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About the Author

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

November 18, 2015

Logistics News: Top Performing Shippers Are Committed To Continuous Improvement

Ideas that Drive Continuous Improvement

Holste Says:

Senior level management must embrace continuous improvement initiatives by spelling out long-range objectives to mid-managers, planners, industry consultants, and system integrators in terms that they can relate to.
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Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking To Increase System Capacity Are Surprised To Find It May Already Exist!

Sorting It Out: For Shippers - Benefits Of Real-Time Control In The DC Are Huge!

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking to Improve Operations Choose Customer Centric Approach

Sorting It Out: Productivity is a Crucial Factor in Measuring Production Performance

Sorting It Out: Packaging Construction Impacts on Logistics Operations


Shippers that consistently perform at high levels senior level managers play a key role in the successful development and implementation of technologically advanced improvement projects. In these companies the corporate attitude towards material handling operations starts with senior management challenging operating management to find creative solutions to material handling issues. They want projects that will provide substantial benefits such as:


Higher picking and shipping throughput capacity


Optimization of inventory and storage space utilization


Lower per piece handling cost


Shorter order processing cycle times

Greater value-added services capability

100% order accuracy

Elimination of shipping charge backs

However, the above benefits will not be realized unless senior management actively promotes an environment that encourages others to come forward with creative improvement proposals.

Unfortunately, some shippers are stuck in a 1970’s type warehousing time-warp where paper-driven order picking is done with clipboards and pushcarts. Characteristically, astute individuals who are eager to propose projects involving the application of advanced concepts in material handling technology are discouraged by middle managers who tell them that it’s “too risky - the front office won’t buy it”.

Senior level management must embrace continuous improvement initiatives by spelling out long-range objectives to mid-managers, planners, industry consultants, and system integrators in terms that they can relate to. A business manager who has never received even a preliminary proposal involving creative approaches to warehousing, order processing, and material flow issues should look for answers to the following questions:


Is the company’s current logistics capabilities competitive and keeping pace with changing market and customer service demands?


Has the company’s approach to warehousing and distribution remained static through the years?


Is there any indication that mid-level managers’ turnoff discussion of improvement projects involving application of advanced technologies?


Is the company’s IT department adequately staffed to handle such projects?

The good news is that the track record for deployment of advanced material handling technologies has been excellent over the last few decades. This reality has gone a long way towards raising confidence levels and overcoming the “FUD factor” – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

It’s interesting to note that in companies with a history of maintaining the state-of-the-art in application of material handling system technologies, projects of that type are most often originated with experienced professionals working at the senior level who have that responsibility. They may be internal consultants/advisors, or an outside independent industry expert.

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand that while your business is unique, the system concepts and equipment technology that will be most beneficial for your operation is not new. It is most likely providing cost and operational benefits to your competitors’ every day.



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