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Modex 2014 was billed as “the greatest supply chain show on earth” and indeed, it may have been. The show, which ran from March 17 to March 20, included 800 exhibitors and 150 conference sessions. Reporters from Modern Materials Handling were on the scene and in his final wrap-up, Executive Editor Bob Trebilcock offered his Final thoughts from Modex.
Trebilcock concluded that it’s “all about e-fulfillment.” What did he mean by that? He went into specifics further into the blog, stating that “our industry is all about software, not hardware” and then went on to write:
Retailers and solution providers alike seem to be struggling with questions such as whether in this new omni-channel world, inventory should be controlled by an ERP system, a WMS or a warehouse control system (WCS).
We’re all for software solutions and even argue the case for upgrading your WMS (Warehouse Management System) in Are You Getting the Most Out of Your WMS? Not having some sort of management or control system in place today is a bit like trying to run your office with a typewriter and ledger. On the other hand, the software you need depends on the size of your operation.
Trebilock pointed out that retailers are “coming to grips with the fact” that some level of automation is needed and goes on to say that the “tipping point seems to be 1,000 orders a day from a facility.” The same thing applies at every link in the supply chain. There comes a “tipping point” where you need to reassess your priorities and upgrade your facility to improve efficiency, but that doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands and wait until you need the latest and greatest in automated technology.
Forklift Accessories vs Software
In an earlier blog, Is Automation for Everyone? we cited the case of Scott Miracle-Gro. No small operation, this company still does things the old-fashioned way in their 850,000 square foot Ohio warehouse. MMH’s Bob Trebilcock was given a tour of the facility and noted that it’s “important to remember how many in our industry are still running efficient and productive warehouses with the conventional tools of our trade.”
Those tools include relatively low-tech forklift accessories such as hoppers and drum attachments. They may not be fancy and probably wouldn’t draw a crowd at Modex or Promat, but forklift accessories like these can make a dramatic difference to your bottom line.
In the end, it all boils down to cost vs benefits, not forklift accessories vs software. You don’t need to spend millions of dollars on automated equipment if you can keep up with your orders just fine with your forklift and forklift accessories. You don’t need a $500 a month WMS when a $10 a month warehouse management system can do everything your small business requires.
Keeping up with the latest technology is great. Periodically reassessing your work environment and looking for ways to improve efficiency is even better. You may need to upgrade your software, but don’t overlook your forklift accessories and other “little” things, either. In the end, those little things add up to big benefits to your business growth.