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Improving Asset Reliability Is Like Investing in the Stock Market

Learn how to put your common sense to work to achieve real business value in your maintenance operations. The same maintenance strategies don’t have to be applied to all of your assets. You need a toolkit of various strategies to be applied appropriately.

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How Smart Businesses Can Transform Their Data into Results

How Smart Businesses Can Transform Their Data into Results

Headlines that claim “data is the future” are wrong. Data is the present, and every company should have a strategy in place today to collect, store and analyze the data flowing through their organizations. The answers to your most important questions can be found in the numbers, and your business is talking to you through them all the time.

But ask yourself: are you listening? And if the answer is “no,” what are you going to do about it?

Understanding Data Is a Big Job

According to CSC (now DXC Technology), the amount of data produced annually will increase 4,300 percent by 2020. Most businesses struggle to handle the sheer volume of data created today, let alone what’s predicted in three years. How, then, should organizations prepare to handle this massive influx of information?

One way is to elevate data science to the C-suite: 80 percent of large enterprises will have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) in place by 2020, says research firm Gartner. Over the next decade, CDOs will become responsible for unlocking the answers to growth that data provides and minimizing risk at those large companies. Their priority will be to implement company-wide strategies for gathering the right data and analyzing it in a way that is helpful to their businesses.

While adding a CDO may be fashionable for Fortune 100 companies, it’s not a practical or even necessary role for every business. However, having no data strategy at all is no longer an option, either. Organizations need to decide what data they should collect, determine how secure that data is, and figure out how they can examine it and what actions should be taken as a result.

As a matter of fact, with the right strategy, mid-size companies actually can move faster and take advantage of opportunities more quickly than much larger organizations, which often spend days, even weeks, filtering out superfluous information to get to critical data. To make that kind of difference, a successful data strategy will:

  • Fit a specific business
  • Produce actionable information
  • And, most important, drive the kind of improvements that are game-changers for an organization – or an entire industry.

Right Software, Right Data

Large businesses with complex needs partner with large and similarly complex software providers to help them make sense of massive amounts of data. However, software solutions built for enterprise-level organizations aren’t right for all companies. They aren’t designed for a specific industry or set of operational processes. They are generic, top-down, one-size-fits-all and do not understand specific and unique operational processes.

What data is most important to you? Is it from your customer service team taking orders or recording complaints? Is it from a machine on your production line that is churning out thousands of pieces an hour? Is it in your warehouse identifying which items are moving the fastest? The data most critical to you results from connecting those points in a way that provides meaningful answers to your business.

Tying it all together isn’t simple. It takes knowledge of your business and what will move the needle. That requires integrating data points from the shop floor, equipment, employees and customers and knowing what all of it represents.

Real Insight

The largest data-related issue most organizations struggle with, according to Aberdeen Research Group, is analytical results that just aren’t meaningful.

A key theme of this year’s Gartner’s Data and Analytics Summit was that “organizations have an abundance of data and many opportunities to get huge value from that data, both internally and externally. However, because they lack resources, strategy, and technology, they do not know how to get value from it,” according to Allan Wille, CEO of Klipfolio.

All the data in the world – even if it is the right data – is meaningless unless it’s transformed into usable metrics. A great data strategy includes visibility into information. Linking to the right data sources, digesting the right metrics, and presenting the information in a way that is comprehensive, yet easy to understand, is critical. Without the ability to hand powerful, relevant, actionable stats to senior management, improvements are impossible.

Changing the Game

Speaking of improvements: The right data provided by the right software in the right way changes the way companies work. It transforms their products and their interactions with customers. It revolutionizes industries – or sometimes creates entirely new ones.

For example, where would search engines be without data? “For many years, artificial intelligence researchers thought that if they understood the link structure of the internet and the structure of language, that would be enough to help people get good search results,” says Stanford economist Susan Athey. “It turned out that having a lot of data on how people behaved while searching was also crucial. Just knowing the most common things that people type after a particular three-letter sequence can be more important than a lot of semantic understanding.”

You know better than anyone what your company does well, but you may not know what could be improved. Manual, interim fixes and guessing games aren’t going to deliver the facts you need. You need to tune into the key data points that help your organization drive change.

And data doesn’t just help organizations get better; it also can ward off mistakes. Software tailored to your business will help you get to the root cause of problems, prevent them from causing massive reputational damage, and stop you from losing time, money and clients to a competitor.

Hear What You’re Missing, Data-Wise

Aberdeen recently found that 71 percent of companies with a data scientist saw increased visibility into business data. But if yours is one of the many organizations without a CDO, fixing issues won’t be the problem; instead, it will be not knowing that issues exist in the first place.

In that case, finding a software partner that knows your industry and builds solutions to fit your specific business is key to gathering and using crucial data. In the absence of a CDO, your software solution needs to take on that role and show you what you’re missing, data-wise.

In the digital economy, smart organizations know that successfully using data to drive operational change is now the most important way to gain a competitive edge. But it doesn’t matter that the answer to growth is right in front of you if you can’t understand what your data is telling you. An effective data strategy will help you hear it clearly – and act to transform your business.

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October 18, 2017 Jenny Peng Jump to Comments

Change Management

By Marianne Chikos, Vice President Customer Solutions

The vision at Aptean is to enable our customers’ long-term economic success by delivering relevant and trusted technology solutions. A key component of our mission is providing not just software, but rather a solution for the customer’s success. The software is an enabler for change, but real improvement comes from behavioral and organizational change, not simply switching a piece of technology. Part of our Factory MES solution is performance coaching to help drive change at these higher levels and ensure the greatest impact on the company’s performance.

The diagram above shows the key elements involved in a change project, and their relative impact on performance. As we reflect on our own internal business, we must ask ourselves where this model applies at Aptean. A number of our key initiatives, such as creating a high performance culture, driving higher service utilization rates company-wide, and improving product quality, require change.

As we move to the right in the model above, change initiatives become increasingly more challenging; however, small victories in the early stages can pave the way for later successes. When used effectively, tools such as our new Key Focus Areas (KFAs) can help us drive the type of behaviors and culture that improves our performance the most. These team-based goals keep the individual aligned with our company strategies. In the end, it takes interaction among every aspect of our organization – technical, work flow, people, and more – to make change successful.

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The Value of Work Orders

By Rich Adams, Regional Account Director TabWare EAM

Do you write Work Orders or do you have a Work Order System?

In meetings and conversations about Maintenance Operations over the years, the subject always seems to revolve around subject of the Work Order. Whether it is in the implementation or sales process, it is always interesting in how customers consider the value of a Work Order and its importance in their organizations.

Whenever these discussions occur, my first comment is always a piece of wisdom that I learned from experience I’ve gained over these years: “There is no intrinsic value in a Work Order; it is what is done with the information contained on the Work Order that adds the value.”

What is the significance of this insight? Many customers become overly focused on the writing and distributing of Work Orders, and the reality is that the information is disregarded. The Work Order, completed manually or electronically, may as well be shoved in a box, and the technician hopes that no one asks him to retrieve that Work Order at a later date.

For a Work Order system to provide value back to an organization, whether the system, produces work orders electronically or manually, it must be based on a defined process, with standard data collection that can be aggregated to make better operational decisions and observations. Some high level questions and observations that the system should answer or enable are listed below:

  • Should the PMs we execute today continue?
  • Should we modify our Work Procedures?
  • Do we need to buy or replace equipment?
  • Do I have the right parts and materials to complete my Work Procedures?
  • Are we getting better over the last measurable period?
  • Is Asset Availability getting better as a result of this process?

Take a step back and ask yourself, are we just writing Work Orders, or we providing a value added process to Operations?

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September 19, 2017 Rich Adams Jump to Comments

Tags :EAM

Small Local Government and the Move to Cloud-Based Applications

By David Entrekin, Director, USTI

Even though the trend to move to Cloud-Based Applications in the general consumer market started several years ago, it has not been widely adopted by the small local government market. However, this has started to change with 2017 budgets.

More and more municipalities are looking to upgrade to cloud-based applications, as a result of the “Greying of Government”. These Baby Boomer leaders, who are also the end-users in most small local governments, are starting to retire. Generations X and Y, and the Millennials, are stepping into those leadership roles; they are looking for modern technology solutions that are more familiar to them. For the remaining Baby Boomer and early Gen X leaders, the idea of changing the way their organization computes can seem scary and unnecessary. Typically, budgets are tight, staffing is light, bandwidth is limited, and the perceived overall resources that would be needed to make this kind of change are just too overwhelming. Many benefits support this trend to move to cloud-based applications.

“Work from Anywhere”

The most obvious benefit is the ability to work from anywhere, which can be highly beneficial to small local governments that are typically lightly staffed and looking for ways to get more from less. Having the flexibility to take your work where you need to go means that your staff will have a less restrictive environment, allowing them to blend their work and home lives. Employees tend to spend more time on work projects when they can make an easier transition to their home life needs. For example, if an employee has a personal commitment that requires them to leave precisely at 5pm, even if a project is not complete, they will most likely complete the work that evening if it can be done at home. This flexibility increases productivity as projects tend to be completed, rather than left unfinished to pick it back up the next day. Millennials expect to have this option in the workplace, and the organizations that do will have a competitive edge over those with a more restrictive work culture.

“Better Use of Resources”

Small local governments are typically staffed lightly, and this is most prevalent with IT resourcing. It is not uncommon in small local government for the IT resource to be a functional staff member within the organization as well. The amount of time they have to devote to IT troubleshooting and maintenance is minimal. When moving to Cloud-Based Applications, you remove a potentially large drain on that functional resource and transition it to a technology partner explicitly focused on IT.

Limited staff usually means that the necessary resources and knowledge base to manage software updates is lacking. Keeping current on patches is vital to minimize the risk of cyber attacks. Moving to a Cloud-Based Application means access to automated software updates. As part of the managed cloud services, experts on the application are in place to work on any issues, resulting in less downtime and better stability.

“Lower Capital Expense with Access to Better Technology”

On top of the savings received from a staff resource not having to deal with applications on your network, you also save on the hardware expense of housing those applications. It can be very difficult for a small local government to budget the upfront costs to build a server network that can support housing a shared application and the network trafficking needs required. Cloud-Based Applications remove that upfront cost burden and move it to a more manageable shared partnership, which also results in access to better and more current technology.

“Disaster Recovery”

The potential of data loss is something that affects every entity in the public and private sectors. Providing a solution for this is very challenging for small local governments with their limited human and capital resources. Being able to utilize the redundancies and cloud server backup policies of the shared environment allows access to needed Disaster Recovery without any of the requisite management resource and knowledge.

It is our belief at USTI that the small local government market is now ready to start adopting the trend occurring in other markets to move to Cloud-Based applications. USTI launched its USTI Connect Cloud solution in the United States for asyst in the 3rd quarter of 2016 and has already started assisting a number of existing customers with “Stepping Up” into the cloud with their existing asyst data. USTI plans on launching its USTI Connect Cloud solution in Canada for asyst and Keystone in 2017.   

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Introducing Aptean's CMO Leo Tucker

Aptean welcomed veteran marketing expert Leo Tucker as the company’s new Chief Marketing Officer. We sat down with Leo to chat about his background, his early impressions of Aptean, and how he spends his time outside the office.

Q: Leo, can you start by telling us about your background and the path that brought you to Aptean?

Leo: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with technology companies for more than 20 years. I’ve worked with some of the largest companies in the world, like IBM, as well as mid-sized companies like Aptean. I was a product manager in the late 90’s, and grew my skillset to eventually manage every function of marketing, from lead generation, to product marketing, to communications and more. Immediately before joining Aptean I served in a similar capacity as the global head of marketing for PGi, so I’ve been fortunate to run all aspects of marketing globally over the course of my career.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing?

Leo: After I graduated from business school in the mid ‘90’s, it was apparent that technology was going to be a great place to focus my career. I had the opportunity to work at IBM, which gave me my first exposure to technology products and services. After that, I joined an Atlanta-based company called S1 as a product manager. The role I had was 98 percent product marketing. It required me to understand each product’s key differentiators, what message resonated for each product, who we should be concerned with from a competitive perspective, and which new markets we should enter. I found the products interesting, but I fell in love with the strategy behind all of these questions – and I realized that’s where I wanted to focus my career.

Q: What excited you most about the opportunity to join Aptean?

Leo: When anyone is trying to decide whether to join a company – whether they are fresh out of college or well into their career -- it comes down to the team. From top to bottom, the team here at Aptean is top notch. Kim Eaton is a fantastic leader, and the vision for the company and the business model is fascinating. I’m especially impressed by Aptean’s focus on how to make strategic acquisitions that create a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts for our customers.

Another exciting thing about Aptean is that under Kim’s leadership, the company has become even more customer-centric. Every company talks about putting your customers first, but I’ve rarely seen it put into action the way it is at Aptean.

Q: You’re still getting your “sea legs” at Aptean, but in these early days, what are your initial observations about the company and the CMO role?

Leo: The laser focus on the customer that Kim introduced means that we have spent less time in recent years on what you might call traditional lead generation. Aptean has great products and customer relationships as a result of this strategy, so customers are choosing to stay with Aptean and expanding the business that they do with us. This has been exactly the right strategy for Aptean. But we’ve reached a point where we need to spend some cycles reinvigorating our demand generation function to add new customers as well. In addition, the brand hasn’t been refreshed in a while, and the time has come to think more deeply and creatively about how we tell our story. It’s going to be a really fun challenge.

Q: As a marketer, you work alongside technical experts and need to speak their language. How do you stay current on technology in order to convey the value of products to customers?

Leo: At the end of the day, it comes down to understanding who your buyers and your users are – and then communicating in a language that makes sense to them. In my career, the buyers and users have been on the business side, so I’ve had to understand their business challenges and goals, and how to translate technical features to address their goals and challenges. So I’ve always seen the marketing role in a technology company as being the translator – translating technical capabilities into solutions.

Q: One of Aptean’s strengths is that it provides products to customers across a broad number of industries. Is it challenging as a marketer to keep up with so many different industries and truly understand each customer?

Leo: From a marketing perspective, it has to be a two-level approach. First, we need to have a strong corporate identity that can serve as an umbrella across all of the different products and services that we offer and to all of the different industries we serve. Second, we need to translate this identity at the product level and apply the right messages to individual business challenges that we’re trying to solve. And of course, it means that our marketing team has to stay very closely aligned with our product team so that we’re always synced upon how to convey the value of what we do to clients, and also relay customer feedback as we continue to build and iterate on our products.

Q: As fast as the tech industry changes, how do you balance the need to deliver the products that customers say they need today with investing in the products you believe they will need tomorrow?

Leo: It’s a critically important question, and a balance that many, many companies struggle with. Our basic approach at Aptean is to start with understanding the business challenge we’re trying to solve for our customers. If a new technology is cool – but we can’t envision how it will help our customers today or in the near future - it tends not to be our top focus. It’s tempting to place big bets on emerging technology to stay ahead of trends, but if you can’t draw that clear line between what you’re investing in and how it will tangibly help your customers, you’re not going to be successful. We also take special care to look at some technologies in the macro sense – to identify the capabilities that we need across our products and across all the industries we serve – but we primarily think about how to apply our technologies to specific client needs and use cases.

Q: Let’s talk about culture. What kind of company is Aptean? What’s it like to work there?

Leo: One thing that became apparent from day one is how well-communicated and understood Aptean’s vision and priorities are across the company. It’s so common in companies of Aptean’s size, and particularly with Aptean’s complexity, for there to be confusion about priorities, strategy, and how everything fits together. Kim and the executive team have really excelled at conveying the vision at the companywide level. And this takes away roadblocks, because we are all clear where we’re going. So as a result of that, the culture is extremely collaborative. And there’s a tremendous amount of energy. When everyone knows the direction they’re heading, it really lends itself to productive conversation. And, from a purely personal perspective, I felt welcomed and comfortable at Aptean right away. There is a great warmth and camaraderie here that I’m excited to be a part of.

Q: You are active in the Atlanta-area community. Tell us about your work with the Atlanta Children’s Museum.

Leo: It’s been a real honor to be on the board of the Children’s Museum for six years now. We’ve just completed a multi-million dollar renovation, and it’s a jewel of downtown Atlanta. My children were frequent visitors to the museum when they were young, so when a friend asked me to join the board, I was excited to do it. Not surprisingly, I was asked to help with development and marketing, which has been a lot of fun. The museum really focuses on learning, through structured and unstructured play, and I’ve seen the tremendous impact is has on the community. There’s also a good lesson there about volunteering in ways that leverage your skills to help others. There are endless ways to make a difference, but I find that if you focus on the things you are best at, you’ll have the greatest impact and enjoy yourself.

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The Return on Investment Customers Receive from Maintenance

Consistently operating at peak performance and getting the most out of assets is a key objective for many companies. Implementing the right software solutions is how Best-In-Class companies are continuing to excel. Investing in a maintenance contract ensures that your company’s critical software is always at peak performance.

Considering software maintenance is similar to purchasing car insurance. The type of coverage you purchase directly correlates to the support and security you will receive in the event of an accident. Purchasing liability coverage will provide the minimum amount required by law, but that minimal amount may not be enough protection, which can result in a significant out-of-pocket expense. Purchasing comprehensive coverage may be costly, but you are protected should anything happen to your vehicle through no fault of your own. For example, if you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, liability insurance will pay to repair the damage to the other car, up to the limits of your policy; you will be responsible for any cost above that and for the cost of repairs to your own car. Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, would pay for repairs to both vehicles.

A software maintenance plan allows the same peace of mind as comprehensive insurance, the security of knowing that you have the necessary tools to allow your company to gain a general competitive edge. When customers think of maintenance, the first thing that comes to mind is access to technical support via phone, email, or the web support portal, but typically there is so much more. Customers who invest in Aptean maintenance have access to the Self Service portal, which provides access to a wealth of information. The resources include articles, support incident submission, management and reporting. The portal also provides educational recordings, product downloads and documentation, and a community base where customers are able to communicate with one another. Through the portal, maintenance customers have access to view and manage company profiles, access to industry and technical bulletins, and the access to subscriptions to receive updates about their products and Aptean.

For many of our products, Aptean also provides a full catalog of courses through Aptean University for all maintenance customers. Through the use of this resource, maintenance users will have 24/7 access to diverse video libraries that help educate and encourage employees to be well trained so that they have the ability to super charge systems and processes.

Maintenance also means having access to upgrades on solutions, which means that your company has state-of-the-art functionality to continue performing at their best. These upgrades include the newest releases, as well as any hotfix updates and service packs. Customers are able to receive access to new features and functionality that can help position your company to better meet your business objectives while implementing the latest technologies and best practices. Customers on maintenance contracts also have the ability to offer insight into the product roadmap. Customer advisory boards comprised of passionate hand-picked customers are able to provide their opinions for the direction of the product.

Investing in maintenance will ensure that your business has the coverage, support, and security it needs to operate at peak performance and ensure you are getting the most out your software solution from Aptean.

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August 09, 2017 Tola Begbaaji Jump to Comments

The Internship Experience at Aptean

The value of an internship is immeasurable. The experiences and connections you make throughout your placement can help pave the way for your career and lead to future job offers. Pinpointing a company that not only has an internship available in your field of interest but, also gives you the opportunity to grow your skillset is crucial.

At Aptean, we have a high-performance work culture built around top tier employees focused on driving for results and providing an exceptional customer experience. Our success-oriented and engaging business environment allows us to provide interns with the opportunity to gain meaningful experience in their areas of interest and exposure to other facets of the business as well.

During the summer, we provide opportunities in various departments to hard-working, motivated, and interested students looking to expand their experience outside school. While summer for many college students represents a time of rest and relaxation before classes resume in the fall, it can also be a time to broaden their skills and gain valuable expertise. Students who invest in an internship are able to gain real-world experience before returning to a classroom.

Being an intern at Aptean doesn’t mean running to get coffee, or performing menial tasks such as shredding old files. Aptean interns have the opportunity to learn and produce work that matters.

“You produce work that actually makes an impact on the company, I’ve worked at a large company before where your work doesn’t even matter,” Naveen Thiligan, a Research and Development intern, said. “I’ve also worked in a high-pressure startup company where it was always stressful, but at Aptean I really feel like I can produce quality work and that what I am doing is relevant in the company.”

Feeling that your work is of significance is an important factor to consider within an internship. The ability to produce meaningful work while also being able to add finished projects to your portfolio is what sets a great internship apart from a merely good one.

Aptean promotes collaboration as well. We believe that our greatest success comes from working together. Collaboration across borders, valuing everyone’s contributions, and giving as well as receiving constructive criticism helps to cultivate an environment of mutual trust and respect.

“The environment at Aptean is really my favorite thing about working here,” explained Cam Wilson, a Customer Marketing intern. “It’s an open and collaborative space where you feel comfortable enough to approach anyone to ask questions or learn more.”

An open environment has the potential to significantly impact the work you do and the connections you make while at your internship. A collaborative and supportive work space allows you to ask questions, make mistakes, and add your input while knowing that you have a team and mentors behind you that are invested in your success.

“Over the course of my internship at Aptean, I’ve had great mentors to help me with my tasks. Our bosses will delay their own work and projects in order to make sure we have all the knowledge to understand what we are supposed to be doing,” Alex Kandilarov, a Research and Development intern, stated.

Identifying the perfect internship is always a hard choice, and requires you to take multiple factors into consideration. The best internship will allow you to learn, grow, and gain experience and knowledge that you won’t be able to gain in a classroom setting. An internship that affords you the opportunity to grow and develop as a professional will impact and shape your view on all your future business endeavors.

“I knew interning at Aptean was the perfect fit for me because not only did it allow me to grow my skills, but it also allowed me to bridge the gap between what I read online about potential careers and how the professional world really works.” Thiligan explained.

To learn more about Aptean’s internship opportunities, contact us via info@aptean.com.

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Improving Asset Reliability Is Like Investing in the Stock Market

I am not a Wall Street wizard who regularly follows public companies looking for the best investments. If you are like me, we wonder where to invest our money? The conventional wisdom seems to be that you should invest in products and services that you find yourself using. If you like it, and you see others liking it, then it is probably a good investment. I followed this advice a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself drawn to a coffee chain that I had not particularly noticed before. After a few months of including this stop on my route to work a couple of days a week, I observed that it was more crowded inside, and there were longer lines at the drive-thru. Some mornings I had to bypass it because the wait would cause me to be late to work. Then it dawned on me – I’m not the only one who has developed an affinity for this place, so the business must be doing something right. I bought some stock. It is up $2.43 in the 2 weeks since I purchased it. While admittedly not a rapid ascension to the top, it is at least up in value.

So what in the world does this have to do with maintenance? The answer is “common sense.” Things that usually make sense tend to be reasonable things to do. The trends towards predictive maintenance and asset performance management (APM) make sense, particularly in the age of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things.) It simply makes sense to use accurate data that is easily gathered about any machine to inform and manage its status. We’re already seeing the Internet of Things in our homes. We have security cameras around our home for protection. Our cars alert us when an oil change is needed. Our lights and thermostats are linked to our smartphones so we can make adjustments to conserve energy. So why not apply the same concept in commercial facilities? Why wouldn’t we let a motor tell us when it’s running hot? Why wouldn’t we let a pump tell us that it is experiencing excessive vibrations? Why wouldn’t we let an oven tell us that its internal temperatures have been varying outside of normal tolerances over the last hour? Also, let’s not forget the human factor. Why wouldn’t we enable an operator to easily alert maintenance via the CMMS/EAM system that they notice an anomaly in an asset?

These things make sense in equipment maintenance, and the technology to reveal and take advantage of this previously unused information is becoming more accessible and thus ubiquitous in manufacturing. And it just makes sense to get started with using these technologies now. You don’t have to tackle the entire plant floor at once. Begin with just one line. Learn how to put your common sense to work to achieve real business value in your maintenance operations. The same maintenance strategies don’t have to be applied to all of your assets. You need a toolkit of various strategies to be applied appropriately. Look at where IIoT fits into that toolkit, and how it can be applied to the appropriate asset issues. It makes sense to empower your maintenance organization with a complete set of technology tools that they can apply to the right situations. It makes sense to invest where others are also finding good coffee drinks ….I mean finding good maintenance management solutions.

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July 12, 2017 Kay Jenkins Jump to Comments

Tags :EAM

Hidden Cost of Warehouse

Let’s face it, warehousing of product in essence should be relatively simple. The product is received, putaway, picked and then shipped with an occasional count to make sure everything is in order.

However the consequence of an inefficient and ineffective warehouse can be disastrous. Product that is built to exacting specifications in your pristine manufacturing operation that disappears in a warehouse “black hole” is never going to impress any customers. Bottom line, if you can’t find the product, you can’t ship it, or if it takes longer in labor costs to find it than the customer paid for it, then your chance of a long term profitable business are very slim. Your business is the sum of all parts and unfortunately the lowest common denominator usually thrives.

Nowadays many companies have a WMS or Warehouse Management System to help them manage all the people and processes within a warehouse. While a WMS can help control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process associated transactions, such as receiving, picking and shipping, even when used well, there are still many “hidden costs” that can have a major impact on the bottom line, customer satisfaction and overall business success.

Here are three “hidden costs” that can be addressed with proper use of a WMS.

TIME

Travel time is the second most expensive variable cost, labor being the first. It is virtually invisible and extremely expensive if allowed to go unchecked. Just as a manager would not want to see employees wandering around with nothing to do, equipment should not be crossing the floor unloaded, or traveling to the far corners of the warehouse to pick the product when the same product is available within eyesight. Three solutions available with WMS can resolve this issue.

Slotting is the placement of products within a warehouse facility, to maximize the use of a warehouse’s available cube space by improved storage and picking efficiency and reductions in warehouse handling cost, by optimizing product location and balancing workload. This strategy takes a number of factors into consideration, such as location, dimensions, and weight, to profile and sequence items down the pick path. Proper slotting leads to reduced picker travel, more stable loads, fewer accidents, and less product breakage.

Interleaving is a practice that uses WMS to assign tasks to workers in ways that make use of each trip that they and their associated equipment make during their work shifts. This practice typically can eliminate 25-30% of the machine travel associated with pallet moves.

Picking strategies are one of the easiest and more cost effective ways to maximize productivity and improve order accuracy. This operation is also in direct connection to customer satisfaction, as quickly and accurately processing orders is essential to the bottom line. Batch picking involves picking more than one order at a time. Using the WMS to help batch orders together in different ways, allows the workers to optimize picks and increase pick density, which reduces the number of times a picker has to travel through any aisle. Zone picking divides the warehouse into multiple zones and assigns workers to pick only within one zone reducing travel time. Orders are either picked and passed from zone to zone for fulfillment or consolidated at a point before shipping. Order picking is often the most preferred method of picking, but may not be the most effective. An order picker picks one order at a time, following a route up and down each aisle until the entire order is picked. This method may work well in an operation with a low number of orders, and a high number of picks per order; however, using this method in a warehouse with a large number of smaller orders would lead to excessive travel time.

INVENTORY

Inventory management is a balancing act. You can’t have too much, which could lead to shelves filled with expired or obsolete products; excessive expensive inventory holding or a larger facility than is really needed. You don’t want too little, resulting in product shortages, unfulfilled orders, and unhappy customers. You need just the right amount of stock. Companies can increase profitability 20-50% through careful inventory management.

Tracking inventory is essential. Product should be tracked and recorded during initial receipt, as bad practices at receiving only get worse later. Whether it is through the use of bar codes or radio frequency identification (RFID), a detailed transaction history of inventory flowing in and out of the warehouse can improve visibility and reduce errors. Real-time data in WMS means the system and the warehouse are never out of sync, ensuring better checks and balances with audits and cycle counts.

Shelf life and stock rotation can also have a major “hidden cost” implication. Warehouses need to now know where each lot is stored and when and if the product is set to expire. Most Warehouse Management Systems offer various controls to help control the shipping of these products, such as LIFO, FEFO and FIFO. Without these controls product will expire without ever being picked. The costs associated with this can be outstanding. There is the obvious cost of the manufacturing of these obsolete products but also expensive warehouse space has been used to house the product and costly labor to receive and putaway the product can also be incurred with no payback.

ORGANIZATION

The final area of “hidden” costs is the organization of the warehouse itself. Cost savings in travel time and inventory control can be lost if the warehouse is an incomprehensible maze. The first step is to determine how the facility will operate and develop a master strategy. Decide how space is used and think in three dimensions; rather than expanding the footprint, perhaps there can be better use of vertical space. Examine potential traffic patterns and storage locations. Consider how items will be picked, how they will be putaway, and how the stock will be replenished. Group products into families based on the results of this analysis, and configure the WMS to support this plan, building in exception protocols. Lastly, plan to work and work the plan. Without regular upkeep, a well-organized warehouse can quickly become disorganized and difficult to navigate

CONCLUSION

Remember, warehouses should never be rocket science. Having a strong WMS will help reduce costs, increase inventory accuracy and storage capacity, and improve customer satisfaction. This will at least allow you to survive against your competitors. Using a strong WMS effectively to manage all processes will help you drive out these additional “hidden costs”, giving you a tangible advantage against your competitors.

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June 28, 2017 Steve Adams Jump to Comments

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Optimizing Patient Flow

Every hospital organization is unique and has attributes that separates them from others, these can include: number of beds, programs and services, budgets, patient population served, models of care and staffing models. However, there are many similarities – there never seems to be enough beds and inevitably patients have to wait for services, whether they be internal services or those provided by your community partners. Patient flow and patient throughput is a major focus in all hospitals. The question remains, how do we measure patient flow and what is the gold standard or benchmark for excellent patient flow?

Due to the uniqueness of each organization, there is no one metric or statement that can be set for all hospitals. The targets will continue to evolve and new goals should always be reached for. The key is to start measuring and continue to strive for better.

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT 

How do you know where to focus your efforts? That’s where Medworxx can help. Like the old adage says, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Medworxx data is already doing the measuring—you just need to start looking at the data and creating the internal benchmarks for your unique organization. Monitoring data to identify where process improvement efforts should be focused can include:

  • Admission day practices – are we admitting the right patients? Medworxx data on Avoidable Admissions will give you the insight into the data to understand who is being admitted and if those patients are appropriate for that level of care
  • Discharge practices – are we discharging or transitioning patients as soon as they are clinically stable? Medworxx RFD/T data will provide organizations with the number and percent of potential avoidable days, often referred to as the ‘low hanging fruit’. Even a small reduction in avoidable days can result in aiding significantly in daily bed flow challenges.
  • Focus on organizational (internal) barriers - Anecdotal information can help guide organizations to areas in need of process redesign. Are there clear referral processes to multidisciplinary team members and are diagnostic tests being ordered early enough in the stay of the patient?

TRENDS FROM PATIENT THROUGHPUT REVIEWS 

Through the work Medworxx has completed in the past year conducting Patient Throughput Reviews (PTR), we have documented the following patient flow trends in Admission Day Practices, Discharge Practices and Internal Barriers.

Admission Day Practices

Potential avoidable admissions ranged from 10-19% with an average of 13%
This number represents all patients that did not meet the clinical criteria for admission. What does this mean for an organization? Those patients occupied a bed but did not require that specific level of care. This prevents other patients that do meet clinical criteria for admission to come into hospital and obtain the required treatments and services. This creates bottlenecks and backlogs in all areas of the hospital. Organizations that measure and create strategies to reduce avoidable admissions will have a positive return on patient flow and throughput. 

Discharge Practices

RFD/T days ranged from 23% to 35% with an average of 31.5%
This represents the patients that were clinically stable but remained in hospital due to barriers, interruptions or delays in their care. Potential avoidable days is an important metric to measure as these are days that could have been saved and beds turned over for other patients that would clinically require the bed. Reducing these numbers is vital to creating capacity and flow in your organization. It also leads to greater patient and staff satisfaction.

Internal Barriers

Waiting for allied health assessments/treatments, medication treatments such as IV antibiotics and diagnostic testing orders/delays, are the most commonly documented reasons patients remain in hospital after they have been deemed clinically stable.
Understanding the precipitating factors that contribute to these delays is important. Data can help determine:

  • When are these delays occurring? Time of day or day of the week, could the issue be related to weekend or off hour coverage issues?
  • At what point in the patient journey are these delays noted?
  • Are tests and services being ordered late in the admission or could these services be provided on an out-patient basis? 

Objective data enables your hospital to create strategies for improvement. So remember, start small but think big and before you know it your organization will look back on your journey with a true feeling of accomplishment and the knowledge that slow and steady always ensures successful results.

OPTIMIZING PATIENT FLOW  

Benchmarking is key. Begin by getting a baseline to jumpstart your measurements. Start small and ask questions. Develop a culture of continued improvement throughout your organization by:

  • Engaging and communicating with staff
  • Developing a plan - start with something attainable and create a plan that strives to keep the finger on the pulse
  • Revisiting your data on a regular basis
  • Setting new benchmarks and goals monthly, quarterly, and yearly

These are just a few strategies that will get your started. Medworxx is committed to helping your organization realize its potential. Please reach out to a member of our team as we are excited to help you develop the plan that works best for your organization.

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