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Blog 5

Top 20 actions to develop your next warehouse project

July 2019

Let’s dive into it:

1. Determine a methodology to create the warehouse project plan itself. Are you in a project-based organization? Who are the decisions makers to confirm the methodologies and processes?
2. Determine formats for reporting to management, discussing updates with staff, and monitoring performance.
3. Agree on a specific change request format. How are changes throughout the warehouse or production project communicated? How are they approved? Do the changes have the buy-in of all who is involved? Or, does the change itself require a whole new project?
4. Make sure your processes are aligned with organization. Ensure the approach to the project meets the guidelines of the entire company, whether it be operations, warehousing, sales and marketing.
5. Analyze the stakeholders needs and core requirements.
6. Analyze the stakeholders wants and assumptions.
7. Capture the entire warehouse or production project requirements lists as detailed as possible. Are you looking at a shelving project? How many bays are needed to store the material? How are the staff picking it? Will your forklifts fit in the aisles? What about sprinklers, are they suitable for the height you’re going?
8. Outline the skills and benefits of each stakeholder, and what they bring to the table, either during the project management planning process or during implementation.
9. Meet with stakeholders to determine the objectives and milestones, and their roles in managing them.
10. Schedule meetings with department heads to request the resources you need for proper project implementation. For example you may need forklift drivers, warehouse management, sales, and IT to be part of the new inventory program you’re implementing.
11. Work with your team members to outline the project cost. For example, RACKsteel will source and outline the project costs direct from our factories for you to review. We’ll outline the total project cost along with cost-benefits as requested. If you’re responsible for the project costs to your supervisors, consider working with your immediate team to capture the correct costs involved.
12. Empower the team to give approval to activities needed to accomplish during the project. Turn this into a proper calendar of events.
13. Make sure to get approval from the resource managers across departments as needed, if required. Ensure they sign off on the schedule to avoid conflict.
14. Work through iteration – or revisions – as you review risks and determine risk responses.
15. Create the necessary project documents, or request formal proposals. Ensure the procurement process is in place. Ensure the work breakdown process is captured and easily updated as the project commences.
16. Obtain approval for risk reserves and apply them to the paperwork. Is freight included? Do you know how many trucks it will take to purchase the equipment you’re evaluating? What about the weather, is there a possibility it will be late in delivery which will cost the warehouse production time? This is where risk reserves are critical.
17. Hold meetings with the supervisors or ultimate project decision makers IF changes or requirement cannot ultimately be met. Ensure communication is open and transparent. Outline and identify issues with the senior management before they happen. This is our main focus at RACKsteel when taking on a warehouse equipment project for a client. For example the supply and install of material handling solutions will often bring it’s challenges, which must be communicated to the customer to align all parties expectations.
18. Perform schedule compression tactics when absolutely necessary, when implementing or planning the project. i.e. fast tracking the schedule, adding (or “crashing”) resources to complete a task, or changing the total scope of the project to fit the end user requirements.
19. Plan a kick off (or mid project) party. Ensure the team is bonded together to realize the ultimate vision of the project, whether it be storing and picking new inventory in a new pallet racing system, or moving to a new brand of forklifts that require different skills. It’s important that even the resistors of the warehouse project are encouraged to take part to add their advice, vision, and confidence.
20. Do everything above and have a beer in-between.
21. No – it’s not in an exact order. But the above captures the key ideas of which actions you need to take to kick off a successful warehouse project. Contact RACKsteel to discuss your warehouse project requirements.
Blog 7

Initiating a material handling project

June 2019

So when is a project officially approved? The initiating phase. As you may in the role of operations or warehouse management, you’re part of the discussion and analysis of whether the business case of the project can be met. For example, will you enhance productivity with a new narrow aisle forklift program? Will the space savings justify the cost? Or, perhaps you’re looking to store 20% more storage with a pushback racking system. Will the cost of upgrading justify the increase in pallets stored in your facility? Will your customer see the benefits of your facility stocking more goods? During the initiating phase, you and the team, and your selected supplier (RACKsteel, of course) will need to do high-level planning to verify the likeliness the project can be completed within the given constraints of scope, time and cost.

Let’s dig deeper into the initiating phase of your upcoming warehouse or material handling project:

Select your supplier (we suggest a project manager).

Determine the existing systems and company culture of your facility. Will there be trials of the equipment you’re purchasing? Who’s involved in the acceptance of the new product or service you’re implementing? Will your software systems interact with the project result?

Collect processes, procedures, and historical information. What type of previous projects in your operation have been successful? What made it successful? Use previous lessons learned to help build the foundation of your upcoming project.

Understand the true business case of your upcoming project. Use economic modelling to calculate payback period, cost-benefits, and others to have a clear view of the project goals.

Assess the feasibility using the tools and methods above to outline the project plans to date to senior management

Uncover the initial requirements, assumptions, constrains, risks etc. Use a high-level approach. Remember, this is the initiating phase, and should be high level at this point.

Start dividing the high level project sections into teams. Who is looking after what? Typically you’re supplier or selected project manager will be involved in this area during the initiation phase (which may be the quoting phase too, before approval). Use this opportunity to give resources a heads up on what to expect, and what will be expected of them once you move along from initiating to planning.

From there, create the high level objectives. When do you want your new equipment or system implemented? When does yours staff need to be fully trained and implementing the project?

Develop the project charter. The project charter will include most of the above information

And, one of the final key items of the initiating phase of your next warehouse or material handling project, must be the identification of stakeholders and what their expectations and influence are. Remember to consider stakeholders of all sorts – not just the groups directly impacted by your project (i.e. if you’re in production, consider the environmental impact of your new production equipment you’re purchasing).

The above information is in no specific order, but based on your organization, use the above ideas to create a initiating plan before proceeding to the detailed planning stage.
Blog 6

Top 10 actions involved in warehouse project execution

May 2019

We’ll go the top actions required for you to execute your next industrial project, whether it be material handling related, storage equipment related, or perhaps software related. This top 10 list is in no particular order, but consider each point and start thinking of ways for you to implement it if you do not do it already.

1. Communicate your expectations effectively. Make sure each stakeholder has a well-thought out plan of communication, including their influence and communication frequency. A common understanding of your material handling, operations, or racking project must be understood by all especially during the executing phase.
2. Implement approved changes only when sign-off and thorough evaluation has been done. What are the cost, scope, and quality impacts with each change you’re implementing. Was the change requested through the proper channels? For example changing beam heights in a pushback system will have impact on the weight capacity, seismic calculations, and functionality. Ensure the change request is approved and accepted during execution.
3. Remove all roadblocks while activities are being completed. For example, make sure your staff are available and understand the commitment needed to attend forklift training on new equipment you expect to start running in 2 weeks. Without training, imagine the consequences. Roadblocks in this case may be the lack of overtime compensation if required, or lack of communication in describing the impact the new equipment will have, or perhaps a poor safety program that lacks emphasis on continuous improvement and training.
4. Hold effective meetings to identify or address issues, assess risks, and keep the project moving forward. Avoid ‘catch up’ meetings, or ‘reporting meetings’. Use these meetings (with a well laid out meeting plan) to address the above issues effectively. Solicit feedback. Lead, coach, and always look to improve the performance of your team to their benefit.
5. Keep a documented log of changes, progress, hurdles, and meetings. Make updates to the project plan as needed (either through your own company or your supplier). This is critical in our company, RACKsteel. As we are an equipment dealer and professional project management team, it’s vital we keep a documented and signed-off log to reflect the current information about the operational or material handling project during execution. This will ensure a continued agreement among all stakeholders associated with your organization and it’s partners.
6. Create a lessons learned document to make recommendations on further project progress or different ways to approach projects in the future. This is an ongoing process. What lessons will help in the execution phase, or other phases of upcoming projects?
7. When problems occur, which is likely even with all the planning that goes into it, stay focused on the end result. What is the business case again? What are we ultimately trying to achieve? Do the solutions to the problems actually reflect a solution, or are they simply addressing the symptoms. For example stop during the project to see where changes are coming from, and determine the root cause. This will help you in the execution phase of the material handling or operations project you’re responsible for.
8. Implement a rewards recognition program. Did your staff offer an unexpected acceptance of the WMS system you implemented? Have they taken extra steps to extend the longevity of your new loading dock levelers and seals? Perhaps your forklift operators are showing a far stronger interest in dock safety but ensuring every truck is restrained properly.
9. Facilitate conflict resolution to the best of your abilities and training. What type of issue log do you have available for staff to fill out when there is a conflict? Is the issue small, for example shift scheduling? Or perhaps there is a lack of safety by some members of staff or entire departments that contradict your warehouse policy. Or, perhaps certain members of staff are not taking responsibility for pallet racking damage throughout the facility. Look to improve the morale and confidence in your team, during the executing process, closing process, and beyond.
10. Assess the individual performance of your team, your suppliers team, management, and the equipment or result you’ve implemented. How does it perform? Does it meet requirements? Is everything in place for proper close out? How did the team execute the project overall? Is your management happy with the execution to date? If so, move on to close the project, which we’ll discuss in detail in a future blog post. Thanks for reading.
Blog 18

Racking Equipment & Handling: What’s done differently in large projects?

May 2019

Here are some brief thoughts on what you should consider when thinking “What do I need to do differently in larger scale projects in my facility”?

There are many answers and some that may only pertain to your organization. As a warehouse manager or operations leader, you should identify the following differences when dealing with a big project. What is a big project? Well, that’s up to you, but generally when there requires significant capital investment, or when big changes are required to your operational flow. Perhaps smaller projects can be considered evaluating a new safety product to implement to your plant. Let’s dive in:

There will most certainly be a larger stakeholder group. Larger material handling or operational projects will involve a more thorough definition of stakeholders involved or not involved. What is their influence and communication requirements?

You’ll likely require a more diverse team, including suppliers, partners, and interdepartmental resources of your own company. What are their strengths? How can you measure their performance effectively?

Larger projects will deal with more issues revolving around the economics of currency exchanges and external threats. Prepare to plan in depth about the risks involved in your larger project. What are the real risks and what are our response when the risk is realized?

You’ll experience a larger schedule and network diagram to review and monitor in large projects. Your warehouse project may involve the purchase of a large piece of machinery or production equipment. You may be outsourcing most of it, but also developing part of the project in house. How are you tracking the activities? Larger projects will involve a detailed calendar of events.

Smaller jobs may require no contracts. It may require a couple. Large projects however will likely require a thorough terms and conditions section from your selected suppliers, or perhaps strict guidelines to abide by internally. If you’re purchasing a shelving system to install, consider the terms and conditions of sale since it will likely be custom parts, custom heights, and weight capacities. Are returns allowed? What is the production required? What if your product changes over time? Be sure to evaluate the project in detail before procurement and the contracts that follow.

I mentioned risk briefly above when referring to exchange rates and external market threats that may occur when dealing with international purchasing or project management. Risk cannot be understated. Projects that involve purchases or expected results that are smaller in nature will probably not require the same detail and risk analysis. Be sure to identity risk responses, who’s responsible is the risk is realized, and develop processes to minimize the risk from happening in the first place in large projects. If you’ve approved a large pushback racking system to be installed, did you consider freight risks? Although your supplier may have included it, they cannot control the weather. Perhaps there are snowstorms and shut down major highways. Perhaps you’re shipment is late by over a week which holds you back from rolling out a program you’ve had scheduled for months. Capture the risks and identify the response if necessary.
Blog 17

Product Scope vs. Project Scope: Rack, Material Handling, & More

April 2019

Product scope is another way to outline the “requirements” of the product itself. For example, if you’re evaluating a forklift project, consider the attributes and features of the forklift itself as product scope. Do the standard features meet your requirements? Have the requirements been captured correctly by you’re supplier? Be aware that even the slightest mistakes in collecting requirements will result in a totally different product scope than what you potentially needed. So what does the product scope do overall?

It answers the question: What exactly do my forklifts need to do? Yes, pick up and move pallets – but what about weight capacity? Fork reach? Aisle width? Visibility? Ergonomics? It may not be obvious at the outset, but the comfort and confidence your operators have in the machine must be considered as part of the product scope.

Project scope is the work the project will do to deliver the product of the project. In order words, it encompasses the product scope. The project scope is what we at RACKsteel handle – the total planning, coordination, management, and procurement of the product. the project scope captures everything that is needed to be done in order to successfully implement the product in the facility. Once the project is implemented, it’s important to ‘hand-off’ the project to the correct department – i.e. manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, or plant operations. – to ultimately realize the benefits.

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Blog 4

Change Process Guidelines: Material Handling Solutions

April 2019

Making changes to your operational projects, such as new forklift, pallet racking, or processing equipment orders, are challenging to say the least. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulty in implementing change. From the suppliers view, it’s difficult to implement change when no such change stipulations are in the contract or quotation. Larger quotations should have terms and conditions of change, but often do not. From the customers point of view, it’s important to implement change to ‘get it done’ the way it needs to be. This may come before really analyzing the change, such as analyzing the options available and impact it will have on the overall project.

RACKsteel implements a comprehensive change strategy to avoid conflict, unexpected costs, and scope creep whenever dealing with warehousing projects in material handling and storage. Here are some guidelines for you to consider (Note: Both the end user and supplier should have their own change process):

Identify the change: Did it come from the operations team? Senior management? Perhaps it was the staff, or the supplier. Make sure to do your best in identifying them early to avoid as much disruption as possible. Perhaps safety bars were not the ideal pallet safety option after all, and instead wire decks make more sense for your racking. If you catch it early, not only will there be significant cost savings, but also will prevent schedule overruns by extending project lead times. Measure the change and see how it affects the baseline – the expected result of the project.

Look at the impact carefully: Ask the questions: Does the scope, cost, quality, or schedule change? How is this change idea really affecting the overall expected end result of the project, i.e. the performance baseline?

Create a change request: Use a revised quotation, updated proposal, sign-off sheet, end-user request form, and other documents that both parties (or more) can review and reference if needed. The process of all changes should follow the same process.

Assess the change: Is this change going to affect the project in a significant way? Is the change perhaps a separate project altogether? Let’s even ask the more obvious question – is the change even needed? Perhaps, referring to my example above, wire mesh decks aren’t really needed. Perhaps this change was requested halfway through production of the racking equipment which included safety bars. Are all stakeholders aware what the safety bars do? Are they aware the project included a safety aspect? Let’s also point out that forgetting to order wire mesh decks is probably not a typical change. It just wasn’t captured in the requirements. But, for sake of argument, you can see that replacing the safety bars with wire decks may not be needed after all – once explained to the stakeholders involved.

Look for options: What are the options? What can we do differently vs the change request? What the opportunities with this change and what are the threats? For example perhaps there was a pushback racking system approved by your management team. Everything is in place but no equipment has been scheduled for production yet due to the implementation scheduled in 15 weeks. If you were looking for ways to change the project to reduce cost due to some unforeseen event, you may consider double deep racking. This will save cost, perhaps improve lead time, and speed up installation. Although it may not offer the same density (although back to back double deep is an excellent dense option), it will offer the benefits above which save the project. The design or the racking layout may not change all too much, but simply the system in which it is used. Remember to evaluate what it impacts – moving to a double deep system requires a special deep reach forklift. Does that fact rule out the option?

Approval? Small changes or revisions can be approved by the client (warehouse manager, operations team) and supplier (project manager, sales professional). Large changes may need approval for the customers senior management. Or, the supplier may require to consult with manufacturers, engineers, and other partners.

From there we look to update the documents as needed and send the results to the key stakeholders. We always will do our best to accommodate customer change requests, and from our experience it’s important to utilize a professional approach that tracks change requests and identifies all the factors involved with a successful change implementation – big or small.

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Our customer service philosophy is simple: We will make sure every call and email is prioritized, and that your warehouse gets operating faster.