Going through the process of choosing an integrated material handling provider for your warehouse or factory may seem like a daunting task, but it really should be seen as an exciting process. The goal here is to establish a solid partnership with a local, reputable company that will be able to help you receive, store, pick and ship your product in the most efficient and effective manner, which will improve your bottom line overall.
This article will go through the six steps you will need to take when choosing the company you want to handle all your materials handling processes, which will go a long way to making the process that much easier.
There are lots of companies out there who have complicated websites that have lots of detailed information on it. Typically, you should do your due diligence on a company’s history, their mission statement, the industry expertise of their staff and the services and products they offer.
Touring Their Facility and Meeting Their Staff
While it’s all well and good to look at websites to get a feel for a company, it’s always a good idea to go one step further and physically visit and tour the company that you are considering partnering with. Any company that already has a presence in the local market will recommend that you come and visit their facility so they can get an opportunity to show you who they are, their infrastructures, competencies, resources, and, most of all, their people. If you are looking for the company to look after all your materials handling needs, then at the very least make a phone call to the prospective company.
References Are King
This point, out of the ones we have already mentioned, is going to be one of the most important parts of the selection process. Word of mouth references from those in a similar industry is a great way to get an idea whether a company is a correct fit for yours. It can give you an insight into the company itself, customer service levels, as well as product and post-sale support. After having a tour of the facility and meeting their staff, you will be able to make a list of the pros and cons and impressions for each. In saying that, you may never get a true understanding of a company unless you are able to speak with people who have already dealt with the prospective provider. Typically, if you ask another company for a referral, you will find they were in the same boat as your company at some point, and will be able to give you an idea of what other materials handling companies are like as well.
Visiting the Site
At this point in the process, you will have done your research, visited the facility in question and spoken to current customers and others who have used the company. It’s now time to see the products and equipment do their thing! A handy tip here, if possible, would be to line up a meeting with the companies that located in the vicinity of each other. This will enable you to view some of the solutions you are considering for your business. It is important not focus on just one industry and application, as you will want to get an understanding for the different environments the materials handling equipment is able to run in. Another advantage of visiting sites is you may be able to get some new ideas that you can implement into your own operation.
Testing the Equipment
Now that you’ve got an idea of how the equipment works, it’s time to try it yourself. If you already have a warehouse or facility, companies will typically allow you to demo their equipment for three-to-five business days. You won’t be charged for it and it’s a great way to compare the different brands head to head.
However, if you are looking at a product that you cannot test, you should ask for a product sample and rely more on the first four points of this article.
Making the Decision
And now the fun bit begins…making the decision! You have now arrived at the point where you are able to request proposals from any of the companies that had made the short list. You will need to meet each one face-to-face and go through their offering in detail. Furthermore, you will need to be able to understand items such as racking or conveying systems, forklift trucks, power for electric lifts, how to service the equipment, acquisition alternatives and financing options. If you don’t understand it all, let the providers educate you during the decision process – it’s in their best interests to do so!
Confident and high quality suppliers will understand the selection risk you are feeling, so them for a ‘proof of performance’ or any other risk mitigating approaches. The best companies will be the ones who will work with you on sharing the risk, as they know their equipment will perform.