Lean production is the creation of an efficient flow of process and production within a manufacturing set-up. It involves the selection of the appropriate lean design that meets your company’s specific requirements.
Those manufacturers with lean manufacturing layout are more competitive in delivering products on a tight timeline than those manufacturers who don’t.
Why Is It Important To Adopt Lean Manufacturing?
Aside from giving you a competitive edge, here are the reasons to adopt lean manufacturing:
Safety for Your Employees
Since the lean factory layout takes a seamless design, you can reduce the risk of accidents during production. A lean plan eliminates unwanted obstacles in the production process. As a result, it promotes a safe workplace that is also conducive to productivity.
Expedite Work in Progress
The priority of lean manufacturing is to remove unnecessary obstacles during production. This elimination of barriers expedites work in progress. With fast production and quality products, you can exceed customer’s expectation.
With lean manufacturing, you can reduce wastages. An efficient process results in inefficient use of resources. The result of the waste reduction is equivalent to cut costs. Reduced costs mean competitive pricing for your company.
Easy and Hassle-free Maintenance
With every piece of equipment in its appropriate place, maintenance of factory space becomes easier than usual. You don’t need to waste your valuable resources on repairs after one employee accidentally trips on your equipment. Instead, you’d be spending your resources on valuable investment such as improving the technology of your production.
Increased Production Output
Lean production is about the effective use of time and factory space. Since your employees concentrate on producing goods, you can increase the output. You will have the resources to buy more raw materials.
The ultimate objective of adopting a lean manufacturing layout is to increase customer satisfaction. With satisfied customers, you can ensure the success of your manufacturing company.
Approaches to Lean Manufacturing
The two strategies of lean manufacturing are the Greenfield and the Brownfield method.
The Greenfield method is when you set up your new lean factory on a clean slate. It means you will transfer the production with modern machinery and new factory space. While this approach is straightforward, it is not often practical for existing manufacturing company.
The Greenfield requires financial resources, and many manufacturers can’t afford to spend more money on new equipment and plants. Sometimes, you can use your existing hardware and transfer to another location with the lean layout in place. However, the downtime of production isn’t economical for many manufacturing companies
The Brownfield approach doesn’t require new equipment or a new factory plant. It uses your existing equipment and factory plant but with a new improved layout.
The step-by-step process discussed in the next section focuses on the brownfield approach. This approach is more economical and practical.
How to Set up a Lean Factory
Gather information and evaluate your existing equipment and factory layout
Before beginning any changes in your factory, re-evaluate your process and arrangement. This process gives you an overall view of what to change and how to go over the lean design. In this step, you can identify strengths to incorporate and weaknesses to improve.
You can set up back up plans, identify goals and plan alternatives. Your goal in this step is to create a lean plan that is implementable in the shortest period.
Select the right people to work out your lean layout
You’ll need a lean team. With a lean organization, it’s easier to identify problems along the way. You can delegate important tasks to people with the necessary expertise.
Your team may compose of core people, support team and senior leaders. The core people are in charge of the primary task of creating a lean layout. They’ll be the individuals who will concentrate on building your lean layout. These people will work daily to come up with the best design for your manufacturing needs.
The support team may not be working on a daily basis in the creation of the design. However, their output is essential. Their contribution is to provide the necessary input in the re-engineering of your process. These people are usually the head of every department in your manufacturing process.
The senior leaders are the policy-making body of your company. They should understand why you’re making the necessary move to becoming a lean enterprise.
Provide training for your lean team
Training may be redundant, but it provides a refresher to your team members. It threshes out any problems regarding the implementation of the layout. With training, you can identify if an individual is fit for the position you’ve assigned during the lean process.
Conduct meetings to monitor progress
Regular meeting to track progress is essential for the success of lean manufacturing. With regular meetings, you can address problems that may arise. In this step, you can communicate the alternatives in case your company needs subcontractors to fill up manufacturing downtime during the change.
Lean production is a process that involves critical tasks. These tasks may include effective communication, identification of potential problems or knowing when to abandon inefficient alternatives.
The creation of lean design may include the use of application and methodologies. The proper identification of these methodologies is crucial to the success of your lean enterprise.
A little-known secret in production and manufacturing is that you can actually break down every part of a process to mathematical and logical sequences. With a few changes in the process, the best possible outcomes can be drawn with a 99.99% consistency.
There are a number of techniques and tools used to ensure this level of improvement. However, what has been the most consistent is the process known as Six Sigma.
What is Six Sigma?
It is basically a set of strategies meant to help manufacturers and producers ensure quality in their outputs using a number of statistical and empirical methods. It mainly helps to allow businesses to identify flaws in their processes, removing these, and minimizing further signs of variability in the overall manufacturing system.
The strategy owes its existence back to engineer Bill Smith who laid down the basics during his tenure at Motorola in 1980. Jack Welsh further improved on the concept when he worked for General Electric in 1995 as part of his central business strategy.
Understanding how the Six Sigma process works can be rather confusing for non-statistical folk but it’s best to get acquainted with the process on a more technical side first. It’s basically a set of standard deviation figures collected from data in a manufacturing process.
Since defects are defined in statistics as specification limits which separates the bad outcomes from the good, then the 6S process is a set of standard deviations based on the nearest specification limit for each level or “Sigma”.
For instance, if the desired length of a metal pane produced by a machine is in between 2.5 and 3.0 meters, then the process mean is at 2.75 with a standard deviation of 0.187. That means, in order to get a near-perfect and near-consistent production run, almost every item produced by that machine should be within the range of 2.62 and 2.85 meters.
On a more production-focused perspective, you can use the statistical tool to lower the defects of each production batch by a percentage in each sigma level. Theoretically speaking, the success rate per level is as follows.
Level 1 – 33.45%
Level 2 – 69.98%
Level 3 – 93.32%
Level 4 – 99.38%
Level 5 – 99.97%
Level 6 – 99.99%
As one could see, reaching level 6 is not even necessary to ensure optimum production results. You could basically go as far as level 4 and the margin of success in each production batch has already attained near-perfection. This won’t ensure a perfect production run in each sequence, however. It only ensures that the defects in each production process have been reduced by the thousands or millions, depending on the case.
As of now, there are two schools of thought in performing Six Sigma. These two methodologies have 5 phases each and are known as:
DMAIC – This methodology is best for businesses with existing production system designs and could be broken down into:
Defining the System – this includes identifying the requirements usually set by customers and comparing them to the overall goals set by the company.
Measuring Key Aspects – this involves measuring and analyzing current production systems and determines their production capability as is.
Analyzing Data – In this process, one must identify how each factor correlates to one another and result in a specific set of outcomes. This will also involve categorizing each outcome and seeking out root causes for the ones that result in defective products.
Improving Current Systems – During this phase, the focus is on making the system “mistake-proof”, constant calibration and repairing are to be expected here if one wants to reach the margin of statistical success defined in each sigma level.
Controlling Future Production Runs – At this point, the focus is on making the changes as sustainable as possible. This will involve implementing rules that ensure each production reaches the required sigma level success rate.
DMADV – This methodology works best if you have to start from scratch as far as setting up your production processes are concerned.
Defining the Goals – This phase involves identifying what customers want, what the company can offer, and what the company intends to achieve.
Measuring and Identifying Critical to Quality Characteristics – Here, you will identify what tools and specifications in your production runs have to be met to ensure quality. Also, you’d have to identify the risks to avoid and the output to minimize production.
Analyzing and Developing Design Alternatives – At this point, you should come up with several production layouts and processes to ensure the level 4 to 6 success rates.
Designing an Improved Alternative – Once you have found the best possible production design, you have the option to improve it even further.
Verifying the Design – This phase involves setting things up and ding your first production runs. A bit of tweaking and upgrading might be necessary here if you want to reach the 99% success rate.
Once you have come up with a near-perfect production process, the rest of the process will include translating that concept to the rest of the organization. This should not come as a surprise to you but implementation should always start on top.
The executive management should learn what is Six Sigma and set up the rules on how to implement it. Lower management like department heads will then oversee the implementation while senior personnel like supervisors must coach the lower levels on how to ensure near-perfect production qualities. The employees would then receive the training and directly implement these processes by making sure that their work’s output follows the desired specifications. This will include every stage of the production process from the selection of materials to the production proper and even the quality control processes at several points through the chain.
At a glance, Six Sigma could look like this arduous strategy whose conditions for success are near impossible to achieve. However, you might just be surprised at how easy it is to implement and sustain. With constant effort in implementation and improvement, your employees could go about attaining the upper sigma of success within each production run.
Supply chain management is core to majority businesses. The way they handle the system determines their operating costs, customer service, financial position, and inventory management. Therefore, the supply chain logistics have to be strategized and implemented in a manner that businesses will realize the benefits of good governance. This has always been the case until recently when a new word was coined to help improve the supply chain. This word is none other than intra-logistics. Heard of it? There are even intra-logistic companies that have come up over the years.
Unfortunately, not many know the purpose of intra-logistics in warehouses and supply chain. Researching ‘what is intra-logistics?’ doesn’t help either as many become even more confused. Hopefully after this article, you will be able to explain intra-logistics in full.
So what is intralogistics?
Straight to the point, intralogistics is the management and optimization of internal production and distribution processes. To be more precise, it deals with how to efficiently handle warehouse operations. This may include, information flow, material handling, and how to integrate with modern technologies. It is not new to us that industries will embrace technological advancements and new methods to improve their businesses.
Therefore, applying intralogistics to internal processes within the walls of a fulfillment center and distribution center reduces costs, minimizes inventory, increases product time to be shipped to market and improves employees’ safety. Also, integrating these solutions in the supply chain helps to enhance flexibility.
Each day, companies are realizing these benefits and are implementing intra-logistics solutions in their daily operations. From process engineering, systems design and implementation, database design, project management, remote monitoring to warehouse automation, intra-logistics are being used to optimize and manage the processes.
For example, industries are integrating robotics and automation techniques to simplify the work of their staff and improve the quality and production of goods. Further, these techniques and systems are taking information processing to a whole new level, and they are improving connectivity, intelligence, and how fast processes move along.
Based on this example, intra-logistics finds a new definition as the art of optimizing, integrating automating, and managing the logistical flow of information and material goods within the walls of a fulfillment or distribution center. (According to invata.com)
In general, intra-logistics is all about the internal controls between information flow and material handling. Its benefits are quite fulfilling in the supply chain management answering why it has created a buzz in many industries.
That is about the size of it. Intra-logistics is a simple concept which hopefully you have understood.
What Is Six Sigma?
Customer satisfaction is always the goal when it comes to manufacturing and business processes. It is key to how successful and how long the business lasts and guides the methods of delivery. Centering attention on customer satisfaction, manufacturing and, business processes have come to adopt different techniques such as lean manufacturing, six sigma and lean six sigma( which is a combination of the first two).
While lean manufacturing deals with waste minimization, what does six sigma do? To grasp six sigma technique to answer this, we have to explore what is six sigma first.
Defects are common in the manufacturing process. Regardless of this fact, businesses ought to try everything possible to reduce these defects. This is where six sigma comes in handy. The technique aims to improve the process using quality management methods and process variations to produce products that are 99.99996% free of defects. It seems impossible, right? But not with the six sigma framework DMAIC. I.e.;
The first stage is to state the goals, project scope and any crucial piece of information to the process. A project charter is mostly used in this stage as it clearly outlines the problem statement, goal statement, resources and project timelines. It includes the customers’ expectations as well.
This method is data-driven. Consequently, the 2nd stage of the DMAIC framework is focused on data collection. The data is then used to establish a performance baseline at the moment of the formulation. After completion of the project, the performance metrics obtained are then compared to the benchmarks to evaluate the suitability.
Within the analyze section, using fishbone diagrams and other tools together with test hypotheses, the analyzing phase identifies and validates root causes for poor product elimination.
The point of the whole process is to find solutions to the sources of defects to achieve 99.99996% defect free products. That is what this step is for, testing and deploying the viable improvements.
Once the solutions have been decided and applied, they should be continuously monitored to determine if they are sustainable. Thus, control charts, control plans, process confirmation, and transition plans are used to measure the performance of the implemented solutions.
The DMAIC framework is still used in the method today. The technique utilizes data-driven facts to reduce variations in conjunction with waste reduction technique. The six sigma and lean manufacturing will often be counterparts based on their functionalities.
Overall, the six sigma method in manufacturing and business processes is guaranteed to improve customer satisfaction and offer better management solutions.
What Is Lean Manufacturing?
As a production and manufacturing company, certain factors lead to increased quality of work without ever having to compromise on the value of the product. After all, no customer will pay for commodities that are below the standards. Therefore, companies will put in place measures designed to fast-track the designing and distribution process so as customers can get value for their money. That is why companies like Toyota use the lean manufacturing technique. And for the most part, Toyota production system is credited with coming up with this technique.
But before going any further, just what is lean manufacturing? Simply put, it’s all about adding value to the process by minimizing waste. The waste in this context is anything that only ends up taking much of your time and money just to add no value to the finished product. As such it is essential to know these types of muda (the traditional Japanese name for waste in the manufacturing process) for better implementation of the technique.
Categories of muda
- Overproduction- when the demand increases it is only natural for companies to produce more products to meet the customer’s needs. However, if the results of the production, mostly producing before the demand, causes storage costs that could have been avoided, that’s waste.
- Over-processing – dwelling too much on a product so that you can meet the customer requirements. It might be due to inadequate tools or lack of simpler manufacturing processes
- Transportation – do not move raw materials or finished products unnecessarily. Better yet, find transportation alternatives with better rates. Otherwise, you will be creating waste.
- Motion – how often do you move equipment or do people move about without any significance in the manufacturing process?
- Inventory – any products, work-in-process or finished goods that aren’t supporting any needs.
- Defects – results to wastage of time inspecting and fixing production errors
- Waiting – this waste emerges from in-between breaks during work-in-process just waiting for the next step.
- Unused workforce- any time you do not value employees ideas, skills and creativity, that is another form of waste.
The importance of knowing these categories of lean manufacturing waste is to improve quality while reducing costs, time wastes and eliminating the non-value adding processes. Once identified, the waste can be removed using different tools including Jidoka, Poka-Yoke, Kanban, SMED, Kaizen, value stream mapping, continuous workflow, Takt Time and many others.
It is essential to produce quality goods in an optimized manufacturing process to save on cost. Through avoiding the above waste there is increased productivity, and the process’s goals can be met.
Material handling plays a vital role in manufacturing projects and logistics. It represents 20 percent of America’s economy. Just about all physical merchant products are shipped through Tugger carts and trains. Understanding how the material handling process works can help you deliver successful projects.
Importance of Material Handling
Material handling involves short distance movements within an area or building. The process includes different equipment like automated, semi-automated, and manual machines. It also consists in storing and protecting materials through manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal process.
Basics of Material Handling Methods
For businesses, material handling is helpful in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and retail stores. For production workers, it’s a convenient way to manage material movement. The operators of such equipment utilize it to move items from the building to another industrial setting. Material handling system designs include an integral structure so that material movement can efficiently be managed between production stages.
For instance, if two different activities are connected, transporting materials can quickly be done. However, separated activities may sometimes require costly transport trucks. It’s expensive to use industrial trucks due to labor costs and the overheads in production systems. Fusing in several units together in a single transfer also has adverse effects on the performance of production equipment.
Therefore, it’s sometimes more expensive to do a single transfer with more units to reduce moving trips than to go with the average number for every transfer batch.
Different Types of Material Handling
The following are the primary material handling types that business owners and operators should know about:
- Manual. Manual handling means workers move materials and individual containers using their own hands. It involves lifting, lowering, filling, carrying, and emptying containers when running them. However, manual handling can be dangerous because of the potential physical injuries that workers may acquire while at work. Generally, workers may experience sprains in their shoulders, upper limbs, and lower back. Good thing there are ergonomic developments to ensure risk-free manual handling operations.
- Automated. This type of material handling involves equipment that is designed to reduce and replace manual movement of containers. Today, semi-automated and automated material handling equipment is used to assist human operators in unloading, loading, and driving materials to another area. To overcome challenges and high costs of transporting materials, automated machines are essential. The ongoing developments in equipment programming, robotics, and sensing have been useful in completely automating the movement of materials.
Implementing Successful Handling of Materials
Knowing where to start and how to conduct and employ successful material handling processes is vital to any business. With the complexities in moving materials, it’s crucial to understand the best strategies to deliver material handling projects. Automated handling may be expensive and risky. But overall, it’s an ultimate money-saver when it comes to transporting materials needed in building sites. Physical evaluation helps in assessing equipment to determine the best advantage.
You can consider the programs, drawings, service records, spare parts, and specifications to ensure the efficiency of the equipment.
Some of the intralogistics projects modifying the industry today include workstation improvements, new product launches, new plant buildings, forklift traffic reduction, and part kitting implementation.
Over time, material handling will become even more significant for many businesses and organizations around the globe.
Moving your inventory manually is tiresome and can take a lot of time. But with the use of forklifts, the job has been simplified. Warehouse management can, therefore, relocate their labor somewhere else or save a little money by cutting down on the labor force. However, forklifts, no matter how effective they are, they present some safety concerns that if not addressed can become a liability. Warehouses and any other businesses that use these machines should observe forklift safety. Proper use of the forklifts ensures employee safety as well as inventory safety.
While warehouses may have taken measures to ensure their employees are insured as well as the inventory, it is still logical to make the warehouse a safe environment for everyone. If employees feel safe, there is nothing preventing them from doing a perfect job therefore forklift safety and other measures acts as a good motivation. Also, safety should be emphasized as much as you underscore the need for speed in the warehouse operations. Below are five safety tips that should be observed;
Inspect the forklift
Firstly, you must make sure that the machine you are operating is up to standards. You do not want it breaking down in the middle of moving inventory. That could have ugly consequences to the driver and other workers around the warehouse. It could be carrying a heavy load when the break down occurs or even worse, it loses its brakes, and the operator has no control. So, check the forklift and do the necessary repairs. The shift supervisor should know of any problems and adhere to the safety rules. Also, the forklift should be fuelled and packed carefully when not in use. The inspection of the forklift should be a daily thing and never assume that its fine from yesterday routine check.
The operator must be qualified
Avoid putting your employees in danger by hiring qualified forklift operators. The operator must provide proof of certification and be assessed. The operator should wear the seat belt and the proper operating attire. After all, this is all part of training. A refresher course can be offered to ensure the qualification is completed to a certain standard. The training should be per the OSHA regulations which have been formulated to maximize safety in the workplace. Experience is a factor to consider since the operator knows how to conduct themselves.
Pay attention during operation
There is a lot of traffic in the warehouse. The pedestrians can be harmed if they bump into the forklifts. Another source of danger is loads falling off the fork. Paying attention is hence an critical forklift safety tip. It ensures you do not run into other forklifts and employees. If the load obstructs your path, have some help finding your way or drive in reverse.
Be considerate to others
Forklift safety dictates you put others in mind. That means no fast moves, sudden turns and always alert people you are around. Educating other employees is also another way to prevent accidents. That is, asking them to stand or walk at a safe distance from the forks.
Watch the load
Avoid carrying more than the forklift can handle. Do not exceed the limit all in the name of efficiency and completing the job fast. Also, ensure the load is stable to prevent it from falling off affecting the forklift’s balance and increasing the risk of an accident. When putting it on the shelves, be careful.
Forklift safety allows smooth operations. Watching out for your employees is your number one priority, and these forklift safety tips will come in handy.
A lot of work goes into managing a warehouse. From the time a product is produced to the moment, it reaches the customer, there are many processes involved, and these processes are the core of the warehouse organization. Warehouse processes are not immune to waste. The waste is usually the source of many warehouses failing to meet their goals. Therefore the reasonable thing to do is to try and eliminate waste.
The term used is lean manufacturing. It deals with handling waste from all corners of the warehouse. Be it on labor or inventory, lean manufacturing aids to enhance warehouse performance. To start with, why don’t you try eliminating waste by;
Checking your inventory
The supply chain depends on warehouse inventory to maintain the flow.
For this reason, warehouses will produce and stock more inventory to ensure that there are no shortages. It’s hard to believe that the inventory can be a source of waste. How this occurs is when there is overhead inventory.
The sales should determine the inventory. The production process, therefore, requires you utilize the sales data to minimize inventory overhead. Work to fulfill the short-term sales as you control the inventory.
Following inventory overhead, the next area to eliminate waste in the production process. Overproducing has its extra expenses. The labor required may need to double to meet the deadline. In doing so, you will be forced to budget for the additional employees. Overproduction also causes storage troubles. You will have to find extra space for the inventory which is difficult especially if it is slow moving.
The way to go about reducing overproduction is to cut the working hours accordingly and embrace lean batching. Also, do not overproduce so that you keep people working. If the demand doesn’t require an overproduction, do not do it otherwise you will have to face all the problems that come with this action.
Time is a precious resource in warehouse management and other businesses. Halting a process for whatever reason, be it for additional inspection or waiting for parts, is another warehouse waste. This is what is referred to as the downtime. The downtime is eventually reflected in the overall quality of the product. You may miss a production step when trying to recover the time lost thereby compromising on quality. Also, the warehouse may need to spend a little more to reach the target on time.
Since customers are the ones who will suffer the consequences of downtime, it is essential to ensure that if it is unavoidable, it doesn’t affect the quality of products. Thus, eliminating downtime is the right thing to do and making early preparations assists warehouses to cut this time as they plan to ensure the warehouse processes are not affected by any inconveniences.
Taking into account these three wastes, the next thing to do is to use other methods of waste elimination to evaluate your warehouse operations. The evaluation, guided by lean manufacturing and six sigma methods of waste elimination, exposes the areas undermining smooth warehouse operations and those that need improving to achieve efficiency at low cost. Warehouse waste delays the processes affects the quality and the storage of the inventory.
If you want to improve quality, eliminate waste, reduce cost and reduce the lead times, this is how. Avoid downtimes, overproduction, and inventory overhead. In addition to these three ways, it is essential to use the lean manufacturing process to eliminate other kinds of waste in the overall warehouse operations.
In business, sustainability matters just like profitability. The two go together since if a process profits the company and is sustainable, no one can do away with it. One way of achieving these two factors is through managing waste. Through the lean manufacturing methods of eliminating waste, a business can reach its goals without having to endure high cost finally. This agenda shouldn’t be a one-time deal. As a business, you need to continually evaluate your processes for waste and rid off it and improve areas that need improvement. Continual evaluation of your business and the waste in your process is what lean process improvement is.
The process is directed at continually improving the business processes and can be adopted in any industry. Now, lean process improvement is guided by the 5S methodology which stands for;
By sorting things in order of their use helps reduce time wasted and take care of distractions in business processes. Any items that are least used should be relocated somewhere else to save on space and any unnecessary items or operations eliminated. Through sorting, you will reduce the clutter that may be undermining your processes.
Set in order- seiton
After sorting, the next step in lean process improvement is optimally organizing the items. Those that are used more often needs to be within reach for a smooth workflow. Keeping commonly used tools nearby, and in fixed locations will be a significant time saver.
Shine – seiso
The third-S is more of maintenance. You know very well that proper support helps avoid repair costs and improve the quality of a process. In line with that, regular inspections, regular software updates, and always keeping the workplace clean not only ensure safety but also makes it easy to pinpoint problems before they escalate.
Standardize – seiketsu
Using the first three steps, certain things will change for the sake of lean process improvement. These changes need to be permanent and therefore standardizing processes makes it difficult to fall back contributing to growth. Whatever procedures you put in place and the schedules to be followed, they should be aimed at continuous improvement.
Sustain – shitsuke
Lean process improvement demands constant growth. Sustaining the adopted processes during the 5s methodology creates room for accountability. Training sessions, regular audits, implementing enhancements when necessary and other performance evaluation processes help promote sustainability.
Furthermore, lean process improvement shouldn’t be treated as an event. Instead, it is a mindset that organizations should use to solve systematic gaps in their processes. By viewing it as a mindset, delivering services to customers becomes easy as 123, and they do not struggle to maintain growth and improvement.
Lean process improvement, therefore, maximizes value and provides room for fast delivery. Through a scientific approach, businesses can identify opportunities, plan the processes that will achieve growth, execute implementation changes and finally review how well the changes are doing in the overall business process.
So you see, lean process improvement is essential in organizations for growth. However, if you want it to be effective, it has to be applied in all departments. Optimizing one sector of your business will mean that another will try to keep up or will be inconsistent with the new improved business structure, therefore, hurting the company. Thus, optimize all areas of your business using the 5s methodology.
Additionally, some tools have been developed to help organizations and businesses improve their processes. One of them is Nintex Promapp that manages the business process through lean tagging and tracking waste and cost.
Lean process improvement is that simple. Just follow the 5S methodology and watch your business processes improve and you will be able to keep eliminating waste.
Pallets today are becoming an integral part of the modern warehouse and manufacturing logistics. They are not only being used for assembling, handling, storing and product transportation but also for sustainability. Sustainability is becoming more difficult to achieve with all the changes that are defining the manufacturing world with each passing day.
With that brief introduction, companies want to know which pallet designs will save them transportation and operational cost while helping them achieve sustainability. This has brought about the pallet pooling system which by the way, has received mixed reactions.
Pallet pooling is a useful trend that assures companies reduced costs, and they do not have to spend on their fleet continuously. That means they can redirect the money that would have otherwise been used for new pallets to other supply chain operations. However, not all will feel comfortable using the system. Mainly it’s due to their customized needs which is why some companies might prefer having their pallets.
They have to align with the companies systems. For instance, if they are using automation, they have to provide a viable solution. Consequently, you have to consider three things;
- Pallet strength – If they keep breaking down causing downtimes, then they are contributing to waste production decreasing the efficiency of the process.
- Pallet durability – Expenditures from having to buy pallets after a short while are a significant threat to companies stability and sustainability.
- Pallet reusability- Campaigns for a greener earth have worked marvelously as companies are looking for reusable pallets that will save fuel energy.
With these three factors, it is easy to find the best pallets. And wood pallets fit this description. They have existed longer than any other types. But given the changing circumstances, plastic and composite pallets are being used today as an alternative to wood. This trend has come to be because wood pallets have some flaws.
Taking the case of automated processes, plastic pallets are more preferred. Reason being they are uniform and identical, and therefore sensors can read data easily. Unlike wood pallets, which may vary slightly in size cause a lot of trouble in automated processes. The sensors have a hard time detecting edges. Also, wood may chip off jamming automation equipment. The consequences of using wood are that the system stops and you know how this affects the process. It will increase the downtime and the cost.
The only remedy to wood pallet inconveniences would be to use the plastic pallet designs once you automate your production processes. It saves time and future costs hence the best solution.
Additionally, plastic pallet designs are being re-engineered to increase their strength-to-weight ratios which reduce the breakdown risks, and since they are lighter yet strong, there is reduced fatigue. The injury risk for the workers are reduced as well.
Another pallet design that is in use is the customization of wood pallets to boost their strength and stiffness. Not all pallets support the different storage equipment. A three-stringer floor wood pallet has high chances of breaking when used for drive-in rack since it is weak and doesn’t help the design. The easy way out here is the collaboration between racking and pallet suppliers to ensure that the models work before their installation.
Lastly, manufacturers are coming up with sustainable, biodegradable and recyclable pallets that are geared toward reducing the companies’ environmental impact.
These trends are bound to take root firmly, and with the technological advancements and lean manufacturing methods being adopted, more pallet designs will emerge with the aim of improving sustainability.