Improving Material Handling Efficiency

Forklift America has customers all over the country who regularly share practices that have helped them improve productivity in their warehouses. Expertise in material handling comes from solid training, experience and learning from predecessors. Here are some proven best practices for improving productivity in material handling.

forklift-loading-truck-mLots of companies start new employees in receiving. But truth be told, companies are better off using their experienced employees who know their products in receiving. These pro’s are the ones who know how to stock bins and shelves and rarely mix up items similar in appearance that are actually completely different. It’s best to start new employees with filling orders. This way they learn the products, customers and your company’s paper or electronic inventory system. This is also a good way to check their understanding and work when orders are packed for shipment.

Scheduling the arrival of trucks is another area where companies can improve their material handling efficiency. The last thing you want is for all the trucks to come at the same time. When you properly schedule arrivals, you’ll avoid excessive wait times in the yard and pressure on receivers and shippers. And you’ll save money on utilities when you have fewer dock doors to operate.

Many companies around the country are improving material handling efficiency by using different shifts for shipping and receiving. One way to reduce staging area requirements by half is to receive goods during one shift and do shipping during another. This also reduces time-wasting bottlenecks in your warehouse.

Is there any way your company can speed up unloading? Studies show 20-30% of the grocery industry can unload trucks in less than one hour while 60% of mass merchants can. The longer a truck sits at your dock’s door, the more congested your yard becomes. How does your company’s warehouse measure up?

It may sound simple, but keeping your warehouse floors maintained can make a big difference when it comes to improving material handling efficiency. Defects in your warehouse floor’s surface can cause forklift operators time slowing down or taking detours which reduces productivity. Not only that, but potholes and an uneven or deteriorating floors can also cause wheel wear and forklift damage. In extreme cases, a bad floor can lead to loads tipping and product damage.

Packing operations is another area where material handling efficiency can be improved. When companies ensure packers get complete orders, packers don’t have to waste time running around the warehouse looking for missing items. Be sure to give your packers enough room so they aren’t bumping into each other or tripping over boxes. If you observe certain dead periods or rush hours, your company’s packing process may not be operating as effectively as it could. Revising to provide packers with a consistent workflow can make a dramatic difference in improving your warehouse’s material handling efficiency.

Finally, don’t forget to seek input from your own operators. Teaching forklift operators and warehouse material handling employees about process improvement is the best way to improve efficiency. But another way to improve material handling efficiency is by asking your employees. Ask them to identify a task they perform and how it can be improved. Or, watch your best operators’ methods and have them teach other operators how they save time and effort. This is how many leaders are discovered and how companies across the country are improving material handling efficiency in their warehouses.

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