What

There is a good chance if it’s in the fridges of the major retailers, it’s been handled by Pure Logistics.
 
Pure Logistics was born out of two proud Australian family companies, Scott’s Refrigerated Freightways and McColl’s Transport. Both were acquired by ABN AMRO Capital in late 2005. On March 1st, 2007, Scott’s McColl’s Group Holdings became Pure Logistics, providing a unifying identity through the creation and use of a new name and brand.
 
The name change is the beginning of a new era and is an essential element of the company‘s strategy; to be the leading specialist provider to the food grade and bulk liquid industry in Australia. Pure Logistics is at the cutting edge of refrigerated transport, cold storage, bulk liquid distribution and warehousing services to the food, resale, chemical and manufacturing industries. Pure Logistics works with all the major food manufacturers and retailers to ensure the varied requirements are always met in terms of warehousing, transport and logistics solutions.
 
The commitment that the company will execute is best summed up by Paul Graham, CEO of Pure Logistics: “Everything we do is built around this promise to our customers: we will protect the purity of whatever it is you ask us to deliver. We will do this through a combination of smart thinking, clever technology and a passion to get the job done. Whatever you entrust us with, we promise to carry it safely, carefully and with constant supervision.”
 
The Pure Logistics Group has three main classifications to its warehousing function that supports the group’s seven divisions. On the bulk liquids side, the group runs a number of ambient warehouses in all states. These are used for a combination of general warehousing contracts and also for consolidation before and after the linehaul leg. The cold chain division has major sites in each state that offer two major services: frozen storage at -20 ºC, and chilled storage at 0 to +4 ºC. This gives customers secure, reliable storage and warehousing services all hosted on one national warehousing system.
 
In addition these cold stores all have refrigerated dock space that forms the backbone of the cold chain division’s national network of chilled cross dock freight consolidation. This network will be moving onto a track and trace system for tracking pallets across the network – the first of its kind in Australia’s cold chain transport industry.
 
The cold chain division runs operations catering for the various requirements relating to meat, produce, and manufactured commodities in both chilled and frozen contexts. Pure Logistics also caters for goods in the confectionery sectors.
 
Pure Logistics has implemented the Paperless Warehousing warehouse management system (WMS) in all the major DCs as the national WMS solution . This allows for the monitoring and tracking of stock levels, stock rotation, use-by-dates, pallet numbers, lot and batch numbers. Accuracy rates associated with management of customers’ goods is near 100%. Errors are absolutely minimal. Orders can be received electronically and batch and date information can be utilized.
 
Pure Logistics utilises radio frequency (RF) infrastructure to scan stock barcodes and manage pallets that are consistent with standard serial shipper container codes (SSCC). Recently, Pure Logistics successfully migrated an old narrowband RF network to a new, modern, high speed broadband RF network meeting all the requirements of 802.11 G/B standards for this technology.
 
This revamped network allows for improved performance on an operational level delivered by improved first scan, increased reliability, reduction in downtime and improved speed in relation to data base updates. The Paperless Warehousing WMS operates 60-plus hand-held and fork mounted RF devices across the organisation.
 
Each of the cold chain facilities, that’s six sites nationally, is operating the Paperless Warehousing WMS. The Pure Logistics transport division (formerly McColls Transport) was operating a different WMS, and a further six sites are currently being replaced by the Paperless Warehousing WMS to provide a national standardised solution with Paperless.
 
According to national operations manager Dean Newman the Paperless Warehousing WMS is an integral element of the companies offering.
 
“We have quite an operation, each of our facilities around the country operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We deliver up to 80% of all refrigerated and perishable products to the retail sector nationally. There is a good chance if it’s in the fridges of the major retailers it’s been handled by Pure Logistics, and by the Paperless WMS” he said.
 
“Once we’ve implemented across the six new sites, the Paperless Warehousing WMS will be managing well over 50,000 pallet positions, and to give you an idea of the volumes, in the lead up to Christmas ‘06 we cross-docked up to 70,000 pallets a week.”
 
“I’ve been in the supply chain and logistics industry for over 15 years and in my experience the Paperless Warehousing WMS is the system most suited to our business, ” said Newman. “We enjoy the application, reliability is a key feature and we find it to be an exceptionally robust application,” he said.
 
“With the help of the Paperless Warehousing team we’ve been able to develop a first for the cold chain industry and that’s a track-and-trace facility capable of tracking a pallet at a granular level and even drill down to a carton level,” said Newman.
 
“This has been around in the dry freight industry for some 15 years, but it’s a first for the cold chain. It’s required a significant investment, however, ABN AMRO is prepared to invest to ensure we are providing the very best service to our customers,” he said.
 
“I’ve also been impressed with the team at Paperless Warehousing. Fundamentally they understand our business and the business of warehousing and meet the demands we drive at them,” he said.
 
“Enhancements to the system are not a problem and frankly they are very reasonable with the rates they charge for required changes,” said Newman, “I’ve worked with other WMS providers and charges for modifications have been astronomical.”
 
Pure Logistics is also a proud supporter of the community at large and in particular it is an Emerald Sponsor of CanTeen, the national support organisation for young people (aged 12-24) living with cancer, including cancer patients, their brothers and sisters and young people with parents or primary carers with cancer.
 
“We support CanTeen by supplying transport for the distribution of one million bandanas for the annual event, National Bandana Day,” said marketing manager Danielle Grant, “and we deliver them in our vehicles displaying the iconic CanTeen logo. It is a ‘moving billboard’ for CanTeen and especially important when we reach those kids affected by cancer who are isolated in regional areas,” she said.
 
“Supply chain is now a technologically advanced industry and it continues to embrace new and emerging technologies,” said Newman. “Another progressive initiative is our unique school community program, allowing students to gain first hand experience about the industry and road safety. Overall, it demonstrates how progressive warehousing and transportation has become. Hopefully we will attract younger generations into the industry,” he said.
 
“Future growth, both organic and through acquisition, is a key strategy for Pure Logistics, and the WMS enables us to consistently deliver a superior service in the cold chain industry as well as assisting with our ongoing business objectives,” he said.
 

Voice-directed order picking

Millions of cartons and products are picked each day in order fulfilment applications using voice-directed computing.
 
The hands-free, eyes free approach to order picking has quickly become a preferred order fulfilment solution for distributors around the world, saving thousands of dollars through enhanced order picking productivity and in the costs associated with rectifying picking errors every day.
 
Voice-directed computing prompts the operator through a series of tasks with clear, verbal commands. These are transmitted in real-time by a radio frequency (RF) system that interfaces with the user’s host platform, typically a WMS or ERP system.
 
The operator wears a small headset and the lightweight, portable voice-computer is attached to a belt around their waist. This keeps both hands free at all times while picking and, because the operator doesn’t need to waste time looking at and reading the data on a screen or picking list, this enhances OH&S and substantially increases productivity.
 
At Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) national distribution centre at Chullora in Sydney, the introduction of Voice Picking has well and truly exceeded expectations, delivering a 22%+ productivity gain and rapid ROI.
 
Alan Hicks, national supply chain manager, Dick Smith Electronics, said: “Since introducing voice picking, we have significantly reduced the cost per pick and actually lowered our overall labour costs despite increasing throughput. Better job satisfaction and OH&S is a real bonus too.”
 
Trans-Tasman fashion and home décor catalogue distributor EziBuy has also achieved phenomenal results since introducing voice picking in its new DC at Palmerston North, New Zealand. In the largest application of split-case voice picking technology in New Zealand, EziBuy increased picking productivity from an average of 38 lines/person/hour to 89, and up to 160 in fast pick zones.
 
“EziBuy’s people took to voice picking very quickly. The feedback is always the same. They all love the hands and eyes-free picking opportunity that voice picking delivers,” said NZ logistics consultant responsible for the project, Scott Kerr, managing director, Kerrect Logistics (NZ).
 
In a different application of voice directed computing, Melbourne-based discount variety retailer, The Reject Shop (TRS), is using the technology to facilitate a batch picking and ‘put’ order picking process.
 
In traditional retail distribution centres, the typical practice is to assemble a complete store order at a time. The Reject Shop has turned that principle on its head and instead of carting the entire order around the DC and picking products, TRS batch picks all of a single product for all orders at the one time, and then allocates the required stock for each store in a voice-directed ‘put’ process.
 “Using voice picking as the enabler for our ‘put’ picking process has delivered excellent productivity gains, improved accuracy, reduced costs and increased throughput,” said The Reject Shop’s logistics manager, Philip Beckett.
 

Fire risk and warehousing

From aircraft hangars to agricultural storehouses, industrial commodities to retail merchandise, large volume buildings and storage properties such as warehouses and ‘superstores’ serve a variety of purposes.
 
Consumer and commercial goods ranging from fresh, frozen and packaged foods through to industrial products such as automotive parts, paint, paper, textiles and fertilizer are some examples of the high-value, and often highly flammable stock that occupy warehouse facilities.
 
To allow for the demands of maximum storage utilisation and a diverse range of contents, a typical warehouse configuration exists as a large volume area with high-bay racking, automated picking systems, and general and mezzanine storage sections.
 
Factors to consider
 
In warehouse environments, primary factors such as size and height, number of entry points, storage racks, and product flammability increase the fire risk, and subsequent detection of a fire event.
 
While conventional smoke detection may be adequate for general commercial applications, the unique characteristics of a warehouse facility highlight the fundamental disadvantages that conventional ‘passive’ smoke detection such as point and beam detectors have in application-specific environments.
 
Due to the height and volume configurations of a warehouse facility, the incidence of smoke
stratification is a major challenge to detecting a potential fire event.
 
As initial smouldering smoke does not have adequate buoyancy to reach the ceiling section of a warehouse, the design, detector location and level of response of point-type and beam detectors do not provide reliable or proactive smoke detection.
 
Not only can the positioning of stock and storage racks impede access and maintenance of conventional detectors, but the size, shape and positioning of stock may either obstruct or cause a beam detector to false alarm.
 
Other challenges to beam detection include structural movement caused by external climatic changes, increasing the incidence of a beam detector activating a false alarm. Plus there is the significant cost factor associated with the number of point-type or beam detectors that are required to protect a warehouse facility.
 
Installing an aspirating ‘active’ smoke detection system is the best way to avoid a warehouse fire.
 
Very early warning aspirating smoke detection
 
Very early warning aspirating smoke detection systems provide the optimum protection against fire by reliably detecting the presence of smoke at the earliest possible stage. Despite the key environmental challenges of a warehouse environment, aspirating smoke detection technology overcomes the difficulties associated with conventional detection systems.
 
Aspirating smoke detection cumulatively samples air via multiple sampling holes in a pipe network and transports the air sample to a centrally located detector for accurate analysis. By positioning the detector in an easily accessible location, programming and maintenance of the detector can be performed without disrupting routine warehouse operations.
 
A sampling pipe network can achieve a coverage of up to 2,000 m2 per detector, providing cost effective smoke detection, regardless of the size, configuration and warehouse storage requirement. With programmable sensitivity levels, each detector can be customised to address the unique environmental characteristics of a warehouse facility, such as external pollution and airflow from the dispatch and delivery areas.
 
In addition to advanced smoke detection capabilities and programmable alarm thresholds, staged levels of response to an escalating fire condition provides the earliest opportunity for incident investigation and management, reducing the requirement for fire brigade intervention.
 
Performance-based design
 
Performance-based design determines the best fire protection system by assessing the environmental risks at the concept design stage, such as the internal and external environment, smoke source, smoke movement, heat transfer and smoke detection within the structure.
 
Leading aspirating smoke detection system such as VESDA offer performance-based technology, providing optimum protection of a warehouse facility by addressing the unique characteristics of size and height, high bay racking and storage, and automated picking systems.
 
Warehouse installation scenarios
 
For complete fire protection, the smoke detection system is flexible to allow pipe work to be mounted on the ceiling or roof, and also within the storage racking.
 
Many industry standards specify height considerations when installing a smoke detection system. The system addresses the issue of warehouse height and the occurrence of smoke stratification with multiple-level sampling. By positioning either drop pipe or sampling holes at specific levels of the warehouse ceiling and walls, the incidence of smoke stratification does not impede the ability to detect smoke at the earliest possible stage.
 
For warehouses that contain high-bay racking, sampling pipe/s can be located within the racking with sampling points located along the pipe work.
 
In large volume warehouse storage facilities, advanced aspirating smoke detection technology and flexible system design provides cost effective, low maintenance, early warning smoke detection.
 

What defines the success of an automated warehouse or distribution centre?

Pieter Feenstra
 
Every now and then you read a success story of an automated warehouse or distribution centre, but not all automation projects of this kind are an immediate success. The projects that are not an immediate success often do not make it to the press, as it might embarrass both the supplier of the facility and the customer.
 
It is, however, important to understand which factors define the success of an automation project in the logistics field. This is even more so because quite a few of these factors are not even related to the quality of the supplied facility or its supplier, the more obvious causes for a success. Rather, there are a lot of factors that have nothing to do with the supplier or the facility itself, like the products that are handled in the facility or the organisation that has to work with the facility.
 
If the factors that are described in this article are taken into account before, during and after the realisation of such a project, then success is not a coincidence or a matter of luck, but more a matter of good planning.
 
Design of the system
 
This is where it all starts. The design normally makes up only 1-2% of the total project value, but is crucial for its success and also drives the majority of the capital investment. In other words, without a proper design phase the success of a project is unpredictable and the capital investment might be much higher than it should be.
 
A good design needs close cooperation between specialists in the warehousing field and the ultimate owner/operator of the projected facility. This will ensure the combination of knowledge of automated logistics (by the specialist) and the knowledge of the operational environment (by the owner).
 
A whole article can be written covering just the design phase itself, as it usually consists of setting the strategic directions of the company, the analysis of current data (articles, flows etc.), and growth scenarios for a specific planning horizon, resulting in future data to be handled in the proposed facility. After that, different concepts will be developed (often including both manual and more mechanised concepts) and, based on upfront defined decision criteria (financial, qualitative etc.), one concept will be chosen and further developed during the detailed design phase.
 
It is crucial that sufficient attention is given to the design phase and especially the data analysis and growth scenarios. Often companies have a clear idea about growth in revenue and sometimes even volumes, but when it comes to growth in the number of articles (SKUs), orders and order lines, it gets more complicated. These last factors, however, are very important when evaluating different concepts. If detailed growth scenarios are not available or not predictable, the chosen concept must not be heavily dependent on this.
 
The supplier, the equipment, and the controls
 
It is obvious that as well as the quality of the supplier, the supplied equipment and the integration and controls of the equipment are crucial for a successful project. To make sure that one party is responsible for the overall technical facility, one option is to choose a partner who deals with both the design as well as the realisation (general contractor following a design-build approach). In this case the selected partner is accountable for both the quality of the design and also for the overall working of the completed facility.
 
Partners must be able to show references in the field and show a proven track record in both the design and the execution of automated projects. Talking to previous customers will help select the right partner for a specific project.
 
During the realisation of the project, the most important factor is the overall control of the facility, starting with machine controls through a layer of controls of the different subsystems, to the overall warehouse management system and visualisation system. The overall integration of the different components of an automated facility is often the biggest challenge, not so much the individual mechanical or electrical parts.
 
The products to be handled in the facility
 
The nature of products that will be handled in the warehouse is also very important for success. Often automated projects will have some requirements of the products (pallets, cartons), and these requirements must be met. The requirements often deal with pallet quality (no broken runners or sticking nails), load quality (within certain dimensions), and sometimes carton quality (in case of automated picking solutions).
 
A well-designed system will check the pallet integrity and their loads before they enter the automated part of the warehouse. This should prevent pallets getting stuck somewhere in the middle of the system, causing the system to come to a (full or partial) stop. Pallets and loads that do not fulfil these requirements will be rejected and must be corrected before they can re-enter the system.
 
The majority of rejects have to do with broken pallets (by manual handling), loads that are out of tolerance (for example, by having travelled long distances in a truck), and loose plastic wrap.
 
Even if they are rejected and do not cause system down time, these products might still require a lot of time (money) to be correct and/or adjusted. Nowadays systems are in place to avoid a lot of repair work, like systems to check empty pallets before palletising products (for example in the food- and beverage industry), and systems that automatically correct loads or exchange pallets. The tolerances within the facility may also have to be enlarged in order to reduce the number of rejects.
 
The operating organisation
 
At some stage the project supplier will have to hand over the finished project to the operating organisation, so they can start using it. This transition is crucial and is the factor that has the least to do with the technical factors described before. This has to do with proper change management, and is more than just supplying training and documentation.
      
The operating organisation will have to have a new look at their organisation and will have to find answers, possibly with the help of a change management specialist, to address questions such as: Will this system be accepted by our staff? Do we still have the right organisational set-up for this facility? Do we need other resources? How do we manage the transition process. Who are the process owners? What standard operating procedures do we need? etc.
It is very important to get the answers to the above questions right in a very early stage and have the operational resources, where possible, involved in the project, in order to create some ownership. In the end the equipment might be all working well, but if the organisation can not or will not work with it and get the maximum out of it, the overall project will not be a success.
 
Often it is this factor that gets underestimated and therefore does not get the attention that it requires.
 
Support of the facility
 
If the system is finally operational and is used, it will need to be maintained and supported in the proper way. This means that equipment needs preventative and corrective maintenance and the controls need regular check-ups and support in case of problems.
 
For the electro-mechanical part of the support, the format of the maintenance is dependent on the type of end-user. Often if the end-user is a retailer or a logistics service provider, the electro-mechanical support is outsourced to the supplier of the equipment. This can be done by either having dedicated supplier resources on site during operation, or by having a call-out service where the supplier comes to do preventive maintenance or is called out in case of problems. End-users who have their own production lines on the same site, like in the food and beverage industry, can opt to have the electro-mechanical service done by their already existing maintenance crew.
 
For the software and controls part of the facility, the supplier should be able to offer support on these system parts on a remote basis during all operational hours of the system. Due to the fact that the support can be done remotely, it does not mean that the support crew is actually present on the site.
 
Conclusion
 
Building an automated warehouse or distribution centre has many financial and/or qualitative advantages, and really can drive the bottom line result of an end-user. But it is important to look at the success factors and to ensure that these factors are properly addressed. If properly addressed, these facilities will have an even better financial result and will be fun places to work!
 
Pieter Feenstra is the managing director of Swisslog Australia. Visit www.swisslog.com.  
  
 

Parts aplenty

SSS Auto Parts Pty Ltd is one of the leading suppliers, importers and manufacturers of aftermarket automotive parts in Australia and New Zealand.
 
The company was established in 1987 in Melbourne and has become known as an efficient supplier of quality parts in the automotive industry. Today SSS has branches in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to service its customer base throughout Australia.
 
The company continuously invests in product development and sophisticated information systems to provide its customers with the best quality and most complete range of products. This commitment to customer satisfaction has earned SSS the prestigious accreditation as an ISO:9001 Quality endorsed company in 1998. SSS Auto Parts take pride in quality management and supply chain excellence.
 
The company has enjoyed continuous growth in the past years with warehousing space at a premium. The year 2004 saw SSS Perth invest in two mezzanine floor systems through storage systems manufacturer, APC Group. Totalling approximately 850 square metres, the mezzanine areas satisfied SSS Perth’s storage requirements until December of 2006, when SSS Perth again opted for the same manufacturer.
 
A rapidly expanding business saw SSS Perth faced with a problem of storing an increasing number of line items in an increasingly crowded space. A three-tier raised storage system offered full use of ceiling space and provided complete flexibility for the full range of products. The new system allows SSS Perth to provide ultimate levels of service, support and reliability that this demanding industry requires.
 
The new three-tier system saw immediate improvement in the ability to manage inventory levels, with emphasis on detection of slow moving items, whilst being safe, clean and efficient. Installed on a footprint of just over 800 square metres, it provides 4675 square metres of clear storage space. The system is designed around two main pallet entry points secured by two pallet access gates. These entry points negate the need for goods inward staff to carry replenishing stock lines to the second and third levels by hand, allowing them to fork load a pallet to either point at any one time, and restocking shelves from that level.
 
Stock is stored on a mixture of storage surfaces. Larger, bulkier items such as bonnets and doors are stored on pallet racking-based longspan shelving, while smaller stock lines such as switches and fuses are stored comfortably on APC’s universal steel shelving system. The system has been designed so staff can pick items from the face of the bay, saving time on moving cartons to access the back of the bay.
 
One of the important factors for SSS was that all APC racking uprights are full-length, one-piece units, providing a stronger and more reliable system. Imported racking uprights in similar lengths often have to be spliced and are usually combined with lighter gauges of steel to the top of the upright. Complementing the uprights are double-crimped boxed beam sections, providing the ultimate in structural rigidity.
 
 

Automation is looking good at AVON

During the months of July to September 2006, . Client representative orders are received from the existing AVON database and relayed to the new automated picking system.
 
The process starts when erected cartons are received onto the new conveyor system, which automatically selects different-sized cartons accumulated on the conveyor according to an order profile. An automatically applied bar code is generated and applied to the carton, scanned for readability and entered into the picking conveyor system that occupies two levels of the existing building. The cartons progress to the SDA-2000 Autopicker with central belt technology.
 
Products stored in channels are dispensed onto a central belt that delivers to a loading station for placement into the order carton. A large number of various shape and weight products can be accommodated in the Autopicker, which picks and delivers the products at a high throughput and with high accuracy. The central belt runs continuously if there are enough orders, and the order profile for a specific carton is known before the carton reaches the loading station. This means that the order is available once the carton reaches the loading station and can be loaded almost immediately.
 
Cartons not needing loading by the Autopicker pass through the loading station without interruption. Picked orders are accumulated into the loading station by the Autopicker belt and placed into the carton, once the carton is available. A very large variety of products are stacked into the Autopicker due to the large variety of products sold by AVON. The Autopicker is very well suited to this type of order profile as high volume, large variety orders are picked with high accuracy and on comparatively little floor space, especially compared to the old pick-to-light system previously used in this area.
 
Cartons that pass the Autopick station progress to the weight check station to ensure pick accuracy, and either progress to the conveyor system or are rejected to a verification station, where an order report is automatically generated to assist the operator in determining if an error has occurred. Cartons then progress and either loop around the existing pick-to-light system or progress through the old system.
 
There were numerous challenges with the installation of the new system, due to the complexity of integrating new and existing systems and conveyors with minimal interruption to the process. This meant a lot of night and weekend work was required. Included in the new conveyor system is the installation of three vertical conveyors as it was determined that vertical conveyors are the most space-beneficial arrangements to get from the ground level picking to the 3.1 m suspended conveyor system.
 
All cartons are transported on a combination of the old and new conveyor system to the new system that transfers cartons through the picking level floor to the basement area, where sortation is done. The new sortation conveyor system scans the carton’s bar code and sorts the cartons into gravity-fed conveyor lines for manual palletising and despatch by truck.
 
A complete automated system was integrated with an existing semi-automatic system that caused particular challenges during installation and commissioning. Downtime to the existing system was kept to a minimum by the extensive planning, as well as due to the co-operation of AVON to ensure an on time delivery and rapid integration.
 

Efficient records management

Records management is a rapidly growing and highly competitive business that is dominated by a few large players. However, Sydney-based Access Records Management is succeeding against much larger national competitors by providing exceptional service levels, with guaranteed delivery in under two hours to anywhere in metro Sydney.
 
Dale Rockell, Access Records’ general manager, said the company had created its own niche in the document storage market over the past 20 years by providing unmatched service to more than 400 professional customers including legal firms, insurance companies and the like. “The type of customers we have often require their documents at a moment’s notice, so our business is about meeting those requirements faster and more reliability than any of our competitors,” said Mr Rockell.
 
Access Records is located at Botany, less than 20 minutes from the Sydney CBD. The business relocated to its current site in 2001, with constant growth necessitating further expansion. “Our choice was to look for new premises or expand our current location. Fortunately for us, an adjacent property became available late last year,” said Mr Rockell.
“We pulled down the wall between our buildings and have been able to almost double our storage capacity, from 280,000 cartons up to more than 450,000, which will help support our growth strategy for the next couple of years,” he said.
 
Smart storage system design
 
A key enabler for Access Records is smart storage systems that enable the company to meet its demanding order turnaround times. All cartons and storage locations are barcoded, ensuring full traceability of all document movements.
 
Cartons are fed in and out of the storage system by an integrated conveyor, which delivers cartons to various parts of the multi-level structure. “We sat down with our storage equipment supplier and asked them to come up with a cost-efficient design that would maximise space efficiency, provide safe and easy access to all storage locations, and meet increasingly stringent fire safety regulations,” said Mr Rockell.
 
Archive storage decks
 
“When it came time to deciding on the type of shelving we wanted for the new warehouse, our supplier recommended MantaMESH DOCUDEK archive storage decks, rather than the particleboard shelving we had traditionally used,” said Mr Rockell.
 
“We were unsure about how wire mesh decks would perform, so MantaMESH provided us with a couple of prototypes to make sure they suited our operation,” he said. The products feature twice as many longitudinal wires as normal wire mesh decks. This prevents the edges of cartons from catching or snagging on cross wires, and also distributes the load from the carton over a greater area, eliminating any problems associated with the heavy cartons embedding into the wires.
 
Dale Rockell is satisfied with the wire mesh decks and is now considering progressively retrofitting wire mesh decks to the remainder of the existing rack structure. “It gives us a vastly superior fire safety solution than solid shelving. It also improves the overall appearance and ambient lighting throughout the installation. It prevents dirt and dust building up on shelves, and our people find it easier to slide cartons on and off the DOCUDEK than on particleboard,” he said. “I also expect the system to provide maintenance-free operation for as long as the racking stands, unlike particleboard shelving which tends to warp and sag over time.”
 
Innovative flooring system
 
“One of the concerns we had when designing the multi-level storage system was to make sure the suspended floors felt solid and secure,” added Mr Rockell.
 
The storage system equipment supplier’s solution to the problem was to utilise a new type of steel grid flooring panel. Supporting the steel grid flooring panels required the storage system supplier to manufacture special U-shaped hangers. The U-shaped hangers sit over the rack beam and support the steel grid flooring panels from below, keeping the flooring panels flush with the MantaMESH DOCUDEK, enhancing OH&S.
 
“Our storage system supplier and MantaMESH worked well together to deliver a cost-effective storage solution that meets or exceeds all of our requirements, and gives us a great platform from which to further grow our business,” he said.
 
 

Character counts

Charles Pauka
 
Character, n. ["to cut, engrave"]: The stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his/her response regardless of circumstances.
 
The Costa Group has gone through a remarkable period of growth in the past few years, and today is the largest provider of perishable logistics (fruit and vegetables, as well as other temperature-sensitive foodstuffs) to the two major supermarket chains.
 
Uniquely amongst Australian companies, the Costa Group has embraced a personnel management program “Character First!” (see www.characterfirst.com). The company’s motto is “We hire for character and train for skill”, a remarkably refreshing departure from the more common policy of looking for an exact match when filling vacancies.
 
The company policy goes on to say: “Our Character First! program recognises the importance we place on the character of our people, acknowledging that professional skills and personal character need to be equally developed in the workplace.
 
“Throughout the Costa Group, our focus remains firmly on the development and recognition of great character in all whose lives touch our business. From recruitment to management development, character is the foundation of our success. We hire for character and train for skill, giving absolute priority to ensuring we have people of outstanding character representing us at all levels across our business.”
 
Character First! teaches 49 specific qualities that make up an individual’s character. Every month workers gather for an hour, in split teams if necessary, to discuss one of the character traits, such as friendship, hospitality, orderliness and others. At the meeting, employees whose anniversary in the company’s service comes up in that month, are recognised with a character award that most suited their work ethic in the preceding 12 months.
 
When I attended the Sydney meeting earlier this year, Arnel Casinto, a five-year employee of the company was recognised with “Determination” for his efforts in making sure the branch met its targets and goals.
 
“It’s good to get the award, because you come to work, you do your job, you do it a 100%, if not more, and by them [management] giving you that award, it sort of makes you feel good. You know that you have done a good 12 months’ work. It’s a pat on the back, it makes you feel good inside,” Arnel told me afterwards.
 
Another employee received the ‘ABCD Award’ at the same meeting, which stands for “Above & beyond the call of duty”. On this occasion the award was given to recognise the employee’s efforts in assisting with the closing of the old Altona warehouse as Costa was moving to the current, modern premises.
 
Team building and participation seem to be the key words, as the monthly meetings go beyond the award-giving process. It is also a chance for employees to come together as a team, learn about the company’s progress, new initiatives, births, deaths and marriages, and general information sharing. “It brings us together once a month, we find out what is doing well what’s not doing well, so we know where we are heading,” said David Mazzolo, a leading hand with eight years of service. “We find out where we are opening new warehouses, you can ask to go and work in the new warehouses if you want to. They also tell us about marketing campaigns and promotions, OH&S initiatives and the like. We have team meetings almost every day, and the monthly meeting gives us a chance to catch up with the rest of the company.”
 
The meetings are indeed the venue for all employees to be brought up to date with company news. This may include acquisitions and new brands, a visitor from another branch of the company giving a brief on their area, news on such initiatives as health insurance discounts, details of upcoming promotions and marketing campaigns, such as a new in-store display pack, and, on this occasion, a new variety of lettuce being introduced.
 
The company literature goes on to say: “Regular praise and encouragement for the practice of good character are an expectation throughout the Costa Group. It is character that defines who we are; it is character that determines our responses and provides every member of our team a clear understanding of our mission as an organisation.”
 
In addition to the remarkable performance standards achieved by the group, as detailed in the article “Is perfection possible?” in the January-February issue of MHD, the Costa Group has also improved its workforce retention rates considerably. And in these days of acute skills shortages, this is a considerable achievement that, if quantified, would amount to millions in savings.
 
David and Arnel recounted the names of several employees who have been with the company for close to, or more than 20 years, and they both agreed that the workforce was stable. “We don’t have a high turnover,” David said. “I have worked in worse places, but I don’t know of a better one.”
 
The 49 character qualities
 
Alertness
Attentiveness
Availability
Benevolence
Boldness
Cautiousness
Compassion
Contentment
Creativity
Decisiveness
Deference
Dependability
Determination  
Diligence
Discernment
Discretion
Endurance
Enthusiasm
Faith
Flexibility
Forgiveness
Generosity
Gentleness
Gratefulness
Honor
Hospitality       
Humility
Initiative
Joyfulness
Justice
Loyalty
Meekness
Obedience
Orderliness
Patience
Persuasiveness
Punctuality
Resourcefulness
Responsibility  
Security
Self-Control
Sensitivity
Sincerity
Thoroughness
Thriftiness
Tolerance
Truthfulness
Virtue
Wisdom

Retail POS scanners: laser or linear imaging?

Tim Sawyer
 
It wasn’t too long ago that POS scanning options for the retail industry were simple: if you wanted to capture a barcode, you could choose to use a laser scanner or a contact scanner (also known as a CCD reader). However, if you wanted to read an item with any range involved, you needed to use a laser scanner, as it was the only effective methodology that could capture barcodes with a distance of up to 30 cm.
 
Lasers have always been ideally suited for logistics and warehouse applications where distance and range have been issues. Today, however, new technology has been developed that has resulted in major improvements to a host of POS products, including linear imaging scanners.
 
There are several benefits that linear imaging scanners now offer retailers, including range, lower maintenance costs, fewer public safety issues and a higher cost/savings ratio, making them a very attractive alternative to laser scanners. They are similar in range (up to 30 cm), they read the same symbologies, and connect to all of the same POS systems. (As a side comment, it should be noted that this is true only for handheld scanners: laser is still the only option for multi-directional scanners.)
 
But linear imagers also offer a big advantage over laser scanners in that they have no moving parts, meaning less maintenance over time. In a laser scanner, the laser light is focused through a lens and reflected off an oscillating mirror. Linear imagers use light emitting diodes (LEDs), illuminate the barcode then the sensor decodes the barcodes. This reduction in moving parts can translate into considerable savings in servicing costs, meaning a faster return on investment over laser scanners.
 
Another advantage is that, because linear imagers use LEDs, they do not have the public safety issues experienced with lasers. It has been definitively proven that laser light can damage human eyes if it is directed directly into them.
 
Perhaps the biggest benefit offered by linear imaging scanners over laser scanners is that they are more economical, with savings of up to $150 per scanner. For large retail applications that require many POS handheld scanners, this has considerable merit.
 
So the $64,000 question is, “Which one is right for my business?”
 
There is no cut and dried answer. If your retail establishment has any POS that requires scanning in an outdoor location, you should choose laser handheld scanners – they will outperform most linear imaging scanners in direct sunlight. However, for all other applications, you have the option of choosing linear imaging or laser. When looking at the overall implementation of hand held scanners, ask yourself three questions:
– Which expense will produce a greater return on my investment?
– Do I need the ability to scan over a distance greater than 30 cm?
– How much will servicing the units add to the initial investment?
 
The answers will give you all the information you need to make an informed and correct decision for determining whether laser or linear imaging is best for your application and needs.
 
Tim Sawyer is manager of Cipherlab Australia. For more information call 1300 247 437 or visit at www.cipherlab.com.au.

Australian RFID pilot delivers ePOD to industry

John Hearn
 
The results of Australia’s largest supply chain RFID pilot, the National EPC Network Demonstrator Project Extension (NDP Extension), are now available.
 
The NDP Extension was about demonstrating how EPC/RFID delivers business benefits in a real world environment, in this case, reliable electronic proof of delivery (ePOD). To do this, we needed to show that a scan rate of 100 per cent was absolutely achievable.
 
The pilot
 
The Australian Government supported the pilot with a $109,500 grant from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) under its ‘Information Technology On-Line’ (ITOL) program.
 
GS1 Australia and RMIT University co-managed the pilot with Telstra and Retriever Communications as the service providers. Pallets were supplied by CHEP Asia-Pacific, while the pallet customers were ACCO Australia, Capilano Honey, Franklins/Westgate Logistics, Procter & Gamble/Linfox, and MasterFoods. NEC Australia also provided RFID support to CHEP.
 
More than 3,300 empty pallets were tagged so that the pallet hire and de-hire processes could be tracked using ePOD.
 
Tags were read when the pallets were picked against an order at CHEP and loaded onto a truck to be dispatched out to a customer (P&G, ACCO or MasterFoods), and read again after the truck driver had delivered the pallets to the customer. Pallets dispatched from Westgate Logistics’ facility for Franklins supermarkets were read at the time of picking for de-hire to CHEP, as well as at the time of receipt at CHEP.
 
Each set of pallets was associated with an order number using GS1’s unique serialised Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI) written to each EPC/RFID tag as the basis of identifying individual pallets.
 
EPCIS (EPC Information Service) is the EPCglobal standard for how the EPC/RFID read information is managed and shared. Telstra’s EPCIS-compliant ‘Adaptive Asset Manager’ (AAM) communicated data to users via a web interface. Telstra was also able to send data to the CHEP truck driver’s PDA and the Retriever application meant the driver was able to observe the RFID reads.
 
There was no physical keying of any information. The Telstra AAM simply counted off the unique numbers at dispatch and then receipted those same numbers at delivery based on the RFID reads of pallet tags.
 
Telstra’s infrastructure (the AAM) meant information could be captured at different points through the process, providing visibility of goods through the supply chain and translating EPC/RFID reads into business transactions.
 
The top three lessons from the project
 
First, if you have the right team of talented people who have some experience and know-how, supported by good software and hardware, you can make RFID work. We’ve now had EPC/RFID success with wood, metal and moisture, achieving a consistent 100 per cent read rate.
 
Second, this was a real RFID implementation with real business transactions: real hire and de-hires, where no paperwork was used. The process was developed to a point where it could be left in production in a commercial sense.
 
Finally, we achieved real, identifiable savings – two of the CHEP customers reduced their process times by 14 and 22 per cent. Likewise, prior to the project, CHEP completed Six Sigma Kaizen analysis and identified that broader use of EPC/RFID could lead to a saving of 28 per cent in end-to-end processing time per journey.
 
Surprises and challenges
 
The surprise was that people are adopting the attitude that we don’t need a mandate. The challenge was 100 per cent read rates, especially given that we’d heard previously that only high nineties were do-able. The success of the project rested on our ability to achieve a 100 per cent read rate, and we did.
 
GS1 Australia’s objective is to share the learnings of this project and to encourage others to trial EPC/RFID. We want Australian industry to stop waiting, because other countries will soon leap ahead of us in efficiency.
 
As well as looking at what EPC/RFID will cost to implement, industry needs to examine what they can save by using this technology. Leasing infrastructure, such as the Telstra AAM solution, is also an opportunity to move RFID from a capital expenditure to an operational cost.
 
CHEP and Telstra were really attractive pilot participants given their existing infrastructure. If businesses started using RFID readers to read CHEP pallets in and out of locations all around Australia using the Telstra infrastructure to communicate, then thousands of companies will suddenly be capable of using RFID. They could then start to read stock movements from the end of a production line into a warehouse or track the movement of other goods coming in and going out. So, give it a year or two with CHEP rolling out these solutions and we could be looking at a really strong uptake of EPC/RFID in Australia, based purely on the business sense of tracking goods through the supply chain.
 
The NDP Extension report is available free of charge from GS1 Australia – visit www.gs1au.org.
 
John Hearn is the general manager of member and industry support for GS1 Australia.

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