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Finding Good Part-Time Help

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

How to find good workersAs a company that has varying staffing needs, we find it necessary to rely on a lot of part-time workers. HIS Installation, like many service industry companies, takes on different type and size projects. Sometimes we need large crews, other times we need only one or two “good” workers.

So, how do we find good part-time help?

First off, it isn’t easy. Sometimes we flat-out get lucky…of course we like to think that the Man Upstairs is looking out for us.

Here is what 30 years of experience in the material handling industry has taught us:

  1. Sometimes the best help is home-grown – There are five of us sons, all of whom, at one point or another, worked for HIS Installation. To this day, and this isn’t bragging, we have been the most reliable, hardest-working employees. Part of this is we had a strong motivator, i.e. our Dad; however we also wanted the family business to succeed. As one of our non-family member workers once told me, when we were discussing the difference between good help and not-so-good help, “Joe, it has everything to do with how you were raised.” I think there is a lot of truth there.
  2. Just because someone is a good friend doesn’t mean they will be a good worker – This can be tricky, having unrealistic expectations for friends can do more harm than good. When we’ve allowed friends to work for us and then things not worked out, feelings always got hurt and the relationship inevitably was affected.
  3. You have to be able to size people up – This may sound old-fashion, but I’m a firm believer in watching and listening to people, in other words, sizing people up. I normally have a pretty good idea what kind of worker a person will be by the quickness in their step, the firmness of their handshake, the tone of their voice, and their physical shape. I know that may sound biased, but if the shoe fits…it fits. A worker knows a worker.
  4. It’s okay to give people a chance – Some of our best workers have been guys who have been down on their luck. They tend to have something to prove. They’ve been beaten down bad enough that they want  a new start. I’ve always appreciated these type of individuals.
  5. Be quick to make changes - If it’s not working out, it’s not working out. I generally give a person two, maybe three, days to show me they can do the job. I don’t wait much longer than that. It makes the whole process easier – less resentment, less hurt feelings, less impact on the project. It also keeps the morale of the team stronger. If everyone has the understanding that if you aren’t measuring up you’re gone, they tend to put forward their best effort.

Following these steps we’ve generally been able to build good project teams. While the work is hard, we normally have a good time doing what we do. To this day, many of our best guys have gone on to better and brighter careers, but they all are appreciative for the experience and values they received while working for HIS Installation.

Column Guards: Are They Necessary?

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Column Guards Installed By HIS Installation, Inc.A lot of buyers of rack systems don’t take into consideration one important component.

Column guards.

I know, I know. You’re thinking “Come on, really? I mean rack is made of steel, right?”

Well, yes. Rack systems are generally made of steel. However, as shown below, upright columns are often struck by lift trucks directly or by the loads (loaded pallets, drums, reels, bundles of raw material, etc) being carried by the lift trucks.

 

Damaged Column - Call HIS Installation today!

Column guards are the common solution to protecting rack columns from possible collision damage.

How do column guards work?

Column Guard Designed By Ridg-U-Rak

Column guards are often installed in front of each exposed rack column to attempt to minimize the damage to the rack columns. As shown here, most have an angled front to divert the oncoming fork or load to reduce the risk of damage.

Column guards are normally made of heavy-gauge structural steel allowing for increased “blow” absorption. Some incorporated a 4 or 6-anchor design providing even greater support.

You either already have or are about to invest a fair amount money into your rack storage system. Why not protect that investment with cost-efficient protection, that’s right…with column guards.

Visit the HIS Installation website for more information or just give us a call (770-478-4506). We’d be happy to assist you.

Rack N’ Roll: What Type Of Rack Will Work Best For You?

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

So you are in the market for a rack storage system? When determining what type of system to invest in, you should consider the different racking options as well as your particular storage needs.  It is advisable to take into consideration your inventory management method and product specs.

The three types of rack include – Pallet Rack, High-Density Rack, and Specialized Rack. Let’s look at each one.

PALLET RACK

Pallet rack is by far the most popular type of rack system. It is the most versatile and virtually limitless when it comes to sizes available. It allows for immediate pallet availability. There are normally three pallet rack options – slotted, tear drop, or structural (heavier duty rack made from solid steel channel).  Slotted and tear drop refer to the way the upright channel is punched for the horizontal beam connections.

HIGH-DENSITY RACK

High-Density rack is ideal when the goal is the maximization of warehouse space as well as the minimization of warehousing costs. There are a number of high-density rack options. Knowing your particular application will best determine which fits your specific need. We’ll consider a few of the more popular options here:

  1. Drive-In or Drive-Thru Storage Rack – limits the number of aisles needed by providing depth. The rail design of most Drive-In/Drive-Thru rack systems allow forklifts to drive into the system to place pallets. Ideal for “last in, first out” applications.
  2. Push Back Storage Rack – makes use of the “cart-on-rail” design. Unlike Drive-In Storage Rack, Push Back Storage Rack allows the next pallet to always come to the front of the rack system thus reducing pick times while maximizing space usage. Ideal for “last in, first out” applications.
  3. Gravity Flow Storage Rack –  is the ideal system for “first in, first out” applications. This is especially true where a facility is handling a large of number of common SKUs. The dense Gravity Flow Storage Rack makes use of roller tracks to move pallets from the back of the system to the front. The pitch of the roller tracks allows for gravity to carry pallets through the system.
  4. Narrow Aisle Storage Rack – minimizes aisle space requirements while allowing 100% product selection ability throughout the system. Newer lifts allow for this to be possible (stock selectors, standing lifts, etc).
  5. Double Deep Pallet Rack – requires deep reaching forklifts but does minimize the number of aisles needed to maximize available pallet positions. Popular in throughput operations.

Please note: All High-Density Rack systems can be made of structural steel if your application necessitates that.

SPECIALIZED RACK

Specialized rack systems are ideal for the storage of items that won’t fit in more traditional rack systems. Items like lumber, PVC pipes, cable reels, rebar, electrical conduit, dies, engines, etc are best stored in specialized rack systems. Here are few of the more popular options:

  1. Cantilever Storage Rack - implements a “tower-arm” design allowing open, frontal access to items without side limitations. Ideal for lumber, steel channel/angle iron, rebar, PVC, etc.
  2. Wide-Span Shelving – is the right choice when traditional shelving is too light, but standard pallet rack would be too much. Providing versatility and adjustability, Wide-Span Shelving is often used in retail/commercial applications or when easy hand access to merchandise is needed.
  3. Reel Storage Rack – is specifically made for the storage of reels of cable and wiring. Reel Storage Rack has the capability of holding multiple reels as well as various weights.
  4. Roll-Out Shelf Racks – are ideal for the storage of heavy dies, fixtures, or industrial/mechanical parts. Shelves extend to allow for complete access to the particular item.

Again, these are simply some of the more common options. When it comes to rack storage the possibilities can be limitless given that custom design is an alternative as well.

There are certainly many variables that need to be looked at when determining what rack storage system will best meet your needs. It is always advisable to seek the expertise of a material handling consultant to assist you in making the right choice.


    Facility Planning: Two Steps To Making A Better DC Decision

    February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

    Your business is growing! Growth is good, right?

    Absolutely, but not having adequate facility space can be a real nightmare. This is especially true if by facility we are talking your DC (that’s Distribution Center for those not fluent in supply chain lingo).

    “Our current warehouse is too small for additional pallet positions to be added.”

    “Our current warehouse isn’t close enough to the highway or best trucking routes.”

    “We are operating out of too many buildings.”

    “We can’t add automation due to space restrictions.”

    We know all the problems, but is there a quickly, cost-efficient solution? Probably not, but there are two steps you can take to insure that the process is properly managed.

    1. Get Involved/Get Others Involved - It is vital that ALL relevant parties be involved in the facility planning process. That includes internal (shipping & receiving, purchasing, IT/IS, manufacturing (if applicable), HR, facility management, maintenance, etc.) and external (material handling experts, equipment dealers, landlord[s] or real estate specialists, energy and community advisors) parties.
    2. Do A Feasibility Study - It is recommended to consider the five common factors (TELOS): Technology and System feasibility, Economic feasibility, Legal feasibility, Operational feasibility, and Schedule feasibility. However, many companies also look at Market and Real Estate feasibility, Financial feasibility, Resource feasibility, and Cultural feasibility.  ULTIMATE PURPOSE: To provide ownership or board of directors with a clear understanding of the problem, a detailed description of the solution, a quantitative and qualitative synopsis of the business’ physical requirements, the conclusions/consensus of management, as well as potential alternatives.

    Many times, the answer might not be in moving to a new distribution center. It might be the realization of a creative way to maximize cube or an expansion of the existing facility.

    Taking the time to get the proper parties involved and to do a feasibility study provides a greater level of certainty and vision.  It gets the “right” people engaged. It also creates a thought process that allows for creativity and innovation in considering the problem and possible facility solutions.

    What To Do? Improving Your Decision Making

    February 4, 2011 1 comment

    Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

    We all face lots of decisions every day. Some decisions we make instantly, while others stop us dead in our tracks. Usually this is due to the gravity of the situation, potential consequences, or just lack of certainty.

    There are steps we can take to improve our decision making skills.

    JUST THE FACTS – Take the time to methodically write down all the known facts and options. Often just having the details down on paper provides greater clarity.

    TRUST YOUR GUT – I know, I know… Trusting your gut all the time isn’t always the best strategy, nor the logical one, but the GUT counts for something. Trusting your gut when you’ve considered all the facts and options can be the best way to make a decision.

    POINT OF NO RETURN – When you’ve made a decision, don’t second-guess yourself. Isn’t that what “being decisive” is all about?

    INTO ACTION – Dare to act, dare to succeed or fail. As Seth Godin would say, SHIP. Get it done, on time, every time. Know that you will probably make more good decisions than bad ones.

    UNDERSTAND THAT FAILURE IS AN OPTION – Don’t get me wrong, anticipate and plan for success, but realize that the worst thing that can happen is you fail. So what? Some of the greatest lessons we learn come through failure. Now we don’t chase failure looking for lessons, but fear of failure can shut us down if we don’t understand that it is an option.

    For some more technical tools and techniques check out Mind Tools – Decision Making Techniques. They have some really good stuff.

    Success in business, as in life, is often tied to effective, efficient decision making. Hopefully, your decision to read this post will lead you to greater decisiveness and success!

    Strategic Business Unit: Is It Right For You and Me?

    December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

    As a small family-owned and operated business, we are continually looking for ways to increase profitability while developing smart growth for our business. A popular approach is a strategic business unit. What’s a strategic business unit? The definition I find most useful is from BusinessDictionary.com:

    Autonomous division or organizational unit, small enough to be flexible and large enough to exercise control over most of the factors affecting its long-term performance. Because SBUs are more agile (and usually have independent missions and objectives), they allow the owning conglomerate to respond quickly to changing economic or market situations.

    Given that definition, it could also be set up as a DBA (doing business as). This allows an autonomous division to be fictitiously named. Why would we do that? So that we can avoid creating a new legal entity for each business we decide to spin off our primary legal entity (i.e. corporation, LLC, etc). Forming a new legal entity involves costs of incorporating. A Strategic Business Unit, set up as a DBA, is a legitimate option for diversification without the time and costs associated with creating a new legal entity.

    So when is a strategic business unit the right move? Let’s say that you run a service industry company that is normally sustained by several large projects a year, as is the case with our business. While that provides an adequate amount of revenue and profits for us as owners, it does not provide steady income for our hourly workers. We are fortune to have some very skilled workers. Some have backgrounds in general construction (electrical, plumbing, carpentry, masonry work, flooring, etc.), others in welding, others in design, and others in landscaping. This provides us with an opportunity to build strategic business units around people. Keeping the “right” people is key to growing any business. If creating a strategic business unit around an individual allows us to keep them available to our core business then it might be a good option. But let’s analyze the might.

    While it might be a good option it might be a distraction from what has allowed us to remain in business for almost 30 years. This is where we turn to a time-tested, decision making process:

    1. SWOT Analysis
    2. Cost Analysis
    3. Projected Billable Hour Assessment

    Let’s look at each of these and consider why they are relavent to the decision making process.

    1. SWOT Analysis – SWOT simply stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Analyzing strengths and weaknesses allows us to focus internally, drawing on past experience and the present state of the business. When considering opportunities and threats we focus on external elements, such as the economic environment, existing competition, etc., and analyze what the strategic business unit might do in the future. This is a powerful tool and can often be the determining factor.

    2. Cost Analysis – When performing a cost analysis we general look at specific startup costs such as direct labor/materials costs, any professional fees, technology/equipment costs, administrative costs, marketing/advertising costs, indirect labor/benefits costs, as well as potential taxation effects. All of these categories have to be thoroughly broken down. Never, NEVER underestimate these costs.

    3. Projected Billable Hour Assessment – This is where we take all the data we’ve gathered in our cost analysis, estimate our potential billable hours, and then work the math. First we find beak-even, then apply our desired profit margin. Once we have our billable hour rate we see how it matches up to the industry standard. Please keep in mind, the industry standard is just that, the industry standard. We have no idea if the business owners in this particular niche have the first clue about pricing. We will always trust our billable hour rate before we go with an industry standard, however it’s good to know where you stand. We just make it a point to deliver on the service side – high quality and exceeding expectations. I’ve written in greater detail on determining billable hour rate here, How Much Should I Charge. This assessment also shows us how many hours our workers will be tied up doing work for the strategic business unit. It will reveal the potential time conflicts.

    Using this three-fold criteria, we usually have a clear understanding of what course of action is best for us. We also do a gut check. Sometimes everything looks good on paper but there’s just something in our gut telling us not to proceed. That’s when we think, think, think….and, of course, ask our wives what they think ;-) Don’t ever underestimate the intuition of those lovely ladies! Please note the gut check is normally not true in reverse. If the SWOT analysis, cost analysis, and projected billable hour assessment all tell us not to proceed, then it’s generally smart to look elsewhere. I say generally because there is an exception to every rule in startups.

    One final thought…Make sure the strategic business unit is not entirely out of your scope of expertise. If you lose a key person in the SBU what happens? How easily are they replaced? While linchpins are absolutely necessary, sound business models create environments in which they can thrive.

    Warehouse Storage Solutions

    December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

    Maximizing warehouse space. Improving inventory management. Increasing operational efficiency. All of these can be reasons for exploring the wide world of warehouse storage solutions.

    So what storage system is right for you? Here are several things to consider when determining which warehouse storage system is right for your company.

    1. Existing Storage Systems – What existing storage system do you have in place? Are you wanting to add to it, replace it, or move it? Is it compatible with a different system? A qualified material handling expert can assist in determining things like compatibility and application in a new design.

    2. Equipment – What equipment do you have – forklifts, pallet jacks, pallets, etc.? What are the lift capacities (height and weight) of the forklifts? What are the dimensions of the typical pallets used?

    3. Facility – What is the spacing and size of the structural building columns? What overhead obtrusions exist – heating units, rafters, sprinkler pipes, etc.? What is the overall square footage and height of the facility? Is it a cold storage (cooler or freezer) environment?

    4. Location – Is there any permitting required in the area your facility is located? Is it a seismic zone?

    5. Needs/Purpose – Identify the priority of needs. Is the purpose tied to increasing the number of pallet positions? If so, how many? Or are you trying to add pick locations for a retail/online distribution operation? Maybe you are trying to achieve both. Are you adding to meet current needs or are you planning for future growth? Some companies plan for up to five years of expandable growth when deciding on a warehouse storage solution.

    6. Inventory Management – What is the inventory management objective? Is a true First-In, First-Out (FIFO) storage solution the goal? Or is there a need for a pick system with overhead-overflow storage?

    7. Inventory – What inventory is going into the storage system? What is the height and weight of each pallet load? Is there a standard size or will there be pallet variation? Maybe you will be storing something special like wire/cable reels, conduit/pvc tubing, lumber, angle iron, or other raw materials.

    These are some of the more important things to look at when considering different warehouse storage solutions. Other factors can come into play so it is important to seek the input of a material handling expert during the planning process.

    Adding a warehouse storage system can increase operational efficiency, maximize cube usage, provide warehouse organization, and much more. Finding the right warehouse storage solution is an important step on the road of business success.

    Plan, Measure, Adapt, Succeed

    November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

    Any successful sports team, military unit, or business will point to planning, measuring, and adapting as reasons for their ability to execute.

    Planning encompasses everything from estimating to selecting the right team to daily delegation. Think, think, think. Develop a plan: We can do “this” in this many hours, applying this method, with this group of people, with this equipment, for this rate, in order to make this much profit.

    Measuring is then the meticulous analysis of all this. Is the method chosen working? Is the team operating at the desired level? Are we using the right equipment? Is our rate competitive and generating profits? Are we achieving our desired profitability margin?If not why not? Can we adapt to correct the outcome?

    Adapting involves understanding what the measurements are saying and what we can do about them. This is a concrete action step. Realizing there is a problem, identifying exacting what that problem is, and how to correct it only take us so far. We must then execute. This may take more than one attempt. Find what works and implement it. Then measure again.

    In today’s small business environment a company’s ability to plan, measure and adapt can be the difference between success and failure.

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