Warehouse Practices: How Do Yours Measure Up?
Publishing executives and warehouse managers in companies large and small, with highly diverse and targeted products and marketing channels, can benefit for the first time from a new Warehouse Benchmarking System. The program was tested last year by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and is now being rolled out to the industry. Participants can measure their productivity and improve the effectiveness of their warehousing practices. It is an easy-to-use, and highly powerful program that relies on comparative peer-group data.
“Participants use their [Web] browser to enter the appropriate data in a convenient, tabular format,” says Professor Leon McGinnis at the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, who worked with BISG on developing the book industry model. “Nobody can see the data of a participant, except the research team that is part of a quality check on values entered.”
Interested publishers can apply on the BISG Web site until April 1 to participate in the current (2006–2007) research cycle. The greater the number of publishers who enroll, the more useful the peer-group comparisons will be.
When BISG first partnered with Georgia Tech in 2004 to develop the project, James Benjamin of Baker and Taylor, then chair of BISG’s Distribution Executives Interest Group (DEIG), said, “Our goal was to answer the age-old question, ‘Are we using the right amounts of the right resources to achieve the right service levels at minimum cost?’”
This year’s DEIG Chair, Craig Bauer, vice president for global sourcing at Houghton-Mifflin, says that the corollary questions every manager would want such a tool to answer are, “Are we competitive? Are we best-in-class?”
Knowing how you stack up on lines per labor-hour moved out the door [number of title lines picked off of orders] will tell you right off the bat where you stand from a productivity standpoint. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. How much inventory are you holding to make this happen? What is your equipment and plant investment? What automated and manual picking and consolidating procedures and technologies are used? What would be the effect of reconfiguring some aspect of your operation or a change in SKU or channel mix? How much of your resources are devoted to customer service and added-value operations? The program includes a “what-if” tool to provide answers to these questions.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.