I know it’s been a while since my last rookie blog post but we’ve been so busy here at Storage Solutions preparing for the New Year and it’s great! So to close out 2011 I wanted to blog about one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced over the past few months: how to effectively manage adversity. (Curveballs, if you will)

Imagine you’re a rookie baseball player making his first start in the big leagues. And on top of that, the opposing pitcher in your first game happens to be Cy Young winner and Detroit Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander. Now, Up until this point in your career you’ve never seen anything like him. His 99mph fastballs look like they’re coming at your head around 200mph and just when you think you have his fastball timed right, he freezes you with a knee buckling curveball. Strike 3 and you’re heading back to the minor leagues. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but you get the point.  As a rookie, slight adversity looks like it’s coming at you much faster than it really is and just when you think you have it, something new pops up.

The obvious goal is to pay attention to detail so that problems don’t occur but as everyone knows things don’t always go as planned and the only way to improve at handling these curveballs is experience. The more issues you see and the more problems you have to fix the better you become at handling adversity when it jumps up and slaps you in the face. You start to see things in slow motion. Things start to slow down and those 200 mph fastballs start to look like beer league softball lobs.  Before you know it, you’ve been called back to the big leagues, you’re batting .335 and you’re the new World Series MVP! (If you can’t tell I really enjoy imagining myself as a professional baseball player. But again, the point is clear.)

Here’s an example of a valuable lesson I learned a few weeks ago… When shipping a package internationally, you may run in to challenges that appear to be out of your control. The only real solution to a problem like this is to keep pushing and keep trying something else. I call one number and the person can’t help me, I keep pushing but still get nothing. Hang up, call someone else. They can’t help me either but they may know someone who can. On hold, on hold, cheesy jazz music, still holding. Eventually I get through to someone that can help and get the problem resolved. It wasn’t easy, actually pretty frustrating. But I finally got to the end goal of getting the problem resolved and the only reason I got there was because I kept calm and kept pushing. Just like practice for that minor league baseball player!

In closing to this blog, on behalf of myself and the Storage Solutions Family, I’d like to wish a late Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and all of yours! Make sure to look for Storage Solutions in 2012!

When I started working at Storage Solutions, it became apparent that I would be learning things I never in my life imagined would be important to my career. Now, I’ve covered pallet rack and fork lifts but what about shipping? Everything we do, everything that every business does, requires logistics. Trucking, shipping, hauling, freight, whatever you want to call it, everyone needs it, and it’s what I chose to cover on this issue of The Rookie Blog.

I’ve been noticing semi trucks more and more. Not because I want to stick my arm out the window to make the driver honk (even though I do) but because I want to see what they are hauling. Maybe some beams, maybe some uprights? I know, exciting stuff, but still interesting to pay attention to something that you never noticed in the past.

Did you know…  
flatbed shipping

  • A typical flatbed trailer is 48 ft. long?
  • A standard van is 53 ft. long?
  • Uprights come in bundles of 15?
  • Beams come in bundles of 30?
  • Wire decks come in bundles of 40?
  • What a bundle was when I started writing this?!

These are a few things that need to be taken in to consideration when scheduling shipping for our wide variety of new equipment and used equipment. I never thought much about the difference in semi trailers. Some are covered, some aren’t, some big, some small, but I was thrown for a major loop the first time I heard the term ‘Van’. As someone not thinking in terms of logistics ‘Van’ puts one image in my head, mom picking me up from practice. However, van has a separate meaning. A Van refers to a freight or box trailer which is your typical rectangular, covered, box looking semi trailer.

The other type of trailers we utilize are ‘Flatbeds’, also known as a platform trailer. Flatbeds are the trailers you see that are just a flat platform, sort of like the name implies! These can be ordered with a tarp to cover whatever material you might be shipping and are pretty handy for hauling beams and uprights.  A forklift driver would have a pretty hard time trying to fit 144 in. uprights through a Van door that’s only 99 in. wide! Instead, they can drive up on the side of the flat bad and set them down running parallel to the trailer.

Pretty easy stuff right?

Maybe for someone that’s handled this sort of information before but every load is going to be different which makes the next step even tougher. Going through the items that are being shipped and figuring out what will/won’t fit on a van/flat is like a geometry puzzle. Again, easy for someone who’s done it before, not so much for the first timer (me). As a visual person it’s much easier for me to understand something like this if I draw it out and as someone who lacks any artistic ability my drawings of overhead trailer views and measurements are quite comical.

It’s always good to learn new things and it only gets easier from here… Well, I doubt it, but I’d rather have a challenging job that forces me to progress instead of sticking to the same old routine every day!

Efficiency is the title for the fourth edition of my blog because that’s the main thing I’ve accomplished over the past three weeks. Not necessarily learning more product or industry information but getting better with the things I’ve already learned. It might sound boring but it’s pretty important.

multitaskingIt’s important because efficiency allows me more time to focus on new projects, in turn, giving me more opportunities to learn product and industry information. So as you can see, efficiency directly relates to me progressing with this business. For example, I’ve gotten much better coordinating with our installation crews and keeping a mental note of what phase different projects are in and which people are where. When I first started, things moved fast and I had a hard time taking in information without feeling like my head would explode. Now, things still move fast, but I know the information a little better so it’s easier to take in and I can do the coordinating quicker.

To end this Blog I wanted to do something a little different.  Because I’m still learning the business/industry I thought it would be interesting, and possibly comforting, to hear some rookie stories from others around the office.  It could’ve been a story that stuck out in someone’s mind, maybe the day everything clicked, maybe a mistake they made, whatever they remember from being the new person in this industry.  I decided on contrasting inputs, one person fairly new to the industry and another who’s been around the block once or twice. Enjoy!

Dan Storey, Project Manager – 2 years with Storage Solutions

“My first (of many) rookie mistakes was an oversight on lead time.  I had a customer who ordered some racking from Storage Solutions, but we had to order the wire decking new.  I forgot to accommodate for the manufacturing lead time when I scheduled for the installation.  Long story short, we sent down the used uprights, beams, and hardware with our installers, but there were no decks for them to put on the racks.  So, we had to scramble to find available equipment that would work for this job because the customer needed it done ASAP.  The story has a happy ending though… we were able to get them the products necessary to finish the install and they were happy with the end result.  I also learned a valuable lesson about lead times in the process!”

Kevin Rowles, President – 17 Years with Storage Solutions

“This may not be comforting to you, but after 17 years in this industry I still feel like a “rookie”!  There is much for us all to learn and multiple opportunities in our ever changing business world – but, you must have passion for what you do, keep your eyes open, and maintain your entrepreneurial attitude!   It’s overwhelming at times – but would have it no other way…that challenging spirit is contagious around here and contributes to our success…and headaches!  (also contributes to waking up in the middle of the night – just keep your notepad handy and go back to bed :)”

One aspect of every new job, that takes time to develop, is a good routine. Routines can be difficult to develop, especially if you have many different aspects to a job or if your daily schedule changes frequently. These aspects can be confusing and frustrating at times but aren’t always a bad thing. For example, almost everyone’s had a job at some point in their life where they go to work and do the same routine every day. It becomes monotonous and your days turn in to watching the minutes tick away on the clock.

Having a routine that isn’t set in stone everyday or, for lack of a better term, “floats” throughout the day or week can be nice and is actually something I enjoy about my job. Most days are different than the previous one. When I get to work I don’t always know what the day’s schedule might entail. I may have a good idea what I will be doing but I may not know when I will be doing it.

A Day In The Life Of A RookieIt’s impossible to predict the future, and just like any business, there will be some uncertainty… so when I get a call or an e-mail that something needs to be done right away, I might put what I’m doing on hold and work on the task at hand. For example, sometimes projects finish sooner than others and equipment needs to be moved, sometimes installation teams need more material or equipment than expected, so I try my best to help and make things as efficient for install crews as possible.

Because of this style of job I’ve really started to hone my multi-tasking skills. Not to say they were bad before (in fact I thought they were pretty good until I came to SSI!) but I’ve really focused on trying to handle multiple tasks at once.

One additional area I’ve been trying to focus on is assisting in updating our website with new items in inventory. We constantly have equipment coming and going from the warehouse so it’s important to keep everything up to date. This is a great assignment for me because it creates a method to familiarize myself with our product offering and requires me to take note of the various aspects that make up something like a beam or wire deck. Gauge of a wire deck, measurement of the step on a pallet rack beam; this type of information is extremely important to our customers so it’s extremely important that I know how to recognize these differences.

Just like I said in my last blog, and the one before it, I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. Some days, by the time I get home, my brain hurts due to the overload of information I’ve tried to take in!  I’ve continued to work on learning the different products in the material handling industry and I’ve drilled it in to my head more and more that “a beam definitely isn’t a beam and pallet definitely isn’t pallet” (A Day In The Life Post #1) but of course I still have a lot to learn.

As week three comes to a close, I begin to reflect on what the previous two hectic weeks have taught this wide-eyed rookie and what differentiates me from the SS employee I was during my first blog.

I’ve started assisting and coordinating on the installation side of Storage Solutions more and more which has been great. Although I’m still a rookie, it’s satisfying to know that I’m able to contribute to a company that’s doing business with incredible clients, located all over the nation. Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina and Illinois are just a few states we’re operating in! (Check out our Project Spotlight Blog to see what we’re working on!)

Now, I’d like to say I’ve improved immensely with the added responsibility over these last two weeks, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true. By no means have I regressed, but I’m slowly catching on… to the little things. The biggest “little thing” being the lingo.

A Day In The Life Of A RookieCoordinating with installation crews and rental equipment companies may not sound tough, but when you don’t understand the lingo, it can be frustrating for both sides.

The heavy equipment our installation crews use is something that was new to me. Not anymore. Have you ever had those moments where you see something for the first time, and from that point forward you see it everywhere you go? That’s how I feel about forklifts and scissor lifts.

Forklifts as far as the eye can see. I see them on the back of trucks driving down the highway, when I’m sitting next to a construction zone in traffic, never in my life did I stop to notice a forklift or think about its functionality and why they’re so common. And then there’s fork/scissor lift lingo; Trimast, 5k, ES, RT, dual fuel, the list goes on.

Luckily with the equipment the lingo is self explanatory. For example, a 3394 scissor lift is called so because it raises 33 feet and has a 94 in. wide platform.

I was talking with Nate Storey, Operations Manager, earlier this week and he asked me how things were going. I said “Some days I come in, and everything is a breeze. Others, I feel lost”

“There’s a long learning curve in this industry” Nate told me. “Things will eventually start to click.”

I’m confident things will start to click, I’m learning everyday and already feel 10x smarter than when I wrote my last blog. I’m sure this trend will continue!

“Do you know anything about material handling or pallet racking?”

In my first interview, I was asked this question.  Now, in most interviews, you might consider that a make it or break it kind of question.  And in most interviews, I would have an answer prepared for this sort of inquiry.  After all, why would I be sitting in an interview if I didn’t have the first clue about the industry in which the business operates… Right?  Wrong.

A Day In The Life Of A Rookie“Actually, no.  I don’t have any previous knowledge or experience with material handling.”

I was positive this sort of response was going to hurt me, but luckily, my interviewer, Nate Storey, said, “That’s okay. Almost no one comes into this business knowing anything about pallet racking or material handling.  It usually takes about 6 months for people to understand everything.”

Phew.  Really?  Well, sign me up, I thought.

After a second interview, and much deliberation, I decided to accept the job with Storage Solutions.  Before starting, I decided to do more in-depth research on the industry so I could get a head start before my first day.  During my research, it occurred to me that this business isn’t extremely difficult.

So going in to my first day I knew:

  1. A pallet is a pallet.
  2. A beam is a beam.

Six months to learn everything.  How difficult could it really be, right? Wrong.  Again.

It occurrs to me early on that material handling and pallet racking is much more detailed than it appears.  A pallet isn’t just a pallet and a beam definitely isn’t just a beam.  Connections, uprights, braces, shelving, decking… there’s A LOT to learn.

The type of business Storage Solutions does was best described to me by CFO Bill Beeker when he said,

pallet rack“This isn’t a sexy business, but it’s still needed.”

This made sense to me.  The type of work Storage Solutions does isn’t flashy or noticeable… but it’s important.  We provide something certain companies have to have.

Now, my first eight days have gone by and I’ve learned a lot about the industry but have still barely scratched the surface.

Other Things I’ve Learned In My First 8 Days:

  1. Ball State University alumni rule this office, with Wabash coming in a distant second!
  2. A few employees of Storage Solutions were actually in the same fraternity at BSU. (Sigma Chi)
  3. I work with friendly, helpful people who want this business to succeed and grow.

I still have a lot more to learn, and who knows, maybe six months from now I’ll look back on this first blog and realize I was wrong about even the small things I thought I knew! I guess we’ll see…