SKU’s, SKU’s and more SKU’s! Everywhere all kinds of distributors are faced with the challenge of handling a product offering inclusive of often ten fold the number of stock keeping units (SKU’s) they managed just a few years ago. SKU counts will more than likely continue to grow. In most cases distributors are handling all those SKU’s in a facility that was already taxed prior to the current onslaught of SKU proliferation. Beware, SKU’s have huge appetites!

Huge appetites? What do they eat? Time! We all know time is money, lots of money.
Take a look at a representative distributor. Today 381 SKU’s, just a few short years ago -83. That increase has a major impact throughout the business. Let’s just look at the effect on material handling:

  • Many more inbound shipments as breadth replaces depth and floor space usually remains a constant…….. Happens even if overall volume stays the same
  • More staging required prior to stock placements
  • 198 more stock locations required
  • 198 more placements needed when replenishing
  • 198 more picking locations
  • More outbound shipments as breadth puts pressure on achieving fill rates
  • More staging prior to loading required
  • High velocity, low volume SKU’ become the norm, not the exception

Dealing with all this makes safe, productive material handling an even greater challenge!

Here at Bluff we have solutions to help manage SKU proliferation that are economical and readily available:

SKU proliferation may be the biggest challenge distributors have faced in decades. No need to be SKU’d up. Bluff has solutions and the team to help!

Buying decisions are made for one of five reasons…Reason #5 Service

In looking back at the other four articles in this series, I need to point out that these are not numbered in order of importance.  The statement is; when you or anyone else chooses one product or service over another it will be for one or more of these reasons.  Because price is  listed first, it does not mean price is most important.  Now………….

We all know the difference between good service and poor service, but more and more there is also “no service”.  Sometimes, the level of service is associated with the price.  Case in point;  some of us shop in the SAM’s type of store.  Not only are there no people to help you, you have to find your own boxes.  We gladly sacrifice our local grocer’s high caliber service for wholesale pricing.  Other times I go to “Grocery World” and let the kid carry my bag to the car.  I am pleased with both shopping experiences because my expectations are fulfilled both places.  It is when there is a disconnect between expectations and offering that there is a potential for dissatisfaction.

You can set your business model up for any level but you cannot go back and forth on individual transactions because you will disappoint. Whatever the highest service level you offer will become the minimum against which you will be measured.  “The only thing in the middle of the road is a dead skunk” (or in Texas – armadillo).  Test it.  Stand in the middle of a discount store looking needy.  Are you surprised when lots of people in red vests go by without so much as a “can I help ya?”  Now visit a department store (selling the same brands) and repeate your experiment.  Your blood will start to boil after about 3 minutes.  Your expectations are vastly different. 

What are your customer’s expectations of you and your company?  Do you discuss them with your team?  Do you measure how well you do?  Are there incentives within your organization that reward good service?  If the answers to any of these questions is “not so much” you have a potential for the disconnect of expectations.

This is where I could be totally self-serving and talk about the service level at Bluff being as high as it is ……. but I will resist.

Good Selling

Constructing a Site for Portable Steel Railboard Use

Bluff Rail Board 

Portable steel railboards (rail boards) are a great solution to bridging the gap between railcars of all types and loading docks.  Bluff Manufacturing has been manufacturing railboards for these applications for decades and it seems that no two rail sites are alike.  Due to that fact, every railboard built is a custom fabrication for a specific site or set of conditions.  There are four major components that provide the parameters for railboard design specifications, they are:
 1. Capacity of forklifts that will be traveling over the railboard
2. Customer’s desired width of the board to service their site
3. Railroad track rail-top elevation as it relates to the loading dock surface elevation
4. Railroad track distance from the loading dock surface to inside of first rail
 It is amazing how much rail sites vary all around the country particularly in relation to #3 and #4.  Obviously, no standards or guidelines have been followed in constructing these sites.  In many cases involving improper elevations or tracks being too close to the loading dock, less than desirable board designs are forced into service with very steep grades.   For those of you involved in designing rail sites to be built with knowledge that portable railboards will be in use, I would submit to you the following ideal track elevations and distances from docks for their use:
 Car type                             Elevation                  Distance
Standard box car                     43″                            74”
Refrigerate box car                  49”                            74”
 Following these guidelines will permit board designs that when put into service will provide desirable grades for forklift travel.

John Key
Plant Manager and former Plant Engineer
Bluff Manufacturing, Inc.