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WArEhOuSING, hANdLING & STOrAGE


means a lot of inbound deliveries from suppliers and a two-week order cycle with 150 other suppliers. This can create a lot of admin overhead to manage the purchase orders, ensuring you are buying the right amount of stock without running out or overstocking. We have developed a suite of bespoke stock management tools to


help us automate ordering of products based on patterns, highlighting any anomalies in sales patterns so the purchasing team can react proactively. All purchase orders are managed through the ecommerce platform which gives full visibility of stock movement to finance, management, warehouse and customer service. Stocking in deliveries can often take a long time and creates an


opportunity for data entry mistakes. We have a single click stock- in option, meaning if the delivery matches the PO then we can stock all the items in one go.


sMootHing suppLy cHAin operAtions Optimising supply chain operations allows you to plan for surges in orders ahead of time, as well as establish a strong collaborative relationship with your suppliers to ultimately meet customer demand. Stock takes, stock purchases and sourcing of packaging


supplies have all stretched our existing teams during the last year. Instead of relying on one supplier for a range of products, we often had to buy from three or more suppliers at different times of the month and all with different prices. In order to ensure we always have enough stock to meet demand


and keep our supply chain operations running smoothly, we use proprietary stock movement and monitoring APIs that show us daily and weekly sales per stock keeping unit. The purchasing teams then use these bar charts to see what increases or decreases we are seeing in product sales and buy the correct amounts.


prioritising tHe custoMer experience Whilst warehouse management, supplier concerns and looking after staff are all hugely important components of keeping an ecommerce business afloat and thriving, your business wouldn’t exist without customers. It is crucial to set up systems so that customers can get the information they need and have their questions answered at all points in their purchasing journey. There is nothing worse for a business than to see an influx in sales


for the short-term, but not being able to retain those customers. Our mission during covid has been to ensure that all new customers get to experience the usually high levels of service we provide. This means customers can speak to us via telephone, live chat and email during working hours and orders are dispatched the same day if the order is placed before 7pm. In order to maintain those levels, we had to quickly recruit and train a number of new customer service operatives to bolster our team and continue the high levels of service. Customers are your best marketing asset, especially in an


industry like ours where PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising is prohibited. Our loyal customers referred a lot of their family, friends and colleagues to Vape Club once the stores locked down. The customers knew they could confidently recommend our service as we have looked after our customers for many years.


identifying WHAt WorKs in tHe Long run Some of our changes will remain in place and some will not. For example we will be sticking with the split shifts as this really allows for additional growth in the future, and we will keep the hand sanitising stations as hygiene is always a good thing. But people are social beings, and the physical distancing is both unnatural, and impractical in the long run, so when it is safe to do so we will not continue with the distancing measures. The warehouse layout changes have also been very positive, and although we may not have to stick to the one-way system so rigidly it works well, and will stay in place.


Vape club www.vapeclub.co.uk


for tHe future: BoLstering efficiency


By Kenny Watson, automation sales manager at Linde Material Handling


the pandemic, logistics companies have been impacted by a change in consumer habits and expectations of quicker delivery times. Whilst this can be perceived as a


I


huge transition, modern technology is allowing warehouses across the world to become more efficient than ever – most notably through automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and remotely controlled trucks in the warehouse. So how can logistics companies


take advantage of the latest kit, what are the biggest obstacles that could prevent success and why will those who fail to embrace the change get left behind?


tHe rise of AgVs As more and more companies have discovered, wherever you have repetitive tasks in material handling where a person does not add significant value, automation can radically improve efficiency. No more so is this relevant than when it comes to AGVs, which are already making many warehouse operations more streamlined by fulfilling simple transport from one point to the other at the press of a button, without the need for sophisticated software. AGVs also allow businesses to free


up employees from many menial tasks. This can boost staff development and job satisfaction by removing workers from low-value and repetitive jobs, giving them more time to focus on higher-level tasks. And they help to narrow the margin of human error – a lack of sleep or losing football team will not make a bit of difference to output and performance, which in turn helps to boost efficiency.


striKing tHe rigHt BALAnce Like everything, automation comes with its share of challenges, so a change in mindset is necessary to get the most out of it. Organisations need to be passionate about adopting the technology, and disciplined in their application of it, to make sure it works properly. Automation is not a one-off


t has been a pivotal year of change for the logistics industry. Amidst the huge rise of ecommerce during


purchase, it is a continuous journey and a solution that businesses will depend on. You must embrace it, work with it and manage it to get the best from it. Employees must buy into it too and see it for what it is - a handy tool to free them up from trivial tasks and not a threat to their job security.


BAcK to BAsics: AVoiding doWntiMe in tHe WAreHouse Getting the basics right is essential too. There is still a lot to be said for gold old fashioned methods like warehouse maintenance and operator training. It sounds obvious, but make sure all


your trucks are serviced in line with manufacturer recommendations. The time and cost associated with fixing a truck that’s broken down because of an issue which would have been picked up at a service is much higher than that of the service itself. Also, remember to maintain your warehouse, not just your trucks. Something as simple as a few potholes can cause damage to trucks over time and result in the need for repairs – reducing efficiency. Lastly, invest time in training your


operators in how to operate their specific truck properly. The condition of each individual truck is often directly related to the different operators who use it on a daily basis. Ensuring that operators are well trained and well supervised will increase productivity, reduce downtime and contribute to a safe working environment.


finAL tHougHts The suppliers who find the balance between embracing new technology and still getting the basics right will be the ones equipped for the modern climate. So, developing a clear roadmap needs to be high on the agenda for any company that wants to come out of the pandemic thriving. Those who do not will struggle to


keep up with the demands being placed on them by consumers who are more impatient now than ever before. www.linde-mh.com/en/


A WAreHouse fit


FACTOrY&hANdLINGSOLuTIONS | JuNE 2021 15


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