Much of our work in logistics consultancy is directed to planning new warehouses for our clients. After data collection, analysis, design and debate, the plans for the new facility will be agreed.
The implementation of this concept can be a substantial project in its own right, whether an existing building is being used or a new construction undertaken. Completing the physical building is, however, only part of the project and is the part that can be most easily passed over to specialists. Preparing for the new operation and organising the new centre is very much the role of the client and future operator, and is essential for the success of the transition and operation.
Moving on such a scale is something that most clients do not have to do as a regular activity. Many clients feel that this sort of project is something that we can contribute to using our accumulated experience. In addition, the moving stage of a project is best considered as part of the overall scope, and planned as the cumulation of the whole programe.
Early decisions that have to be made include whether the move will involve a “big bang” changeover or an element of parallel running. Often the limiting factor is the capability of IT systems, and this highlights the two components of move planning that must be considered together: the physical and the virtual. If running two facilities, even for a short time, is considered, then physically overall stock in the business may have to be increased, and from the IT perspective rules for picking locations may have to be modified. It is likely that a close eye will have to be kept on customer service levels during this time and additional effort directed where required.
The new warehouse layout will have been designed with the volume of stock and number of lines as leading parameters, but actually laying out a stock accommodation plan with the current stock may bring to light some anomalies and changes since design that must be addressed. However once a detailed stock accommodation plan is available, scheduling of the move can begin. A series of questions present themselves:
Should all of a product be moved in one go, or how much is required to be left for current operations?
Should pallets or full cartons of product only be moved, leaving singles and open boxes to be mopped up later?
Is specialised or additional transport required or can it be done with normal resources?
Are additional or specially trained staff required or can the move be fitted around normal operations – on one site? on both sites?
Booking stock out and in from each warehouse can sometimes prove problematic, as many systems would have to count this as a stock move and the stock would theoretically remain available while it is on the back of lorry between depots! Examples such as this show the need for close monitoring of the whole process, and a dedicated manager overseeing it who is separate from routine operations.
To tie together the physical and IT systems, stock reconciliation will be required. A move is often a good reason for a stock check and must not become a good opportunity for stock records to get out of line. Despite all these pitfalls most moves are completed smoothly and on time, and management attention can then move to optimising the performance of the new facility and all the new problems that will have to be confronted!