come and drop pallets down. This stops the picker from picking the product, creating inefficiency.

Products like the rollers mentioned by Interoll in its presentation would consistently feed the pickers, so perhaps that could be a solution." LDL is also keen on looking for mentors, and have visited the warehousing operations of companies like Argos and Morrisons.

They have found, because they are growing quickly, ideas that weren't applicable two years ago, often now are.

"Warehousing is a massive part of improving service," continues Ogden. "One thing we're trying to do as a business is increase the cutoff point for next day delivery. The more efficient we are in the warehouse the later we can go, which feeds into the sales side of the business.

"People in the warehousing industry sometimes forget that there is a direct link between warehouse efficiency and assisting sales. It's the same with housekeeping, we have a weekly audit, and keep the place shipshape.When a customer pays us a visit, we want to make a good impression and that feeds again into the sales side."