Interview with Jim Bast, General Manager of Lightning Pick
Distribution in Demand
Jim Bast has over 24 years of experience improving distribution operations. He specializes in designing, implementing and integrating a broad range of automation products and material handling solutions with specific focus on high-speed light-directed order fulfillment projects. He explains how productivity goals are best achieved through technology integration.
1. How long have you been in logistics and supply chain management? What is your area of expertise?
I have been with PCC for 24 years. We have been serving the logistics business, focusing on order fulfillment systems, for most of that time. About eight years ago we decided to focus on a product for light-directed order fulfillment called Lightning Pick. The product and identity were so successful that early this year we changed the name of our business unit to Lightning Pick Technologies. I head up that unit.
2. How has this industry segment evolved during your tenure?
In a nutshell, three trends or developments have impacted the distribution segment and distributors.
The basic unit of handling has shifted from pallets to cases to units. Years ago, most product distributors would send a pallet of a product to a customer’s distribution center where the customer would draw off of it for several weeks. Now customers demand they get the exact quantity of units they need for a particular store the next day packed accordingly. As a result, even when moving the same volume of goods (and of course our volume better be rising) we now “touch” orders of magnitude more times to achieve that volume.
The end customer is now pushing more and more work back into the supply chain, which used to be done at the final customer site. This puts big stress on the supply chain to do more things to more items in a much tighter time frame. Nonetheless, our customers (the supply chain guys) often encourage taking on these “value-added processes” because it allows them to differentiate themselves in the customers’ eyes. They are not just “moving boxes”.
Finally there is the issue of direct to consumer. This is due to more than “the rise of the internet”. There has been an explosion in the amount of business bought through multi-channel marketers (i.e. the home party and catalog companies.) These guys have really got to be agile. We probably do more business with this segment than any other.