All posts by Marion Donahue

About Marion Donahue

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Reducing Inventory Loss

Let’s face it: inventory disappears once in a while. Materials get lost, damaged, or pilfered on a daily basis in America, and over time, those losses can add to real and significant dollars. The good news is that there are some simple steps one can take to minimize the impact of inventory loss on a business.


Let’s start with damage, one of the most common types of inventory loss. To think about what is causing damage and how to avoid it, first think about where and when damage occurs. Is your damage happening in inventory? Or in transit? Warehouse damage is often caused by one of two major factors: packaging or handling. It is important to understand the capabilities of your corrugate boxes or other storage conveyance and how those materials will stand up to the conditions in the warehouse. For example, in hot, humid Memphis, Tennessee, a box will sag and possibly fall over far more quickly than in the bone-chilling cold of a Michigan winter. Also consider the empty space at the top of a package, also known as “headspace.” If your materials do not completely fill your packages, you are inviting an opportunity for a creased seam or crushed box that could cause a domino effect throughout the warehouse.

For materials damaged in transit, it is very important to consider loading technique, platform composition, and trailer properties. Loading technique refers to the method used by the material handler at either the shipping or receiving facility. Is that person properly trained? Does s/he take proper care when handling the product? Taking a walk out to the loading dock might surprise you. Platform composition simply refers to what, if any, materials are used to hold the product in the trailer or container. Grade A heat-treated pallets are very reliable and sturdy, but can run upwards of $10 each for the convenience. Slipsheets are simple corrugated platforms that can help shield goods from splinters in the trailer floor or walls. Speaking of the trailer floor or walls, the composition of a trailer itself can be a big reason for product damaged in transit. Wood-sided walls and floors are less expensive than their metal counterparts, but have a higher frequency of leaks and splintering, which is very risky. Be careful to consider these factors when shipping product.


While this piece addresses inventory loss in general, sometimes inventory in a warehouse simply… gets lost. A robust inventory auditing and cycle counting program can provide numerous returns, including a reduction in simply losing inventory. In this arena, technology can help as well. Many current warehouse management systems (WMS) offer “count-back” functionality wherein a person who picks product from a specific location is asked to validate the remaining inventory in the location before moving on to his or her next task. Even without expensive technology, simple cultural shifts can be almost as effective. If you see a pallet of product sitting in an aisle, is there a process for how to find out where that pallet should be? Is every location where someone might put product labeled appropriately with clear and effective signage? If not, think about what cultural shifts you might need to make.


While many do not want to think about it, there are just bad actors out there, and proper precautions can help ensure that they do not do damage to your bottom line. Warehouse theft is most common in warehouses where the products stored are either high value or easy to fence. If you look around your area and walk the local flea markets, take a look at the items that are selling popularly. You will typically see food products, household goods like soaps and paper products, and others. In today’s times, ebay and Craigslist are also common marketplaces for stolen goods. If your company makes products like this, you may be at risk for pilferage, and it may be time to take action. A clear, consistent, and fair inspection program could be valuable, wherein you search the bags of employees, executives, and visitors alike. Video cameras are also helpful as both a deterrent and investigatory tool. Yes, a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, but advance notification and implementation that does not show bias or discriminate are well within the rights of an employer.

These are just a few tips to get you thinking about what might be slipping through the cracks in your distribution network. In the end, careful consideration and some simple changes can be a big step in the right direction. Finally, simple measurement of loss, damage, and pilferage is the best way to start setting the baseline for understanding what you are missing.

A Busy Week for Columbian

A Busy Week for Columbian

As the busy week wraps up and the holiday weekend begins, two of our employees wrap up separate speaking engagements. Ryan Skruch, product integrity manager, participated in a breakout session at the Food Defense ConferenceBlair Thomas, director of customer care, was selected for a public-private partnership to deliver warehouse training to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a support agency within the US Department of Defense.

Food Defense Conference

Food Defense ConferenceRyan filled in for Jim Gadziemski, Vice President of Warehouse Operations, and quickly picked up the pieces with agility and confidence. The Food Defense Conference is put on by the Food Defense Conference

Ryan’s presentation explained 5 key points to successfully building a food defense program at a third party logistics provider.

Ryan spoke about his experience at the event, “Attending the event has provided a great opportunity to hear professionals from all industries speak on the very real threat of intentional tampering in the food industry.”

Defense Logistics Agency Training

Defense Logistics AgencyBlair Thomas was selected for a public-private partnership to deliver warehouse training to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a support agency within the US Department of Defense. This week-long event had classes every day, and Blair even led some discussions. Defense Logistics Agency

“It was an honor to be a part of this project.  There are lots of smart, hard workers in the DLA, but they deal with several complexities and constraints that we just don’t see on the mainland and in the private sector,” says Thomas.  “Serving a global customer base in a situation where service failure could be a matter of not only life and death, but also national security, is very difficult, especially when you consider environmental, historical, and other logistical limitations.  According to the feedback we received, our week together opened their eyes to industry best practices as much as it opened our eyes to the complexities of serving a military customer.”

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After a busy week here at Columbian, we’re ready to celebrate our independence and spend time with our families. Happy Fourth of July!

Meet our new Director of Business Development

Columbian Logistics Network




Please join us in welcoming our new Director of Business Development, Hollis Pace.

Hollis lives in Saint Joseph, MI and will primarily work out Columbian Logistics Networkof the office due to the nature of this position.

Hollis graduated from Michigan State University in 2000 with a degree in Supply Chain Management. After college, he started at Penske Logistics as Inventory Control Specialist, then was promoted to Lead Logistics Analyst. Later, he worked at DHL Express in Aurora, Colorado as a Field Services Specialist. Before joining us, he worked for Hanson Logistics in a variety of positions; Account Manager, Operations Manager, Director of Transportation, and Director of Transportation Sales. We are excited to have his broad background and experience on our team!

Welcome to the team, Hollis!

Carrier Management Tips

Congratulations! You have successfully executed your Request for Proposal (RFP) event and contracted all of your new carriers. You have even acquired some pricing locked in for two years. All of your plant locations have routing instructions, and your vendors are onboard with entering your inbound material shipments into your Enterprise Resource Planning’s (ERP) transportation module for automatic carrier selection and tendering.

Your freight is ready to be moved within the model you have set up. You have spent a significant amount of time on network design, planning, procurement, and contracting. Then suddenly, you realize that you did not clearly and formally define expectations for performance, measures, score-carding, communication, performance improvement, and corrective action. How will you control this beast?

First, do some reflection on your business. What value, service, or product are you selling to your clients? Is the nature of your market place and competition dynamic with compressed timelines and high volatility or is it more relaxed with a slow-boat modus operandi? This element and many other business rules will determine how you choose to measure performance and success in your supply chain. Functional areas from Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) integration, freight invoicing, status tracking, timely acceptance of orders and load tenders, and communication of all information related to your supply chain is fair game when considering how to manage relationships with carriers.

The key to keeping a strong and positive relationship with your carrier partners is setting realistic expectations early enough in the procurement process. Make sure to have clear expectations for measurement types and frequency, time period, intent of the program, improvement, and corrective action processes toward mutual benefit. If there is value to the partner beyond retention of your business, you will be much more successful.

Carrier Management