Modern Materials Handling article by Bob Trebilcock is good round up of the supply chain industry’s response to Covid-19 amid a lack of concrete guidelines.
As the economy begins to recover, distribution center operators will be challenged with not just operating efficiently, but safely. Emerging technologies may aid in the effort.
“Our industry has always looked for solutions to operate in an efficient and cost-effective way; now, it will also struggle with new issues related to preventing the spread of a virus—either Covid-19, or whatever is around the bend. They will largely be on their own: As of this writing, the CDC guidelines for re-opening businesses were polite suggestions, not prescriptions. What’s more, while we know lawsuits will be filed by employees who test positive for the virus after we all return to work, we don’t yet know whether those claims will be governed by OSHA and worker compensation or the courts. The message is essentially:
Get back to work, and good luck.
If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that some potential solutions are coming to market from materials handling technology providers. Make no mistake: This is an emerging area, and there’s no guarantee any of these solutions will create the bullet-proof, safe operating environment we will all strive for. Nor is this a comprehensive list: New emails are showing up in our inbox daily. But, the following companies are developing solutions for plants and DCs around screening, workplace social distancing and finally, contact tracing should an associate test positive. They, or their competitors, may be worth investigating as you look to create your own safe working environment.”
A first step to a safer workplace is to create basic processes around cleaning, disinfecting, scheduling and, perhaps most importantly, what to do if an associate tests positive. Michael Wohlwend, managing principal with Alpine Supply Chain Solutions, relates the story of a client who had to shut down a warehouse for two weeks following a positive Covid case. “While they were cleaning and sanitizing the facility, every team leader was on the phone with suggestions for new procedures that would give the team the confidence to come back to work,” Wohlwend recalls. “It was a real wake up call.”
Just as important as the new procedures, which might vary from one facility to the next, is the ability to enforce them and demonstrate that they were followed if needed. To that end, Alpine worked with Procurant, a California-based technology company, to develop a phone app for auditing workplace procedures. It is created on a Cloud-based food safety tool that Procurant developed for tracking and tracing in the agricultural supply chain.
“You can set up as many checklists as you need, and then create a time stamp when tasks are completed,” Wohlwend says. “At the end of the day, you can create reports of what was done, who did it, when they did it and any corrective actions that were taken.” Training videos can be accessed using the tool for easy access, and alerts can be e-mailed or texted to individuals who need to be contacted. “If a person tests positive, you now have a checklist of what you need to do, and you can produce an audit trail of what was done,” Wohlwend says.
About Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling.
We are proud to welcome Jim Chamberlain to the Alpine team! Jim has over 30 years of engineering experience in distribution and the supply chain. He spent 24 years with DSC Logistics where he led teams that provided innovative solutions for Fortune 500 companies. As a Managing Director, he will focus on layout design, start-up support, innovation, value added services, engineered labor standards, labor management, Continual Improvement (Lean & Six-Sigma), material handling management, and operations excellence.
We are excited to have Jim as part of the leadership team at Alpine Supply Chain! His passion and experience is exactly what Alpine customers have grown to expect, “I am excited to be with a team that is so passionate about working with customers to improve their supply chain operations,” said Jim. “Being with Alpine is like being part of a family – we work together, collaborate, and care about each other personally and professionally. I think this spirit is noticed by our customers and makes a difference in the solutions we create with them.”
- Has led over 50 successful labor management implementations that reduced each customer’s variable labor expense by an average of 20+%
- Develops enhancements to WMS on an on-going basis to drive costs out of supply chain for existing and new customers. Examples include Directed Putaway, Directed Replenishment, Accu-Pick, Pick & Load Optimization, Metrics, Voice Pick
- Implements web-based Material Handling Equipment programs that significantly reduced spend by analyzing and acting on intelligence information related to lift trucks, batteries, chargers
- Focuses on best practices within logistics centers to ensure consistent, high performance across entire network regardless of business vertical and consignee special requirements
- Has led team of packaging engineers that focused on low-cost manual and automated product transformation projects that allow customers to differentiate their merchandise within retail stores
Industry Organizations and Associations:
- Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
- Warehouse Education and Research Council
- Institute of Industrial Engineers
- MTM Association, Board of Directors
- JDA, Warehouse Labor Management Special Interest Group Chair
Alpine Supply Chain has recently been certified by three different Goods-to-Person Technology Providers: @Opex “Perfect Pick,” @GreyOrange “Ranger” and @Slate River Systems Integrators “RAFT” solutions. Goods-to-Person technology has gotten quite a bit of buzz lately, and rightfully so. With the rise of e-commerce, the volume and mix of orders increases pressure to store, pick and deliver goods in a faster and more efficient manner.
If you are challenged with what items to designate and at what velocity, Alpine can identify the items that will work best in different Goods-to-Person Technology options, and will develop an estimate for assessing the potential ROI for the investment.
How it works:
“The goods-to-person concept is simple: incoming goods are removed from pallets, either manually or automatically. The cartons and/or pieces are then placed into totes (smaller goods) or into trays (larger goods), and stored in high-density automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), carousels or robotic systems. As orders are required to be fulfilled SKUs are automatically retrieved from storage and brought to the picker, either at a pick station where the operator picks into an order container or to an ergonomic palletizing station where items are placed on a pallet. Since the picker does not have to walk, the focus at the pick stations and pack stations is on ergonomics and high productivity.” – Material, Handling, & Logistics
Are you concerned with attracting, hiring and retaining top talent to meet the current and future demands of your business? Are you having issues developing or understanding your current staffing metrics? Alpine is now offering HR consulting services to help your company.
Alpine is now offering HR consulting services to optimize your warehouse staffing, including employee relations, performance management, compliance, payroll, training and development, restructuring, workforce planning and change management. Our resident expert, Brenda Stoltz
, brings a deep operational leadership background, including her most recent role heading up HR at Target Distribution.
is a Human Resources Leader and an experienced Operations Manager instilled with the practical knowledge of strategic leadership and management. She holds a strong sense of business objectives and strives to develop a positive culture that promotes constructive growth. As a dynamic leader with robust interpersonal skills, she holds experience in leading highly proficient teams comprising of HR Specialists, HR Business Partners, and operations managers.
Brenda aims to develop a healthy workspace environment that nurtures new talent and helps operational partners meet their goals. Ensuring high-end compliance and execution of work responsibilities, she excels in the areas of staffing, employee relations, performance management, payroll/compliance, and development, organizational restructuring, workforce planning, and change management.
Brenda’s greatest source of inspiration comes from witnessing the growth and development of team members & operations partners. She admires working with others and helping them identify, analyze, and solve complex business issues through strategic leadership and teamwork. Besides this, she is an outdoor enthusiast who loves spending time in the company of her husband and two wonderful toddler boys.
Let us know if we can perform an HR solutions best practices assessment for your company.