tED Magazine Article - Under One Roof

Advice from true warehouse experts

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www.tEDmag.com Mar. 13 • the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR 45 Some warehouse employees may object to metrics, resenting what they perceive to be a Big Brother-like intru- sion into their daily routine. Others will see performance monitoring for what it is—a purely objective ap proach to management, driven not by interof- fice politics or employee se niority but by numbers that cannot lie. In the best cases, metrics create a standard by which an associate can measure his or her own performance. Key per- formance indicators also encourage cooperation among em ployees and managers—and even a spirit of healthy competition. GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH The prime objective of any WMS is in - ventory management, and the most ad vanced systems not only help users reach that point, but also take them a couple of miles further still. Recent upgrades to traditional WMS packages include "slotting," which ap - plies algorithms to picking and put- away based on the speed at which given SKUs exit the warehouse. To put it an - other way, fast-moving merchandise is allocated to the most accessible ware- house areas. Another recent trend— cubing—organizes warehouse space for maximum utilization. Both slotting and cubing help to blueprint the warehouse in such a way that popular items can be put away, re - plenished, and shipped to customers in a fast and efficient manner. An inventory management system should also be amenable to easy ad- justment so as not to become a cost liability down the road. Some solutions hard-code their changes, which can make any necessary upgrades or alter- ations to the existing system an ex pen - sive proposition. "Pick a solution that allows for easy changes or upgrades," advised Chuck Fuerst, director of product strategy, High Jump Soft ware (highjump.com). "Think long term about your investment and the pro vider. What, for ex ample, is the ROI over five or seven years, factoring in an up grade within that time frame? Also look at the com pany that sells the soft- ware. Distribu tors will want someone they can work with long term, a pro - vider willing and able to guide them though the life stages of whatever solu- tion they choose. Fi nally, consider flexi- bility and adaptivity. A best-of-breed WMS will provide both, and more." ■ Graham is a St. Louis-based freelance writer. He can be reached at 314-394-0371. T e c h W a t c h Before we know it, Wi-Fi-enabled devices/equipment will be in every plant, university, hospital, and construction site. But how will this happen? Think back to how deregulation of telecommunications in the 1990s allowed start-up companies to make open standard commu- nications equipment—and within 10 years, the three dominant proprietary equipment manufacturers were out of business. The same thing will happen to the building automation and con- trol companies that currently dominate the electrical industry. They will find it hard to compete with total lower-cost solutions achieved by those using Wi-Fi as their core communications. Wi-Fi is an inter- national standard, with encryption that is universally trusted. People are already trained on how to use it, and companies have people trained on how to support it. Every mobile device now has Wi-Fi built in as the standard, interoperable networking protocol. It is these operational cost savings that will allow Wi-Fi to become the network- ing standard for all products, displacing most proprietary protocols and quasi-standard protocols. Ten billion devices with a processor for computation and analy- sis are shipped every year. Now imagine each of those electrical/ electronic devices connected to the Internet (the cloud)—devices that can be monitored and controlled remotely with mobile devices providing real-time alerts and information and reporting about en - ergy management, remote automation and control, and security. Currently, Wi-Fi products are available to control security sen- sors, video cameras, thermostats, lights, door locks, and smart plugs/smart strips connected to equipment in offices or on plant floors. Devices with Wi-Fi-enabled service capabilities can provide data about power usage, on/off status, real-time diagnostics of major equipment, security alerts, and data storage, as well as freight, storage, and logistics services information for manufactur- ers, warehouses, and more. So what does this mean for electrical distributors? Electrical distributors have grown and adapted to the many technological changes in their industry. How ever, Wi-Fi-enabled devices will push everyone to a new level faster than ever before. Think about it: It took 60 years from the first automobile to a man on the moon, 15 years from the car phone to the smartphone, and less than three years for mobile computing to overtake desktops. Those who decide to answer their customers' desire for infor - mation from remote mobile devices need to be aware of the ter - minol ogy and selling skills needed to answer end-users' questions. It all comes back to distributors' No. 1 responsibility: customer satisfaction. Be aware of what your customers are asking for, find solutions with the next generation of products, and know that changes will come faster than ever before. ■ Paul Eitmant is president and CEO of IP Group (ipgroup international.com). Greg Puschnigg is CEO of Boss Controls (boss-controls.com). TECH REPORT: WHY WI-FI-BASED PRODUCTS WILL WIN OUT IN THE MARKETPLACE

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