A Moment of Perspective

vietnam_war_endsOn this date in 1973, peace accords were signed in Paris by North and South Vietnam, the United States, and the National Liberation Front. This ended the United States combat role in an undeclared war which had involved Americans since the defeated French had left under terms of the Geneva Accords of 1954. The longest war in United States history had come to an end.

On the same date in 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded. 132 years before, Mozart was born.

Ideas of Success

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How can they say my life isn’t a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten? —Logan Pearsall Smith

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. —Henry David Thoreau

Success has made failures of many men. —Cindy Adams

Success is a journey, not a destination. —Ben Sweetland

Success is counted sweetest/By those who ne’er succeed. —Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes. —Aubrey Menen

There is only one success—to be able to spend your life in your own way. —Christopher Morley

The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success. —Irving Berlin

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Recording History

Many times organizations like to take a moment to remember their individual histories, usually by some grand gesture that will benefit posterity. We can only hope that those who do have a bit more luck than the following nine examples of time capsules:

Bicentennial Wagon Train Time Capsule
A capsule containing the signatures of 22 million Americans. President Gerald Ford arrived for the sealing ceremonies at Valley Forge on July 4, 1976, but someone had stolen the capsule.

The M.I.T. Cyclotron Time Capsule
In 1939, a group of M.I.T. Engineers placed a brass capsule beneath an 18-ton magnet in a new cyclotron, to be opened in 50 years. In 1989, no one remembered it was there. The cyclotron has long since been deactivated. Will M.I.T. move the 36,000-pound lid and find the capsule?

The Most Forgetful Town
Corona, California — has lost track of 17 different capsules, dating back to the 1930s. “We just tore up a lot of concrete around the civic center,” said the chairman of the town’s centennial committee in 1986.

The M*A*S*H Time Capsule
In 1983, the cast of the TV show buried props and costumes somewhere in the Hollywood parking lot of 20th Century Fox.

The United States Capitol’s Cornerstone
In 1793, President George Washington officiated at a Masonic ritual in which a memorabilia-filled cornerstone was laid for the original U.S. Capitol. Over the years, the Capitol has undergone extensive expansion, but the original cornerstone has not been located.

The Gramophone Company’s original sound recordings
In 1906, precious master-pressings of opera star Nellie Melba (of toast fame) and others were deposited behind the foundation stone of the new Gramophone factory (later HMV, then EMI). The container was removed in the 1960s, but someone ran off with it before it could be reburied.

The Washington Centennial
The State of Washington celebrated its territorial centennial in 1953 by burying a two-ton time capsule near the state capitol in Olympia. The legislature did not approve funds to mark the spot, and the capsule was lost until 1959. A supplementary time capsule may have been interred beside the primary one or maybe lurking in a closet at the capitol.

The Blackpool Tower Cornerstone
In Blackpool, Lancashire, England, a cornerstone was interred with great ceremony in the late 19th century. When a search was organized recently, fancy sensing equipment could not locate it, nor could clairvoyants called to the scene.

Lyndon, Vermont
Citizens of Lydon filled an iron box with proceedings of the town’s centennial celebration in 1891, to be opened in 100 years. In 1991, citizens looked high and low but could not find the box. The burying ceremony may have been canceled because of rain.

Optimize Your Time at Work

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Between constant meetings, phone calls and emails, staying productive at work can be a challenge. However, the odds of staying productive can be greatly improved by taking some simple steps to lighten your workload. Adam Gurian, president of Timex, offers the following tips for workers to make the most of their time at work:

Act immediately on phone messages—If you can accomplish a task in just a few minutes, do it. It is one less thing on your to do list and you will have that immediate sense of accomplishment. If you let too many small activities pile up, you will be playing catch up the rest of the day.

Don’t let email take over your day— We are all so accustomed to email that as soon as we see a new email in our inbox we instinctively click it on, respond and focus on the content of the email. These seemingly tiny activities during the day can quickly add up to large amounts of time that not only cause your day to slip away but also distract you from completing your current task. If you are focused on a project, tell yourself that you will not check your email for a set amount of time, so that you get through your activity.

Don’t sit at your desk all day—It is important to get up, walk around the office and take a few minutes for a ‘mental break.’ These short breaks will reinvigorate you and help you be more productive in the long term.

Don’t take advantage of FaceBook in the office—Social media is a part of all of our daily lives. However, to save time you must have the discipline to not spend large parts of your day seeing what your friends thought of the latest movie release or what they had for dinner last night. Many companies are moving towards banning FaceBook in the office, as it is becoming a drain on the workday. If you are allowed on FaceBook during the day, be sure to use it as a ‘break’ for just a few minutes, because if it becomes a regular habit, it can easily take over your day and impact the work needed to get done.

Get a head-start on tomorrow by preparing before you leave the office today –The simple task of writing a to-do list is one of the most efficient ways of keeping track of your daily work requirements. By writing out a list for tomorrow before you leave the office at night, you will have an immediate head-start on your next day and be ready for your new priorities.

Learn to say no –While everyone wants to be a good team player at work, saying no is sometimes the right thing to do. If you are not the best person for an activity, or if you have other pending deadlines, it is OK to turn down a project. However, it is always beneficial to have an alternate solution or suggestion, so that your co-workers have a clear vision of what they will need to do to help move their projects forward.

Organize your tasks—By arranging your workday so that you tackle your most important priorities together, you will save time, be more efficient and ultimately produce higher quality work. In addition, by starting your day with the most important task, you will increase your productivity and get your day off to a good start.

Stand up for your phone calls—It is amazing that the simple act of standing during a phone call will actually help shorten the call, thus saving you time. If you are standing you are less likely to be involved in idle chatting and you will get to the point of the conversation faster.

Stick to a schedule –If a meeting is scheduled for an hour, do everything possible to keep it to an hour. Once meetings start running long, it directly impacts the rest of your schedule for the day, while also impacting your co-workers. A series of meetings that run long will have a snowball effect throughout the day. Also, if you are not required to be at a meeting and you have a more pressing deadline, do not feel guilty about missing the meeting.

Use technology—There are amazing tools that you can use in the office to make you more productive and ultimately save time during the workday. Use GoogleDocs to collaborate with colleagues on documents. Use calendar planning tools to sync up your schedules with colleagues. Use Skype for video conferencing so that you can potentially reduce the need to travel for meetings. Also, work with your IT team to see if they have suggestions on which new technologies can be used to save time. They can be a tremendous resource not only to you but to the entire organization.

10 Easy Steps To Profitable Warehouse Efficiency

Busy warehouseHaving grown up in a construction supply house, I spent countless hours observing the good, the bad and the ugly of warehouse management. I am probably the only person you have ever met who has vacuumed warehouse shelves. Seasonal changes and the erratic demand of the contracting business make maintaining the warehouse a never ending battle. Here are a few tips that I have found useful over the years.

Clean the Place
It is amazing what you will find in the warehouse when you just clean it on a weekly basis. Mystery inventory such as: returned goods, damaged goods and special buy outs won’t have any place to hide. Beyond the ability to move more quickly in the facility, your team will begin to develop a greater sense of pride in their workplace. Remember, this is the place where all your cash is stored. We want to develop a team that protects your cash from the outside threats – salespeople, truck drivers, and manufacturer reps.

Give the Warehouse Personnel an Identity
These are the folks who work with your cash all day. Give them shirts that say “Vault Security Team” or “Vault Management Team”. This does a couple of things. First, it reminds them that inventory has value. Second, it helps identify those people who belong in the warehouse. A key element in keeping a secure warehouse is to eliminate those folks who have no business in there.

Increase the Size of the Receiving Area
When most people are designing their warehouse, they tend to cram as many racks of inventory into the possible space. As an afterthought, they usually carve out enough room for a little desk by the dock door, run a terminal to it and call it the receiving department. Here is the problem. Most inventory errors start in receiving. If you make a mistake here, 10 additional problems will occur in the company. Start by giving them adequate room to work. You will see your inventory adjustments decrease immediately.

Put Senior People in Receiving
Why do we always put rookies in receiving? As I mentioned earlier, mistakes in receiving cause multiple headaches down the line. We need to make sure that we get it right coming in the door. Pay your receiving clerks well. Encourage them to stay in this position. Remember you will always have more product coming IN than going out. Receiving is your one place to get it right the first time so you do not have to redo orders later because of receiving errors.

Create Signage in the Warehouse
Don’t assume that your newer employees can navigate your aisles. Help them out. Create colorful signs to direct them to aisles or bins. Warehouse maps are a great way to increase productivity immediately. Clearly label landmarks. Try this exercise. Ask a friend to come into your warehouse and pick an order. If your warehouse is set up correctly, they should achieve a high success rate without asking questions on every line. It needs to be that easy.

Add Lines of Description to Pick Tickets
Most item databases will allow you to add multiple lines of description to any SKU in the system. Use them. Increase the order picker’s chance of pulling the right product. Put in physical descriptions like “the blue one” or “two wheel”. This is very critical when you are talking about minimum quantities. Let them know that an “each” is always the pair in the pack, not one of the two. This simple suggestion will help you eliminate future dead stock. Don’t worry about killing a few extra trees. They grow back.

Double Check Orders Before They Go Out the Door
A really bad motto in a distribution company is “We fix our mistakes faster than anyone else in the business.” For the typical distributor, the cost to process an order is around $45. It costs an additional $100 to send it out the second time. None of us have enough margin to absorb this cost on a regular basis. In order to get it right the first time, install a method of double checking by one of your seasoned veterans. This is especially important if you have several new people picking orders.

Create Color Coded Delivery Labels
In order to make it easier for your delivery folks, develop a custom colored label for your most valuable customers. Make sure that every package you deliver to them has that label. Your drivers will be able to quickly identify their orders. You don’t want to make mistakes on these orders.

Implement “Day’s Work in a Day” Discipline
This concept simply states, “What is started today must be completed today.” If you receive it, it must be put away. If an order is put in the system and a pick ticket printed, it must be picked and shipped or staged. In order to make this happen, we need to create cut off times. Order processing must end at a defined time. We need to give the warehouse a chance to finish off the day.

Implement Cycle Counting
Most of us know what it is. Some of us recognize the benefits. Few of us have made it part of our standard operating procedures. Cycle counting will increase the accuracy in your systems. By examining the inventory daily, you will find those mystery items that have found their way to the shelves. You can correct items that have been put in the wrong place. You can rotate stock. The list can go on indefinitely. Cycle counting is penicillin for distributors because it attacks so many little problems and solves them on a timely basis.

Good customer service begins in the warehouse. Sloppy procedures and a disorganized warehouse show much further than the confines of your four walls.

by Jason Bader

Getting It Right

When the new year  rolls around it always seems to come upon us quickly but always brings with it a sense of renewal and excitement. When companies want to implement — or renovate –their inventory systems, they need a plan to set them on the right path for their type of stock. I often find that no matter whether a company stores its stock in one location or has vendors who stock the materials in an array of locations and then deliver to the customer from the nearest one, with a sound and easily-maintainable plan in place, offsite storage and management could be a disaster.

simms_stock managementClick here for more information about the best inventory management software in the world today…

Types of Inventory

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There are three basic types of inventory:

1. Raw Materials—raw materials inventory is made up of
goods that will be used in the production of finished products,
e.g., nuts, bolts, flour, sugar.

2. Work in Process —work in process inventory, or WIP,
consists of materials entered into the production process but not
yet completed, e.g.,  subassemblies.

3. Finished Goods—finished goods inventory includes
completed products waiting to be sold, e.g., bar stools, bread,
cookies.

Most inventory fits into one of these general buckets, yet
the amount of each category varies greatly depending on the
specifics of your industry and business. For example, the types
of inventory found in distribution environments are fundamentally different from those found in manufacturing environments.

Distribution businesses tend to carry mostly finished goods for
resale while manufacturing companies tend to have less finished
goods and more raw materials and work in progress. Given
these differences, it is natural that the accounting choices vary
between distribution and manufacturing settings.

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