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In Tight Labor Markets, How Can Warehouses Thrive?

August 12, 2016

warehouse worker in a pallet rack aisle

Distribution is growing — booming, some would say — particularly in larger markets. This tend is being driven by many factors, including a sustained economic recovery and low unemployment rates. Also, e-commerce powers like Amazon are in the midst of one-day or same-day delivery guarantees that require larger, more capable distribution networks that can serve major markets faster and usually within close proximity. These factors help to create stress on labor shortages in these cities, as newer distribution facilities open and existing ones expand. Add to that, the ongoing woes with skilled labor and a generally aging labor force.

How can you cope with a tight labor market?

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Posted in Automation, Order Picking & Fulfillment, ROI, Warehousing| No Comments »

Case Study: American Greetings Reduces Maintenance, Noise Levels

May 3, 2016

Conveyor system in Arkansas

American Greetings, the largest greeting card company in the world, with a mission that includes the desire to make the world “a more thoughtful and caring place,” had an issue with its aging conveyor system. The company creates a variety of greeting cards and other products in its massive Osceola, Arkansas facility (which has more than 10 miles of conveyors and occupies a space around the size of 57 football fields).

The plant runs 24 hours, so finding a way to upgrade without reducing production was a challenge.

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10 Expert Insights on 2016 Manufacturing Trends

January 12, 2016

millennials-manufacturing

As noted in one Citrix report, 2016 is set to become a watershed year for manufacturing.
“The industry is showing signs of reinvention in areas including automation, 3d printing and data analysis, and the next five years looks to be pivotal in realizing this change,” says a Global Manufacturing article on the report findings.

With manufacturing at such a critical point in its long history, the ways in which industry leaders view the changing landscape will likely shape its future. Manufacturing in particular is positioned for domestic growth and, more than ever, industry leaders must guide their organizations strategically.

To get a sense of how experts are approaching the year ahead (and how this year’s trends compare to previous years), we connected with our vendor partners and other industry leading organizations.

The following is a look at 10 expert opinions on 2016 trends: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Automation, Manufacturing, ROI, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| 1 Comment »

How Conveyors Improve Lean Operations

November 12, 2015

lean-manufacturing

In Lean Manufacturing, less is more.

A Lean operation’s ultimate goal is to eliminate waste in a system, which it achieves by creating flexibility and disposing of overproduction. Lean environments sometimes shy away from using powered conveyors in their operations, but when correctly applied, automation propels Lean Manufacturing goals—not hinders them. It’s the “secret sauce” of excellent lean manufacturing and warehousing operations.

In a true Lean environment, the customer is paramount. In other words, you need to consider what the customer wants to pay for at every point in your production. The automated solutions of today can help your Lean Manufacturing operation in three significant ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Lean, Manufacturing, Warehousing| 2 Comments »

Goods-to-Picker Methods and Alternatives

October 29, 2015

as rs system

The long path from person to product

In a distribution or warehousing operation, the most common working concept is “person-to-goods” order picking, which simply means that order pickers move to storage locations, often pushing or pulling carts and reading orders off paper. These pickers spend significant amounts of time walking between storage, and are then expected to decipher an order picking sheet. These operations spend lots of money and time and resources on those steps. Picking paths and storage locations evolve as inventory profiles change — and not always for the better.

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How to Properly Evaluate Your Warehouse Management System (WMS)

October 15, 2015

warehouse-management-system

What Does a Warehouse Management System Do?

A medium-sized chain of convenience stores once asked me to take a look at their Warehouse Management System (WMS) to see if it was time for an upgrade. After documenting all the functions it performed, we discovered that none of them could be described as serving warehouse activities. The system had lots of good purchasing functions—but offered nothing to support the actual warehouse.

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The Future of Robotics: An Interview with FANUC America

October 8, 2015

Fanuc Robotics Family
More and more companies are adding various forms of robotics to their operations as they seek to improve productivity, enhance worker safety, and keep labor costs down. We recently spoke with Wes Garrett, Packaging Account Manager at FANUC America about robotics in the material handling industry. He provided some great information regarding cost of ownership, indicators robotics may benefit an operation, and trends in new technologies.

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Posted in Automation, Manufacturing, Palletizers, Robotics, Warehousing| No Comments »

How Automation & Material Handling Extends the Careers of Skilled Workers

September 9, 2015

manufacturing workers

We published an article in the third quarter of the MHEDA Journal, Automation and Labor: Can’t They Get Along? The point of that article is that for American labor, robots aren’t currently reducing employment so much as changing it. Automated industries tend to be more profitable and less vulnerable to offshoring and other job-reducing factors.

Our friends at AutoQuip brought up another point—that automated systems and lifts can add valuable years to the working lives of high-skill, aging employees.

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Posted in Automation, Lifts, Manufacturing| No Comments »

New Videos: Seegrid Vision-Guided Pallet & Tow Trucks

July 9, 2015

Seegrid Vision Guided Towing Tractor

We recently added several new videos. Seegrid manufactures vision-guided vehicles (tow trucks and pallet trucks) that help reduce wasted labor resources (travel time, in particular). These vehicles are reliable, safe and efficient in many kinds of material handling operations. Since they don’t require a driver, they reduce non-value add labor activities in a warehouse or manufacturing facility. Payloads travel from one value-add point (receiving, parts areas) to another (storage, workcells). Check out the videos below for more information.

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Posted in Automation, Robotics, Video, Warehousing| No Comments »

Options for Manufacturing Cost Reduction

June 23, 2015

Component assembly in a manufacturing operation

Waste might be the most critical measure for manufacturing operations – waste of labor, materials, time and money. Many companies are faced with nearly constant pressure to cut costs and increase efficiency, even as demand spikes. This means reducing costs without compromising quality or throughput. What are some things you can do to balance these needs?

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Posted in Automation, Manufacturing, Sustainability| No Comments »