Making the case for warehouse consultants

The Takeaway

I Benefits for logistics managers, CFOs, and COOs all lead to safer workplaces, lower costs, and happier customers.

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The Details

It’s clear that all operations can benefit by utilizing an outside warehouse consultant:

Benefits for logistics/operations managers:

Better asset utilization, a safer workplace, and satisfied customers are just a few of the key benefits that logistics and operations managers will reap from an outside warehouse consultation. "The fewer assets you use to implement your warehouse strategy, the more efficient you can be," says Steve Lowe, vice president of sales and marketing at Allied Toyota Lift. "Trying to do this on a piecemeal basis just doesn’t work because you wind up using business assets inefficiently across the board."

In some cases, those "piecemeal" attempts can hurt a company’s overall profitability and, in turn, make the logistics manager’s job harder than ever. Having a second set of eyes that’s looking "in from the outside" can help those professionals detect issues they may not have even noticed, and make the changes needed to improve profits and profit margins and take better care of customers.

"Remember that in the end," says Eddie McLendon, warehouse products territory manager for Toyota Material Handling, "this is really all about taking better care of your customers."

Benefits for the CFO:

Charged with overseeing a company’s financial activities and operations, CFOs help operations address their short-term needs and day-to-day activities while also helping them to take a look at the "big picture" and future opportunities. Operating with such broad-reaching responsibilities, CFOs tend to quickly understand the value that warehouse consultants bring to the table.

"Most CFOs understand that sometimes you have to invest some money in order to attain better profits," says Lowe, adding that they also understand that improved productivity and better utilization of labor all contribute to a healthier bottom line. "In some cases, productivity gains can be made by simply switching from regular racking to push-pallet racking, or by using order pickers instead of manually moving pallets up and down every time you need something," says Lowe. "These seemingly simple moves can help improve the balance sheet significantly."

A warehouse consultant can also help CFOs better grasp the total cost of ownership (TCO) picture that cost-conscious procurement professionals may overlook. McLendon, for example, has 15 years of experience as a project engineer who helped evaluate and purchase material handling equipment. "I’ve been on both sides of the table," he says, "and in my past life certainly came to appreciate the consultants who could bring the latest solutions and ideas along with the best products."

Benefits for the COO:

In charge of a company’s overall operations, the COO can always benefit from a "second set of eyes" detecting problems, offering suggestions, and implementing solutions. As the ultimate determiner of customer satisfaction, the fulfillment process is one area where COOs spend their time trying to figure out how to do more with less—particularly on the labor front. "Human resources are very expensive," says Lowe. "When we can get in there early and mechanize or automate certain aspects of the operation while also implementing more efficient processes, we can help COOs achieve their goals."

Lowe says that having an outside set of eyes on their side—and one that works across various industries—also helps COOs utilize benchmarks and metrics that they not have previously considered. This is particularly relevant for leaders who operate from a 30,000-foot-view of the entire operation—versus just a single department.

"An outside warehouse consultant delivers a level of credibility and experience that really can’t be quantified in dollars and cents," says Lowe, "but that’s definitely worth something in today’s competitive business environment."