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Fire Safety and Protection Measures to Consider in Warehousing

October 22, 2016

By Sara Shingleton Fire Saftey in Warehousing
Senior Consultant, Tompkins International

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are on average more than 1,200 warehouse fires each year, resulting in more than $155 million dollars in property damage. When considering fire safety, protection and suppression systems for a warehouse, there are various requirements for each type and application.   The building, the products and the personnel are of the utmost importance. Standards, codes and policies help protect each of these assets. 

Warehousing fire codes and policies are designed using the NFPA policies and  Uniform Building Codes along with local municipalities’ codes.  First steps to consider in securing a responsibly designed fire safe building:

  • What is the space being used for?  The International Building Code (IBC) classifies the building and functions which then governs the degree of fire protection required.
  • What is the maximum occupancy?  The maximum occupancy recommendation can be calculated from the IBC maximum floor area allowances per occupant based on the building type.
  • How many exits are required? Most buildings require at least 2 exits, but the minimum of 2 doors applies to 500 occupants or less; an additional door is required for each subsequent 500 occupants.

Within the building, considerations must be taken for the scenario of if a fire starts, how can it be controlled or suppressed? 

  • What  is on fire?  The NFPA has 4 classifications of fire by the type of material and how it should be extinguished. 
  • What type of sprinkler system is required? Automatic sprinkler systems are required in nearly all commercial buildings.  When talking about warehouse storage space, more sophisticated, in-rack systems may be required.  The design is based on the fire class (what is burning), the storage height and spacing, and water pressure.   Early Suppression/ Fast Response (ESFR) sprinkler systems can replace in-rack sprinklers with their high output, high volume sprinkler heads, but need access to large volumes of water and may require fire pump installation.

Further precautions to be considered:

  • Fire prevention education and training.  All employees should be trained on proper procedures with equipment or machinery.  OSHA does require a written emergency escape or action plan for all facilities.  Employees must be trained and aware of the plan in case of an emergency.
  • No smoking.  All facilities are encouraged to enforce a no smoking policy in and around the facility.
  • Fire Brigades.  Fire brigades are not required by OSHA, but in larger warehouses, depending on the hazards presented by structure and/or class of products, offers significant advantages, including faster response times and familiar knowledge of the structure and equipment.  If a Fire Brigade is put in place, OSHA does provide guidelines to establish a success and trained brigade.

The NFPA provides fire safety standards to protect the warehouse, product and personnel from fire related loss.  While the standards are voluntary, implementing and adhering to these lifesaving and ultimately cost-saving measures advocate the ethical responsibility of the company. 

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Processing Time Affects eCommerce Business

By Bruce Tompkins
Partner, Tompkins International

Processing time for eCommerce orders is very important to consumers and the overall success of the provider. Data from Tompkins International’s eCommerce survey indicates that over half of survey respondents process orders in under 24 hours. Also, processing times longer than 48 hours was only 5% of survey responses. Speed is a key variable in consumers’ minds today and satisfying thprocessing-time-effects-ecommerce-businessem is critical.

The peaks and valleys of demand greatly impact company order processing time. Small peaks of 0-5% have an impact on processing times but, as the extent of peak increases, so to does the processing time. Companies operating combined DCs/FCs generally handle peaks slightly better by utilizing resources between distribution and fulfillment.

Another interesting fact from the survey was, orders average approximately 2.5 pieces. The maximum order size was 7.0 pieces for surveyed companies. Fulfilling orders from a single fulfillment center were also important. The conclusion reached was, the average company filled 92% from a single FC.

The productivity of fulfillment operations tends to be a function of the level of automation and industry, therefore product characteristics. Roughly 60% of company responses indicate 35 units are processed per hour or less with 22% exceeding 100 units per hour.

Productivity in terms of processing cost per unit also varies greatly with top quartile (top 25%) at $.60 per unit and the average at $1.45 per unit. Once again, automation and industry are the controlling variables.

Processing time/speed is becoming a critical measure in eCommerce as consumer expectations evolve. Companies participating in the survey also pointed to productivity as a key component of success for providers. Any eCommerce company that is not working on processing time and productivity will find it harder and harder to remain competitive.

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Blog: eCommerce Fulfillment: Where Is It Going?

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The Importance of Dimensional Data in Warehouse Design

August 11, 2016

By Cris Anderson
Dimensional-Data-in-Warehouse-DesignProject Consultant, Tompkins International

When considering any material handling equipment, the size of the products you will be moving is very important. Knowing what the size of the item to be conveyed, lifted, moved, or stored allows you to select the right equipment for the job.

This means that dimensional data in the item master data table is very important. Many companies have incomplete or out of date data in their item master and it can hold them back from selecting the right material handling equipment for the task. For example, when considering a carton conveyor system with rollers, it’s important to know the dimension of the cartons to be conveyed. Cartons that are too short will get stuck between rollers; if they are too long, they can jam on curves; if they are too wide, they won’t fit between guide rails. If this information is not readily available, you may find that there are many cartons already in the warehouse which can’t be conveyed, adding more work to the system. Similar situations happen with storage systems where product may not fit in the designated location if the warehouse management system is directing putaway without knowing how big the product is.

What should be in the item master in regards to dimensional data? Ideally, the more information you have the better off you are. Having pallet, case, and unit level length, width, height, and weight can all be important.  Other relevant information, such as the number of cartons that fit in one tier on a pallet, and how high they can be stacked (ti-hi), is also useful information to have on an item master. If some products need special handling or storage, a flag denoting such can be added. In the case of conveyor systems, a conveyability flag is useful to identify items that do not meet the requirements for dimensions or aren’t stable on conveyor.

 If your current item master is not up to the standard you’d like in regards to dimensions, there are several ways you can overcome this. The lowest investment option is to use a tape measure and physically measure every product that you currently have as well as new items as they come in. This is a time consuming and error prone method. More commonly, a company will use a device like a Cubiscan to automate the process. These automated dimensioning systems can even be rented for a short term project to add dimensional data to the system.

By keeping an updated item master, with accurate and complete dimensional data, you will be able to select and size material handling equipment that meets your needs.

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Tompkins International Recognized as One of the 20 Most Promising Logistics Tech Solution Providers of 2016 by CIOReview

August 4, 2016

By Tompkins International StaffMost Promising Logistics Tech Solution Providers

Technology magazine CIOReview has recently recognized Tompkins International as one the 20 most promising logistic tech solution providers of 2016. The list is an annual catalog of 20 companies that are at the forefront of providing logistics solutions and impacting the marketplace.

“We are happy to announce Tompkins International as one among the 20 Most Promising Logistics Tech Solution Providers 2016,” said Jeevan George, Managing Editor of CIOReview. “Tompkins International’s advanced data analytics tools equip shippers and freight forwarders to improve performance by making more informed shipment decisions based on their own shipping histories.”

CIOReview uses a distinguished panel comprising of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and analysts including the CIOReview editorial board to shortlist the companies that are at the forefront of tackling the challenges in the logistics space. The panel focuses on the vendor’s capability to fulfill the needs of manufacturers through supply chains that support core business processes of various industries.

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Yahoo Yard Sale: Finalized With Verizon

July 25, 2016

By Jim TompkinsYahoo Yard Sale
CEO, Tompkins International

Verizon has acquired Yahoo. This acquisition cost Verizon $4.8 billion. This price includes Yahoo’s core business. Yahoo shareholders still have an estimated $31 billion in investments in Alibaba. In addition, there are also investments in Yahoo Japan and a small portfolio of patents remaining. 

As I stated on June, 9 2016, Verizon acquired AOL, Inc. last year and by adding Yahoo, Verizon could move further into the digital advertising business. For Verizon, buying Yahoo would be consistent with its new mobile and video strategy. This relies on offering free content and monetizing it through advertising. Verizon considers Yahoo to be the one way ticket to valuable ad technology. Many think that Verizon is interested in utilizing Yahoo’s live-streaming video technology in order to increase the data usage of its nearly 103 million wireless customers.

The “Verizon play” is to merge Yahoo with AOL and create the number three platform for online advertising after Google and Facebook. With the Yahoo deal, Verizon will be able to offer more robust services to Verizon customers and advertisers. This is very interesting considering Yahoo considered buying both Google and Facebook in the past.

In the end, this will bring a huge amount of content: news, sports, and finance to Yahoo’s one billion monthly visitors.

It has been interesting watching this deal unfold and writing about the “Yahoo Yard Sale” over the last several months. As I have stated, “a deal is anticipated to take place this summer. Watching how the businesses unfold will be amazing. I anticipate the outcome of these events to have major impacts on eCommerce in the United States and crossborder. It will also create major transformations in supply chain logistics.”

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Yahoo: Many Moving Parts, But Missing the Structure

July 21, 2016

By: Jim TompkinsYahoo
Tompkins International

Fifteen years ago Steve Jobs asked the question, “Is Yahoo a technology company or a content company?” Ten years ago Yahoo was unable to answer the technology vs. content question. Four years ago Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo and without answering the question began a journey of acquisitions and a massive overhaul of Yahoo.  July 18, 2016 Yahoo shared their latest quarter’s financial statement. Not a good report, as revenues for the second quarter fell 15% and operating profit fell 64%. Based on these results and the last six months of the “Yahoo Yard Sale” many believe the July 18 financial statement was the beginning of the end for Yahoo. Many are offering opinions on various things that were done or were not done to result in the sad demise of a business that at one point was viewed as the “Best of the Best.”  The opinions being voiced include: executive turnover, activist shareholders, declining revenues, poor cost control, the prolonged Yahoo yard sale, etc. These are not the cause of the demise of Yahoo, but, rather the symptoms that indicate the demise of Yahoo.

It is important to ponder the loss of Yahoo magic, but it is not surprising. I stated in a presentation last week in New York City, “The demise of Yahoo is not unsurprising, it was predictable.” I went on to explain, to the group of retail executives, that strategy must always come before structure and structure must always come before implementation.

The basis of all successful businesses is Strategy-Structure-Implementation (SSI). The basis, the cause, of the demise of Yahoo is the failure to execute on SSI. For the last ten years at Yahoo we see structure and implementation, but no strategy. At the highest level a strategy must answer the question, “What business are we in?” This goes right back to the Steve Jobs question, “Is Yahoo a technology company or a content company?”  This question still has not been answered.  Why are people surprised that this great company will soon be selling its assets and becoming a footnote in the history books of content companies or should they be in the history books of technology companies?

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Learn. Supply Chain Leadership Forum 2016.

July 14, 2016

By Tompkins International StaffSupply Chain Leadership Forum 2016

We are less than two months away from the premium Tompkins International Supply Chain Leadership Forum 2016 (SCLF). We want to provide some more exciting details about the SCLF being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota August 29th through August 31st. This year you will be joining our CEO, Jim Tompkins, along with 200 other supply chain executives and experts. You will have the opportunity to connect with one another, share insight, and learn together due to the remarkable lineup of events and speakers taking place throughout the two days; allowing all to connect, share, and learn.

International supply chain thought leader Jim Tompkins will be our keynote speaker. Sharing his views on supply chain excellence, what you need to know to make your supply chain even more competitive in 2016 and moving forward.

Learn from Jim Tompkins the difference between:

  • Changing a Company
  • Transforming a Company
  • Reinventing a Company

Also, learn about the 4C’s of supply chain change, transformation, and reinvention:

  • Consistency
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Customer Service
  • Continuous Improvement

Jim Tompkins was selected as the 2015 Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award recipient by the Institute of Industrial Engineers, IIE. Two years ago he released The Alibaba Effect video that has been viewed by over 350,000 people and has helped introduce the world to ecommerce. Most recently, he released Respond To The Titans video discussing the importance of the Titans’ supply chain logistics and why a business must respond to Alibaba, Amazon, and Walmart by creating a competitive supply chain strategy.

Registering for the Tompkins International Supply Chain Leadership Forum 2016 is easy, we hope you will join us to connect, share, and learn together.

Please contact Patty Trocchio at for registration information.

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Tompkins International Recognized as 2016 Great Supply Chain Partner

July 7, 2016

By Tompkins International Staff Great Supply Chain Partner

The entire Tompkins International team has recently been recognized by SupplyChainBrain.

SupplyChainBrain has released their 2016 Great Supply Chain Partner list; Tompkins International is honored to be included in the list of 2016 Great Supply Chain Partners.

“Each year, our list of 100 Great Supply Chain Partners features a select group of companies whose customers recognize them for providing outstanding solutions and services,” says Brad Berger, Publisher, SupplyChainBrain. 

“Over the course of our six-month online poll, we ask supply chain professionals to nominate vendors and service providers whose solutions have made a significant impact on their company’s efficiency, customer service, and overall supply chain performance.”  

“This year we received literally hundreds of nominations for solution providers in every aspect of supply chain management.” 

Tompkins International has been recognized for reliability, excellence, value, expertise, problem-solving, continuous improvement, support, positive attitude, global reach, and strong leadership. “We are happy to be recognized by SupplyChainBrain as a 2016 Great Supply Chain Partner. We are both a local and an international firm, experienced in all supply chain needs with no boundaries attached,” Jim Tompkins, CEO, Tompkins International.    

Stated by SupplyChainBrain: “this is our 14th year of celebrating 100 Great Supply Chain Partners. Tremendous growth and evolution over the years has been seen in the quality, quantity, and diversity of companies nominated for the “100 Great” award. According to loyalty and highly satisfied clients, Tompkins International has performed well.” 

In 2016 Tompkins International was also ranked top in Gartner’s supply chain report for, supply chain strategy development, supply chain network design, sales & operations planning (S&OP), and the logistics process with a focus on third party logistics (3PL). We were highly noted for wide geographical recognition including, North America, Western Europe, China, Japan, and the Asia Pacific region.

Our whole team here at Tompkins International is honored to be recognized by these two highly respected publications.

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Supply Chain Considerations with Brexit

June 30, 2016

By Gene Tyndall  Brexit
Executive Vice President, Tompkins International

Among the issues surfacing related to the impacts of the British vote to exit the European Union are questions regarding changes in supply chains, particularly by those owned by U.S. companies. Although the majority of immediate concerns has been driven by questions related to financial markets, as well as, of course, the political chaos occurring both in London and Brussels, business interests are also correct to be concerned.  After all, the original intent of forming the EU was the creation of the “Common Market” and supply chains have evolved in response to this goal.  Inasmuch as the U.K. and the U.S. are primary trading partners, let’s consider how U.S. companies supply chains will be impacted should the exit be final. 

Business supply chain impacts raise questions around BUY (purchasing), MAKE (where to produce), MOVE (freight), DISTRIBUTE (get to customers), and SELL (who buys, how, and why).  Our initial estimates should be considered near-term (what to expect now) and over time (what to expect as the exit plays out). 

First, we should acknowledge that supply chains have many components:  customers, suppliers, operations strategy, products and markets, physical, business processes, technologies, people/skills, and capital investment.  They also have implications for domestic business as well as international (cross-border) business.  Further, there are domestic companies or business units that operate within the U.K. and MNC’s that either sell or source within the U.K.   

One of the key business concerns, especially impacting supply chains, is uncertainty and/or risk.  As EU leaders debate the timing of the exit, the next 3-4 months are very likely to produce “profit warnings” due to the considerable uncertainty.  This will especially be true for those companies that rely on international sourcing, or sell a high percentage to the British population, or British companies that rely heavily on EU markets.  The uncertainty around the timing and necessary modifications of Trade Agreements, Customs Laws, Duties, and Tariffs, will impact sourcing, transportation, and distribution.  

MNC’s that operate in the U.K. (or England) will be impacted through their supply chains with respect to any goods that are imported or exported.  Moreover, those that have their European HQ in England will need to re-assess their locations.   

Those that manufacture products in the U.K. – automotive, for example – will be impacted by the sourcing of components (global sourcing means importation), as well as the exporting of finished vehicles. 

The selling of products (SELL) has experienced substantial growth in e-Commerce. For domestic sellers, other than the cost of goods, very little supply chain impact will be seen on online ordering.  For those selling international goods, however, the costs of cross-border goods will be impacted.  

Other than the costs of goods sold, we should not expect high levels of negative impacts on consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.  Consumers are the key to economic growth, and the demand for competitively priced products normally results in meeting the needs, in one way or another. But, for those companies that have Euro-market Distribution Centers located in the U.K., there will be serious questions about inventory locations.  Moreover, there are numerous other product categories that will be impacted, and perhaps seriously. 

In the near term, we are advising client companies to begin to plan, and expand monitoring and tracking, and even start re-designing Logistics Networks.  We also advise, though, to not take hasty actions about investment, or disinvestment, until more is known about the timing of the exit and its ramifications.  Planning for contingencies – such as that associated with Supply Chain Risk Management – is the right action now.   

With respect to overall supply chain strategy with Brexit, therefore, our advice for client companies is to think, question, and plan for when the exit changes are implemented.  Capital investment or disinvestment, in the U.K., should be postponed until made necessary by the new Trade Agreements, Customs Laws, Duties, and Tariffs that impact the company’s supply chains within the country.      

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How to Lead Change with Minimal Resistance

June 23, 2016

By Bruce TompkinsLeadership
Partner, Tompkins International

Leading change is not easy. One of the difficulties is gaining support from staff members. Communicating the rational for change and repeating your message is important in order to gain staff support.

The first step is to begin on a positive note and be convinced yourself that the change is for the best.

  • The leader must have the courage to deliver bad news.
  • Given that people in general remember negative events best, the leader must be clear, concise, and communicate positives as well. Negative or critical comments become the focal point.

Leaders must acknowledge mistakes and accept accountability.

  • This builds trust as staff understands the notion that we cannot be right all of the time.

Ask questions, instead of orders.

  • This helps to engage staff and let them be a part of the change.
  • People do not like being ordered around, particularly when facing a major change.
  • Open communication and real conversations regarding the impacts of the change is necessary.  

Praise and encouragement are keys to tackling change.

  • When giving praise, be genuine and sincere, deliver praise as soon as possible, make it specific, and do it publically if appropriate.
  • When communicating with staff during a change, provide encouraging words. Show that you believe in your staffs’ capabilities and focus on what motivates them.

Expectations are challenging during a period of change.

  • Leaders must get people to believe they can change and chances are they will.
  • Give staff a reputation to live up to.

Leading change is difficult; it takes time, effort, and good communication. It is a learned skill therefore; improving your capabilities is possible. Most staff members want to do the right thing although, there are times staff needs a push in the right direction. If you fail in your attempt to lead a successful change, learn and try again.

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  • All of the information in this blog is the result of Tompkins International's research of public information. There is no information presented that comes from any proprietary source. Tompkins International does not discuss information about their clients unless that information has been published.