If you’ll recall the cause of the original Boston Tea Party, it wasn’t just about the latest tax on tea. Sure, that was the final action that broke the camel’s back and led to the revolt, but what it really was all about was that the people of Massachusetts had finally had enough. Their livelihoods and their freedoms were being abridged, one step at a time, and finally they took action.
If you’ve ever been inside an automated warehouse, the first reaction is often a sense of awe and the thought, “how does this thing possibly work?” There are generally 2-3 miles of conveyors heading all directions, barcode readers everywhere, boxes speeding around, about 50-100 loading docks for trucks, and not all that many warehouse workers. It looks incredibly complicated, and on some level it is, but at a high level, it’s straightforward.
Part 1 will deal just with the order picking process. In future issues I’ll discuss receiving, shipping, transportation management systems, discounts, software, kitting, QC, and customer service; all of which are interrelated.
At the heart of a warehouse is software called a WMS, which stands for ‘warehouse management system’. This is not to be confused with a ‘wealth management system’, although the initials are the same*. From here on WMS means the software that manages a warehouse….
Is “cloud computing” right for your business?
Before this can be answered, it’s a good idea to define what we’re talking about. Or, As Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, famously said, “What the hell is cloud computing?” Click here to listen to his rant. He’s mellowed on it since 2009, particularly since Oracle started selling and marketing cloud based products, but a lot of what he says still rings true.
Cloud computing really is a revolutionary development, but to most people it's still not clear what it is--to many people it’s just moving away from a Capital Expenditure model (you buy the hardware and software) to an expense model (you lease the hardware and pay monthly for computer room services); and moving to a hosted “somewhere else” model for your applications. In that sense this website you’re on right now is "hosted in the cloud", which is true, but in reality all that’s happened is I’ve outsourced the computer room functions to GoDaddy, a concept that’s been around a long time and is known as the ASP (application service providers) model. Sometimes that’s a fine idea, like if you don’t have a computer room or network, but it’s also not true cloud computing as it’s thought of today, referred to generally as the SaaS (software as a service) computing model.
1. You shouldn’t trust a sales consultant for a software company to sell you the software that best fits your business. This is so obvious it’s often overlooked, and it’s not a slam against sales people—most sales people are basically honest, but their job is to sell you their particular software package, not to sell you the best software package for your business. They work for their company, not yours. One thing you’ll never hear from a salesperson is “my software is pretty darn good, but our competitor’s software is a much better fit, so you should buy that instead”. An experienced CIO Advisor works for you, and can spot the subtle differences between systems that separate an easy from a difficult (AKA expensive) implementation.
This situation at Market Basket has gone on far too long. The warning lights are flashing faster now, and there is only one solution:
Sell the company to Arthur T. Demoulas.
This simple solution needs one extra phrase, to avoid the redundant and meaningless response from the Board of ‘We are negotiating frantically, day and night. We’ve agreed on the price and are just negotiating over the terms.' That (paraphrased) answer was misleading to start with, and it’s now irrelevant. The complete and only solution is:
Sell the company to Arthur T. Demoulas, at a price and terms he finds acceptable.
Events in the Market Basket saga are happening at an accelerating pace, a sure sign that things are coming to a head and will resolve soon. Here’s what’s happened since Friday:
1. Market Basket's two new CEOs announce that hours are effectively being cut to zero for part time employees. This was carefully phrased to avoid the term ‘layoffs’, but those part timers are out of work and can apparently collect unemployment.
2. Governor Deval Patrick belatedly breaks his silence and issues a statement on the Market Basket associates’ rebellion and customer boycott. He directly addresses the Board of Directors of Market Basket, and tells them that the situation has "gotten out of hand”.