The efficiency in the way that your materials are handled at your production facility depends mainly on the way your items are organized, and if you are using the right type of equipment for whatever tasks you need to perform on a frequent basis.
Many times, a company will simply purchase what they perceive to be the best material-handling equipment they can afford. They think this will act as some ‘miracle cure’ that will automatically ensure their warehouse runs with maximum efficiency. They are surprised when their situation does not improve. Throwing ‘the best’ at a disorganized warehouse is not a smart solution.
To get the best out of your material-handling equipment you may need to take a look at your production systems as a whole. Here are some quick tips designed to help you to do just that.
The Best Place to Start is at the Very Beginning
Your materials come from somewhere – either external companies or from other areas of your organization. No matter where they come from, when they arrive you need to take control of your inventory and stocking process in one single step. The main costs involved with material-handling come from how many times the material is actually handled – the more it is handled, the higher the cost.
Taking Control of Your Inventory
You can take immediate control of your inventory by investing in computer-based technologies such as barcodes, scanners or even RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology. All these systems greatly reduce the time that your employees will spend updating and maintaining the record of your inventory. As soon as an item enters your warehouse, it can be scanned or automatically entered into your stock control database and further tracked throughout the production process.
The same type of technology can be used to inform your workers precisely where the material needs to be handled and placed within your storage facility. Don’t rely on technology too much though – good old-fashioned labelling and visual identification is still key. If your tech systems hang or fail, then you don’t want your entire production floor to grind to a halt.
Want to Maximize Efficiency? Then Get Organized!
There’s probably no greater contributor to the efficiency of your production floor and warehouse facility than proper organization. The way you organize though is entirely up to you, as you know how your production facility works. You will of course need to take advice from your employees who actually work on the production floor.
There are many ways of organizing – by arranging your most frequently-used items at the easiest point where you can retrieve them, for example. This will allow for your material-handling equipment to be used in the most efficient way possible. This solution will not suit every environment, though, so make sure you keep an open mind with regards to how your materials are organized.
You will find that technology helps, but only of you are properly organized.
Picking, Routing and Shipping
No doubt you do not pick items on an item-by-item basis. This would be too time consuming, especially if your production floor is a very busy place. To create pick lists, a logistics program is the best way to go, or even a third-party provider. Remember, every production facility is unique.
The Best Way to Maximize Efficiency
It’s best if your materials are selected in bulk, via grouped orders. The items can then be transported to your shipping or logistics department and then individually sorted on an order-by-order basis. There is usually an ‘end-of-line’ verification process so you don’t lose any time by adopting this approach. You will also need a way of handling mistakes – for example if the wrong item(s) is/are selected. The route to end-of-line is never just a one-way street, remember! Your inventory software will need a way of returning incorrect items back into storage, or else the accuracy of your inventory will collapse.
If you’re a supplier then you are probably loading your items onto large trucks in order to get them to their destinations. The golden rule here is ‘last off, first on.’ You do not want to be searching through countless orders at the delivery point as that is a complete waste of time. Use GPS technology to calculate the most advantageous route and load your items accordingly. This applies even if you use a third party for your shipping needs.
Use the Correct Material-Handling Equipment
With all this talk about organization, technology and software you might think the key of this article has been forgotten, but that is not the case! You will of course need the correct material-handling equipment for your facility for proper unloading, loading and movement.
If you store your items on pallets, then you will need to make sure that you have the correct hand trucks or fork lifts in order to move items without putting too much strain on your employees. You will also need to make absolutely sure that your equipment is maintained properly. Accidents mainly happen because of poor-maintained equipment. Such accidents may see you lose products or even worse, injure your employees.
Make Sure You Have Competent Operators
It’s also important that your workers receive proper training so they know how to handle the equipment they are using. You should also make sure that your warehouse is structured in such a way that navigation and movement comes unhindered. Poor performance of your equipment and/or your employees leads to inefficiency, and wastes money.
You need to understand that the advice that is given above is meant only in a general sense, and that not everything listed above will apply directly to you. It’s up to you to work out how the proper use of material-handling equipment and warehouse organization can benefit you, and the chances are you will be amazed at the results!
To learn more about material-handling equipment, please feel free to contact us here at Douglas Equipment toll free at 1-800-451-0030, or in the Miami area at 305-888-3700. If you’d prefer you can contact us via our online form as well. We look forward to hearing from you soon.