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Ways to Improve Efficiency in your Material Handling Facility

October 25, 2013

There are many factors to consider when attempting to make your material handling facility run more efficiently. Chances are, your facility’s processes, from shipping and receiving to production and fabrication, are not perfect and could be improved in one way or another. If you agree, consider some of the ways to improve material handling efficiency below:

Take a benchmark of the current state of the processes utilized in your facility: To make any changes, it is important to first take a benchmark of the performance of the current processes. How will you determine whether you made a positive change if you do not know how well you are doing now? Taking careful notes on the efficiency of your current processes will allow you to measure the effects of your improvements. The specific areas you might want to consider looking into are:

Labor expenses, including overtime
Number of forklifts or other lift equipment being operated
Total utility costs of the facility
Cost per square foot of operating space
How many times an inventory item is touched from order to shipment

Consider moving up: When running out of storage space, a lot of facilities take advantage of their high ceilings and store items on mezzanines or tall racking systems. This is a great way to increase SKUs and utilize already existing space. If you are close to outgrowing your current facility, this is a cost-efficient way to stretch the remaining life of that facility before needing to move to a larger one.

Choose the right picking method for your company: There are many different ways to pick products; the most basic being to pick each item from a single order until the order is fulfilled. This is not very cost effective when compared to the following types of picking procedures:

Batch picking: Pick multiple orders at once until all orders are complete
Zone picking: Pick areas are broken up into individual pick zones like an assembly line
Wave picking: All zones are picked simultaneously instead of having product from zone to zone

Consider task interweaving: This is the process of combining picking and storing into one trip. For example, if a forklift operator is asked to store a certain item, he/she will also be assigned a relevant order to be picked close by, saving a forklift trip. This saves a lot of money when utilizing a propane forklift in a large facility because each tank costs about $30 to fill and only lasts 8 hours. By combining stocking and picking, you can reduce the number of forklift trips by almost half, making each tank last almost twice as long.

Minimize equipment downtime: It is important to keep all equipment properly maintained, such as lift equipment, conveyors, pallet rack, etc. Proper maintenance records need to be kept, and equipment needs to be inspected often. To minimize this process, make sure to have replacement parts on hand. It can take several days, or even weeks, to receive small parts from the factory to fix your equipment, so having it on hand significantly reduces your down time. Also consider surge protectors to protect your equipment from costly damage from power spikes. This could damage and ruin the equipment, shutting it down until it is fixed or replaced.

These are just a few of the many methods to improve efficiency within your material handling facility. Feel free to contact American Surplus, we will gladly work with you to improve the efficiency of your facility. We provide solutions to your material handling problems, and we work with your before, during, and after the process.