- Food Logistics
- Manufacturing Support Services
Jim Gadziemski, vice president of warehouse operations, was interviewed by Trucks.com regarding futuristic technology in the logistics industry, including driverless trucks and automated loading docks. The author, like many industry experts, believes there is a long way to go in driverless technology, and drivers will never be obsolete.
“…Rather their duties will change as the industry works out man-machine partnerships,” says the author, Erik Sherman.
Beyond robots behind the wheel, new technology in the warehouse has also made conversation. Trucks.com reached out to Gadziesmki for an expert’s opinion on the automatic truck loading systems (ATLS).
The author argues that automation requires predictable loads, which is uncommon in the warehousing business. Similar items can cause confusion on the dock as well.
“I was supposed to get some kind of organic product and they sent me regular product,” said Jim Gadziemski, vice president of warehouse operations at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based logistics and warehousing firm Columbian Logistics Network. “How can a conveyor system notice that?”
In addition to those problems, deliveries won’t be easy either.
Many destinations require the truck driver to unload, Gadziemski said. “He has to have a pallet jack, [a fork lift like tool used to lift and move within a warehouse].”
Just because the truck leaves the loading dock, does not mean that the problems will stop.
“What happens when there’s a mechanical issue?” Gadziemski said. “An air line breaks or a trailer is dirty with some kind of contaminate and you have to reject it. How would [automation] handle those things?”
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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.
Many shippers utilize partner relationships in their supply chains, relying on a network of carriers, storage facilities and technology providers to keep their business moving. Tying all of the disparate services into a cohesive network is costly challenge. Columbian Logistics Network provides a blended solution of transportation and warehousing for it’s customers. “We recently had a warehousing customer who was having a difficult time finding transportation for Midwest shipments. Vetting carriers, negotiating rates, it was draining a lot of their resources. We were able to step in and move product on our trucks, and turning on that service took a fraction of the time because of our pre-existing relationship” Notes Doug Johnson, Vice President at Columbian Logistics Network.
Regional Freight & Blended Solutions
Trucks with the Columbian Logistics name are a common sight on Michigan roads, providing pool distribution throughout the state every day, but Columbian has also operated a fleet of short haul trucks under the name ‘Sprinter Services’ since the mid 80’s. These trucks service routes from the Grand Rapids dispatch center to points within Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. “Our customers prefer working with us because we take the time to learn about their business and provide solutions that support on-time delivery and cost goals. We are more than just shipping from point A to point B” stresses Erick Haskell, General Manager of Transportation.
For customers with national freight needs, the Transportation Management group taps into a deep network of carrier partners to develop custom solutions. “We can leverage our spend to secure competitive rates for our customer, and our team has the industry experience and tools to manage transportation very efficiently” notes Paul Laidler, Director of Logistics Operations. One specific example is shipping status report on all orders, generated for a customer daily. “It’s saved our customer’s Service Reps a lot of time emailing and calling for each update.”
Clean Transportation: Food Safety Specialists
While the Columbian Logistics transportation customer profiles runs the gamut of industries, from automotive parts to paper and packaging, food and beverage manufacturers can find an extra level of security in Columbian’s focus on food safety and security. “Shipping can be an area of high risk with dock delays and dirty trailers. Our warehouses are SQF & AIB certified, and we operate under a HACCP plan. We apply those same principals to our trucks to ensure products are not compromised in transit.” Notes Haskell. A ‘Clean Trailer’ program implemented across the Columbian fleet provides an effective framework for drivers, and is also extended to carrier partners via the Transportation Management Group.
Capacity and Service
Utilizing one partner for warehousing and transportation can save valuable time and money for shippers. You can learn more about our fleet and blended service at www.columbianlogistics.com/transportation or call anytime at 616-514-1904.