Portal Focus - May/June 2021
FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY IN THE MOVING INDUSTRY
Where Is Everything and What Condition Is It In?
By Giordano Rubino, Managing Director, WHPlus GmbH
Enhancing Connections and Communications
“We put 140 office chairs into storage with you last year. Do we still have 24 with ergonomic neck support?” A good warehouse logistics specialist can usually answer such questions, but only after he has had time to look in the warehouse. And, only as accurately as the request was made (“Will those 24 green chairs go with the new white office décor?”). Until now, the customer has hardly any chance of obtaining such information without first triggering a billable search request.
As there was no practicable solution that allowed us to fulfil these types of requests without an unreasonable amount of time and effort, we developed one. My name is Giordano Rubino and I am project manager at Haberling in Berlin. During the 19 years I’ve worked in the moving industry, I have encountered the questions "where", "what" and the condition, countless times. That's why in 2019 I founded Warehouseplus, a tech start-up for visual inventory.
The best ideas are sometimes created at the bar. I was chatting with Sascha Blume from UTS Sellenthin (Hamburg) about the challenges of warehouse management with Excel, about handwritten warehouse lists and the problems of warehouse customers who usually have no overview of stored items.
True to the motto “out of sight, out of mind,” corporate clients often store large quantities of furniture, often over long periods of time. This sometimes leads to a fading of memory about the inventory and condition of stored items. In addition, the records of where each customer’s belongings located in the warehouse are often kept in Excel lists; sometimes even in paper form.
A typical problem arises when a customer only needs some of his items retrieved. Due to “dynamic” warehousing that is often used in furniture warehouses, it is not uncommon for a storage lot to have to be distributed to several locations or containers. This leads to:
regular warehouse inspections by the customer;
regular search orders for the warehouse staff;
discussions about inventory and condition;
when requested furniture is found, it’s suddenly apparent at delivery that details such as the color of the chair upholstery do not fit with the furnishing concept, as not all details were recorded; and
usually only a limited number of employees have knowledge of the goods in storage and their condition, and unnecessary new purchases can be made.
The bottom line for some customers is that warehousing is not worthwhile—and we knew it shouldn’t be like this. Warehousing should be simple, efficient, trackable and, above all, visual. This discussion inspired us to develop Warehouseplus to create a digital solution that makes life easier for warehouse staff and customers alike.
Considering the challenges, we redesigned warehousing with an app; individual items are linked to specific storage locations. Each item is visually recorded, clearly defined with features, and made available online. This app allows customers to have access to all stored goods 24/7, and to place targeted requests for the delivery of individual items. The customer now has totally new possibilities to plan and use their stored furniture, and the warehouse staff can immediately identify which item is at which storage location. It saves time for all parties and effectively avoids wrong deliveries along with the frustration, costs and environmental impacts they produce.
Since the app would be operated by operations and warehouse staff, who are often under time pressure, the “user friendly” requirement was high, and represented a central element in the development: it had to be simple.
The app is structured in such a way that the recording of warehouse goods can be done quickly and easily. The user is guided step-by-step through the process to create items. The retrieval of recorded items is also intuitively structured, so that the required goods can be found and requested in a quick and targeted manner.
Several companies, and their customers, are already benefiting from the new possibilities of warehouse management through the app-based inventory and the practical ordering system.
Corporate customers in particular appreciate the transparency. Finally, they have the complete picture of their stored items and can call them up in a targeted manner. Mix-ups, misunderstandings, and unnecessary purchases are a thing of the past.
The impact of this new capability is also easy to measure: since Haberling implemented Warehouseplus at last year, we have seen a double-digit percentage increase in transports to and from the warehouse.
An employee of a large automotive group commented: “Thank you again for the familiarisation to the new Warehouseplus program at such short notice. After only one week, I can say that the program is easy to use and a great asset for managing our stock.”