Warehouse Stuck in the Neolithic Age? 4 Ways to Automate Your Facility

When it comes to the warehouse industry, the future is automation. This involves several components that all work together in order to get the task done. Here are some of the ways that you can automate your facility and bring it into the next century. 

Cartonization 

Through the use of technology, you can save some money on your shipping costs by employing cartonization methods. This is where the size and number of boxes are calculated in the most efficient manner possible to get the order out the door. Automation has made this task a little bit easier because your employees don’t have to spend time trying to get all of your customer orders packaged into boxes safely for shipment. 

Robotic Technology 

Another advantage when it comes to automation is through the use of robots.There are any number of robotic technologies that can used across a variety of different types of manufacturing fields. For example, robotic arms can be used to remove and stock whole pallets or individual items on a shelving system in your warehouse. This may eliminate some of the concerns that are more prevalent when it comes to workplace injuries that could occur. 

Automatic Pallet Wrapping 

It may take two employees for you to be able wrap up your pallets for shipping without the use of technology. Automatic pallet wrapping systems are available for you to purchase from companies like Fox Packaging Services. The point of many these machines is that your employees only need to position the pallet and then push a button in order to have it done in the most efficient manner possible. This will prevent the loss of products during the shipping process. 

Automated Labeling Systems 

Labeling all of your products can be a tedious process. It can also lead to mistakes if you have a person completing this task. Using an automated printing and label applying machine ensures that the label is done correctly and applied in the correct location all of the time. It allows your employees to focus on the more important tasks when it comes to running your warehouse. More quality control steps can be taken to ensure that your products are the best on the market. 

There are advantages when it comes to the use of technology in manufacturing and warehouses. More automation often leads to higher-skilled labor who can work to refine the process further. Consider these reasons when it comes to the benefits of upgrading your facility.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

4 Types of Insurance You Need to Protect Your Small Business

Optimism is high among small business owners, with revenue and staff growth on the rise as 53% of small businesses reported that they planned to expand in 2018. Growth is great and indicates positive trends for many small business owners in various industries, but it also brings with it more questions regarding company compliance and protection as you work to cover all your bases. Business insurance is a tricky subject that really depends on the type of business you run and how you are operating, but if you want to ensure you are covered, you will want to take a look at these four policies.

General Liability Insurance

If you are just getting started and are only going to invest in one type of insurance for your small business, then it absolutely must be general liability insurance. This will ensure your company and all of the time and money you’ve invested into is safe as it protects your business and any employees from any damages incurred as the result of bodily injury, property damage, medical accidents or associated expenses, libel, slander, the cost of defending lawsuits, and settlement bonds or judgments required during an appeal procedure. Every small business, even if it is home-based, should invest in general liability insurance.

Professional Liability Insurance

This is particularly useful and important for businesses that provide services to customers. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, covers you against any claims or damages caused to your clients that result from mistakes or failure to perform. General liability insurance policies generally do not provide this type of coverage and it is crucial in ensuring you are protected against any false claims as well as malpractice.

Business Owner’s Policy

If you are interested in getting a little bit of every type of coverage, try looking for a business owner’s policy that includes various features that benefit your small business. This type of policy will not only include all of the types of insurance you are required to carry as a business owner, but it will also include other things such as business interruption insurance, property insurance, vehicle coverage, liability insurance, and crime insurance. You can usually tailor your specific plan to fit what you need, making this type of policy one of the best as it often costs less than the total cost of all the individual coverage you might be looking for.

Personal Property Insurance 

Seeing as most small businesses operate out of homes, it is important to note that home insurance doesn’t always cover home-based losses. You may be required to add additional riders to any existing home insurance policy in order to cover losses associated with your business, which is where personal property insurance might come in handy. If you own the building you operate out of and it is not covered by any other insurance, personal property insurance will cover the property inside of it, such as office equipment, computers, inventory or tools.

Staying Insured From the Get-Go

While it may not seem so if you are just getting started, as your small business grows and takes on additional risks and responsibilities, business insurance will quickly become a must. By taking these four different types of business insurance policies into consideration, you can formulate a plan that makes sense for the size of your business, the industry you operate within, and what type of product or service you provide.

Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.

4 Ways Businesses Benefit From Outsourcing Services

In the past, small to medium-sized businesses had a much harder time competing with the ‘big boys’ industries  due to a lack of adequate infrastructure within their organizations. However, thanks to the most recent technological breakthroughs, this is no longer the case, as small businesses all around the world are given a more level playing field by outsourcing their non-core processes elsewhere. As such, these non-core processes can include anything ranging from marketing and design to IT support. Moreover, with the use of new cloud and project-management software, outsourcing these processes has never been simpler. Yet, how exactly do small businesses benefit from this lucrative arrangement? Keep on reading to find out.

Lower operating costs

Hiring new staff to take care of your in-house marketing and IT sectors is a huge investment for small business owners. According to the Training magazine, on average, companies spend around 1,000 US dollars per learner, and this does not account for the time and effort it takes to post job ads, review CVs, and interview potential employees. Also, the more workers you employ, the more money you have to spend on equipment, office space, workers compensation, and taxes. Hence, the most logical solution for small businesses is to go lean, in order to maximize efficiency and lower the cost of operating.

Outsourcing services helps small businesses do just that, as the cost of hiring another company to, for example, manage your company’s marketing efforts is much lower than doing it yourself. With larger corporations, it’s a totally different story, as they can handle their own in-house marketing sectors due to having a lot more resources at their disposal. This is why, by outsourcing, smaller companies can be at an equal footing with the big corporate giants, as it allows them to enlist the help of professional marketers at a much lower cost. 

Access to the latest technology

Another reason why outsourcing is so beneficial for small businesses is the fact that outsourcing companies bring their own equipment and technology into the fold. A good example of this phenomenon can be seen in the legal industry, where Artificial Intelligence is seeing an increase in use. Especially so in the process of legal transcription, where sophisticated AI plays a crucial role in transferring raw video and audio data into a more accurate, readable format. Without this, legal firms would struggle to process vital materials in time for the next proceeding. By using this kind of human-aided AI services and technology, businesses save precious time and increase efficiency.

Increased focus on core business processes

The thing with some small businesses, and startups in general, is that they usually operate on a much tighter deadline and do so with a skeleton crew. By outsourcing all of their repetitive and time-consuming back office tasks, such as sales, marketing, and IT support, small businesses get to focus all of their attention on core-business functions, which greatly improves their overall efficiency and productivity. Thus, the key staff gets to work on improving critical business areas instead of wasting their time dilly-dallying with computer updates and composing new marketing strategies. Furthermore, apart from lowering the cost of re-training the existing employees to accept new roles, focusing on key business elements helps small businesses cultivate talent, which is crucial for staying ahead of the curve and gaining a real advantage over your competitors.

Acquire the assistance of business experts

Training your own staff members to perform non-core functions won’t yield immediate results. In fact, this approach will lead to many trials and errors before they finally get the hang of it. Moreover, some of these tasks take weeks, if not months, to learn, which is time better spent elsewhere.

Hence, it’s a good idea to employ the services of a company which is an expert in that field. This will not only bring in more results, but do so at a much faster pace. Plus, you get some real, concrete, advice from people who know exactly what they’re doing. Also, by outsourcing you’re actually opening the door of your business to global talent and not just settling for second-best in your immediate vicinity. At the end of the day, you get to pay for quality services which would otherwise be too costly on your own.

All in all, outsourcing services is a great way for small businesses to stay ahead of the competition by funneling priceless manpower and resources into development and growth instead of wasting it on irrelevant back office tasks.

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

3 Reasons Your Company Will Need Legal Assistance

Whether you’re just starting out in the business world or you’ve been running a successful company for a while; there is never a bad time to converse with an expert legal team and make sure you have them waiting in the wings. All entrepreneurs will need specialist legal assistance at some point during their careers. It is sensible to make all the arrangements ahead of time, so you don’t face any delays when it comes to getting the help you require in emergencies. If the lawyers already know the ins and outs of your operation; they will swing into action much faster than they otherwise would have done.

Patent and trademark disputes

It is vital that all entrepreneurs apply for suitable legal cover if they plan to launch a new brand and bring original product designs to the market. If you don’t have trademarks in place for your terms and patents for your concepts; there is a chance another company with more cash could come along and blow you out of the marketplace and cost you a fortune. With that in mind, even with the right protections in place; you could still face issues, and that is why you need a lawyer. If you discover another business infringes on your patents; you’ll want to put an end to that straight away.

Employee dismissal claims

If you employ other workers; there will come a time when you have a dispute with them that you cannot resolve. Perhaps the person was late for work over and over again, and so you decided to fire them. Like it or not, employees have rights, and you can’t always take away their source of income on a whim. So, that person might end up dragging your business through the courts in the hope of reinstating their position or making a compensation claim. If you do not have legal assistance; your operation will stagnate because you will have to take your eyes off the ball.

Road traffic accidents

As a business owner, you never know when you will get a call from a semi truck accident lawyer or someone else in that industry letting you know they plan to make a claim against your firm. You become especially vulnerable to issues like that if your company makes deliveries to customers. If you have drivers on the road all day long, it is only a matter of time before one of them makes a mistake and ends up causing a smash. Without the right legal representatives in your corner, there is a chance you will end up getting a raw deal in the courtroom.

Now you know why it’s so critical to find the right legal specialists to assist your company; it is time to search online, ask associates for recommendations, and sort the wheat from the chaff. Look for law firms that specialize in the business world, and try to select a firm that has lots of other clients in similar positions to you. If you do that; you shouldn’t have too many problems when it comes to making sure you don’t get ripped off in the courtroom.

Health Hazards Around Your New Office

When you’re just starting out in business, there’s a good chance you hired out the building you worked in, you put up with a lot from the landlord, and you saved as much of your profits as you could to make sure you could afford an expansion sooner rather than later. And now that time has come! But you’ll want to make sure your new office has everything you need to work with, and that you’re not missing out on a few safety checks in all the excitement. So here’s a small checklist of what could be hazardous to you in your new area.

Make sure you can focus on your meeting, and not every employee who’s been taken off sick in the past week!

If the Office is a Recent Development

If you’re moving into a building that’s been constructed within the last year or so, and you know what the site used to be before it was turned into a more productive commercial space, make sure the place you’re now working in isn’t affected by anything that could be living in the soil. You can always have the surroundings of your new office building checked.

Maybe it was an old quarry that had been defunct for years, or maybe no plants have successfully grown; anything that could be a warning sign is something you can have checked out. And there’s always some contaminated soil disposal companies out there to remove this unique kind of hazard to make life safer for everyone. You’re meant to be working to make life better for you, not coming into contact with something potentially life threatening!

Is There a Wet Floor Sign Out?

It’s so crucial that wet floors be signposted, but so often this can get waylaid because of the hustle and bustle of the office. But all in all, if you don’t mark that a floor has recently been cleaned to someone who’s just going about their day walking down a corridor, and then they slip and fall, you can have a compensation claim on your hands.

And as a small business, that’s definitely not something you want to handle! You need to build reputation among the business circle, and if your employees aren’t raving about you because of your neglect as a boss, you’re going to be at a serious disadvantage. So make sure you’ve got plenty of signs for the cleaners to stick out!

Have You Got the Right Lighting?

If there’s a dark storage room in the back of the office, you could very easily cause a bunch of boxes to topple down on your head when you’re rummaging through it. Similarly, if the lighting over the desk area isn’t right, you could have all kinds of vision problems on your hands, and a huge loss in productivity! Hand out some desk lamps if you need to, just make sure everyone can always see.

There’s a lot of hazards in the workplace, but most of them are preventable.

Workflow Management is the Key to Success – Know How

Introduction

Other than the most distinct signs of failure, businesses often find it hard to identify the hang-ups of their workflows. However, developing a clear understanding of a productive workflow can assist your entire organization to gain from its benefits. Business experts reveal that an estimated 52% of enterprises hardly assess the effectiveness of their business processes. What’s more, at least 59% of the businesses lack the plan of analyzing, designing or managing the business processes. You can use the principles of workflow management to understand and manage the business processes of your company. This will provide you with the secret to longevity. It is common knowledge among business experts that workflow management will determine whether your company will succeed or fail.

Workflow Management Definition

Simply put, workflow describes the plan that assists you to get from one point to the other. Using the road trip analogy, the workflow is the plan that informs you of your destination, the requirements for the trip, the detours you should make along the way, where you should stop to refuel, the persons to call in case of an emergency and the expected time of arrival.

Therefore workflow management refers to the processes used by your business to attain its goals strategically. Its primary function is to outline the tasks, staff and the resources that are required for achieving the outcome repeatedly. It is essential to different workflow management from project management since the latter deals with the activities of a single project. You need a workflow management plan for your business since, without it, the complicated projects that are assigned would overwhelm you. This would result in stress, disorganization, and low-quality outputs.

Difference with Business Process Management

Although workflow management is often used interchangeably with business process management, the two have distinct differences. The focus of BPM is to improve the complete set of business processes in your company with the objective of increasing the efficiency of your organization. This includes the documentation and the analysis processes to establish the factors that slow the processes or other causes of disorganization. Although the concepts are similar in the sense that they both try to enhance the efficiency of your business processes, each concept has its unique applications. Workflow management ensures that the daily goals of your company are accomplished and integrates into the BPM process to ensure the smooth running of your organization.

Strengths of Workflow Management

Workflow management will provide you with fast and practical solutions to the business problems before they occur. The plan should assist you to establish the specific person who was assigned a particular task and the steps to take when the need arises. It will also help you to know the other personnel who need to be notified, and the consequences of not taking action. One of the strengths of workflow management is the reduced manual efforts and the automation of the tedious physical tasks. This enables you to save time and energy for all the stakeholders.

An optimized workflow management plan will assist you to differentiate between the necessary and unnecessary steps. Once the unnecessary steps have been identified, they could be removed to reduce the slowdowns. It will also ensure that you have assigned the tasks to the most qualified person to get high-quality work. With the workflow, your management team will be able to focus on the more important business activities without always worrying about the deadlines. A workflow management plan will enable you to develop a chronological order of executing tasks and automate some of the decisions and the processes that would be carried out by the staff. Other strengths include reducing the amount of paperwork and communication burdens, while at the same time fostering department collaboration. Finally, workflow management ensures that you can track progress and analyze the performance, and ensures that you have the records used for previous processes. This will get rid of decision fatigue.

Importance to Your Business

Research indicates that most businesses have existing workflow problems that are often ignored and unnoticed. Some of the explanations for this include ignorance since the managers are not aware of the better approach or insisting on the traditional way of doing things. Below we describe the importance of workflow management for your business.

Reducing Risks

All business tasks and processes including the simple and complex ones are susceptible to human error. This fact remains unchanged even when using the most advanced workers. However, the workflow management plan can significantly reduce these risks. The method achieves this objective by getting rid of the unnecessary steps in your business process and ensuring that all the activities are performed consistently. The plan ensures that the staffs are aware of their responsibilities throughout the production process and adhere to the same set of rules. This guarantees you of the delivery of the same results and results in fewer errors and disputes.

Streamlined Processes

Having effective workflow management strategies will enable you to create order out of chaos. In this context, chaos refers to the components within the workflow that slow it down.

Predefined Rules

Your employees would prefer to work with rules since they provide structure as well as clarity. Having rules ensures that all the employees are aware of their duties and responsibilities. Having an effective workflow would implement these rules automatically. The employees will follow the order that has the appropriate checkpoints to ensure that all the processes are in order. It provides quick answers to questions concerning the pending activities, their deadlines and the results which get rid of guesswork and enhances the confidence of your entire workforce.

Access to Information

Workflow management will enable you to improve the transfer of information within the organization. The improvements that are made with workflow management will increase the accessibility of this information. What’s more, it will ensure that the staff have easy access to the relevant information and review the processes at the correct checkpoints. It will also enable the managers to oversee all the business activities.

Productivity

The primary objective of workflow management is to assist your business in producing better outcomes. The plan will help your managers to stay updated on the processes in the company, and provide insights regarding your costly practices. It will also suggest the methods and practices that need to be automated while at the same time producing results which can be measured to establish how successful the organization has been. The plan will also ensure that your business remains focused on the critical activities including customer service, and enhancing the core products and services. This prevents you from wasting time trying to micromanage your staff.

Conclusion

Having a workflow management plan will foster positive workflow by simplifying your business processes, reducing the redundancies and errors and at the same time assist your staff in completing their tasks in a quick and efficient manner. In case you notice some bottlenecks in your business operations and activities which are accompanied by consistent setbacks, you probably have a poor workflow. As soon as you identify this occurrence, you should begin developing a more effective workflow management plan.

If You Rely On IT, You Must Know The Risks

Your IT systems can play a crucial role in helping improve productivity, make complicated processes much easier, and streamline workflow. However, the more you rely on it, the more you expand your network of devices and software, the more of a risk it can become. Rather than arguing that you should scale down your tech reliance, instead, we are going to look at how you ensure you cope with that growing reliance and stay protected.

 

Are you protected?

Every business owner, big or small, should be aware of the real security risks related to their tech. From antivirus software to ethical hacking, you need to consider what data is available on your systems and just how much of a risk it can be if that data falls into the wrong hands. The riskier it is, the more you should invest in protecting it. Studies have shown that the majority of businesses that suffer a major data breach tend to close their doors within two years, and if you lose customer data, especially financial data, you could be legally liable for their losses too.

What happens when the light goes out?

What percentage of your employees’ working day involves them using the computer as their main resource? There’s a good chance it’s more than 50%. In that case, does that mean they are 50% less productive when the power or internet goes out? Your business can suffer a huge blow due to downtime. Finding backup power sources scaled to the number of devices you need, as well as alternative internet connections such as accessible Wi-Fi dongles is essential if you don’t want that downtime to shut you down entirely.

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How do you cope with disaster?

Sometimes, a sudden event can do more than prompt downtime. A breach or a power surge can not only shut down your tech, but it can lose you significant portions of data, as well. Besides finding and preventing the risk of such disasters, strategic IT consulting can help you put a disaster recovery system in place. Such systems can help you get powered on and online much quicker, as well as ensuring that you have the data you need backed up so you are never at risk of truly losing everything.

Are you underutilizing it?

Finally, if you are scaling your tech reliance, you should also scale what you get in return for it. For instance, think about the data your systems produce. These can provide essential insights into the productivity of the team, the efficiency of your tech, and much more. Big Data consultants can help you find these insights and provide the answers to questions such as how to make your team more engaged and how to increase end-user adoption of new software, amongst many other things.

There are risks involved in relying more heavily on any one resource within the business. The more you rely on it, the more of a potential weakness it becomes. Ensure you give those weaknesses the time and thought they deserve and safeguard your business.