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Five warehouse productivity killers you could do without

Posted by Phil Van Wormer on Oct 21, 2014 6:00:00 AM

productivityThey drag down the performance of your entire warehouse. Yet they are surprisingly common in many operations. They shouldn’t be.

It’s time to bid farewell to the following warehouse productivity killers and say hello to the latest innovation in smart labor, inventory and forklift tracking:

1. Hand scanning

It may only take seconds to hand scan a pallet label but multiplied by several thousand labels, hand scanning is incredibly time consuming. By eliminating this laborious task, you drivers become more productive. As they start moving more pallets, you are left with an opportunity to redeploy labor or cut back on the number of vehicles. 

Solution: The SmartLIFT system by Swisslog with sensor technology powered by TotalTrax is an integrated software suite which processes data from your warehouse management system (WMS) and labor management system (LMS) to generate business intelligence. It features, for example, an optical label reader between the lift truck masts for the automatic scanning of pallet labels, capturing and updating their location in real time. Users tend to see productivity improvements of 25 to 30 percent. For example, one of our customers freed up $500K by automating 26,000 hand scans a day.

2. Chasing pallets

Inventory disorder goes hand in hand with manual data collection. Employees tasked with reporting where they have picked up and dropped specific pallets make mistakes. If the errors abound, you’ve got chaos on your hands. Many managers find themselves spending a disproportionate amount of time searching for lost or misplaced pallets. Disorder is not only frustrating, it’s also very costly in terms of productivity.

Solution: The SmartLIFT system relies on Optical Position Markers on the ceiling as well as high-precision cameras mounted on each vehicle. They track the location of vehicles and pallets by the sub inch – essentially linking forklift movement with data on the pallets. The result is 100 percent inventory accuracy, leaving you to do something more productive than chasing pallets.

3. Visibility gaps

The lack of real-time visibility is the bane of many warehouse operations. You simply can’t improve what you can’t measure. By removing the blind spots in your warehouse you gain instant insight into fleet movement, driver activity, and vehicle utilization. You may even be surprised to discover how little time your fleet spends active with load.

Solution: The SmartLIFT system will extract relevant, detailed, and immediate data on virtually every aspect of your warehouse operations. You will know the number of pallets each driver moves per hour, how much time they spend idle or active with load, the utilization of each vehicle, and the flow of pallets throughout the warehouse. Bobcat applied the data to make a host of changes to boost driver productivity and improve inventory practices.

4. Forklift repairs

A single forklift is associated with 40 separate costs. If you can’t track the maintenance of your vehicle, you leave your fleet vulnerable to costly repairs. The lack of maintenance tracking alone increases the risk of vehicles being sidelined – and downtime is one of the biggest productivity killers in the warehouse.

Solution: The SmartLIFT system can extract detailed information on the condition of your fleet, helping you take a proactive rather than a Band-Aid approach to keeping all vehicles running. If the tires need changing or a battery is nearing the end of its lifecycle, you will know ahead of time.

5. Inefficient slotting

Your fleet may be traveling longer than needed to pick up and drop pallets. Excess travel time equals productivity loss. But guesswork does little to optimize slotting opportunities. And without real-time tracking, slotting will be based on your best guess rather than facts about product movement.

Solution: The SmartLIFT system will help you generate a fact-based image of the low and high-traffic areas in your warehouse. Based on the information, you can reslot your warehouse, grouping similar products together and placing more in-demand items within close reach.

In conclusion, eliminating these warehouse productivity killers will optimize the performance of your entire operation. But you need the right tools to make it happen. 

Topics: real-time visibility, inventory accuracy, warehouse productivity, fleet utilization, SmartLIFT