The next big challenge came several months later when the facility and MHA system design, budget and project schedule was completed and ready for formal presentation to the corporate logistics team for final approval.
Leading up to this critical meeting there had been several intense review meetings with all stakeholders. Everyone knew what level of DC automation and controls sophistication was being proposed well in advance of the formal presentation.
However, the corporate logistics team from Germany came to the meeting with a surprise agenda. As a result of two recent automated material handling system failures in Europe, they decided in favor of a non-automated forklift and paper based discrete order picking pushcart solution. In other words a larger scale version of the manual warehousing order fulfillment DCs they already had. They felt that they could not tolerate/survive another MHA system failure.
While this was a sudden and unexpected objection, it was one that I had grown accustom to over the years working with other clients. Having been in this situation many times before, I knew that the FUD factor can cause clients to lose sight of their objectives. So, after taking a deep breath, I continued the meeting by stepping back and reviewing what I had learned gathering order profile data and analyzing the various operations.
This approach gave me an opportunity to point out the well known but never-the-less disturbing pattern of customer shipping error and resulting complaints from key accounts. I also reviewed a not so well known list of accounts that had been lost over time due to these reoccurring issues.
We talked about inventory accuracy issues and its effect on order filling errors. I suggested that consolidating without deploying appropriate levels of proven technology, like WMS, bar coding and RF picking, could exacerbate an already bad situation. Isuggested that it would better not to consolidate at all until those issues are resolved.
It took a little while for all of this to sink-in, but no one disputed what I was saying and no one was championing a manual solution.