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This Month in Modern: Little things that make a big difference

While many of us are still buzzing from one of the busiest ProMat events in recent memory, this month in Modern we pull our focus in a bit and concentrate on the little things that are making a big difference inside materials handling operations—especially in light of the increasing adoption of high-speed order fulfillment systems.
By Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
March 01, 2013

While many of us are still buzzing from one of the busiest ProMat events in recent memory, this month in Modern we pull our focus in a bit and concentrate on the little things that are making a big difference inside materials handling operations—especially in light of the increasing adoption of high-speed order fulfillment systems.

For example, in executive editor Bob Trebilcocks’s Big Picture—the latest in a series of articles that explores the vital role materials handling plays in business—he explains that as sophisticated automation is taking operations to new heights of efficiency and productivity, it’s more important than ever to cure the common bottlenecks often found inside operations.

Starting on page 16, Trebilcock focuses the microscope on the growing importance of powered mobile workstations in receiving and quality control; capturing cube and weight early in the process; centralizing packing and labeling; automating the packing process; procuring proper dock equipment; and streamlining loading and unloading processes.

“Over the past few months we’ve concentrated on some impressive high-speed order fulfillment engines that are driving the business strategy of some of today’s savviest retailers,” says Trebilcock. “But that engine simply won’t hit its numbers if inventory doesn’t get off the receiving dock or orders can’t get through manual packing stations to hit shipping cut-off times.”

On the theme of often overlooked yet vital pieces of the productivity equation, associate editor Josh Bond gives readers a comprehensive snapshot of the state of carts and casters (page 32) and explains where the perception of carts as a “necessary evil” to keep product moving inside a facility is changing. The heavy, noisy and unwieldy cart, says Bond, has evolved into a “cart system” designed from the casters up to optimize material flow through with as much comfort to the user as possible.

“The concept of putting everything on wheels is an apt metaphor for the flexibility demanded by today’s operations,” says Bond. “By empowering the workers and managers on the front lines to adjust work cells and react to changing conditions on the fly, carts and casters have become essential to the mobility of product, people and processes.”

Rounding out this month’s theme, contributing editor Maida Napolitano revisits eight fundamental guidelines to help managers improve inventory management. To do this, she’s gathered six inventory management experts with a combined 80 years of experience inside the four walls.

“I picked this panel because I knew they would get back to basics and review the critical strategies some operations may have neglected as they raced to adopt more sophisticated order fulfillment equipment,” says Napolitano. “These steps force managers to step back and see how they can better integrate their data with their systems and make real-time visibility more of a reality.”

About the Author

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Michael Levans
Group Editorial Director

Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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