You may recall I went to Austin this past weekend to do some seminars at First Samples, more on that later. When I was there, Darien (long standing member of the FI community) invited us over to her new office. From here she runs her company including shipping and ordering processing, manufacturing is done at her contractor’s facility across town. Moving into a new space can be exciting but also challenging. If you’re just starting out, your thrills are often fabrics and trims but once you’ve been around awhile your priorities change and you become excited by the mundane. In this case, the cause of excitement was a shipping station which Darien got for free, even the delivery was free. Pictured below is the shipping station partially obscured by Darien (left) and Vesta (right). Vesta and Darien manufacture baby slings; they’re friends and competitors. I mention that because I wish more of you were aligned with your colleagues. Vesta is from Dallas; she came down to attend the seminars this past weekend.
Little things like an official shipping table with proper working height can dramatically improve the process of shipping, making you feel like you’ve arrived. Boring, I know but I think all of us either have or can identify with the frustration of having to ship on those fold up tables. I know I can. Between us, we agreed that a great resource for shipping tables is Uline; I get all my shipping stuff from there. Anyway, operational procedures are something we don’t discuss much on FI and Darien thought it’d be a great topic. Specifically, while Darien is happier with her streamlined shipping, product storage is still an issue. Here is a view of her inventory storage.
It is a narrow long room with shelving off to either side. Product is neatly stored in clear plastic bins. While product is readily located, I think we can agree the situation can be improved although we may lack precise solutions for it. Probably the best way to approach this is to define the problems with the existing set up. Below is a sample; a picture of product stored on two shelves.
I don’t know what your first impression will be but the first thing I notice is wasted space owing to the bin size. The bins are smaller than the available shelf space and there doesn’t seem to be much one can do about it. You can’t have the bins the same size as the shelves; you need room to move the bins off and on the shelves. Also, due to package sizing, individual packages can’t be stacked on the shelves without sliding off and falling on the floor. In addition, packers will need to select product from within the bins so it’s not likely that even with precisely sized shelving, presumably with packages stacked on top of each other, individual packages wouldn’t slip out. Below is a photo of one package so you can get an idea of the inventory problem.
Do you have any ideas of product storage solutions? I know a lot of you are doing similar things but maybe not as neatly, storing product in poly bags within cardboard boxes reduces visibility and makes for a lot of mixing of product. If one can store product on hangars, it’s easier but that is obviously not an option for Darien and a lot of other sewn product producers. I’m thinking Darien will need something custom, put together by a carpenter. Either that or she may want to look into retail store solutions. Maybe those shelving units stores use to hold stacks of jeans but then, accessibility near the floor will be a problem.
Ideas? Solutions? How do you manage the inventory storage problem? By all means, do tell.