Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Children are often our Greatest Teachers.

Yesterday my five-year-old granddaughter Jessalyn said: “Papa, come sit by me and talk.” Got me thinking it did.

My four grandchildren (3, 4, 5, and 6 years old) all have iPads and they know how to use them. The thing is that Jessalyn understands what she needs. The girl is a whole lot smarter than me.

Clearly the social boom has impacted all of us in one way or another and even though I have a substantial technology background, I’ve always enjoyed face-to-face problem solving and human conversation. That will never change. It’s part of my makeup.

However, just like the information highway has enabled everyone to connect in ways we never imagined possible, the social network does allow certain opportunities.

I think that in many ways technology has enabled us, but in other ways it has caused us to go against our very being.

While technology changes daily, our DNA as humans has never really changed. We’ve just masked those very social needs we all really want and must have—human interaction. We just can’t change our makeup. 

I’m smart enough to know what works best for me and I apply balance in all of this. I still enjoy dinner with friends and the conversation—and not staring into my iPhone. 

How about you? Are you in control or does the technology control you?

As it was once said: “To everything there is a season.”

 

 

 

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Things can get so mixed up!

                                INVENTORY MANAGEMENT AND THE CREDIT LINE

A friend of mine—we’ll call him Walter—owns a fairly large business. We were talking the other day and he said, “Dan, my business is growing so I went to the bank to increase my line of credit. I need the additional credit line as our sales volume is increasing. The bank turned me down. Go figure.” We talk a bit more as we walk around the warehouse when I spot a number of heating units back in the corner.

I said, “Walter, you know that large batch of heating units you bought in December of last year?” (He was so proud of the end-of-the-year deal he made with his heating unit supplier that he had to call me and fill me in.) “I don’t think you’ve paid for them so they are still consuming your line of credit.”

Walter answered, “Sure I did. We pay on our line of credit every month.”

“Sure you do, but you’re paying only the top half of your line,” I responded. “These units are in the bottom half of the line. Your line of credit is relative to the product that consumed it.” I continue, “Let’s split your $500K line of credit in half; the bottom $250K and the top $250K. Now let’s value and age your inventory.”

On doing so, we found the inventory that has been in the warehouse for over 12 months—for example the heating units—consumes close to the full bottom half of his line of credit. Walter had been working only the top half of his line of credit, which is far shy of what he needs to run the business successfully.

The same holds true for all of us. When we spend a dollar, we need to offset that dollar with a relative income dollar. Better yet, we really want to offset the expense dollar with a relative income dollar and fifty cents or better.

After our little discovery, Walter said to me, “Man, I need to get those heaters and that other non-essential product out of here, all the product that’s in that bottom half.”

I nodded in agreement. “You sure do.” Then I added, “By the way, Walter, that will also cure your need for additional warehouse space.”

He replied, “How so?”

I smiled at him and said, “I’m hungry, let’s go get lunch.”

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Dan Belanger is president of the Belanger Technology and Consulting Group. His background includes thirty years of solution-based action in multiple business models including distribution, manufacturing, warehousing, facilities management, service, retail, and information systems. He is well-versed in all aspects of business ownership, operations, and management.

With time spent at the executive management level in field implementations and having worked closely with business owners, executives, and staff, he understands the complexities and expectations related to running a profitable business. Dan understands the human element, which makes managing comfortable and successful change one of his core competencies.

 

Dan Belanger – Training and Education Options

BRANCH MANAGER TRAINING SCHOOLS
Authored and delivered Branch Manager Training schools for distributor associations and businesses.
Subject Matter Focal Points:
  • Time management
  • Financial
  • Inventory control
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Safety
  • Empowering your Human Resource
AMERICAN SUPPLY ASSOCIATION – (ASA):
At their conference we conducted Branch Manager Training classes focused on the key elements impacting effective and profitable operations.
Subject Matter Focal Points:
  • Inventory
  • Financials
  • Human Resources
  • Technology
  • Time Management were focal points.

Show them the Way

I park my car at the local mega grocery chain. As I walk through the parking lot to the store, I notice all kinds of grocery carts. I walk in and the greeter says: “Welcome to Meijer.” I see at least seven people standing there wondering where the grocery carts are; myself included. The room where the grocery carts are usually held is empty.

I ask for the manager and receive instant response. The manager looks frazzled. I tell my story and suggest that if they’re going to run a grocery business that carts should always be there. I even offer to buy a few carts for them. The manager makes a phone call and within 5 minutes the cart room is full of carts.

I wonder how much time management spends with their cart staff. I wonder if the greeter is allowed to take action when they see no carts are available. I wonder if management does not appear to be fighting fires if they feel out of control and that they may lose their jobs.

That’s the problem. Those who tell others what to do are busy controlling rather than empowering. They are not educating staff on why they get paid; they are task focused. The managers should not be fighting fires they should be encouraging staff and on the floor ensuring all goes well.

While I suspect Meijer has many management meetings perhaps they have too few greeter and cart return staff meetings. Maybe staff should educate management?

Extraordinary Customer Service Rules!

Everything we do in business results in some type of internal or external customer service event. The key is to make your customer care a memorable experience. The following sure supports that school of thought.

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in ten-digits (phone numbers).

The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation:

Boy: ‘Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?

Woman: (at the other end of the phone line): ‘I already have someone to cut my lawn.’

Boy: ‘Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.’

Woman: I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.

Boy: (with more perseverance): ‘I’ll even sweep your curb and your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in all of Palm beach, Florida.’

Woman: No, thank you.

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver.

The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.

Store Owner: ‘Son… I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.’

Boy: ‘No thanks’.

Store Owner: But you were really pleading for one.

Boy: No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady, I was talking to!’

Now THIS is what we call ‘Self Appraisal’ …

(by a reader of Kirsty’s e-zine.)

dan@beltechgroupinc.com

DO THE BASICS WITH EXCELLENCE

Dan Belanger

Whether you are happy with your performance, or seek improvement, doing the little things with excellence can have a big impact on your bottom line. Automation will not fix everything, and, in fact, can magnify those areas that need improvement. Keep this in mind as you plan to introduce bar code technology into your operation.

Having a clear understanding of how your processes and procedures work from a manual standpoint can be valuable in determining how to structure your software flags and prompts in preparing for bar code technology. How do you rate in the following areas?

Receiving

  • Does your receiving clerk keep a receiving log, indicating dock activity for each shipment by date? This log can prove valuable for reference purposes by purchasing, accounting, and in filing claims with carriers and suppliers.
  • Before unloading a truck, does your receiving clerk check to make sure that the shipment belongs at your dock? Is the shipment at the right branch location? Is the purchase order number valid? A supplier may send a purchase order to the wrong branch from time to time. The supplier may also send duplicate shipments. A carrier may also deliver transfers and purchase orders to the wrong locations. These are good things to know before you unload the truck and sign for the shipment.
  • Does your receiving clerk sign the delivery bill properly? Is the document dated and signed each and every time? Are the number of pieces or pallets indicated on the bill physically verified before the bill is signed for that exact amount? Is any visible or potential concealed damage noted on the bill? Are you taking advantage of STC “said to contain” when the bill indicates a piece count on shrink-wrapped pallets that are difficult to count? In most cases the driver will agree to this practice if he understands that it is your policy that he be involved in the count verification. This gives you the opportunity to file a shortage claim once the pallets are broken down after the drivers’ departure.
  • Do the unloaded shipments sit on your dock for hours or days before they are checked in and put away? This practice can lead to damaged product, pilferage, premature usage, and false shortage claims. There is also the potential for additional handling when the dock area is congested.
  • Are receiving discrepancies noted clearly by line item on the packing list? Is the packing list signed and dated by the individual checking the shipment in? Too often the purchasing or accounting department has to backtrack to find additional information concerning a receiving discrepancy that was not documented clearly at the time of receipt. Relying on memory after the fact, or even identifying the individual who checked the shipment in can make it difficult to file a successful claim.
  • Do you have return goods lying around collecting dust? Do you have a clearly understood procedure for documenting why these items came back to you? Are you disciplined enough to use software codes to track how often customers return product and for what reason? Is someone assigned to process the correct paperwork and send the item back to the supplier for credit?

Material Handling

  • Are your aisles free of congestion, allowing forklifts and carts to move about? Often times the aisles become a staging area to make room for the next receipt at the dock. Murphy’s Law will dictate that you pick or put product away in a congested aisle. The additional handling can be costly to your operation, because your team will invariably move that product again and again. The product also becomes more difficult to locate as it is moved from one area to another. The proper approach is to locate the product in a bin location shortly after receipt and check-in.
  • Are you preparing for your next receipt ahead of time? Condensing partial pallets within your storage system will insure that you can put product away directly from the dock or staging area, avoiding the congested aisle scenario.
  • Are you using bin locations to locate your product? The vast majority of distribution software packages available today utilize bin locations. This allows for immediate, accurate location of products within your showroom and warehouse zones. Many distributors are leery of taking advantage of this tool because of the perceived need to keep vendor lines together. Bin locations in fact, free you to locate product based on sales volume, thereby reducing the number of footsteps required to pick those key items that tend to show up on a majority of orders. We call this velocity movement.
  • Can you pass the “Temp Test?” Are you able to bring in a new hire or temporary employee and insure that this individual is productive within 2-3 hours? Utilizing bin locations provides a map for the new recruit to follow. This allows you to look for someone skilled in the area of material handling. Without bin locations, you will need to look for someone whom is experienced within the product lines you carry in order to find the product to fill orders. They will require more hand holding to learn where those different product lines are kept within your four walls.
  • Are you cycle counting with any consistency? The majority of cycle count programs will ask that you count a certain number of items per day. Your cycle counter will need to know where those products are located. With challenges like multiple storage or overstock locations, congested aisles, and a warehouse without bin locations, many distributors give up on cycle counting, citing that it is a waste of time.

Safety

  • Do you allow your material handlers to ride on the forks of a lift truck through your warehouse? Do they ride up and down on the forks or a pallet in order to pick or put product away? Do you allow them to ride on a pallet jack, propelling it like a scooter throughout your facility? These practices can be very dangerous. Aside from the possible lawsuits stemming from an injury, O.S.H.A. will enjoy a tour of your facility as well. It gets even better for those of you will multiple locations. A reasonably priced safety cage and a focus on safety can provide a simple solution.
  • Have you really tested your forklift drivers for competency? Far too many distributors take an individual’s word that they have forklift experience and then wonder why they are experiencing so much product damage and equipment down- time. If you do not have anyone on your staff certified in forklift training, contact your forklift supplier. They will be happy to help, many times at no cost to you.

These are just some of the basics, that when done with excellence, can have a very real, positive impact upon your organization.

Contact Dan at: dan@beltechgroupinc.com

KEEPING PROFIT ALIVE …

Dan Belanger

When the economy takes a downturn, and markets become more competitive, many businesses look for ways to reduce expenses in order to maintain sustainable service levels and profits. But are you looking in the right place? Maybe not.

Here are some methods to increase income and reduce expenses without dramatic business changes …

Try allocating your staff in the most effective fashion and build on their knowledge base. Ok. So payroll costs are a substantial expense of doing business. It’s been like that for decades. However, placing focus on minimizing payroll often times will come back to haunt you. You lose the good ones for the benefit of your competitor. Take great care in simply adjusting payroll.

For example, if your warehouse operating expense is high, and your income/sales are eroding, consider finding someone in the warehouse that would do a great job in customer service or sales and try them in those areas. Then income may increase while your warehouse expense decreases. Yes I know … cost of sales would increase but we’re talking ideas here. Maybe sales income increases six times more than the cost of sales do. I’m simply saying don’t just take the easy way out. It’s bad for business.

Review your in-house employee mix. I’ve seen companies that have three people in the finance department and one in customer service. Remember that the customer often cares more about what they see rather than the back room activities.

Your customers will always be one of the best ways to increase income and minimize expenses. Contact them on a regular basis and ensure they are pleased with the results of working with you. Ask them how you can help them succeed; don’t just sell to them. Do this with online surveys, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings. Provide training programs for them. Ask them what is most memorable about doing business with you. Customer referrals are gold.

Ask your vendors what you can do to help them. You may find that what you do today has a negative impact on timely delivery of product, and that the vendor is apprehensive about telling you because they fear losing your business.

Contact your vendors and discuss what they can do for you. Setting expectations of your vendors is good business. Monitor the success of those expectations. Keep in contact with all of your suppliers.

Review both your technical (software) and procedural systems. Take action and make adjustments where necessary. Use technology to your advantage. Estimates reveal that a company only uses 30% of their software capabilities and they only use those features that relate to specific job duties. Get some training in the features of the software and be sure to keep up on the new releases. As we say “you only know what you know.”

Spend some time where the work actually takes place. Ask questions of those doing the work. Discuss what could be done to help them do their job more efficiently. You’ll be surprised what you find out.

Keep your second major asset – inventory mix and levels where they should be. Keep your inventory accurate. Work your entire line of credit and not just the top. Be sure and process warranty and returns on a timely basis. We’re talking major interest charges and lost opportunity costs here. Oh, and EVERY storage facility should have some type of bin location system.

Do a noteworthy job managing your third major asset – your facilities. No doubt if your facility is unorganized, it will certainly have a negative impact on timely and accurate shipments. Unorganized facilities impact damaged product levels, safety goals, and overtime hours.

Well the list goes on and on, and not one of these ideas need involve staff reductions and you just might enjoy a positive impact on your sales and expense. Take ownership of what goes on in your business. Drop me a note or call if you would like to discuss.

Wishing you a successful 2011!