It’s Time for a Fresh Set of Eyes

The Takeaway

Material handling warehouse consultants can help get more stuff into confined spaces, making your next-day order more attainable to fulfill

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The Details

E-commerce, omni-channel, the Amazon Effect, and myriad other outside forces are changing the way companies approach distribution and fulfillment. Those that stick to their age-old ways of doing things are finding themselves left behind, while those that take the time to explore and implement new solutions to new problems are staying ahead of the pack.

Some of the key points that Eddie McLendon, warehouse products territory manager for Toyota Material Handling, is often asked to address include the need to "get more stuff into confined spaces," make better use of vertical space, improve forklift efficiency, and improve overall customer service. All roads lead to the latter, he says, as customers come to expect their next-day order delivered to the right place at the right time and in the right condition.

To make that happen, companies have to be able to make the most of their warehouses and DCs—a goal that isn’t always easy to attain through an internal review or by approaching the problem on a "piecemeal" basis. For that reason, Steve Lowe, VP of sales and marketing at Allied Toyota Lift, says operations should involve an outside consultant into the process sooner rather than later.

"When we are involved from the beginning, we can help you select the safest, most productive material handling equipment and put it into commission," says Lowe, "and impact the total throughput of the product—from the point of creation to the point where the customer has it in his or her home or business. We can be involved in all of that."

While warehouse consultants can work with companies of all sizes and across all industries, they tend to provide the biggest value for small to mid-sized firms that lack the manpower and in-house expertise needed to conduct a full site survey, develop a plan of action, and then implement that plan across one or more warehouses or DCs.

"A smaller company that’s importing car bumpers from China and doing about $1.5 million in sales probably lacks the core competencies to tackle this on its own," says Lowe. This dearth of internal expertise usually drives shippers to continue addressing fulfillment and distribution the way they always have: the old-fashioned way.

This can lead to problems down the road and an inability to keep up with and/or stay ahead of customer demands and trends like omni-channel.

Using a thorough site survey, valid recommendations, and actionable implementation steps, a warehouse consultant can help shippers break through these barriers while also improving profits, reducing accidents, and optimizing assets. "Before you start putting your money into new or upgraded processes, talk to your customers about what they want," says Lowe, "and then consider the benefits that a fresh set of eyes and outside expertise can deliver."