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The Future of Manufacturing: Interview

May 10, 2016

Modex 2016 Show Floor, Atlanta Georgia

We had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Neuwirth, President of UNEX, for a wide-ranging discussion on the state of manufacturing. He shared his insights on key issues facing the industry from improving customer experience to addressing the skills gap.

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Posted in Manufacturing|

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, Labor & Efficiency|

15 Experts Weigh in on Manufacturing’s Shifting Workforce Demographics

June 4, 2015

Industrial workers

Manufacturing skills gap. Talent shortage. Shifting workforce demographics. What are the trends?

Call it what you will, but the fact remains that the U.S. manufacturing industry faces a pressing issue in the coming years if current worker retirement rates continue to accelerate and projections for industry expansion prove accurate. Research from the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte indicates there could be as many as 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2025, up from initial estimates of 600,000. As noted in a Huffington Post article on the research findings, retirement and rapid industry growth are the two driving factors contributing to the skills shortage.

To get a better sense of how the industry is addressing the challenges (and potential opportunities) associated with the increasing skills gap, we recently conferred with industry partners, leaders, and subject matter experts.

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Posted in Manufacturing|

How to Create an Effective Incentive Program

May 7, 2015

warehouse workers

Incentive programs are surprisingly common for industrial operations, and they can produce significant savings, quality increases and improved employee satisfaction – if the program is built correctly. In manufacturing, assemblers are often incentivized for quality and speed. In warehousing, it can be reduced product damage, pick rates, error rates or any number of other categories. When companies build out these programs, there are opportunities to create great value. How are companies going about this?

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Posted in Manufacturing|

10 Ways to Improve Order Picking Productivity

March 31, 2015

warehouse order picking

Like the Paul Simon song goes, there are 50 ways to pick an order—except in reality there are far more.

With such a variety of methods, processes, technologies and equipment options out there, it can be challenging to determine the best ways to improve order processing efficiency and productivity. In this article, LIDD’s Charles Fallon discusses 10 ways for distribution center managers to boost their order picking crew’s performance.
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Posted in Order Picking & Fulfillment|

Manufacturing: Attacking the Skills Gap

February 3, 2014

CNC manufacturing cutting operation with bridge crane

In its 2011 “Skills Gap in Manufacturing” report, the Manufacturing Institute laid out the situation: as American manufacturing continues to expand, a lack of critical skills in the workforce is becoming an increasingly common limitation. In many places, we see classified ad pages full of jobs for skilled positions like CNC machinists, high-volume assembly technicians, welders, or electricians. With a reported 600,000 unfilled jobs in the manufacturing sector, it’s something that has to be addressed.

Certainly, lower-cost foreign labor is still a drain, but there is little manufacturers can do about that. What can manufacturers do?

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Posted in Manufacturing|

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, Labor & Efficiency|

Merging Warehouse Operations: The Pitfalls

May 28, 2013

merging an industrial operation is difficult

Merging two formerly separate industrial operations can be more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than creating an entirely new plant. After all, even in the best of scenarios, it’s almost always easier to start with a blank slate. But in these days of consolidations and cost cutting, this can happen to almost any company.  Planning and open communications is the key in general, but there are specific issues you should be aware of.

What are some pitfalls, and how can you avoid them?

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Posted in Warehousing & Distribution|

Bridging Warehouse-Office Gap

February 13, 2013

The Gap Between Warehouse and Office

The warehouse. The office.

Sometimes it’s as if one doesn’t exist to the other. As one of our customers told us, “it’s like we have two companies here, and one doesn’t know what the other is up to.”

But when you’re trying to operate better, it’s impossible to separate the two functions. Decisions can be made in one area that can impact the other severely, so communication and cooperation are vital. Too bad it doesn’t always work that way. How can you improve it?

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Posted in Warehousing & Distribution|

Warehousing: Hidden Productivity Gremlins

January 31, 2013

box gremilin in a warehouse

Whether you’re operating a dedicated distribution center or the order fulfillment or stock warehouse of a manufacturing operation, most industrial facilities deal with storage and warehousing to some degree. In the not-so-distant past, warehousing was treated mostly as a cost center – a necessary evil that had to exist so that the more profitable parts of an enterprise could operate. Thankfully, more enlightened thought has prevailed recently.

Order fulfillment and storage are not just places you can save money – they can earn money. If the gremlins don’t get you.

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Posted in Warehousing & Distribution|

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