6 Most Common Problems Manufacturers Have with Lead Times

Top manufacturers have their lead times down to near perfection. With so many factors affecting lead time, it’s easy to completely lose control of it. That only leads to disappointed and angry customers, and lost profit opportunities.

What are the typical problems most manufacturers have? See if any of the below sound familiar:

  • Stock-Outs

    How often do you find yourself without the necessary parts to manufacture what your customers need? You could have underestimated what you need to do the job. Maybe you’re having issues with suppliers.Regardless of the cause, you only lose time and money.
  • Lead Time Variability by Vendor

    To complicate manufacturing, you have different lead times with various vendors. Unsure when various parts will be delivered, you have a near-impossible time coordinating production. You could find yourself with too much or too little inventory at any given time. Excess inventory chews up your budget and available physical space.
  • Unpredictable Shipping Delays

    Say an earthquake or flood happens in the region of the world or country where you order certain parts from. How are you supposed to predict or account for that? And you may not always be able to find a nearby supplier. In addition, nearly any supplier is susceptible to human error.While you can’t eliminate risk, you can certainly minimize it.
  • Market Demand

    You can’t always predict customer demand. You could produce a certain part for customers now in just a few days. Three months from now, the exact same request could take several months to fulfill if you have high demand from your customers. Or, maybe your company begins business with several new high-volume customers.In addition, that means suppliers could be running with high demand too. That could mean your company doesn’t get the parts you need when you expect.
  • How Well a Part Fits Your Operations

    You’ve tuned your manufacturing processes so you can produce a certain range of parts with high quality and great efficiency. Then, you get orders you need to fulfill which fall outside that range.Depending how far outside of your scope they fall, they can take much longer to produce.
  • Disorganized Inventory

    If you have all parts on-site, and manufacture some of your own, it’s easy to assemble the final product. However, many manufacturers have disorganized inventory. Stocking surplus parts works good to help you through material shortages, but it can also backfire if you’re not organized enough.

Manufacturing’s not always easy. Your processes may not be running as efficiently as they should so you have the lead times your customers need. Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 today to learn how you can optimize lead times…without harming product quality.

4 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Janitorial Service

Unfortunately, not every business relationship goes smoothly. That leaves you in a bind: do you stick with the current vendor, saving yourself the time and frustration of finding another who may not make you any happier? Or, do you take the plunge and hopefully establish a relationship with a company who does a fantastic job?

Every vendor has imperfections. But, which should you, and should you not, tolerate?

Check out these signs so you know when it’s time to consider parting ways:

  • Major Security Issues Happen

    Once in a while, your janitor makes a mistake. They forget to set your security system. Or, they leave your doors unlocked.Not the end of the world if it happens once. But you have to consider making a change if this happens multiple times.
  • You Experience a Pattern of No Follow-Through

    Your janitorial service forgets to clean your bathrooms. You call them and tell them about it. They happily listen, apologize for the inconvenience, and promise they’ll take care of it as soon as possible.A week later, you realize your bathroom still hasn’t been cleaned. Now, your janitorial service is starting to cross the line.You don’t know where the problem’s happening. Does customer service not relay the issue? Is your account manager ignoring your message? Does the company have a problem employee?
    That’s not on you. So, this is the point where you consider finding a different janitorial service.
  • Too Much Turnover

    Employees come and go. Change happens. However, it becomes an issue when it’s too much for your comfort. Internal inconsistency at a particular vendor is a sign of a poorly run business.Again, you don’t know where the real issue lies. But with too much internal turmoil, your company is put at risk. If you don’t already have problems with your janitorial service, you eventually will.
  • You Feel the Need to Use Your Contract to Argue Your Case

    Contracts are written to remind you of the working relationship between you and your janitorial service. Typically, businesses use them to protect themselves from unreasonable customers.Even if you sign a contract, you shouldn’t feel the need to read every letter and confront your service provider with their own contract. Good janitorial services offer such stellar service that the contract should never have to come into play.If you feel you have to do this, you’ve likely signed a contract designed as a trap.

Problems with your janitorial service, even if it’s your own internal team? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 to learn how to get the most from yours.

What Top Retailers Do Differently

The National Retail Federation says these are the annual sales of the top 10 retailers:

  • Walmart: $353.1 billion
  • Kroger: $103.9 billion
  • Costco: $84.5 billion
  • Home Depot: $79.3 billion
  • Walgreens: $76.6 billion
  • Target: $73.2 billion
  • CVS: $72.1 billion
  • Amazon: $61.6 billion
  • Albertsons: $58.4 billion
  • Lowe’s: $57.4 billion

Why do they have billions in revenue, while other retailers struggle to stay afloat?

Here’s what some top retailers like these do to keep their competitive edge:

  • In-Store Experience Matches Market Expectations

    Walmart customers purchase based on price. Costco customers buy on value for the dollar. Apple customers buy because they feel they get higher quality.What’s your company’s value proposition? Continue to refine that until it meets or exceeds your market’s expectation. Having an amazing in-store experience which matches that value proposition is a huge differentiator in today’s era of buying online.
  • Customer Service

    Some retailers have customer service that doesn’t do a thing for customers. Others, like Costco have amazing customer service.At Costco, all customer transactions are stored digitally. Customers don’t need a receipt or membership card to return their products. Returns are simply available.Also, the onus is on the vendor, not the customer. If the customer doesn’t like a product, for any reason (even if it’s a ridiculous one), they can simply return it. Also, Costco takes back broken or damaged items, even if it’s the customer’s fault, within certain timeframes.Now, that’s serving the customer.
  • They Think Small

    At large and successful retailers, nothing is too small. They brand their shopping bags. They make sure their shopping bags are sturdy. Bathrooms are always clean. Employees are trained so they can help customers efficiently.Nike’s changing rooms feel like professional athletes’ locker rooms. Starbucks coffee is hot, but not scalding hot. You can drink it immediately. Apple and Home Depot email you a copy of your receipt.When customers go into the stores of leading retailers, they have a near painless experience. And if they don’t, the store takes action.
  • They Focus on Customer Retention Over Acquisition

    Acquiring new customers is always good. But you minimize the effectiveness of this when you don’t give your customers what they want. That leads to higher churn. In turn, that costs you more money to re-acquire old customers, and other new ones.

So, why not make the experience with your company amazing from the start, and give your customers absolutely no reason to change?

Great companies don’t obsess over acquiring more customers. They focus on keeping the ones they have happy. In turn, those customers happily reward that company with more business…and they tell others about the company also.

In addition to Costco and Amazon, The Motley Fool says Dillard’s, Kmart, and Trader Joe’s have the happiest customers, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

Stumped for growth ideas? You’re not anymore. And you now have plenty of competition to research to generate new strategies in your own niche.

5 Problems Not to Overlook with Your Shipping and Packaging Materials

When was the last time you audited your shipping materials? Many companies haven’t examined theirs in a long time.

So, take a look at several possible problems this can lead to:

You May Annoy Your Customers

Customers have been waiting for what you’ve shipped for a day or two at the least. That could actually be much longer, depending on what they bought.

When they finally get what they ordered from you, all they want to do is get it out of the package. How many packages have you attempted to open, only to find out it was difficult to get in?

Likewise, your customers get frustrated and agitated. It’s not a memory you want them to associate with you.

You May Unnecessarily Inflate Your Costs

If you haven’t checked your shipping and packaging materials, you may be wasting money on producing unnecessary material. You’re using valuable machine and human labor that could be allocated elsewhere. So, you’re really harming yourself twice.

You May Expose Your Product to Higher Risk of Damage

Without the proper shipping and packaging materials, your products may have a higher likelihood of being damaged during transport. So, you’ll have to spend production time and labor replacing the product, customer service time addressing the issue, and producing the shipping and packaging materials again.

Better to know the exact ability of your shipping and packaging materials to protect your product.

You May Not Comply with Corporate Sustainability Requirements

Many corporations have customers who want to see them using recyclable materials. So, when they get product from you, they want your shipping and packaging materials to be recyclable.

If yours aren’t, you run the risk of losing corporate accounts. Some companies have fallen into the trap of falsely assuming that all recyclable materials can actually be recycled.

You May Miss Out on New Opportunities

One company actually uses agricultural waste to grow different shapes of packaging. It’s fully compostable. At the same time, it only breaks down in wet environments. The company’s CEO claims manufacturing it only takes one-fifth to one-eighth of the energy required to make foam plastic. On top of that, it’s competitively priced.

This isn’t an advertisement for this company. But, it is a good example of a potential way to improve how you handle your shipping and packaging materials.

Regardless, your shipping and packaging materials present opportunity for sustainability, cost reduction, and improving customer happiness. Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 to review yours today.

4 Tips for Schools Purchasing Janitorial and Sanitation Products

Spring means the big purchasing run and prep for the beginning of the school year in fall. Have you recently considered some of the ins and outs of purchasing chemical supplies, and many other janitorial products?

Keep these four things in mind as you do this spring:

VOCs in Chemical Cleaners Can Lead to Health Problems for Your Students

You may consider going 100% green with all your janitorial cleaners. That’s up to you. You may think about this because the volatile organic compounds from chemical cleaners can lead to serious health risks like asthma, respiratory infections, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness.

Using green cleaning products reduces student and faculty absences. That means your children can get a better education. And you can save money by using fewer cleaning products.

Audit Who Currently Uses Cleaning Chemicals, and Why

Your school’s cleaning team likely isn’t the only group using cleaning chemicals. Teachers and cafeteria staff might too. Not only could this lead to the emission of more chemicals in your school, but it’s money you could be wasting also.

An audit can lead to better purchasing efficiency and control of the types of cleaning products that enter your school.

You’ll Make Teaching Simpler for Your Staff

The NPD Group released a report in 2015 which surveyed 1,000 teachers from across the nation and revealed 74% purchase “janitorial, sanitation, and breakroom products” with at least some of their own money.

Do you really want your teachers to spend their time and money doing that? You hired your teachers to improve your student’s education. So, take the time to find out if this happens at your school. You’ll improve your student’s educational outcomes and have happier teachers when you relieve this problem.

Could Cooperative Purchasing Help You and Another School Out?

Yes, it’s complicated to form partnerships with other schools and local organizations. But, it could be a way to buy more efficiently. For example, you could increase the size of your order, which can help you negotiate lower purchasing prices. With tight budgets an issue at many schools, this could be a way for you to make your budget go farther.

Need help buying janitorial and sanitary products efficiently, while gaining many other benefits for your school at the same time? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153.

4 Mistakes that Hurt the Efficiency of Your E-Commerce Distribution Operations

It’s no secret – the explosion in the growth of e-commerce has dramatically changed the landscape of retail forever. Companies who have been unable to make the adjustment have either gone bankrupt, or are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy right now.

So, to avoid becoming one of those, make sure you don’t make any of these mistakes in your e-commerce distribution center and processes:

You Threaten Your Employees with Loss of Their Job (Versus Using Incentives)

You don’t get the best performance out of your workers when you tell them they need to be more efficient or find a new job. You’ll get short-term, outward compliance. But eventually, your employees revert back to their old ways. Plus, you’ve only hurt your company morale further because you typically get hostility and resentment in return.

Instead, lead your employees forward with incentives for meeting efficiency goals. Better yet, include them on the discussion of what those goals should be and how to get there. That gets you more buy-in and more committed action from your employees.

You Haven’t Optimized Your Transportation Processes

Because transporting your product accrues some of the highest costs in your supply chain, it’s worth taking the time to analyze and identify opportunities for efficiency gains. Leading retailers have these optimized because they understand their impact.

In addition, your customers expect to have their orders within 1-2 days in most cases. That’s because they’re buying items they would normally get at their local retailer. Take longer than that to deliver your goods, and your customers begin to see other e-commerce companies, or brick-and-mortar stores, as better options.

How Do You Prioritize Customer Orders as You Get Them?

For example, when you look at a 1-2 day delivery time, your customers want to get groceries or other fresh foods they order faster than they would if they ordered an electronic item from you. It’s obvious why.

But, do you have a system for quickly and efficiently meeting this demand? That’s the difficult part to execute.

Have You Thought About Managing All Order Types From a Single Distribution Center?

Traditionally, different order types have been fulfilled from a variety of specialized distribution centers. Today, however, that doesn’t work as well. Consumers want lower prices and faster delivery. One way to deliver those benefits is by managing all your order types from a single location.

Do you do this? Have you consider how you would make it happen?

If you haven’t established these systems at your e-commerce warehouse or distribution center, you may have opportunity for cost savings. Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 to find out what changes may make sense for you.

5 Signs It’s Time To Automate Your Packaging

How do you know your packaging process would benefit from automation? Is it costing you money to package the way you do now? Could you be saving more capital you’d invest elsewhere in your business for future growth?

Take a look at some signs your company would benefit from automating your packaging process below:

  1. Your Cost of Labor

How much does labor cost you to package your products? If your costs are driving your profit margins down, you may be ready for automated packaging. It has an up-front cost. But the machinery costs much less to maintain than it does to pay employees over the long haul.

  1. The Type of Product You Package

If you package a similar product with the same size and shape repeatedly, you may be ready for automated packaging. However, it doesn’t make sense if you have different-size and shape products because that boosts machinery costs. Manual labor makes more sense if you routinely package products that vary in size.

  1. You Can’t Meet Customer Demand

Have you lost customers because you can’t keep up with what they need? Do you have difficulty training and managing temporary workers so you can continually meet what your customers order?

If keeping up with customer demand feels like an impossible task, you may be ready for automation.

  1. It’s Been Too Long Since You Last Audited Your Processes

You use manual labor to a great extent now. Your company has grown rapidly in recent years. When that happens, it’s easy to make snap decisions just to meet demand and keep the customer happy. You keep doing this for some time so you continue to grow.

It’s a good problem to have. Once things settle down, consider auditing your own processes. You may be running quite inefficiently, and especially so with your labor costs. And automation may make more sense at this point.

  1. Your Packaging Line Can’t Keep Up with Manufacturing Output

Whether you’re the manufacturer, or if you purchase the product from someone who makes it more cost-effectively, if you can’t package fast enough to keep up with the product you receive, you have a problem. You can hire more staff. But then it costs more time and money to manage everyone. It also adds more stress too.

Consider investing in packaging automation at this point instead.

Concerned about the cost and efficiency of your packaging processes? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 today.

4 Top Reasons to Assess Your Stretch Film

Stretch film breaks a lot, somewhere around 3 to 7 times per average roll. Because the employees who stretch wrap your product are so busy, they don’t have the time to figure out the true cause of the break. So, the problem continues happening. And when manufacturing and packaging are so hyper-competitive and focused on efficiency, every little problem adds up.

Most employees simply turn the wrap force down so the film no longer breaks. But that may or may not solve the real cause of the problem.

So let’s cover in detail why you want to assess your stretch film:

  1. Save Time and Money

When you use your time and money in the ideal way, you’re as strong of a competitor as you can be. Your position in the market is never secure, even if you are a larger company. So, any little way you can find to save time and money counts.

Your competitors may not do this, minimizing the importance it has. So, it can be a nice little boost to your market position, keeping you slightly more secure.

  1. Solve the Problem with A Simple, Cost-Effective Solution

What type of stretch wrap do you use? HDPE, LLDPE, LDPE, PVC, or PP? Get supplier data sheets on them all. Say you find out that you’re not using the right type of stretch wrap for your applications.

All you need to do is switch the type. You may also find an alternative like rubber bands, plastic straps, or glue that works even better.

Problem solved.

  1. Reduce the Chance of Incurring A Number of Expenses

If your stretch film isn’t quite doing its job, a couple of bad (and costly) things can happen. Boxes can fall down and injure workers. You immediately take a dip in productivity, and you may face a civil lawsuit or have to pay worker’s compensation. Your products may get damaged.

In both cases, they’re otherwise unnecessary costs. You could eliminate them with either the right stretch wrap, or a different solution.

  1. Boost Your Revenue

Take a look at this realistic example to see how much revenue you can produce with stretch wrap. A realistic figure is about 3.5 cents per pound of stretch wrap. Multiply that by using 200,000 pounds of stretch wrap annually, and you get $7,000 in gross revenue.

Employee training costs about .5 cents per pound ($1,000 annually). Special containers cost about .375 cents per pound ($750 annually). Baling labor and wire strapping cost about .750 cents per pound ($1,500 annually). Labor costs for transporting the stretch wrap from the dock to baler run about .01 cents per pound ($2,000 annually). Those costs total $5,250. Subtract that from $7,000, and you get $1,750 in additional revenue per 200,000 pounds of stretch film used.

Stretch film may not seem like a huge consideration. But it is, and especially so the larger your company gets.

Overwhelmed on calculating the expense and optimizing your efficiency? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 today.

5 Tips for Storing, Replenishing, and Managing Your Cleaning Supplies

Managing your cleaning supplies seems to sometimes be a full-time effort in itself. When you do it right, it’s hard work.

So, make sure you get the most out of your effort with these tips:

  1. Remember, Safety First

Don’t store your cleaning supplies in temperature extremes. Consider checking your storage room’s temperature from time-to-time to make sure it’s ventilated like you expect. Stock everything so it stays out of the reach of children, if that’s a potential concern at your organization. Also, keep your cleaning chemicals away from your HVAC ventilation so you don’t spread the fumes throughout your entire building.

  1. Proactively Order with Software

Managing your cleaning supplies with software takes a little bit of work up front. Entering the data and checking to make sure it’s accurate is time-consuming. However, it saves you lost of time throughout the year. So, it can be a viable solution for more effectively managing your inventory.

  1. Consider Outsourcing This, Or Asking Your Current Vendor to Do the Management for You

If you have a vendor maintaining the cleanliness of your building already, consider asking them to manage your supplies too. If they’re already experienced, they’ll know how to do this more effectively than you, which saves you more time and money. Plus, you already have a known vendor you trust so you don’t have to go through the research and selection process again.

  1. Understand OSHA Regulations

The government has a bit of a hand in the storage of your workplace’s cleaning supplies too. Make sure you know what OSHA wants to see so you keep your workplace safe – and OSHA happy. It’s easy to forget their standards when you get caught up in other business operations.

  1. Coordinate Your Team and Establish Standard Processes

Will you have just one person in charge of managing your cleaning supplies? If you have a large amount to manage, they may need some help. Regardless, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Your employees need to understand that they should promptly notify the manager when a certain cleaning product will be gone. They should be able to easily identify unsafe use or storage of your cleaning supplies. When everyone works together, it’s so much easier to manage it all – and fewer mistakes are made.

Follow those five tips, and you’ll find it much easier to effectively manage all your cleaning supplies.

3 Top Types of Safety Gear and Strategies for Cleaning Pros

Cleaning doesn’t sound like a dangerous profession to most people. But as an experienced cleaning professional or team manager, you know that’s not the truth. Many severe injuries, and even deaths, happen annually because of cleaning accidents.

And many of those happen because of mistakes in how employees wear (or don’t wear) their safety gear. Here’s some tips for your cleaning team to stay safe in 2017:

  1. Your Team Members Must Know Their Body

This one gets overlooked often. Awkward position, using force to do a task, staying in the same position for long periods of time, and continuous pressure on any part of your team member’s body can lead to injury. “Continuous pressure” could mean things like kneeling for a long time on a bathroom floor.

You and your team members must be aware of these situations, and you should develop strategies to minimize the harm they cause. Knee pads, for example, could be used to nearly eliminate pain, discomfort, and potential injury from kneeling.

  1. Using PPE For Safe Handling of Cleaning Chemicals

You should have a policy in place, regular training, and incentive for using PPE. It’s so easy for your cleaning team to get out of the habit of using it when necessary. If they have to handle cleaning chemicals, safety glasses (with side shields), splash goggles, a face shield, nonslip shoes, gloves, and a rubber apron should be worn.

Not only does this keep your cleaning team safe, but it nearly eliminates the threat of your company getting involved in a lawsuit.

  1. Remember to Use Ergonomics To Minimize Your Risk of Injury

There’s a safest way to do nearly everything. In fact, there’s so much to go through we can’t cover it all here.

However, here’s some things your team can do to use ergonomics to their advantage so they don’t get injured:

  • Distribute cleaning materials evenly around waste barrels as you push them to minimize the chances of it tipping over
  • Never assume office or workplace trash cans all weigh the same. Always lift them with your back straight and knees bent
  • Whenever you need to move furniture, use harnesses, rolling carts, and other equipment whenever available
  • Wrap padding around bucket handles to minimize pressure on your hand
  • Use mop heads that aren’t known to shed threads so you minimize your risk of slipping and falling (or causing the same for your customers)s

Again, there’s dozens more we could go through. But, this gives you an idea of what to look for.

Safety First Always Wins the Day

When you put safety first, you build the respect of your cleaning team. They avoid injuries. Your company avoids civil lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims.

It’s a big win for everyone involved. So make safety a priority at your organization today.