An agile storage space is an efficient one
Warehouse environments, typically known as ‘storage cubes’, can help improve supplier service levels if available space is used efficiently. This requires a balance to be struck between storing a large amount of products while ensuring that they can be retrieved quickly. The fast-moving demands of modern buyers require speedy delivery so it is essential that warehouse efforts meet this need head on by incorporating inventive layout and storage methods.
One size does not fit all
Investing time into devising customised space management solutions that match product types and the rate at which they’re required, is important. Simply cramming all available space with stock can be counterproductive as this can create access problems. Instead, suppliers should ensure the most popular items can be quickly accessed, as well as maintaining the volumes of stock required to meet demand.
Take a process-driven approach
Achieving this balance requires suppliers to understand the specific mix of inventory that is housed within the space, as well as the expected level of activity. This allows for products to be stored within specific aisles on the basis of order frequency. The approach works by using wider aisles for popular product lines – as this allows for quicker access – and very narrow aisles (VNAs) for items that are only purchased from time to time. For faster moving items, mechanised or automated picking systems can help further increase order turnaround times.
Although this approach brings obvious benefits in terms of driving efficiencies and servicing customers, a well-ordered and optimised warehouse can also help vendors to develop additional revenue streams. For example, banks and other large corporates often use parts of their suppliers’ warehouse spaces as stockrooms for their own inventory, that are then delivered to their branches or sites at regular intervals. However, this kind of value-added service only becomes possible where the wider warehouse space has been used resourcefully.
Remodeling the space
There are a number of ways in which an existing storage space can be optimised to improve efficiencies and output. Creating mezzanine floors adds much-needed floor space without having to overcrowd existing areas. However, where new floors have been created, it is important to manage this new space with the same level of efficiency as other areas of the warehouse, for example, by using the aisle-specific approach outlined above.
Technology can help create a vision
Although individual requirements throughout the storage cube may seem difficult to co-ordinate at first sight, CAD and 3D modeling can bring all these together into one seamless design. It does this by overlaying possible solutions to the existing warehouse and allowing amendments or manipulations to be made electronically, before committing to any kind of physical renovation of the space. In this way, the most effective layout can be closely analysed and decided on without making a full commitment.
It is crucial to see the warehouse as a strategic tool that can directly benefit service levels if it is planned in the right way. Subsequently, if the need for change and improvement is not recognised, investigated and actioned, there is a real risk of this stage of the customer journey dragging overall service levels down and losing out to the competition in the process. By seeing the warehouse as a USP that facilitates excellent customer service from the outset, suppliers are much more likely to continuously improve both the space and their long-term prospects.
Mike McCreesh is VP supply chain UK & Ireland at Office Depot
DHL Express Invests in Electric Cargo Plane Fleet
DHL Express has ordered 12 fully electric cargo planes to supercharge efforts in reducing carbon emissions across its US delivery network.
The Alice eCargo planes are manufactured by Seattle startup Eviation, and are designed specifically to be configured for either cargo or passengers. The first planes are expected to be delivered to DHL Express in 2024.
“We have found the perfect partner with Eviation as they share our purpose, and together we will take off into a new era of sustainable aviation,” said John Pearson, CEO of DHL Express.
The purchase forms part of DHL’s €7bn investment in reducing CO2 emissions by 2030, with a zero emissions target set for 2050.
“We firmly believe in a future with zero-emission logistics,” Pearson added. “On our way to clean logistics operations, the electrification of every transport mode plays a crucial role and will significantly contribute to our overall sustainability goal of zero emissions.”
What is Eviation's Alice Aircraft?
- Manufacturer: Eviation
- Capacity: 1,200kg
- Range: 815km
- Charge time: 30 minutes
- Launching: 2024
Eviation’s Alice aircraft enable cargo and passenger airlines to operate zero-emission fleets. The plane can be flown by one pilot and is capable of carrying 1,200kg, with a maximum range of 815km.
The aircraft can be fully charged in 30 minutes, which can take place while the vehicle is loaded and unloaded between flights. Eviation says that, because the aircraft has fewer moving parts - or points of failure - than traditional aircraft, they are more reliable and reduce maintenance overheads and downtime.
“With Alice’s range and capacity, this is a fantastic sustainable solution for our global network,” said Travis Cobb, EVP Global Network Operations and Aviation for DHL Express. “Our aspiration is to make a substantial contribution in reducing our carbon footprint, and these advancements in fleet and technology will go a long way in achieving further carbon reductions.”
How Does Alice Compare with UPS’ eVTOLs?
DHL Express is not alone in electrifying the skies. In April, UPS announced a new fleet of eVTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft, from Beta Technologies, which will enter service in 2024.
UPS’ vehicles can carry 635kg with a 400km range and cruising speeds of up to 170mph. The eVTOLs can carry cargo to several short-hops or one long route on a single charge, and are aimed at healthcare organisation, SMEs and businesses in small or remote communities.
“These new aircraft will create operational efficiencies in our business, open possibilities for new services, and serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce the emissions profile of our air and ground operation,” said Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer.
The first 10 eVTOLs will be delivered in 2024, with the option for UPS to order up to 150 more.