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Distributor's Link Magazine Spring 2022 / Vol 45 No 2


36 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Robert Footlik Robert B. Footlik, PE is a retired Professional Industrial Engineer. With over 50 years’ experience as a Warehouse and Logistics Consultant to a wide variety of clients including Fastener Distributors, Bob has a wealth of valuable information for our industry and he is willing to share it. While Footlik & Associates is now closed, his expertise is still available to his friends and our readers. For friendly advice, a second opinion or just to start a conversation, he can be reached at TRUST BUT VERIFY Since ancient times, long before the pyramids of Egypt were built, and in every culture storage and distribution has relied on a system of control with one individual taking a tally and another verifying the count. We are still doing this today, but should we? Everyday customers, staff and you trust the warehouse workers to be efficient, accurate and reliable. If this trust is real then every order is on time, filled properly and 100% perfect in every respect. Everything in a service business is built on this trust and generally it is not misplaced. But have you ever considered how this can be turned into a more efficient way to operate? Follow the path of a typical “line” on an order. The picker travels to the stock location, removes the item from a shelf, places it on a cart, travels eventually to a checking station where the goods are examined for accuracy then the cart or product goes to a packing table where it is placed into a carton, paperwork is provided, the carton is sealed, labeled and common carrier shipping labels are affixed. All this is just for a full case or box count item. For many Fastener Distributors it gets even worse if the materials have to be weigh counted. Under typical warehouse operating scenarios a bin is removed from the shelf, taken to a scale, counted and then returned (eventually/hopefully) to the right location in the warehouse. The end result is that 90% to 95% of the time the picker is walking and then the goods are being handled multiple times. While materials handling equipment to CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE move the product to the picker exists, it is expensive initially, complex to maintain and often inflexible in terms of throughput and cube utilization. Before investing in fancy solutions why not build on what you already have? Instead of all these steps, a simple solution is instituting “Pick-Pack” where the goods are removed from a shelf (preferably using a batched order scheme), placed in a box, sealed and shipped. The savings in time and effort can be enormous with a Return On Investment (ROI) measured in days not years. The concept seems simple, so why have so few Fastener Distributors embraced it? The most common reason is that management just “doesn’t trust the warehouse staff to get things right.” The only way to eliminate this fear is to start with your beliefs and then develop a trustworthy program a piece at a time. “Trust But Verify” One excellent approach is to use well proven statistical sampling techniques to “know” what is going on. For an academic understanding of how this works search the Internet using the term “Acceptance Sampling.”. A more pragmatic approach is to accept that for most distribution operations a 4% sample of the finished, packed outbound orders will provide about a 97% level pf confidence that what is observed is “truth.” This is done by cutting open random boxes at random times and verifying all possible problems and perfection using criteria the same way your customer would view the order. CONTINUED ON PAGE 116

THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK 37 The NEFCO Corporation, a leading partner to the professional construction trades, has completed the acquisition of Russell Supply. Russell Supply, founded in 1974 and located in South Burlington, Vermont is a contractor supply company serving Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire. The addition of Russell Supply further expands NEFCO’s New England presence and provides local supply capabilities for current and future Vermont customers. “With our combined business experience and knowledge of over 80 years, we look forward to the continued success Russell Supply will build with NEFCO and our customers throughout Vermont” states NEFCO CEO, David Gelles. “We are thrilled to welcome the dedicated professionals from Russell Supply to our growing NEFCO team. Each member brings a level of commitment and passion for continued growth and success in Vermont.” NEFCO is a family owned and operated construction supply company providing a broad range of products and services to a large variety of professional contractors. For more information, contact NEFCO Corporation at 411 Burnham Road, East Hartford, CT 06108. Telephone: 1-800-969-0285, Email: Inquiries@nefcocorp. com or visit them online at


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