Canadian Plastics

Good Warehouse Hunting

Determining the best place to store your valuable products either short or long term requires searching for a warehouse provider. We would recommend formalizing the process by developing a Warehouse P...

February 1, 2004   By Jack Bradley, BA, CITT, P.MM



Determining the best place to store your valuable products either short or long term requires searching for a warehouse provider. We would recommend formalizing the process by developing a Warehouse Profile so that a proper comparison of warehouse resources suited to your requirements could be conducted.

The Basics

At a minimum you should collect basic information including company name and address, phone, fax, email. Does the provider have a web site? Who are the principle contact parties? How long has the company been in business? Is it close to where you need it to be? How many full and part time employees does it have and what is the rate of turnover? Is it union or non-union? What is the length of labor agreements?

Above all other basic information get a list of references and contact them.

Visit the facility that might be your new home. You have to see the yard, ability to access trucks and in particular review the housekeeping.

Specifics

What are the building’s(s’) sizes, dimensions, clear ceiling height? What are the hours of service? Does it provide weekend work (is that something you need on a regular basis)? How many doors, type of doors (dock, drive in), the height and width of the doors?

What type of lighting is used? Does it have a sprinkler system and how does it work?

Security is becoming more important as you will be required to include any of your related warehouses in your application for C-TPAT should that be something you are considering. Does it have cameras/video surveillance, fencing? How many personnel exit/ entrance doors are there? Is it already C-TPAT or PIP approved?

The most important, specific profile information you will likely need is what “other materials” are stored at the locations being considered. Understand the nature all of the product(s) that will likely enter that facility. Is it compatible with your materials? Are your materials compatible with existing products? Is the provider encumbered by an existing contract which spells out what “other products” are not compatible. (yours may be one of them). Detergent can’t be stored with tobacco products; perhaps some powders/ chemicals with foodstuffs; some dry goods with hazardous. Ultimately you will be responsible for your product insurance requirements at that facility. Have your insurers review the risk factors.

Operational Strengths

What kinds of lift trucks, (and attachments) are available and what is their range of capacity? Ensure that the warehouse provider has the proper equipment to handle your specific products. Do they work with any pallet programs?

Can they arrange transportation on your behalf if required? Do they accept your arranged carriers and if so can they provide them with appointments for both TL and LTL service?

Does it provide help with unitization using such things as stretch wrapping, re-strapping, product re-securement; pallet racking (type most suitable to your product storage).

Is it able to provide you with order fulfillment either by fax, internet or other electronic means such as EDI? Will you have up-to-date access to your inventory? Does it have RF Technology? What about a warehouse locator system? Can it provide customer specific labeling or bar coding? How many physical inventories will it perform at no additional cost? Will it offer you regular, direct access to your product?

If you don’t need any of these features then make sure you are not paying for them.

Financial Considerations

Ask your potential warehouse provider for any information it can provide that will give you some “comfort” in terms of its financial strength. What are the standard terms of payment and does it offer any terms that would provide discount for early payment?

Does it own or lease the building(s)? If leased, what is the length of term, owner, expiry of any current agreements and renewal options? Ensure that it provides a WSIB clearance certificate. Ask for a copy of insurance.

Other Very Important Considerations

How dedicated is your warehouse provider in the long term? Does it have a documented maintenance program? Is it in-house or outsourced? Do they have a safety committee, safety training, related systems and records? How many lost man-days has it had in the past few years? Is it ISO certified?

Rates

Competitiveness of the rates will be a large part of your decision to choose your provider but do not lose sight on the overall objective, which is to find a safe haven for your valuable products. Can a higher storage rate decision mean a lower overall transportation rate?

The Decision

As in any other purchase, you do get what you pay for. Each provider brings with it a specific group of strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that your decision is based on what you need, not just what you would really like. If you’ve made the decision to outsource part or all your warehousing requirements then make sure that you are working with people who can share the right resources. Your warehouse should be an extension of your business and not just a place to store your product. It should ultimately be able to share in your firm’s culture.


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