At Modern, we love automation. There is a wow factor about high-speed sortation, automated storage and retrieval systems, and automated guided vehicles. But we’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: The vast majority of warehouses, plants and DCs still get the job done with the same tools that have been serving the industry for the past 60 years, like pallet rack and lift trucks, all jazzed up with RF-driven picking.
Well, the same is true for thirdparty logistics providers (3PL). For a 3PL, it’s easier to bring in a new client when there’s no conveyor and sortation bolted to the ground, and it’s easier to scale labor up or down if demand spikes or contracts than it is to have idle automation. And, with 3PLs working on razor-thin margins, getting the most productivity out of those basic tools is important to winning new business and keeping existing customers.
That’s why DSC Logistics began rolling out a labor management system (RedPrairie, 877-733-7724) in 2005. Given the importance of labor to DSC’s business, the goals for the system were relatively simple, says Jim Chamberlain, director of industrial engineering. “As a 3PL provider, labor is the biggest component of our business,” Chamberlain says. “Our ability to manage that labor could be seen as a differentiator.”
About the Author
Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.
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