Creating Flow with the Warehouse Flow Advisor
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published November 11, 2019
When warehouse management consultant Phil Mendelowitz steps onto the scene, he goes into stealth observation mode. Without a word, he walks through San Francisco Bay Area facilities and meticulously takes notes. At the end of his inspection, he goes over necessary and beneficial improvements with his clients. In his 30 years, Mendelowitz has seen it all. Working from customer service to inventory control to packing and shipping, he knows the ins and outs of warehousing. As owner-operator of Warehouse Flow, he analyzes warehouses to improve safety, efficiency, and any other business goals necessary to achieve maximum results.
Going with the Flow
Logistics costs have risen by 3.2% according to 2018 data from global management consulting firm ATKearney. More storefronts are closing, putting a reliance on warehouses to fulfill e-commerce needs. This increase in demand requires the warehousing industry to make astute strategic choices for efficiency and to thrive.
Practical strategy is second nature for Mendelowitz. Long after his high school football days, he brings his crafty and agile talents to the warehouse management game. He started in industry in customer service. Those problem-solving skills along with efficient safety strategies put Mendelowitz in winning mode.
“I had really good bosses coming through the ranks,” he said. “If you’re gonna do a job, take ownership and do it. If you see something, question it. Take care of it. I did that, and my employers had confidence in me.”
Employers should maintain cleanliness and safety as a part of customer service, Mendelowitz said.
“I don't think you can ever hear ‘safety’ said too much in a warehouse,” he said. “I believe in the daily 10-minute huddle right at the start of the shift. Go over what to expect and anything special happening. Safety leads to other good habits in the warehouse. For example, good housekeeping leads to fewer trips and falls and makes the warehouse presentable to all.”
Part of safety evaluations and getting a warehouse to flow for optimal optimization, Mendelowitz focuses on five key concepts:
- Safety Hazard Analysis: During operations, facility managers and other support staff should audit the facility. This identifies potential hazards, which staff can then recommend viable solutions.
- Emergency Response Plan: Ensure fire extinguishers are in place throughout the warehouse. Train workers to know when to get out. Mark all exits and exit routes to increase understanding and visibility by using signs and floor marking.
- Warehouse Layout: For quick identification, Mendelowitz is a big fan of safety signs and color-coordinating labels, floor marking and other visual communication. While a huge proponent of Lean tools and systems, Mendelowitz sees value in combining several strategies for a proprietary blend that suits the unique needs of a warehouse.
- OSHA Rules: Operations should evaluate their compliance in line with OSHA reporting standards and HazCom 2012.
- Increase AIB/ASI Score: Mendelowitz conducts mock inspections and provides personal tactics to improve scores.
Safety is a Priority
“Employees and managers should stay on their toes at all times,” he said. “Compliance inspections and evaluations go best when they are not expected.”
A few other points Mendelowitz likes to focus on is personal protective equipment, especially hearing protection, and proper forklift training. He believes cross-training and engaging in and enforcing safety in the workplace boosts profitability.
Need some free resources to optimize efficiency and safety in any warehouse? Download the Warehouse Safety Guide for Efficiency.