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5 Common Flaws of Manufacturing Automation and How to Fix Them

October 21, 2013

Manufacturing Automation has taken huge steps forward in recent years, helping companies become safer and more efficient. Technology such as robotics for picking, packing, or welding is constantly advancing, making systems better, and smarter, each year. Vision systems alone are undergoing a revolution in terms of effectiveness. This type of automation is also more affordable every year, while the cost of just about everything else – labor, energy, raw materials, and insurance – is rising.

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Spreadsheets vs. Software for Product Slotting

October 15, 2013

spreadsheet for inventory slotting analysis

Product slotting is something that you must do as your inventory profile, customer requirements, and other factors evolve. Sometimes, it’s a simple job; people have been known to do it in their heads. Others utilize spreadsheets of various complexity. Beyond that, you can get into dedicated slotting software, consultants, or comprehensive WMS/WCS.

What are the considerations when it comes to deciding what method you’ll use to slot your warehouse or forward picking area?

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Safety Automation vs. Safety Training for Warehouse Operations

September 26, 2013

hard hat in an industrial operation

The old adage, “Safety First” is truer in warehouses and other industrial operations than almost anywhere else.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics there are currently more than 691,000 warehousing and storage workers on the job in the United States, and that’s probably a low number, given that many factories and other commercial facilities have warehouse or restock areas that may not be classified as such.

With that many people constantly working in or around potentially hazardous materials, forklifts, near storage areas, and around machines, safety concerns and strategies are a primary issue for warehouses, factories and other industrial operations. Where do you start when you’re working toward a safer operation? Is training enough? Will equipment and systems work on their own?

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For Warehousing & Distribution, It’s a Battle for Time

September 21, 2013

stopwatch for work operations

One of America’s groundbreaking marketers, John Wanamaker, once famously said “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Those who run warehouses, factories and other industrial facilities are hopefully not quite as in the dark about our expenses as Wanamaker was when it came to his ad budget, but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to understanding hidden costs and fruitful expenditures.

For most of us, the coin of the warehouse is time and how it is expended.

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Industrial Security: Does Surveillance Increase Productivity?

September 5, 2013

Order picking in a warehouse

Most companies who implement surveillance programs and other security measures do it because they want to address employee related theft. In industries like warehousing, it’s a common problem,  and it costs up to $15 billion in lost inventory every year. It’s been known for years that companies with excellent security measures can also expect to be more productive, but that’s always been correlation, and the two haven’t been linked by cause. That may have changed based on a recent study.

“Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity,” takes a look at how firm investments in technology – based employee monitoring impact both misconduct and productivity. The study makes a persuasive case that pilferage is an issue that hinges on management style more than individual ethics.

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Conveyor Video: How to Tighten the Drive Chain Tension

August 28, 2013

Hytrol Conveyors has provided this handy video guide for maintaining chain driven conveyors.

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Industrial Automation and The Flexibility Problem

August 22, 2013

as-rs-system

Earlier this year, Food Logistics published a provocative article, “Automate or Die”.  Do you have to automate? Of course not. But it brings to mind a good question: where is the point of acceptable ROI for automation projects? When does it make sense? What aspects are potential pitfalls?

We’re  inside warehouses, distribution centers, commercial operations, and manufacturing facilities every day. We don’t see full scale automation in all — or even most — of these operations. We’ve even seen some companies who have automated go back to picking with carts. We’ve seen others thrive due to their automated projects. The point is, you certainly won’t “die” if you don’t automate. But that doesn’t mean that you should not automate some or all aspects of your operation.

In some cases, we try to make the case that automation isn’t needed. In others, we try to help these companies understand when a capital investment in automation equipment and/or software will save money, increase productivity, reduce problems, and improve their business. It’s not  something that you can do from a distance.  It requires a command of the facts on the ground, in the servers, and throughout the supply chain.

So, the question is, why automate? 

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Posted in Automation, Inventory Management, Material Handling, Robotics, ROI, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

When is a Mezzanine not a Mezzanine?

August 4, 2013

mezzanine or work platform

What a difference a name can make.

People tend to call any elevated platform a “mezzanine” in this industry, but that may be a mistake. When you are installing or otherwise specifying a platform, you need to be aware that the word “mezzanine” can cost you money and headaches when applied incorrectly.

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A Guide To Pallet Rack Load Types

July 27, 2013

loaded pallet rack

Is this an unevenly distributed load? Concentrated load?
Line load? Point load? Load of something really heavy?

We have stressed this before: rack loads aren’t just simple weight vs. structure. The dimensions, shape, and size/density of the load as it sits on storage racks is absolutely critical to safe, effective warehouse storage. Our friends at Nashville Wire recently released an excellent piece that helps define the load types and how you can avoid incorrect or unsafe rack loading.

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End-of-Line Robotic Palletizing: A Matter of When

July 11, 2013

robotic palletizing white paper

We’ve posted a new white paper in our growing library of free material handling, logistics, safety, and manufacturing information resources.  This paper focuses on the proliferation of end of line robotic palletizing, its growing benefits, methods, and more. If you are palletizing at the end of a production line, this is a must-read.

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