The typical warehouse is a dynamic operation. Its staff performs certain tasks over any given period of time, but each shift may not consist of the same series of duties. Goods are moved in and out of picking areas, stock must be maintained to meet demand, and lift truck parts must be inventoried and tracked when repairs and replacements are needed.However, there is much more to managing productivity than looking at just a few numbers. Standard measurements, the personnel responsible for streamlining workflow, and the technology and equipment used impact warehouse productivity. Purchasing a forklift for sale in Illinois, for example, can have a positive impact, but so many factors are involved there’s not just one way to increase efficiency. It’s also important to recognize factors that decrease productivity.
What Can Go Wrong in a Warehouse that Decreases Productivity?
Inefficiencies in labor measurement don’t just reduce productivity but can also invalidate the means in which you analyze it. These elements can affect how productive your operation is and how accurately performance can be measured:
Changes in the software and hardware used at the facility.
Modifications to the layout of the warehouse or its processes.
Changes in the type, size, or variety of goods or materials moved.
Reductions in the number of staff on hand to perform tasks.
Physical or operational changes to the loading or shipping dock.
An inability to track metrics and communicate them.
Productivity Boost #1: Believe it or not, there are ways to make accurate assessments even if standard labor measurements change. You can break down a warehouse operation into its building blocks. Looking at how much an average warehouse operator travels, rests, and handles materials and goods, etc. is a good method of how to measure warehouse productivity.
Many of the processes that occur in a facility involve motion. Therefore, a lack of ability to measure motion vs. time can lead to various inefficiencies going unnoticed. Time measurement units (TMUs) are used to identify every movement an operator makes. Developed in the 1940s, these were further explained by a U.S. Department of defense handbook in 1967; it identified Materials Handling Standard Time Data, which broke down TMUs into their basics to help users calculate how much time any warehouse operation required.1
One TMU equals 0.00001 hours, so the means to measure operations is very specific. However, measurement isn’t the only strategy involved in streamlining productivity.
Productivity Boost #2: Standardizing processes is an effective way to smooth things out. Even though the work tasks and situations can vary over time, your team should have set procedures for unloading goods, scheduling shifts, and managing accounts payable. Facilities management, in general, should be run according to a set of standards that meet the needs of the operation.
At the same time, processes can be simplified. New steps can unwillingly be added to sets of old ones if the workflow isn’t carefully examined. Fewer steps reduce costs and the time to order fulfillment. Evidence of inefficient, non-standardized workflow includes multiple product flows crisscrossing the warehouse floor when there are better, more organized alternatives.
Productivity Boost #3: Measurement is critical because there’s no way to improve anything unless you can assess its function. You could easily assess the quality of new cushion forklift tires and track their viability over time. Productivity is tracked using a different set of metrics, but these can include the number and costs of shipped orders, the cost per box, or the amount of inventory compared to the demand for a product or material.
Inventory control and productivity can be optimized through a warehouse management system. Every employee, however, must be held accountable as well. Some of your key performance indicators must include metrics that identify baselines and allow a comparison of the costs of specific errors and returns.
Who Is Responsible for Streamlining Workflow?
Facility managers may be responsible for oversight, but streamlining workflow isn’t limited to the management staff. It’s something that everyone should be involved in. Sure, leadership needs to be educated in making decisions and taking corrective actions; you won’t improve processes, or any products or services, otherwise. Incorporating everyone into optimizing productivity is the next item on our list.
Productivity Boost #4: Aside from managers, staff members are productivity facilitators, building efficiency via responsible work habits, internal collaboration, and customer satisfaction. Each staff member should be trained with all aspects of the job broken down. Their performance can be tested before they go to work, so their role in any process used, by everything from warehouses to forklift distributors, is fully understood.
Another useful strategy is to set targets using TAKT time, which enables operators to understand what kind of work output they should aim for.2 In its basic definition, TAKT is the optimal time between individual units of production output in sync with demand. The concept is designed to limit overproduction.
It also goes hand in hand with a method called DMAIC or Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control, forming the basis for the lean manufacturing methodology of Six Sigma (which focuses on quality, defects, process capability, process variation, operational stability, and designing for process capability and the customer’s needs).3
Productivity Boost #5: Labor efficiency can be manually adjusted to maximize efficiency. You don’t only have to rely on a warehouse management system to optimize, for example, picking patterns. By analyzing material usage, you can find ways to reduce travel time.
Store items shipped most frequently in the same place; this is one of the best warehouse improvement techniques. It can make lift truck jobs more efficient because operators won’t have to travel as far and can reach the most accessible locations quickly. Minimizing delays is a highly effective way of increasing productivity.
For a productive facility, focus on planning, workflow, staffing, and efficiency. Not all factors, however, can be addressed with these. Sometimes it comes down to the equipment in place.
Atlas Toyota Material Handling Products That Can Help
Productivity Boost #6: Technology should always be included in your warehouse improvement plan. There are numerous warehouse continuous improvement ideas. They include optimizing space by organizing similar items in vertical storage units, using different types of shelving and racks based on the size of items, and selecting standardized bins appropriate for the materials stored. The technologies selected come right down to the vehicles people with forklift jobs in Chicago hold. That’s where this list of technological improvements begins.
Toyota Forklifts: Meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration and American National Standards Institute safety guidelines, the company’s forklift brand has been the best-selling one in the United States since 2002.4 It is known for reliability and longevity. Plus, there are enough options to stock any fleet of forklifts.
Toyota offers electric pneumatic units, such as the 05-8FBM20T, that contribute little pollution to the air and don’t require much maintenance. Electric units come in many varieties, including the 7FBCU35, with a capacity of 12,000 pounds for heavy-duty warehouses. If you need a new or used forklift, Chicago facilities can rely on Atlas to provide the ideal Toyota vehicles for their facility, including refurbished pre-owned forklifts.
For versatility, the 8FBE20U is the answer. The multi-use forklift can navigate tight spaces such as narrow aisles. It has a lift speed of up to 83 feet per minute and can travel up to 9.9 miles per hour. Products also include the ruggedly built, battery-operated 05-8FBMK30T, which runs similar to internal combustion systems and can handle a variety of outdoor conditions. The 8BNCU18/16.5, a versatile stand-up rider model, is designed for traversing narrow aisles and loading dock areas.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): A WMS or an Enterprise Resource Planning system with an integrated WMS component is great for warehouse improvement projects. The software can track facility processes, suggest picking or storage methods, and select efficient travel routes. It can also generate pick lists automatically, sending them to workers’ mobile devices as they travel.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Readers: An RFID system can work with barcodes or other means of product identification. In some cases, an employee’s mobile reader can receive order data from the WMS, letting them know where to proceed next. Picking errors can be substantially reduced, thereby improving accuracy and productivity.
Voice-Enabling Technology: One of the most innovative warehouse ideas is to implement voice applications in your warehouse processes. The technology can be used in shipping, receiving, and returns, and it doesn’t demand many changes to an existing management system. It can be installed quickly to get your processes going at a more desirable pace.
The technology includes wearable computers and headsets, which enable workers to receive instructions on where to go. Employees can simply speak into the system to confirm they’ve completed a task or state phrases associated with stock codes.5 Being hands-free, it can boost accuracy, speed, and safety. At PEAK Technologies, a barcode equipment and supplies company, executives noted warehouse customer productivity increased 20 percent or more by integrating voice-enabled logistics. 6
Warehouse productivity can be improved with new equipment and technology as much as with measurement standards and labor management. Without the right processes and tools, productivity can go way down. The tips in this article can help avoid this. You can also depend on Atlas Toyota Material Handling for just the right forklift for sale in Illinois, lift truck parts when you need them, or cushion forklift tires that last.
Contact us at 877-438-2719 or check out our website for information on vehicles, parts, and service.