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Improving Warehouse Operations AND Inventory Control

    An 8-location distributor of electrical supplies, was using bar code scanning in its central distribution center, but was experiencing problems with accuracy and excessive peak activity. We studied the CDC organization and operations, and recommended low-cost changes that reduced the excess peak activity and increased accuracy of shipments to the branches.

     A multi-location distributor of electrical supplies  was using bar code scanning for almost all warehouse activities, but not achieving the desired picking rate, and too much time was spent labeling outbound cartons. Our recommendations for scheduling picking and for printing labels were so precise that they were implemented without an implementation plan, because the client would eliminate overtime and likely reduce staffing in the warehouse.

    A distributor of electrical supplies  was using RF for receiving, put away and storage-location transfer, but warehouse employess were still making many mistakes, and executive managers were concerned that the imminent use of RF for picking would not reduce the level of mistakes. Our recommendations were so helpful that they started implementing some even before starting to create the preliminary implementation plan. The level of mistakes immediately decreased.

    A 2-location janitorial and sanitary supplies, and foodservice disposables that is using RF for picking (as well as receiving and put away) was still making many picking mistakes. We studied the warehouse operations and recommended many changes to reduce the level of picking mistakes. After the action plan was implemented, the level of mistakes decreased significantly.

    A distributor of metal cutting tools and abrasives was planning to move to a new warehouse, and set up bar code reading in advance of the move. But they didn't know how to lay out the shelving or what procedures/controls to use to effectively utilize bar code scanning. We recommended procedures and controls to minimize mistakes even with bar code reading; and recommended ways to use bar code reading more effectively. A colleague created a layout for the new warehouse.

    A distributor of coated and uncoated tapes was going to buy a bar code reading system, but wasn't sure how to arrange the warehouse so that both accuracy and productivity would increase. We developed a detailed plan to prepare for, install and use bar code reading to prevent mistakes. And developed a storage-location numbering scheme, and a plan for printing and scanning location-ID bar code labels (so that the locations of each SKU would be known precisely). To paraphrase the president, “Your fee saved us several times that amount.”

    A 17-location distributor of electrical supplies had opened a new central distribution facility to mainly serve customers (and replenish branches), but due to rapid continued growth, the level of staffing had increased too much, and items were getting "lost." We studied the layout, operations and delivery logistics of the facility, and recommended changes to dramatically reduce staffing, wasted time and operating costs. And we conducted a feasibility/justification study for  WMS, Pick To Light (PTL) and Voice Directed Picking (VDP). Then we developed an RFP for the WMS, evaluated responses to the RFP, conducted demos of four systems, identified the most cost-effective WMS, created a contract for the WMS and for the PTL, and negotiated the WMS contract. The WMS enabled the facility to reduce head count by 20%

    A two-location distributor of electrical supplies was having problems in the main warehouse and counter. We used a proprietary Quality Methods checklist to find the root causes of the problems, and recommended 28 changes for preventing mistakes and for improving productivity. Then worked with the owner to create an Action Plan for Immediate Actions.

    The executive vice president of a distributor of paper, packaging, jan-san and foodservice disposables had tried for quite a while to reduce the level of errors being made in the warehouse. In just one day we identified 12 reasons that errors were occurring, and recommended quick, inexpensive changes that dramatically reduced the level of errors.

     The owner of a 4-location distributor of specialized fasteners and other items for construction, industrial and MRO use was concerned that there was not enough space to accommodate growth, and that productivity was low. We evaluated the organization and operations of their main warehouse (which mainly serves customers, but also the branches), and made more than two dozen recommendations to improve productivity and provide space for more product. Except for a faster turntable for shrink-wrapping pallets, we showed how to increase productivity and space without the capital investments that people thought were needed. Within two weeks of getting our recommendations, employees had started implementing some of the major Immediate Action recommendations – even before an Action Plan was developed.

    The owner of a 2-location distributorship of residential and commercial lighting, with showrooms, wanted to implement a bar coding system for printing labels and reading code numbers, but didn't have the staff-knowledge or time to do it. We developed a multi-phase plan for implementing bar coding in steps, helped determine the type and brand of equipment, and monitored the installation, testing and phase 1 use of the equipment.

    A wholesaler of seasonal recreational consumer products to independent retailers was experiencing an unacceptably high level of warehouse mistakes. We studied the warehouse arrangement and operations, developed many recommendations for preventing mistakes, and an Action Plan -- which resulted in only one mistake during the entire month following implementation of the first recommendation.

    An importer that wholesales decorative products to chain retailers was not sure if the levels of warehouse accuracy and productivity were high enough, and if not, whether automation would increase the levels. We studied the warehouse organization and operations, and determined that both levels were so high that automation would not be cost-effective. But, we made recommendations for loading pallets differently in order to prevent damage to products (which was too high) and prevent injuries to personnel.

    A world-wide manufacturer of solder and chemicals was having problems with the timeliness and quality of product line that was critical to the future of the company. We recommended changes in production methods and process, the organizational structure, and production planning and control. The changes resolved the problems. A few years later, the president asked us to determine how the company could, without increasing cost, drastically reduce lead times so they could charge extra for rush orders. They implemented our recommendations for reconfiguring machinery, changing set-up procedures and procedures for operating machines, and changing procedures for shipping.

    The main plant of a 7-plant molder of plastic packaging components and products was experiencing problems shipping accurately and on time. We conducted a study of product and information flow, and made several recommendations: an expanded stocking program; timelier reporting of scrap; using bar code scanning at additional steps; storing products in a way that reduces damage; not printing a pick ticket until it is time to pick (and so avoid losing pick tickets).

    An 11-location distributor of paper, janitorial/sanitary supplies, foodservice equipment and disposables was suffering from too many stock outs and too much inventory. We studied the way they purchased and managed inventory, and then showed buyers and product managers how to use their system in different ways to increase the level of customer service while decreasing the level of inventory. We then trained people in the new ways of inventory management, and developed a plan to make the purchasing process much faster and efficient.

    A four-location distributor of wood, wood products and other materials to cabinet and furniture manufacturers was suffering from too many stock outs and too much inventory. We showed the buyers how to use their system in different ways to increase the level of customer service while decreasing the level of inventory.

    Employees of a multi-location distributor of foodservice equipment and supplies were unable to use a complicated, sophisticated ERP system to effectively manage inventory -- too many stock outs, even though the level of inventory was too high. We carefully studied the system, and determined which parameters needed to be changed, and the values to use. We also created and gave a presentation explaining the impact of the situation, and describing where and how to make the changes. And we defined some new reports and displays that would reduce the time needed to buy product.

     Employees of a multi-location distributor of woodworker supplies were unable to use a complicated, sophisticated ERP system to effectively manage inventory -- too many stock outs, even though the level of inventory was too high. We carefully studied the system, and determined which parameters needed to be changed, and the values to use. We also created a lengthy manual for purchasing personnel to use for properly using the system.

    A distributor of commercial and residential lighting, including a showroom, was not happy that customers were calling to tell him that wrong products were being delivered.  I conducted a detailed study of the eight warehouses, to improve inventory accuracy and customer service, and made 16 recommendations to reduce the rate of mistakes in the warehouses.