NextGen Supply Chain Conference: Cut everything in half

By Gary Forger, special projects editor, SCMR · March 6, 2020

Some people think incrementally. Others think much bigger. Mark Shirkness, vice president of distribution at GE Appliances, a Haier company, does the latter.

What exactly does that mean? Good question. Fortunately, Shirkness will share key specifics with attendees during his key note at the April 27-29 2020 NextGen Technology Supply Chain Conference at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel in Chicago. And you won’t have to wait long into the conference to hear what Shirkness has done. He’s the keynote at 9:15 am on the 28th.

You can read more about the conference agenda here. You can register here.

In a word, here’s what he will say that fine April morning – halves. Cut everything in half. Cut processing time in half. Cut touches in half. Cut damage in half. Cut training time in half. “We are looking for quantum leaps in how we do things,” explains Shirkness.

Now this didn’t just happen. It took 18 months of review and benchmarking and familiarization with best practices in distribution centers. But it’s well worth that much effort, says Shirkness. GE Appliances intends to be the number appliance manufacturer in North America. The outcome was the creation of SMART distribution at the company. SMART is simplify, method, advance, refine, transform. During his keynote, Shirkness will detail each of the steps, but it’s important to know upfront that the keystone here is simplify. “Simplification is where we started. We have to make things easier for everyone. At the end of the day, one of the objectives is to be sufficiently effective that we give b ack to each operator 15 minutes,” he explains. Other objectives include increased productivity, higher service levels, improved safety and an overall increase in throughput.

While this may sound pedestrian so far, Shirkness brought in some secret weapons to make it happen. Specifically, Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. They form the backbone of GE’s new systems. For the most part, the company still moves refrigerators, washers and dryers with lift trucks and smart attachments. And while the sensors on the attachments are essential to more gentle handling of appliances, the other nextgen technologies create a network that makes the entire facility more effective than ever.

The idea is to use those technologies to deliver real-time visibility of inventory from the yard to the facility and tie it all together in real time. As a result, the DC operates more efficiently and touches are reduced due to real-time information, resulting in reduced damage. Even lift truck operator training takes less time now. Using virtual reality, operators learn more quickly and are more effective on their trucks immediately as a result of VR simulation.But the big winner, says Shirkness, is the consumer. Everything GE does is based on better serving the consumer as quickly as possible, he adds.Consumers want to shop and purchase goods in ways that make the most sense to them. SMART distribution, says Shirkness, is a strategy that allows GE Appliances to exceed consumers’ growing expectations and build loyalty through superior execution.

For more on the conference click here. You can register here.

March 6, 2020