Ch-Ch-Changes: A Mentor’s Warehouse Memoirs.

Change;  To become different.  To make (someone or something) different.  To become something else.  It doesn’t sound like or come off as a very intimidating word, yet when people in the workplace hear it spoken, change, it can cause large scale ripples in the peaceful serenity of life. No matter what language it’s said in, Cambiar (spanish), Veranderen (dutch), Muuttaa (finnish) or Ndryshim (Albanian) it’s still change, and people fear change which is interesting since we are all constantly changing every day whether you know it or not.  New information changes your opinions, moods change your outlook and your body changes as it ages as each cell completes it’s normal preplanned chemical reaction.

Change is necessary to adapt and survive and Change can create more change.  The written word had to wait for about 4500 years before the printing press came along but only about 1000 years between the presses invention and computers.  Change can be for the good but Change for the sake of change is not good when it comes to the job and people.  The secret I learned well before people people were saying employee engagement, was to get people involved in the change.  When employees have input in change and the scope of change you prevent 10,000 rumors from floating through the plant creating negative vibrations.  People don’t fear the change when they can discuss it and exchange their ideas on it and now feel good because they’ve helped the change.  The worst thing you can do is force change, it then becomes the battle of trying to get your child to eat their vegetables.  They won’t do it even though it is good for them.

Once upon a time there was a young man, happily working in the warehouse as a non-exempt employee getting his 40 hours a week with occasional overtime.  Arriving at work one morning, even before he could have a cup of coffee, due to circumstances beyond his control, was thrusted into the realm of management.  CHANGE!  The previous warehouse supervisor, a very well liked person who had been working there for quite a while had allowed something very wrong and was unceremoniously shown the door.

Our protagonist was given this opportunity as it was explained, based on his previous work history, suggestions and productivity and the company also wanted to take this opportunity as well to “change the culture”.  He was now unknowingly himself, to become an instrument of change as well as the victim of change and most importantly, he survived this first change.

When you become the new supervisor on the block, whether promoted from within the ranks or an outsider hired in, like any new quarterback or new team player you must learn the play book while keeping the team performing and executing properly.  You also simultaneously have to gain the trust of the team as well since people don’t know what kind of manager you are and especially since some people already dislike you just because you replaced Mr. Fabulous and you’ll never be him.  Some will believe the rumor you worked behind the scenes and pushed for Mr. Fabulous’ release.  Some will be very happy thinking they’re friend moved up from the ranks is now in charge and they have his ear and one or two will come to you right away to give their opinions on which employees are productive and who’s not.

One thing about the perception of Change is that when you’re promoted you don’t need to change your personality to be a supervisor – You are the same personality today as you were yesterday and you still speak to people as you did before and it’s what got you the promotion.  There are positive changes to come, your job knowledge will increase,  experience personal growth and new confidence in yourself which will reflect in job performance.  Yea, I know there are things you’ve wanted to do for a long time if you ever got the opportunity and you are just chomping at the bit to change.  Wait to make those changes as you don’t want to create a panic and you want your changes to succeed so you will need to get everyones buy in.

On you first full day, gather your staff together in a convenient area, bring the donuts and introduce yourself to them and remind them what a great job they’ve been doing and look forward to everyone’s continued success.  Your commitment to workplace safety and use of PPE and working as a team as well as your open door policy and willingness to listen.  There is no such thing as a stupid question or suggestion.  Depending on the company rules and guidelines I also like to introduce the concept of cross training and weekly safety tailgates in my first group meeting.  Here are some more tips to help you get through change.

  • It takes 21 days to develop a new routine.  Until you’re comfortable remembering on your own make yourself a check list of the daily task that you now need to perform; Check the sick call line, poll staff for OT, time cards, check forklift inspection sheets.  Put it in any format that you’re comfortable working with.
  • Let individual staff members take you on tours of the warehouse or show you how they do their assigned tasks and be sure to listen.  See it from their point of view, it’s helpful and will give you ideas on what if anything needs to be changed to help them improve performance.
  • Keep a 3×5 notepad in your pocket.  Never know when something will set off the bulb over your head and you want to write it down right away before something interrupts you and the thought gets lost.  It’s also good to make notes of what good things you catch employees doing so you have something for their appraisals.
  • Not every body works exactly the same as you do.  When you did that job you set certain expectations for yourself daily.  Don’t helicopter manage if they do it differently but still achieve the goal.  Remember you want employees to grow and develop.
  • What other departments does yours interact with daily?  Purchasing, customer service, transportation?  Sit down with them and see what their pet peeves and previous issues are and not just with the department heads but the worker bees in the department as well.
  • Learn what department goals your boss wants to achieve this year and how they blend with the company’s overall goals.  Especially what do they mean when telling you they want to “change the culture”?  I was told up front once names of people I could have terminated immediately.  You have to stop and think; why do they want these people gone and why haven’t they done it.  I declined since I didn’t know what if any key areas they covered and if they were underachievers due to the company’s fault of poor training.  Since it was my group, I would see where the lapses were and correct them.  If you do make drastic changes for the culture, Is upper management totally committed and assisting with the change.  What do they perceive as the areas for improvement and what  key indicators do they use to base performance.
  • The only immediate change(s) I would make at this time is correcting any glaring safety violations or issues that can cause immediate harm to employees.
  • Remember to enforce the rules evenly with everybody.
  • Watch, listen and watch.  Each warehouse has it’s own rhythm, it’s own unique tempo and movement from the receiving dock to put-away to replenishments and ultimately picking and shipping.  Along this flow are there any areas of concern in regards to safety hazards, equipment use and sanitation concerns.  Once you have this down and fully understand it then you can look for opportunities for improvement.  Make sure to speak in the language your boss and his boss will understand, that is in $Dollars.  How much the changes will cost.  How much will be saved by the changes and how soon will it pay for itself?
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way.  Present the ideas to the staff and get their feedback, see what holes they can find in the plan and in many cases they’ll surprise you with ways to improve it.
  • Don’t listen to the people who tell you it can’t be done or we’ve tried that before.  That may be the main reason for the culture change since previous management didn’t consistently maintain new programs.

There may be times you do fail, just always be honest about it and learn from your mistakes and then move on.  Dwelling only creates doubt and you’ll loose confidence.  Remember life is one long roller coaster ride full of laughs and scary drops.  Believe in yourself and you’ll do fine on the ride.

Companies Behaving Badly-September two


The leaves are changing color, there’s a nip in the air, football is in full swing and fall is knocking at the door.  It’s a wonderful time of the year and also a great time to check and make sure your drivers and facility is ready for the change in season and prepared for bad weather and related emergencies. Creating a master checklist makes this task easy to do each year as there never seems to be an end to list of things to do in the warehouse.  However, one thing we’re not short on though is Companies Behaving Badly.

OSHA cites Packaging Corporation of America for safety violations PREVENTABLE – One would think that after 5 fatalities in four years you would take a serious look at your safety program and procedures.  However after another employee was badly burned OSHA came in again and found an additional 30 violations during their investigation.  Apparently the paper industry has historically favored what’s known as behavior-based safety as opposed to concentrating on processes and hazards that might lead to workplace injuries. Guess what, it’s not working.

OSHA fines aerosol paint manufacturer $262k after explosionPREVENTABLE – Nothing like having an emergency evacuation at the workplace and then finding the emergency exits blocked. That’s what they did at Fox Valley Systems, Inc.  Due to this three employees couldn’t get out fast enough after the explosion and were seriously injured. This act of ignorance has earned them a spot on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. When you go to work, like on an airplane look where the emergency exits are located and if you see them blocked be proactive and handle it and then report it to management.  Your life may depend on it.

Cal/OSHA Cites Henkel over $200,000 Following Death of TemporaryWorker – PREVENTABLE –  A 26 year old temporary worker was killed when he was pulled in by an exposed rotating shaft while doing his job.  This accident never should have occurred but Henkel thought it wasn’t important enough to maintain the guards on the equipment to protect their workers or even bother to follow their own safety program that identifies these issues.  I’m also willing to bet no one pointed the danger out to the temporary worker.  In my opinion I don’t think $200,000 is enough of a penalty when someone is killed by a companies stupidity, people need to start going to jail.

OSHA cites company, proposes $63,490 in finesPREVENTABLE – I am constantly amazed at how many companies lack a Lock Out Tag Out program and E.L. Mustee & Sons not only doesn’t have a program to train their employees but they were dinged a year earlier for the same exact thing and still couldn’t be bothered! Protecting your workers should be the number one goal especially when it’s so easy to do.  In fact E.L Mustee & Sons contact me, I’ll write the LOTO program for you, at a discounted price.  You spend money to train, maintain and produce a product, why do you want OSHA in your place checking every little thing when you could have rectified this issue a year ago?

OSHA Fines Company After Florissant Man’s Death, 26 Violations Discovered PREVENTABLE – A worker was found dead from accidental electrocution.  Upon their inspection after the accident OSHA found 19 further violations including, wait for it, lack of machine-specific lockout procedures, no annual inspection of the lockout program, missing lockout devices, multiple instances of locks not being placed on machines to prevent unintentional energization and lack of machine guarding.  The most scary part of this is how many times have they done this and got away with it that it makes it worth while to continue this dangerous behavior before luck ran out.  

OSHA cites McDonough medical businessPREVENTABLE – Atlanta Health Careers Institute, LLC was cited for failure to correct it’s training practices and training workers in the bloodborne pathogen program.  That would be the equivalent of not having your chefs and wait staff wash their hands after using the restroom.   Again, like not having a LOTO program in place there is NO excuse for this and so easy to prevent.  Don’t wait for government inspectors to find your lapses, do a quarterly or annual review of your facility and update any procedures when installing new equipment.

OSHA launches video series to educate young workers Humor and song raise awareness about hazardsINFORMATION – Yes, those crazy kids at OSHA have produced a new video to reach out to the young workers on hazards.  Hopefully they’ll stop texting long enough to watch it.

2012 Fatal Occupational Injuries in California – INFORMATION – Latest statistics for fatal injuries in California in 2012.

Serpent Safety Helmet Wins New Product of the Year Award – PPE – New helmet to check out.

OSHA Inspections – Part 1: What to Expect During the VisitHELPFUL INFO – You should know your rights and how to handle it when a OSHA inspector shows up at the door.  Great info and a must read for any warehouse manager.

Please, don’t ever put yourself in a position of possible injury just because you’re told to do so.  If you get injured when not following procedure no one in management will protect you by saying, oh he was doing me a favor.  They’ll throw you to the wolves.  You should expect to go home the way you arrived at work, in one piece.  Keeping quiet about safety violations may cause a lifetime of guilt.  Are you ready for that?  Remember be a safety advocate.  Until the next episode of Companies Behaving Badly take care and work safe.

It’s still NOT to late to get your free Green Safety Pin that you can wear and show the world your commitment to safety in the Workplace.  Subscribe to this Blog by September 30, 2013 and it’s yours.

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A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume II-Picking PPE


In Volume I-Back To Basics, we began our trip down the Green Brick Road of Safety where we met job safety analysis, who showed us where our safety hazards can be located.  Now that we know that we can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their tasks.  PPE – Personal Protective Equipment, (Is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards), is very similar to what our Knight above is wearing.  His job description includes protecting his King from enemies of the realm which probably usually meant battle.  So his PPE had to help protect him from swords, lances and arrows the best it could so he could continue doing his job and save the kingdom.



The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for either type of football game.  Shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets give protection needed to get through the game.

Apply this thinking as you look at where the hazards intersect with the employees and what added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability.  As a reminder, a safety professional should usually do this, however knowledge is a powerful thing and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of what is available.

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HANDS/GLOVES – There are many types of gloves available for any job function.  For moving and handling cartons or stacking pallets the gloves will give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters.  If your job includes using sharp blades or cutting instruments there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations.     There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for extreme temperature use.  You have many to choose from to properly protect your workers.

HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or areas with low hanging obstacles.   A bump cap can prevent head impact and penetration injuries in those situations.  It is also highly recommended that staff cover and protect long hair that can get caught in machinery parts or belts.

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EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times.  Employees that work in areas where they are flying fragments, large chips, sparks and splashes  should be fitted for face shields.  Goggles, safety glasses and prescription glasses with side shields may be effective enough for areas with particles, sand, dirt, dusts and glare.

EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, since damage can be  gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight.  Working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 90dB or higher will cause irreversible damage your hearing.  Consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs will protect your hearing.  Ear plugs come as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal or permanent egg plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional.  Some high noise areas may require a combination of ear plugs and muffs.


FEET/LEG PROTECTION – Just as important as the eyes and ears are your limbs.  Having the dock workers wear steel tipped shoes will help prevent crushed toes and broken bones in the foot.  They protect not only from a run-over hazard but dropping heavy items as well.  If you work in a cold warehouse the proper shoes will also prevent slips and falls.

LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Are there areas of the facility where heavy dust is an issue or smoke, gas vapors, paints and sprays are completed.  Depending on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and toxicity of the vapors there are many items available.  From simple dust masks  to respirators and other breathing apparatus for use in confined spaces where toxic fumes collect.

ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s inside a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer from within inside.  That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like.  You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal.  There is not air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be toxic gases still trapped inside.  Think about having to stand near by as molten metals are poured into molds and you get a blast of the fumes and heat as it’s poured or imagine picking customer orders for hours in sub zero temperatures inside a giant freezer.  In every case, make sure you do the job using only the proper PPE.  It can be a matter of life or death.

Remember, none of these suggestions will work if proper training is not given as an accompaniment.   Employees must be educated  on how to properly use the PPE, understand the limitations of the PPE and how to adjust and wear the PPE including how to maintain it.  Training is the key for any successful safe workplace and there is never an excuse for not holding at least a monthly safety meeting as well as encourage the participation of staff on safety committees.  Thank you for joining this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  We still have some distance to go.  Volume III will be here before you know it.

If You’re Finger Pointing, It’s Too Late, 2.

This article was originally published Jul 2012 and was spawned from a discussion on LinkedIn.  However, In light of recent accidental workplace explosions and fires it has been revised and updated.

What is going on people?  There has been a series of serious workplace accidents in the news of late, happening around the world and the U.S.  This is a big concern since it tells me people are getting lazy, cutting corners and looking the other way from glaring safety violations.  I fear some are using budgetary concerns as an excuse to reduce safety awareness, training, preparation and enforcement which is infuriating since most if not all of these accidents were absolutely preventable.

(Warning-on my soap box for a moment)  When you read about American manufacturers crying about the cost of compliance of safety and environmental programs laid out by U.S. Government Agencies and how the industry can do a better job of regulating itself, I look at these incidents and wonder how bad it would get if they did.  Don’t these corporations realize these incidents only lead to further scrutiny by those Government Agencies,  adding more red tape and contant OSHA investigations which always leads to finger pointing, not to mention the lost revenues due to shutdowns for investigations, the imposed fines as well as the care and rehabilitation of the injured or even worse, death benefits.

You can always recognize a facility that has slashed or eliminated it’s safety budget as soon as you walk in the door.  Immediately you notice the safety violations, lack of organization, cleanliness, enforcement and poor working habits.  It has been proven over and over the best course of action is   still prevention.  So let’s look at some of these recent accidents.

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• April 8, 2013.  7 Workers Die Inside Mexico Brewery Tank.  PREVENTABLE.  There are several measures that should be taken before any employee enters a confined space.  An air sample should be taken before anyone enters to check for toxic fumes.  Do you know what was stored in there before?  Not only should the employee(s) entering wear a tether so they can be retrieved quickly, but someone should also be spotting, constantly maintaining visual and verbal contact while employee(s) are working inside.  There is no quick in and out with this and all procedure need to be followed.  The worst thing is to send in more people to retrieve an unconscious person without proper equipment, you only wind up with more victims.  In the United States NO one can order you into a confined space without taking these proper steps or fire you for refusal.

• April 17, 2013.  The Texas fertilizer plant explosion.  PENDING.  The investigation continues but your credibility may be in question when you forget to tell the Department of Homeland Security that you were storing large quantities of a potentially explosive fertilizer, ammonium nitrate.  Not a minor oops when the reporting threshold is 400 pounds and you held 270 tons.  Then, their most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5250 in fines.  I don’t see the savings here in cutting corners.

• April 24, 2013.  Fuel Barges Explode On Mobile River, Injuring 3.  PENDING.  The U.S. Coast guard is investigating but stated that the likely cause of the fire was a spark created during cleaning.  The question begs, was proper protocol followed before cleaning began or was someone in a rush and just cut corners?  As above, working a confined space like a fuel barge, you need to make sure it is empty and free of fumes before beginning any work, and double check before using any type of flame or spark producing equipment.

• April 26, 2013.  Worker Killed At Nissan’s Tennessee Plant.  PREVENTABLE.  An employee of a supplier died in a fatal accident at its vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn. when a large electrical panel fell while it was being moved.  My gut tells me that someone thought this would only take a few minutes and didn’t make sure the equipment was properly secured for moving.  I found that outside contractors are the worst at following safety guidelines and gives your staff a legit complaint of why they have to and outsiders don’t.  The best way to handle this is outside contractors are escorted everywhere by an employee, which costs money or they go through a training course given by the company and after that any violators are banished.

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• March 21, 2013.  $58M verdict in death suit could be New Mexico record.  PREVENTABLE.  Training is so critical to any job.  How the machine operates, how to clock in and out, PPE and how to properly wear it, all the do’s and don’ts.  The jury sent a clear message to the trucking industry, and the oil and gas industry in particular, that those companies who choose not to follow safety rules, and who place profits over human life, will be held accountable for the harm that they cause.

• May 1, 2013.  Worker Dies in blender at meat plant.  PREVENTABLE.  LOTO (Lock Out Tag Out) – This is a loto you want to win.  No piece of equipment should be touched until it is rendered safe by cutting off it power and/or air supply.  No matter how young or agile you think you are you still are not quicker than the machine.  Clearing jams, making adjustments, replacing parts, and for cleaning — LOTO.  Again, in the U.S. NO ONE can order you to work on “live equipment”.  

Safety in the workplace is not a magical process that happens all on it’s own.  It is something that needs to be planned, prepared, communicated and then training, instruction and more training followed by your ever present vigilance.   There is no worse feeling in the world than filling out an accident report and escorting an employee to the emergency room.

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You have every right to leave work at the end of your shift the same way you arrived, in one piece.  If safety is not taken seriously at your workplace you have a few options.  Become a safety advocate and bring issues to your supervisor.  Discuss the issues with your H.R. department and help form safety committees with management and workers resolving potential problems together.  If you belong to a  union bring the issues up to your business manager, what are you paying dues for?  However, if your attempts to bring safety forefront are continually ignored or put down and people are getting hurt, you have an important decision to make.  You either put up with it and hope for the best or you quit and work somewhere else where your life is appreciated as much as your contributions or pick up that phone and call OSHA. There is only one you that can’t be replaced and who wants to be there when the finger pointing begins.

Sure Fire Ways To Achieve Max Velocity.

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I love science.  Well, most of science, not a big fan of equations and statistics.  However, I love science, even more, when I get the opportunity to apply it to issues going on in my world of warehousing. Science?!  In a warehouse? Really?!  I think the best way to prove it, is to show you how we can use science in your warehouse.

Order picking, like receiving is another one of those critical areas of any warehouse whether picking raw materials for manufacturing or picking orders to be shipped to a commercial store or residential retail customer.  Your goal is to get the correct item to the customer intact and within the timeline the customer demands.  You want picking to be an uninterrupted flow, like a serene river, with the pick order set in a sequence to build a stable and good looking pallet, able to stand up to the rigors of shipping and within the customer’s specs.

If your warehouse pick operation is already set up for maximum efficiency you are to be commended.  If you would like to get your order picking to that point here are some tips and history to get you there.  It begins with Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, born July 15, 1848, and the young Italian grew up with many interests and talents including engineering, sociologist, economist, and scientist.  He was the first who observed in 1906 than 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population and he further developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.  This all gave birth to the Pareto principle of 80/20.

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This principle applies to your warehouse in that 20% of your sku, (stock keeping unit) account for 80% of the volume picked.  Why is that significant?  When you set up the locations of your picking slots you want the fastest movers closest to the dock for convenient quick movement.  In fact, depending on the quantities you ship you may want to look into cross docking some of these items as well.  You also want to give the physical pick location ample space to hold enough product for orders to be picked with the least amount of replenishments.  It also means that the items that account for only 5% of your pick volume can be placed the furthest away from the dock and can sometimes be stored in gravity flow racks and picked in batch style.  How does one find out how fast product moves?  You should be able to have generated a velocity report, and I would bet that the sales and purchasing groups have access to this report as well.  It’ll break down for you the total numbers of units moved for each SKU over a designated period of time.  This information can show you seasonal variations in quantities of specific sku shipped and other patterns.  I found running a velocity report quarterly was enough but you may want to look at it on a monthly basis.  Now you can categorize your sku into their different types of mover groups, fastest to the slowest and  can be broken down into three or four groups depending on the number of sku you maintain on hand.  A items=20% of the products that account for 80% of cases moved.  B=30% of the products that account for 15% of cases moved and C=50% of the products that account for 5% of cases moved.

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With that accomplished we can begin planning the slotting sequence and layout of your pick slots.  Usually want to set it up with heavy & large sturdy items picked first to form the base of the pallet and smaller lighter cases on top to avoid any crushing of boxes.  If you’re picking strictly raw materials for production put your heaviest items closest to production.  Make sure to purposely leave a few empty pick slots here and there for future expansion or to help give added slots for holiday season quick movers.

Once you have the sequence in order, to help maintain maximum picking effeincty you want to know how many cases of an item can actually fit into the picking slot.  That information helps determine the size of the pick slot you want and the number of replenishment you’ll need to make during any given workday.  The best way to accomplish this is by Cubing.   No, it’s not the art period but the cubic footage the case, carton, the box actually exists in.  However, to stop and measure every single sku you have and calculating the cubic space it uses is extremely labor intensive and there is also a greater risk of error.  There are machines like Cubiscan that you can purchase or lease to accomplish this task in no time.  Moving forward, as new items come to the warehouse you can get the carton size specs from purchasing or the vendor for calculating cubic feet.  


Keeping the flow.  I strongly recommend that once you have gone through all this effort to get your picking operation in order keep it fresh by reviewing velocity reports on a regular basis and reviewing your slotting.  Listen to feedback from the pickers as they’re in the trenches every day and believe me they enjoy building the perfect pallet and they catch subtle differences in carton sizes or weights and other changes in the product.   They have some great ideas on picking sequence.  Most importantly put all this information together and develop a written slotting guide and procedures for your company on how the product is set up in the warehouse.  State your list of categories of velocity, A – ? , how often you’ll do velocity reports and Include what input is needed from purchasing and suggested timeline for this process on new items coming in with their dimensions, weight and estimated usage.  Make sure all old inventory is used up before beginning a new replacement item to avoid dead inventory.

Hurray Science.

A Sure-Fire Guide To The Gateway For Prevention


The warehouse loading dock is a major gateway for your company and with the constant ebb and flow of people, products and materials simultaneously arriving and leaving it’s a busy place.  However, without the proper precautions taken it also can be the gateway for infestation, contamination and other unwanted visitors who are always looking for easy access to your warehouse and it’s contents and they are most pleased when you’re not being very vigilant in your prevention.

trojan-horsePOINTS OF ENTRY – So what are their usual points of entry?  Let’s begin with those innocent looking trailers backing into your dock door right now.  They could be just like a Trojan horse except now hiding and transporting vermin.  Have your staff routinely do a visual inspection of all trailers before unloading.  Look for the usual signs of infestation like rodent droppings, bags, and boxes with holes that look chewed open and any insect activity. Contamination could also come in the form of chemical or other unwanted compound so also look for spills of liquid or powder in the trailer.  It’s a good safety habit to develop making sure the floor boards in the trailer are in good shape as well.  If they look deteriorated or broken and not safe enough to hold a forklift immediately contact your supervisor.  When a refer unit backs in you should also check that the temperature inside is at the correct level for the safe transport of that particular fresh or frozen food product(s).  Any foul odors should also be followed up with a closer look in the trailer as some food items will absorb these odors. Then as you off load, check the condition of the pallets themselves for broken boards, exposed nails in addition for any indications of contamination.


DOORS & WALLS – Another area of entry is the dock doors and dock levelers.  When the doors are rolled down they may keep people out but can you still see any daylight coming from outside?  A mouse only needs a tiny crack 2 cm in size to get in while a rat can fit through a hole as small as a quarter.  Seal up all cracks and holes and use dock door brushes(>) or weather stripping to block all access.  This should be accomplished for any holes or damage in the walls in your warehouse that would allow vermin entry into the warehouse.  Seal them properly and to last.


As an added precaution it’s also very important to have tin cats at all entrances from the outside and throughout the warehouse.  Most pest control companies do a good job monitoring the tin cats and other pest activity. Each time the trap is inspected, update the data card inside and initial, verifying this activity.  It doesn’t hurt to keep them honest and follow up by spot checking.   Is the dock area kept clean?  If you are currently having a pest control company visit weekly, you can save money by reducing it to a monthly visit and then having your trained staff check the tin cats the other weeks.   In seasons when it gets very warm and you need a little ventilation, use of screen doors helps keep out flying insects and bug zappers in key areas also provide great backup on controlling entry.


So now that we’ve closed as many points of entry we can why leave them an invite with an incentive?  Any small amount of food remnants and trash not properly contained will attack any hungry animal.  You don’t want to find rodents having a midnight rave in your warehouse at your expense.  A good idea is to put that task on a sanitation schedule, assigned to reliable people and then make sure it gets done.  In addition, don’t allow incoming delivery drivers to sweep out their trailers at your dock unless they bag the trash and dispose of in a proper designated container.

Door Solutions

Keep the area around your loading dock clean and free of trash.  Leaving cardboard and broken pallet boards to remain on the ground is another invitation to stay and build a nest as well as becoming a magnet for other trash.  How’s the flora around your warehouse?  High weeds and grass provide great camouflage for the vermin invaders?  Have it cut back and maintained on a regular basis.  Lastly, be aware of what’s going on around your neighborhood.  If there is any construction going on nearby that may be displacing vermin from their homes?  They will be searching for better digs and you don’t want them to give your warehouse a second look.  It wouldn’t hurt to keep an extra eye on the activity at your place.

Another great side benefit of employing and following these practices is improved safety.  Without clutter and trash around and keeping your facility neat and organized immensely improves overall safety reducing trips and falls and other accidents.

Now that you have protected your gateway and have put your defenses in place, train the staff accordingly and remember to stay vigilant!


You can also practice these techniques in your own home to protect it from invaders. Read Secrets of the Professionals Revealed That You Can Use at Home.

A Guide For Your Own Intelligent Warehouse.


In days of yore, warehouses used to be nothing more than a dumping ground for bodies.  That’s right folks, a company would dump their misfits, malcontents and ne’er-do-well right into the warehouse grind as a “last chance” to demonstrate they could still be productive employees.  If they couldn’t cut it here, they weren’t worth saving.  That’s how unimportant warehouses were perceived back then only to be worked in as punishment like an Australian penal colony.  It was also one of the last bastion for men as a warehouse was a manly place and only real men worked there, horsing around like kids and playing games in their locker rooms.  It was a time when smoking was good and a hard drink was necessary to start the day, seat belts didn’t exist in cars, you didn’t have to be politically correct as ethnic jokes were SOP daily and to work in a warehouse you only needed to rely on your brawn.  You could just check your brain in at the door;  as a manager told me once in the very beginning of my young warehouse career, “I didn’t hire you to think.”  As long as money was made, all was right with the world and so that’s how things operated for years, mindless zombies doing as they were told, losing limbs, losing lives, endless hours on their feet, no PPE of any kind, and your only recourse was to go with the flow and be assimilated.


Then, slowly the winds of change began to pick up speed until they brought in a STORM.  The baby boomers were coming of age and a new consciousnesses began spreading across the land.  People asked why? It was like the renaissance had begun all over again as it whisked us out of the dark ages.  Why do we treat people differently?  Why do we do it this way?  Just for asking these simple questions people were beaten and called horrible names and were cast out as blasphemers and told “because, that’s the way it is.”  But this time there were many more voices to ask those questions and on top of that, even had the gaul to demand answers as well!  Soon Civil rights and then women’s rights were issues as this new awareness of fellow human beings and how they were being treated emerged.  Then workers rights was soon to follow and OSHA came along, (1971) and SAFETY was born.   Forklifts were getting smaller and easier to maneuver and maintain and with a wider selection for applications of all kinds.  Then came one of the biggest changes, the desktop computer, (MITS-1974/Tandy-1977).  Things could be tracked and put on a nice spread sheet.  Expenses, inventory, transactions could be pin pointed in real time.  Oh My!

As other changes continued to modify the face of the workplace, the one significant change that occurred was how we looked at whom was working in our warehouses. Brawn was no longer an important requirement as it was before.  We focused on people who could think for themselves and understand that it was just as important for them to work safely and smarter as it was for the company.  We wanted people who could adapt to change and make swift adjustments on the fly without drop in productivity and quality.   We wanted people who could pick at the speed of light and beyond.  Of course this brought a whole new problem to the table,  how do we retain those smart safe workers to ensure continued growth for the company and consistency of leadership in the warehouse?  Let’s face it folks, a leader knows the biggest asset in their company is not the infrastructure, materials, or equipment, but the people.  Yea, the ones hired  and trusted to keep up the maintenance, move the materials and operate the equipment.  The ones in the trenches daily, making the company look good while making decisions to keep customers happy, thanks to the trust and backing to do so.  Now the why asked was, how may I help you?

So what are the best ways to find and retain these people?  When you begin the task of recruiting and hiring remember, as Darwin said, I’m paraphrasing here, selection is everything, so work closely with your HR department and give them all the details of the job that is to be performed and the steps on how it’s expected to be accomplished.  Include what kind of PPE is required to perform the job and what kind(s) of equipment is involved and related training that’ll be given.  The more information you give HR the better the selection process.  Then to begin things right, after the selection is made, laying down a firm foundation with a well developed, planned, orientation and training for new employees is crucial for theirs and your success.  I can’t stress how important this is.  I’ve worked for some large companies where their training of new staff began and ended with one sentence, here’s your workstation. You want staff to begin producing as soon as possible and not wondering what’s expected of me?  It also encourages them to stay since you’ve demonstrated you care about their success as employees.  There are many ways to put together your orientation and you can read how Michelin handles this, below.  I would also add to make sure you cover all aspics in the warehouse, especially safety, forklifts and other power equipment, security and emergency procedures, location of supervisor and manager and then set up some time with their new work mates to chat at lunch or walk around the warehouse. “Workforce:  Successful Employees Require a Solid Start.”

Retention is not much different to handle.  Unlike during the DotCom boom, expresso machines and game rooms aren’t as important today as job security and job satisfaction.  The golden rule to help employee retention we learned in kindergarten, treat people as you want to be treated.  Example?  Sure, glad you asked.  You wouldn’t like being chewed out in the middle of the dock floor for everybody to witness, so why do it to them?  When you have to “talk” to an employee do it with respect and be a coach, not a criticizer.   Listen to your workforce.  If they’re complaining about a safety issue don’t you dare blow them off.  The best way to turn off an employee is to NOT LISTEN.  Again, put yourself in their place and remember just because it’s a pebble to you, doesn’t mean it’s not a boulder to them and you want to cultivate their interest in what goes on in the company.  Get employees involved with the workplace through safety committees, quality circles and continuous improvement projects and maintenance of equipment, (they run it, they know it better than anyone).  Have impromptu discussions right on the work floor, in their office, on improving forklift skills, safety hazard awareness and let them be creative.  Once a year I would split the staff into three groups, and sent them through the warehouse and office trying to identify safety hazards I had previously set up.  The winning team got recognition and a free hour off.  Listening to them I found time was more precious than food.

Two other ways to help retain employees is to have training programs where they can improve their skills and be elegible for promotions.  One company I worked for offered spanish and english language  classes to improve internal communication.  Can also give classes on inventory control and warehouse terminology.  A good employee should be able to work at least one level down and one level up.  The training could also help refresh their skills to use a fire extinguisher or doing LOTO or how to properly escort a driver to the loading bay and please, get them involved as presenters as well.  In addition, make sure you make every attempt to promote from within.  If you have to keep bringing outsiders in for positions then you need to review your training program as employees will not stay.

Eventually, hopefully sooner, our society will finally get to the point where it is realized that all people are the same, and they all bring great points of view to the table, you just have to want to tap that source.  Human beings are precious bundles that drop in for an 80 year or so visit, make their mark by raising people to do and be better than themselves, love who you want, have a good laugh and live life.

OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:  Those Disposable People.  – Kevin Meyer (Evolving Excellence Mar 2013), The ROI of employee recognition -Jill Jusko (Industry Week Feb 2013), Success tips for middle managers. – Lisa Woods (Managing Americans .com), Change your words, change your life. – Tony Robbins (LinkedIn, Oct 2012)

A Warehouse Bed Time Tale

A long, long time ago, in a Kingdom far away, all indications by nature and wise-persons had pointed out to the good King, that it was going to be a long, hard and barren winter.  The very smart and handsom King realized immediately that he would need a great warehouse to store everything the Kingdom would need to survive the long winter.  It would need to be a warehouse capable of storing a wide range of items from dried grains to foods to wood for fires.  So he put forth a proclamation to the far reaches of the Kingdom requesting for Artisans and Craftspeople to design and upon approval, build the biggest, best, and most efficient warehouse the likes of which, have never been seen before in all the land.

As word spread, the good King was soon visited by many fellows from far away lands and people who had very strange names.  There was Six Sigma, and Lean with their numbers so square and bell curves so pretty, no one would dare!  There was Kaizen and Shingo so exotic sounding in their ways, with Haiku like rules, so pretty to display.  They were soon followed by lettermen; FIFO, JIT, BI and CRM.  A jumble to be reckoned with for sure, but did they spell?  The noise only grew louder and louder as they chanted, “Pick Me, Pick me!”

Just as time to build the warehouse was running out and the King began to fret his people would starve,  he had a dream.  The King dreamt of a great wizard who approached and uttered these words,  sensus communis, sensus communis.   The King awoke in a cold sweat.  Of course, the answer has always been there, right in front of me.  The ancient books have the answers.  So good King Jamkins went down to the vault, and pulled the great volumes to build and operate a great Quality Warehouse.

LAYOUT, Personnel Planning, Inventory control, stock location management, Safety, Operations -rec-orderpik-ship, maintenance, pest control, sanitation, storage and future supply chain galore.  Sensus communis is just the order.  So the Kingdom was saved and made it through the winter, but due to a large part from the collaboration with WarehouseFlow Consulting.  May all your warehouse dreams come true.

Killer Article Got Us Talking.


THANK YOU ALL for reading “The Secret Killer In Your Warehouse” and making it the most read article since I began doing this blog back in July of 2012.   In fact, you readers set new records on total hits on WitzShared blog, well beyond my expectations.  It seems the article touched a nerve and that’s my intent, to spotlight issues like safety and hopefully motivate people to engage in the discussion, to share tips, spark ideas and let you know that you’re not alone in this.  Managing a warehouse is nothing like it was 25 years ago, but even with latest warehouse management systems, RF tools,  apps, and other electronic gear, the main issues still remain the safety of your staff while balancing the expectations of the customers and be under budget and try to retain talented employees.


One thing I have developed a strong opinion on in 25 years is that you can’t manage people with your head in the sand.  No matter how much real time data you’re being fed on your gizmo, the best thing to do is go for a walk.  It’s healthy for you first of all.  It gives you a chance to get the blood flowing and bathe your brain in oxygen.  It’s also a great time to observe and catch someone doing something correctly, and let them know it with a very strong, thank you.  Being on the floor also makes your ear available to staff for listening.  Say there is a roadblock they face everyday and this may be the chance to show it to you.  Give them time and be patient as they explain it to you.  “The walk is also a leadership process in which a manager walks through his or her areas of responsibility in order to gain a better understanding of how the operation is running,” this is a Gemba walk as described by Gotta Go Lean blog by Velaction a good resource.  To tell you the truth, you can call your walk any thing you want!  Walk about or my stroll come to mind.  I happen to think Gemba walk sounds cool.  Just do it.

So remember don’t be an Ostrich and bury your head in the sand.  Preach safety and keep the discussion going.  Together we can be a force to be reckoned with.  Thank you all again.

The Secret Killer In Your Warehouse


There is a killer lurking in your warehouse.  It takes the lives of as many as 85 people each year.  You may know it by one of its aliases, sit downcounterbalance, reach truck or cherry picker, but by any name, it is the power horse of many warehouses, the forklift.  Almost half of the fatalities were due to employees being crushed by the forklift tipping over and another 25% due to people crushed between the forklift and a hard place.  Now add in the nearly 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries caused when this tool is misused that creates downtime, lost money and further investigation into your warehouse operation.  So even with all of the latest electronic gadgets and safety devices on forklifts, the odds are still 1 in 10 forklifts will be involved in an accident in the U.S. this year.


WHY?  The biggest issue is human error.  Not paying attention or following the rules of the road.  One glaring example is the number of crushed deaths that could be so easily eliminated if drivers would use their seat belts.  Yes folks, just like in your car, the seat belt keeps you from being thrown from the tipping forklift and winding up underneath the 4-ton vehicle.  Yea.  I’ve heard it all before, it’s a pain in the butt to keep buckling and unbuckling ever time I have to get out.  SO WHAT!  I would rather you suffer that little inconvenience than having to watch your loved ones suffer because you died horribly.  The other issue is horseplay.  Nothing tarnishes a warehouses reputation more than grown men acting stupid with power equipment.  Allowing this behavior to go on, is not professional, it demonstrates to upper management you have no control and if someone was to be seriously injured, in California you could go to jail.  Early in my career, I wound up getting promoted because the previous supervisor wanted to be a nice guy and looked the other way when his favorites engaged in horseplay until the day of the accident and a young employee lost part of his foot.  Something he would have to live with for the rest of his life.  You, Mr. Supervisor, you work too hard to make your Quality Warehouse run as well as it does, don’t allow horseplay or the boys being boys, ruin it.

The testers.  There will be those employees who will test you.  If you are a new supervisor or new at your current warehouse you can set the tone by having a safety meeting and telling them, you take safety seriously and this is how it’s going to be.   Right after I came on board, I had one guy test me by wearing his earplugs and listening to his Ipod while loading trucks.  I explained to him why it wasn’t going to be tolerated and it stopped immediately.  He wanted to see what kind of boss I was by my commitment to safety.  When he saw I was serious he became my most productive and safe employee.


PREACH SAFETY:  Like 5S, discussed in an earlier blog, (All I really need to know about 5S I learned from Grandma) Forklift safety is an important building block to your Quality Warehouse.  Be a disciple and preach it and live it every day by   Make sure all forklift inspections are completed at the beginning of each shift.  — Make sure you read them and respond immediately to any concerns noted.                   — When an employee shows an interest in safety issues, nurture it, don’t ever stifle it.      — Hold monthly safety meetings and try a different topic each month but always take at least a minute to remind about forklift safety.  As simple as, great month guys, no incidents.   — Hold 10-minute safety tailgate meetings on the floor once a week.  One topic you can use goes over the forklift checklist on what to actually look for during the inspection and have an employee demonstrate it to their peers.  They’ll beam with pride.  — Deal with any infractions of forklift use or near misses you, witness, immediately!  Don’t put it off, or feel like you’re cutting someone a break.  The next incident could be fatal and then it’s too late.  Pull them aside and discuss what had happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.  It could be as simple as to just slow down.   If there are several incidents pull their forklift privileges for a while and in all cases document, document, document.  Anyone who worked for me that had an accident or near miss had to take the certification process again.  Watch the videos and pass the written test before returning their privileges.



A busy Quality Warehouse should sound like a symphony.  You can close your eyes and listen to the horns as forklifts move in and out of trailers on the dock.  The beeps of the RF guns as the product is checked in and moved.  The whoosh of the coolers automatic doors.  Don’t stop the music or the WarehouseFlow by allowing a killer to run loose in your operation.