May 10, 2016
Column | big picture

Some guidance needed

In supply chain, a little direction can go a long way.

By David Maloney

It seems like everywhere you look this time of year, the orange barrels are out in full force. It is construction season, and if you live in the Northeast as I do, that means it is a season that lasts about eight months of the year. The roads in my home state of Pennsylvania seem to be under a continuous state of repair. And here in Pittsburgh, a major pastime is trying to find a way around road and tunnel closures that seem to happen every weekend.

While traveling the other day on another alternative route to avoid a construction mess, I was reminded what a wonderful invention GPS is. Who would have dreamed even a decade ago what this technology would mean to our traveling lives? We no longer need to carry paper maps in our vehicles, not to mention struggle to try to find anything on rental car maps. I wonder if reading a map has even become a lost art.

That recollection also reminded me how important a little guidance is in life, especially as it pertains to our supply chain operations. Today's innovative software systems have the ability to produce data that can be crucial for guiding our supply chain journeys.

There are systems now that track the movement of products at every step along the way. We have software that can measure productivity and help to manage labor in our warehouses and DCs. We have solutions that provide point-of-sale data to guide demand planning and forecasting. We have software that determines the optimal route a delivery driver should take.

As our annual metrics study shows, companies use these available tools to provide insight into their operations, which results in more effective supply chains. For example, some of the most commonly used metrics can directly affect key management areas.

By measuring on-time shipments and order cycle times, distributors have the tools they need to fine-tune the customer experience. Looking at annual work force turnover can reveal whether they have an environment that is one in which workers want to carve out careers. Financials can be affected by measuring distribution costs as a percentage of sales and how much inventory is on hand. Operations can be improved by knowing how much of the average warehouse capacity is used, what the dock-to-stock cycle times are, order picking accuracy rates, fill rates, and how many lines are picked and shipped each day.

Check out this month's infographic to see how metrics can improve your own operations. And go to werc.org to download the full report on the annual metrics study.

A little guidance can go a long way, whether in the car or in managing complex supply chain operations.

About the Author

David Maloney
Chief Editor
David Maloney has been a journalist for more than 30 years and has been with DC VELOCITY since April of 2004. Prior to joining DCV, David was senior editor for Modern Materials Handling, where he reported extensively on distribution and supply chain operations. David also has extensive experience as a broadcast journalist. Before writing for supply chain publications, he was a journalist, television producer and director in Pittsburgh. David combines a background of reporting on logistics with his video production experience to bring new opportunities to DC VELOCITY readers, including Web-based videos highlighting top distribution and logistics facilities, Webcasts and other cross-media projects. He also is the host and producer/director of Move It!, DC VELOCITY's online program that explains "how the stuff we use everyday gets to us." David continues to live and work in the Pittsburgh area.

More articles by David Maloney

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