12 check points to choose the right warehouse for your products
There’s a lot of different factors to take into consideration when you are looking at a contract logistics supplier to store and ship products to your consignee..
You want them to effectively and efficiently store and ship your merchandise the best way, of course, but there is more to choosing the right supplier than meets the eye during a walk-through of their facility..
For instance, you probably want them to be knowledgeable about your product, offer flexibility, and working toward constantly improving their core competencies and services..
Here is a checklist of 12 areas to check and validate that they are a best-in-breed supplier for performing transactions of warehousing and transportation management for you..
1) Are they committed to knowing your product..??
This is where good warehousing begins, and your supplier will need to know everything there is to know about the product you will be storing at their warehouse.. They should be sending well-informed technical personnel to look have a look at your product if you have a unique or new product..
The supplier should know the product front to back before bringing in the first carton into their facility because the product’s characteristics are going to determine how it will be handled and stored.. They should be asking questions about the product regarding:
- Dimension specifications: Is it small..?? Is it irregularly shaped..?? Is it heavy or bulky..??
- Sensitivity considerations: Does it expire..?? Will it need refrigeration..?? Will moisture or heat affect it..??
- Fragile and special handling requirements: Does it require special packaging..?? Can it be double-stacked when stored or shipped..?? Will vibration or tilting affect it..??
- Safety considerations: Is the product dangerous goods..?? Is it hazardous..?? Does it need an MSDS..?? Does it need ventilation..?? Can it be stored next to another product..??
- Value of the product: Will this product need insurance or special security measures purchased for it..??
- Any other special requirement questions..
Suppliers that do these steps are demonstrating to you that they want to be knowledgeable about the technical or safety requirements about your product and want to avoid pitfalls and confusion once the product is in the facility..
If the supplier is not evaluating your product thoroughly, you should seriously consider vetting them against another one because they are indicating a lack of knowledge or budget restraints at this stage..
2) Adequate volume and space
A reputable and knowledgeable supplier should find out how the product is delivered to them and plan accordingly.. If you send material that is floor loaded to them, they should plan enough space in the receiving area to accommodate it without any crowding..
Volume requirements and the size of your product should drive how much surface area is needed for incoming and outgoing shipments, and the supplier should be able to demonstrate on a drawing or by a physical walk through how they are going to adequately stage material and store it sufficiently..
3) Is their equipment a good fit for your product type..??
Ensure your supplier is leasing or buying the best fitting equipment such as storage and material handling for the type of products they will be storing and shipping for you..
4) Weights/Scales and Package Prep
Make sure that the supplier is optimizing his shipping area and transaction times.. Signs to look for are that heavy duty scales are being used to weigh big loads that are shipped.. They should come with an automatic print out with the scale, so that print outs can be handed over to the shippers.. This cuts out handling time and make the process more efficient..
5) Enough handling personnel
One of the resources that can potentially cause issues for storing and shipping your merchandise is if the supplier is not adequately planning personnel..
The company that handles your goods should present a solid business plan for qualitative and quantitative business needs that is able to respond to forecasted volume and any special requirements you have..
6) They use a WMS
The supplier should have a WMS (Warehouse Management System) in place to manage your inventory transactions and they should not be doing any transactions without any system recording turnovers in inventory.. They should not be just receiving the material, putting it away, and picking it without recording anything.. Make sure you check their WMS
7) Inventory accuracy and control
One of the main areas in a warehouse that is the most problematic and underestimated is inventory control.. It looks really easy to just put away the product and then go pick it, right..??
Not so fast – if there is no plan in place for managing inventory, it’s going to be scattered everywhere – and nothing will be more frustrating to your planners and material control personnel than having a hot order than needs to ship and the supplier calls you and tells you that the material isn’t there..
Don’t let that happen! Ask the potential supplier to explain their inventory control plan they intend to use.. Don’t try to control their inventory for them or come up with an inventory control plan, that’s one of the reasons you’re outsourcing the warehouse and shipping business in the first place..
8) They have internal and external metrics
Professional metrics and key performance indicators show that the supplier is serious about providing high quality service to you.. Make sure that they are displaying customer (external) metrics and some of their own (internal) while touring the supplier’s facility.. They especially should be tracking on time delivery and loss and damage..
9) Ergonomics and productivity is important to them
There’s a direct relation between ergonomics and productivity in efficiency studies.. Make sure that the supplier warehouse has a sound ergonomic design.. Well-designed equipment and furniture keep the employees comfortable and cuts down on injuries..
10) Work instructions, ISO certifications
Have the supplier explain and document how they plan to train and retrain their personnel.. Make sure that they keep training records, also.. Make sure that they have ISO certification that applies to the type of business they are operating.. This shows that they are serious and committed toward standardization and the quality of your operations
11) They have a clean and safe warehouse
A clean warehouse is a safe warehouse.. Many suppliers think that a word of mouth cleaning plan is enough to have in place at a warehouse – and it shows when you are doing a walk-through.. If the warehouse is cluttered and dirty, that is an indication of how they will take care of your product.. You should refuse to do business with a supplier if their warehouse looks like a wasteland..
12) Their transportation is top notch
For transportation services, the supplier should be able to combine premium basic freight services, end-to-end, into one seamless supply chain solution.. They should also be negotiating the lowest rates for any external freight services..
There should be enough pickups by trucks during operating hours, and their schedule should work well with your company.. Cut off times for pickup and picking orders should be understood by all parties involved with the shipping operation, also.. All cross docking activities should turn the material around in the time you have specified and that area and all others should be visual and organized at the supplier’s facility..
The checklist in this article puts you on the successful path of ensuring that your supplier is effectively and efficiently warehousing your products..
It’s recommended that you stay involved with them to continually ask questions, act on answers and take an active role in observing that they are always improving and staying efficient as possible..
The above requirements are not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a great start.. Vetting them by the key points in this article will definitely help you work toward selecting an optimal operation for your products..
This is a guest post by Dylan MacNeill who is a marketing specialist involved in Warehousing and Freight..