A material handling system that appears to be less expensive upfront may end up costing more in the long run. Examine the gains in efficiency and productivity in addition to the costs.

Fremont, CA: Material handling can be highly beneficial. Poor material handling processes increase costs and decrease throughput, whereas good processes and equipment assist in practically every part of the business. One of the wastes of lean manufacturing is excessive mobility. Excessive movement is a non-value-added activity that lean practitioners strive to eliminate. Here are six steps to help improve material handling processes:

Plan, Standardize, and Simplify

Design the material handling system as a team while keeping the organization's goals in mind. Keep your storage equipment, such as bins, shelves, and racks, as well as the equipment you use to transfer goods, constant. To avoid confusion and errors, keep your processes consistent.

Minimize, integrate or remove as much movement as possible. For instance, instead of going through the warehouse, deliver finished goods directly to the shipping dock.

Consider Ergonomics

Create methods that remove repetitive motion, reduce manual labor, and comply with safety regulations.

Unitize, Organize, and Systematize

To improve efficiency and decrease labor, transfer whole pallets or containers wherever possible.

Working in a clean environment is more efficient than working in a cluttered environment. Many of the lean manufacturing 5-S concepts are related to the need for a clean, organized workstation. This is true for both material handling and manufacturing. It also entails making efficient use of available space, especially overhead space.

Ensure that material handling is coordinated across the whole organization. When planning and systematizing, keep every material movement in mind.

Automate

Wherever possible, use automation. Consider automated picking and putting-away systems. Conveyor systems are a good investment. Automation increases accuracy while enhancing efficiency, consistency, and responsiveness.

Assess Life-cycle Costs

Don't just consider the initial capital investment when evaluating material handling equipment. Costs for consumables, training, installation, setup, maintenance, and repair should all be included.

A material handling system that appears to be less expensive upfront may end up costing more in the long run. Examine the gains in efficiency and productivity in addition to the costs.

Go Green

Minimize the environmental impact of your material handling by reusing and recycling equipment. Reusable packaging, returnable containers, and recyclable packing materials can all help to make operations more efficient.

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