Make These 3 Small Changes For Big Improvements in Manual Material Handling
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While material handling automation is an ever-evolving technology, many operations still rely on fully manual or hybrid processes, which can decrease their overall efficiency and profit margins. One recent report found that more than 80% of warehouses today have no automation at all.
In those cases, inefficiencies in the operation can be difficult to pin down. However, they can cost a business considerably in reduced throughput, and lead to employee injury from lifting, packing, and moving inventory the wrong way.
Strategically planned workspaces, streamlined processes, and the right material handling equipment mean better performance from your workers, and your bottom line. Ready to make a change? Consider incorporating the following solutions into your material handling workflow.
Standardize Your Space
Set your employees up for success with a workspace that’s tailored to the needs of their job. Work areas that lack the proper ergonomic, material, and safety support stand to increase the risk of damaged inventory, unhappy workers, injuries, and restricted business growth. Consider the following tactics:
- Use common shapes and sizes of shelving systems, pallet racks, pallets, boxes, and bins and containers to optimize space planning across your facility.
- Deploy the same models of material handling equipment, such as pallet jacks, hand trucks, and dollies, to simplify tasks like employee training, operation, and repairs.
- Provide uniformly stocked packing workbenches, so team members are familiar with their station no matter where they’re working. And make sure each is regularly restocked with packing supplies to avoid delays.
- Supply large work tables or workbenches to give teams enough space to get their job done right.
- Place mounting panels on workbenches for easy access to supplies. Drawers and cabinets also provide helpful work-area storage.
- Keep workers comfortable with proper heating and cooling equipment.
- Provide each worker with personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, earmuffs, gloves, respiratory protection, and protective eye gear to help maintain a smooth-running and injury-free operation.
- Install back and end stops on all worktables to prevent inventory and supplies from falling, whether onto the concrete floor or an employee’s toes.
- Set the tone for safety throughout your facility by implementing audible and visual safety lights and signals as well as signage and floor tapes.
2. Streamline Your Process
Schedule an annual in-depth evaluation of your material handling facility and systems. In what ways can you improve the flow of work? How can you enhance individual worker stations? Can you incorporate new equipment to help employees move materials faster or work more comfortably? Here are a few ways to make sure your workflow is logical and efficient:
- Provide the proper material handling equipment to transport large inventory from one area to another. For instance, properly trained employees can use a pallet jack to comfortably and safely move heavy inventory when a hand truck does not provide the required muscle.
- Consider co-locating complementary process steps, such as packing and shipping prep, if you have the space to do so. This will allow employees to complete work simultaneously, cutting down on processing time and saving money.
- Keep ergonomics in mind when procuring work tables and shop stools. To help prevent injuries, employees should be able to process work at waist height with limited bending, twisting, and turning.
- Provide anti-fatigue floor mats for workers who stand for prolonged periods.
- Incorporate mobile scissor lift tables and hoists or cranes to raise objects to the proper work height, reducing the risk of employee injury from lifting heavy items.
- Get smart by incorporating automated elements such as smart labels and thinking more strategically about your operations, such as scheduling deliveries on a rolling basis to avoid backups and crowds at the loading dock.
- Conduct biannual equipment checks and maintenance to ensure all casters, floor locks, scales, and other tools and mechanisms remain in good working condition.
- Supply platform ladders or stock pickers to help workers safely and easily retrieve inventory and other supplies from high shelves.
3. Stay Organized
Not only can a disheveled workspace slow momentum, but it also can decrease employee morale and set the stage for mistakes and accidents. Adopt these practices to provide your team with a clean and strategically planned work area that allows them to complete material handling tasks efficiently, safely, and accurately:
- Make cleaning and organization part of your process for ramping up and breaking down each shift. Require each employee to clean and restock their area before they leave, so it’s ready for the following day.
- Keep aisles clear of product and debris, and ensure they’re wide enough for equipment to easily pass through with room to spare.
- Repair damage to vinyl or rubber floors so equipment and employees can easily travel from one destination to another. If your concrete flooring needs a little TLC, grab some concrete filler.
- Illuminate your space with task lighting to enhance worker safety and allow employees to easily locate inventory and supplies. Optimal lighting also reduces worker eye strain.
- Allow janitorial staff to efficiently remove trash from your facility using deluxe plastic tilt trucks.
- Supply cleaning staff with floor cleaning equipment including vacuums, carpet cleaners, scrubbers, and floor machines, as well as floor dryer fans to reduce slip hazards after mopping.
Are you ready to improve your material handling processes? Contact Global Industrial’s product experts today, so we can help you find the best products for streamlining your systems and growing your bottom line.
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