5 Trends That Your Operation Can Learn From the Material Handling Industry in 2021

(BPT) – There has been a dramatic shift in the global supply chain since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of new consumers have flocked to e-commerce websites to purchase everything from groceries and clothes to cleaning products and dog food. With this increased demand, businesses have had to quickly pivot and adopt new solutions, all while every movement is being relentlessly scrutinized by end customers who want their products as soon as possible. Automation is becoming an increasingly popular solution to many problems in businesses; however, there are a number of considerations to think about before investing in advanced technology.

These unprecedented challenges and continuous demands have led warehousing professionals to identify five techniques that can benefit any operation and increase efficiencies — no matter what your business entails.

1. Visualizing Improvements

Visual management aims to make a situation easily understood by obtaining as much relevant information as possible in as little time as possible. Visualization helps ensure operations quickly recognize current conditions and adjust processes accordingly. Some simple, yet effective, ways to practice visualization inside operations include data displays, marking and labeling locations, tool displays, and shadow boards. One example of visualization that has helped organizations is using digital displays that display real-time information, such as production rate, quality defects and machine status. Clear, effective communication among workers can make a big difference!

2. Leaning Into Lean Management

In business, even small enhancements in productivity and efficiency can have a big impact on your bottom line. Lean management methods are based on the philosophies of reduced waste in pursuit of the most efficient methods. This culture of continuous improvement adds value to operations by empowering employees to make improvements and take ownership of the tasks they accomplish on a daily basis. The opportunity to impact organizational change creates a more engaged employee culture, resulting in higher morale and workforce retention. When applied correctly, lean management methods can effectively and efficiently produce processes of sound quality that fully satisfy customer demands. By documenting standards, establishing clearly defined processes and identifying opportunities for improvement, your business will begin to see long-term, sustainable business improvements.

3. Utilizing Data to Optimize and Inform Decisions

In a world where e-commerce customers are becoming accustomed to shorter and shorter delivery times, it’s essential operations leverage data to make faster, more informed business decisions. Before rushing to automation, your business and processes should first be analyzed and optimized. An optimized operation creates more space, increases workforce productivity and leverages assets for the most suitable task. Investing in a tool to collect data can save operations from potential losses in productivity and damage. Data reports can offer you detailed information as to what workers are doing, their productivity, the age of your equipment and projected business growth while creating more space for product and improving workforce productivity and overall efficiency.

4. Determining How to Automate Properly

Investing in automation is a huge trend that is sure to be around for years to come and helps companies do more with less by introducing smart workflows and removing redundant tasks. However, bringing automation into an inefficient process will only result in increased inefficiencies. After you’ve used data to inform your decisions and optimize processes, your operation will be in a better place to consider automating time-consuming or repetitive tasks that do not require skilled labor. Remember: Often, full-scale automation is not necessary. Working with experienced consulting services, application engineers and automation experts is imperative to finding an integrated automated solution that works best for you and your business.

5. Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Workers

Using interactive and multimedia-based training programs — such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) — helps create a connection with the next generation of workers. Using these technologies as an educational solution not only meets millennials and even Generation Z on familiar technological terms but also enables all employees to efficiently learn new concepts. Furthermore, these advancements assist with organizational troubleshooting, visualization and accomplishing complex tasks, all of which can help reach organizational milestones faster.

As the world continues to navigate changing customer demands, it’s important to be diligent in evaluating new technologies. After careful analyzation and optimization, operations will find themselves in a better position to determine the appropriate technology that represents the best potential to achieve maximum operational efficiency. Running an efficient operation of any size requires a broad range of solutions, working together to achieve a common goal. It’s important to look for an end-to-end solutions provider that delivers innovation, quality and service in order to empower their customers to run better and manage smarter.

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