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Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with Martin Hiscox (pictured), managing director and president international at RedPrairie, about how state-of-the-art WMS and supply chain solution functionality is not only facilitating enhanced efficiency in the workplace but also greater fairness and understanding in the working environment. 

It is well recognised that one of the most expensive parts of any operation is its workforce. Therefore, ensuring the efficient use of people within an organisation is of paramount importance in order to ensure greater employee efficiency and value. However, in many work environments, optimum efficiency and fairness in judging work performance is found wanting. For example, a person doing 30 picks may be just as efficient as a person doing 60 picks because the actual time and effort allocated to do the 30 picks is more complex and time-consuming. So, how can a more accurate assessment of workload be determined? Martin Hiscox points out that RedPrairie has introduced a Preferred Methods product set to create the best optimal use of people within the distribution centre. Weve all heard the old adage you cant manage what you cant measure, and what this particular piece of our WMS software does is help companies to manage the activities of individual people and, moreover, help and coach those people in using the documented preferred methods, said Hiscox. In doing this, a company can quite dramatically improve the overall performance of its day-to-day operations.

Level playing field

Hiscox added that, in essence, Preferred Methods helps companies determine the best ways to do things. It makes organisations work hard to evaluate the best ways for their businesses to run, then measure the people that are performing these activities against these referred methods, he said. We have been doing this with John Lewis, Oxford University Press and other retailers, and although youd half expect the union to come along and say thats not fair we dont want our members to be measured and so on, actually, its quite the contrary. What most unions want to see is complete fairness, and everyone knows that in any distribution environment there are supervisors that will have their favourites, and there will be work patterns that are simpler than others. What Preferred Methods does is look to equalise this, such that each physical activity thats performed by individuals has a time set against it. This piece of software creates a fair balance and fair method of evaluating what should have been done, and thats what the unions think is appropriate. Its fair, its reasonable, people are actually being measured for the real things theyre doing rather than on suppositions.

Transport system and WMS integration

Another area where Hiscox is finding people working beneficially with new functionality is the integration of their transport systems into the WMS. For example, some companies dont have their own fleet vehicles and therefore need to determine what sort of carrier they should select to ship a particular product, explained Hiscox. This where the Internet has become extremely important, because there are two ways of doing things here. On the one hand, you can commercially evaluate a good rate and then create a relationship with that one provider youve chosen to do business with. On the other hand, you can do what you do when you select a telephone or gas supplier; namely put your service requirement out to bid. If you wish to go down the latter route, what you need to be able to do is use software that allows you to do this simply, economically, quickly and with the right level of quality and standards that actually mean you meet up to your customers expectations. Again, this is a very interesting way of using new technology.

Evaluation

According to Hiscox, another current hot topic is how to determine the best method of getting products from A to B. One has to consider the cost of fuel, difficulty of transportation, the high growth in the Eastern markets, and the creation of large internal capacities for consumption rather than the need to export. The issue here is: how do you use transport management solutions to be able to evaluate where the best places to manufacturer are and then how to ship it effectively? Also, what are the cost demands associated with this, whats the margin youre making on a product versus the cost of transportation and the timeliness to market? The best transport management systems can help organisations in this evaluation process, providing data to enable them to make informed decisions, and then managing the resources and assets of the company. The software functionality is available now to aid organisations in this type of evaluation process.

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