The previous article focused on “What you do” and you were given the task of performing a rudimentary analysis–big words for, “asking questions”–of your staff and processes.  So, I am hoping that you have at least a rough idea of what is going on in terms of a data collection system within your business.
Since you are now the subject matter expert, how do you currently collect the data and process the information that runs your company, fills your orders, moves your product, satisfies your customers, and allows you to turn a profit?  Oh, that “bottom line” thing again!
Let’s look at the operations in a warehouse or distribution center.  Each of these steps demarks a data collection point in order to process information.

  • Product gets receivedData collection is a necessity in the warehouse!
  • Product gets put away
  • Product gets moved…often
  • Product gets picked
  • Product gets staged
  • Product gets shipped
  • Product gets returned

How do you track damaged goods, expired products, quarantined products, special handling and storage (refrigeration or locked access), cross docking, truck loading and routing, sequential picking, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Do you kit?  Do you allocate orders?  Do the terms, “KanBan”,  “VMI”,  “EDI”, “pick-to-light” ring a bell?   How often are you required to cycle count or take a physical inventory?  Again, all of these requires a data collection system.  They all feed upon each other, and they all feed back to your back-end systems to give you the information to make sound business decisions and serve your customers.  A proper implementation–emphasis on “proper”–automating the data collection at these points can help you sleep at night.
The questions are: do you collect data at all of the applicable points from above, and HOW do you do it?  Not for nothing, but if you are still using a pencil or pen as an integral part of your data collection system, it may be time to look at alternatives.  When was the last time you heard one of your customers say, “slower and less information is fine…”?   Meanwhile, your competitor is gaining more business because she can deliver product and information fast and accurately.
If you are unsure of how you collect data, where you need to collect data, or how to process the data into vital business information, please ask your peers how to find a good consultant.  You may not need the latest and greatest whiz-bang product to help you run more efficiently, but pencils–like cave drawings–have limited advantages as well.  A good consultant will not only understand technology, but he or she should also understand your business model and how the right blend of technology, information, and customer service adds to a bottom line.  It can be overwhelming when you look at the entire picture, but as the cavemen learned, you eat a mastodon one bite at a time.
Next time, we will talk about what you need to do, how you will do it, and WHY you need to do it.