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Remarkable innovations emerge seemingly every day in the world of manufacturing. One area specifically experiencing significant modernizations is in automated and numerical control precision machining. There’s so much progress, in fact, the level of growth in the precision parts and production market is expected to grow at least 12% by 2024.
Below, we’ll briefly go over what precision manufacturing is and how important it has become for manufacturers across the various industries.
What is precision manufacturing? Essentially, it’s an advanced method of industrial manufacturing using processes and techniques designed to produce versatile parts with tight or rigid specifications. It could pertain to a wide range of operations for precision metal cutting and tooling, such as the utilization of metal stamping in tandem with accurate tooling by metal fabricators. The goal is to produce identical high-precision parts and components, often for assembly into a larger product.
Precision manufacturing is important for many types of production, however, this method is particularly attractive to industries with tight tolerance requirements or under strict regulations. Several of the leading industries — which are not only driving the economy, but also generating improvements for our quality of life — would be incapable of meeting rising demands without it. What’s more, manufacturing products with complex geometries and tiny components is often accomplished more cost effectively via precision manufacturing.
Another reason why precision manufacturing has become so meaningful is its ability to generate output quickly and consistently. A consistent quality is essential for countless parts, components, and products on the market. If there are flaws in the part or product’s design, it leads to wasted materials, higher costs, and increased time to market. Precision manufacturing approaches — such as CNC precision machining — avoid these shortcomings by using automation and computer programming to create products with exact specifications.
It isn’t only the manufacturers who stand to benefit from precision in automation and manufacturing, but also it’s those receiving the products. For instance, within the medical device industry, product accuracy and reliability are paramount. Whether it’s endoscopies, respirators, or PPE, these incredibly important life-saving pieces of equipment could make all the difference in a patient’s outcome or caregiver’s safety. Because of that, product precision is key.
These are only a few of the reasons why precision manufacturing is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after advancements in industrial manufacturing. For further information on the capabilities, benefits, and importance of precision in automation and manufacturing, please see the accompanying resource.
Precision in Automation from American Tool and Die, a cnc machining service
Have questions about how to improve your manufacturing operations? Contact us today.
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Studies have shown that over 40% of workers across various industries spend a significant portion of their workweek on repetitive manual tasks. In the manufacturing sector, these tasks often involve data collection and manual data entry, which many consider to be inefficient given the availability of advanced automation software in today’s market.
Innovative automation programs are designed to automatically collect, upload, or synchronize data into a system of record. This automation can help eliminate production bottlenecks and streamline manufacturing processes, ultimately improving output. Moreover, automation can significantly reduce the risk of human error, which can lead to injuries. In fact, a majority of workers (nearly 60%) believe that they could save six or more hours per week if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated.
Automation is not limited to the field personnel, as managers are also looking to streamline their own tasks. A renowned technological research and consulting firm predicts that by 2024, 69% of day-to-day managerial work will be fully automated. Examples of automatable managerial tasks include approvals, sign-offs, status updates, and confirmation requests. Increased efficiency in these operations can free up time for employees at all levels to contribute more strategically to the success of a business.
In addition to automation, cutting-edge robotic technology is also being utilized in many manufacturing organizations. Programmed robots or robot-controlled machines that use artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance a company’s assembly, material handling, and processing capabilities. Robots excel in predictable environments and can handle physically demanding or monotonous tasks that may negatively impact employee well-being or morale. This results in increased productivity and reduced labor costs.
Another type of robot gaining popularity is the collaborative robot, or cobot, which is specifically designed for direct human-robot interaction. Cobots are relatively new but are projected to have exponential growth in the market, with an estimated worth of nearly $2 billion by 2026, up from $590.5 million in 2020. Industry experts predict that by 2025, 34% of industrial robots sold will be cobots. Cobots are cost-effective, safe, and flexible, making them an ideal tool for small and mid-sized manufacturers to modernize their operations, reduce redundant tasks, improve productivity, and achieve peak performance.
To learn more about the impact of repetitive tasks in manufacturing and how technology can counter them, please refer to the infographic below:
Repetitive Tasks in Manufacturing from Acieta, a manufacturing robotic company
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Warehouses are at the core of order fulfillment. The quality of your delivery can only be as good as the extent of your warehouse’s efficiency. If you are not running a tight ship at the warehouse and making each second count, you will have difficulty with receiving inventory in time, shipping your order as per customer expectations, extracting optimal worker productivity, and managing your costs.
The faster things move at the warehouse, the happier your customers will be and the lower your costs become, all of which feeds back to more growth for your business. Here are some practical time-saving tips that can help you get the most out of your warehouse.
1. Set Aside Space for High Volume Product
Different products will have different levels of order volume. Many times, products will follow the 80-20 principle. The majority of deliveries will involve just a couple of products. Instead of giving equal treatment and space to all products, it would be more efficient to allocate warehouse space and other resources in line with order volume.
If you are running warehouse management software, you can access reports that show you the products that comprise the majority of orders. Next, set aside a section of the warehouse for your high-volume products that would allow your staff to process orders with minimal distractions. No need for them to move back and forth past stretches of low-volume products in order to reach the high-volume items.
Ideally, this high order volume section should be nearest to the packing stations so your pickers are walking shorter distances per order. If you’re using dynamic slotting, consider adding extra physical space around these shelves to accommodate shifting patterns of greater traffic.
2. Organize Workstations and Layout for the Workflow
Setting aside dedicated space is not the only way the arrangement of your warehouse can help cut down processing times. Think about inventory receipt and customer order workflows when determining the layout and the arrangement of workstations at the warehouse. Minimize the amount of time workers spend looking for tools, reaching out for equipment or handing orders to the next team by ensuring employee workstations are positioned near the resources, departments and vendors they work with.
Workstation organization also helps reduce clutter, minimize errors, lower inventory loss, break bottlenecks, slash pick-up times, maximize storage use, enhance safety and strengthen the overall organization. Yes, that’s a lot. But if you doubt any of those claims, it’s time to reorganize your picking stations.
3. Leaner Inventory
Lean inventory is not just a good strategy for manufacturing. It is just as important for warehouse operations. Aside from space, cost, and cash flow benefits that come with maintaining only as much product as you need, there are time savings as well.
Think about the time it takes to work your way around a warehouse with thousands of boxes compared to one with hundreds. Leaner inventory ensures you can get to what you need quicker and have the product out the door faster by minimizing the distances staff have to move to process orders. The difference of dozens of seconds or a couple of minutes may not seem much on its own but these micro-savings quickly add up in the grand scheme of performance.
While an industry-wide best practice before COVID, we now see some threats here. So the new lean goal is to have enough product to fill orders through the longest lead time you’ve experienced for a resupply.
Human error and fatigue are key barriers to timely fulfillment. The lower the degree of human intervention in the process, the higher the capability to fulfill orders in good time. Automation here would be in both mechanical and software form. You could, for instance, install a conveyor belt to speed up the process of moving items from one section of the warehouse to another.
Invest in warehouse management software as well that enables both high-level and detailed views of warehouse activity and inventory in near real-time. Such systems also enhance efficiency by identifying the most ideal methods and routes for fulfillment. They can send out automated notifications to smartphones and other mobile devices thus cutting down the time it would take to manually distribute pick lists.
5. Plan for Reverse Logistics
The warehouse is not all about receiving fresh inventory from manufacturers/distributors and sending out products to customers. As long as the warehouse is aiding the fulfillment of online orders, there will be returns when a customer finds that the product was not as per their expectation. There will also be recalls due to defects as well as returns from end-of-life products.
Known as reverse logistics, this process can introduce hurdles if not well managed even if your outbound process is working seamlessly. Everything is, after all, happening under the same roof so inefficiencies in reverse logistics will inevitably affect the time you dedicate to outbound fulfillment.
Address reverse logistics by developing effective intake, repair and/or recycling mechanisms for returns. Set aside space to inspect returns and determine whether the item should be placed back in inventory, repaired, recycled or disposed of at a discount.
6. Review Performance Regularly
Warehouse activity will not remain at the same level all year. For instance, the products classified as high volume won’t necessarily be static. It is possible for you to have a different set of products at a high volume at the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year. Regularly evaluate your warehouse operations and explore ways of making the process more efficient.
If you do not regularly review activity and performance, what may have been set up to improve efficiency may gradually become a barrier to maximizing time savings. By identifying emerging inefficiencies, you can make changes as and where needed to make things better.
Identify and set key performance indicators that become benchmarks for your routine reviews. Make adjustments when performance falls below the desired target including applying new ideas for inventory management.
These tips for improving warehouse efficiency are relatively straightforward. Some of them such as planning the layout and setting aside space for high order products require hardly any investment to do. Get all these six right and observe your warehouse efficiency rise as turnaround times fall.
*This article is written by Jake Rheude. Jake is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.
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As long as we have transported goods from place to place, we have had to figure out how to keep track of those goods. Warehouse management is the modern iteration of this pursuit, and there has never been a better time to manage this work efficiently and effectively. However, not all warehouses take advantage of the technology that makes this efficiency possible.
Here’s a look at how technology can benefit your warehouse and help your business run at its absolute best.
Learn how to eliminate wasteful practices and procedures in your supply chain by partnering with USC Consulting Group. Call 800.888.8872 to schedule a consultation.
Protecting Your Information
Some warehouse owners and managers assume that bringing in more technology will make them more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Although there is an element of truth to this idea, the simple fact of the matter is if you use any technology at all – which, these days, you most certainly do – you are already vulnerable to hackers and other malicious parties. Rather than shirking further technological advancements, the solution is to be proactive on cybersecurity.
After all, small businesses are some of the most likely targets for cyber attacks. Many entrepreneurs assume their business will be safe, simply because it doesn’t have the funds to provide a large payout. Businesses that do have those funds, however, such as banks and investment firms, typically have very tight cyber security. Attacks on these businesses are more likely to fail as a result, making mid-size businesses an attractive option.
Since cybersecurity is an ever-changing game, work with a knowledgeable, established team to keep your protocols up-to-date. You can even look into hiring an “ethical hacker.” There are trusted hackers for hire who will do their best to break your security efforts to ensure they’re sufficient and identify any weak spots. This can be an absolute life-saver, especially if you have any subtle issues you and your security team may not have spotted otherwise.
Tracking Your Inventory
At the end of the day, your business is all about making sure you know what items are going where, and when. Many inventory management companies rely primarily on barcodes to keep this work moving. However, Explainthatstuff notes they come with plenty of drawbacks. First and foremost, barcodes can be difficult to scan. They rely heavily on lighting and angles, and these factors aren’t always consistent from print to print. They’re also easily compromised if scratched or damaged.
These issues are surmountable, obviously, but they can slow workers down and leave them frazzled and frustrated. Switching to RFID-based tracking can speed your work up significantly, as this method is far more consistently effective. You can track more inventory faster, with fewer complications along the way. This will lead to quicker and more accurate inventory reads, making your warehouse run smoother than ever.
Chances are good that you are more than aware of how helpful it can be to reduce man hours and human error via automation. But you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that you don’t need to invest in robotics to add automation to your warehouse.
At the heart of effective inventory management, there are technology solutions like inventory software that can help automate your processes. From real-time inventory tracking to improved communication to faster customer fulfillment, by investing in the right software, you can bring your warehouse into the automated age. It’s also crucial that you analyze all your inventory data to learn where you can make improvements. Look for data analysis professionals—you can find data analytics companies through online job sites where you can learn about their ratings, rates, and experience.
Facilitating Employee Success
Finally, there are many technologies out there that can help you make sure your employees are given the best opportunities to reach their full potential. For example, you can invest in training software that takes your workers through everything they need to know to thrive in the warehouse. This can be especially useful when it comes to safety procedures and other aspects of the work that need to be approached collaboratively and cohesively.
Putting off new technology keeps your company from reaching its best potential. We hope this article has helped you see some of the benefits your warehouse can reach by working in some of the latest tech. Take advantage of innovation, and your business can thrive!
*This article was written by Dean Burgess. Dean runs Excitepreneur, which celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurs. He understands that there are many types of entrepreneurs, and strives to provide helpful information to assist them in achieving their particular idea or goal.
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As America dusts off and gets back to business as usual, what can the food and beverage industry expect to find on the road ahead for the latter half of 2021? While some 60% of manufacturers and processors, including F&B, report being impacted by the pandemic (we’d put that figure a lot higher, frankly), demand for products in many, if not all, sectors is beginning to surge. Roaring ’20s, here we come.
So, what does that mean for F&B? According to the 2021 Manufacturing Outlook Survey by Food Processing magazine, the industry is cautiously optimistic. Here are some quick takeaways from that survey:
- 58% of food manufacturers were very or somewhat optimistic about 2021.
- 41% plan to staff up while 44% will maintain current staffing levels.
- 41% plan to increase production and add lines or plants, while 35% will maintain current production levels.
All of that points to good news. Here at USC Consulting, we don’t exactly have a crystal ball, but we are seeing some other trends emerging for F&B as well. Let’s take a closer look.
Were supply chain disruptions a good thing?
OK, hear us out. Nobody is a fan of supply chain disruptions. The unprecedented level of disruption of the pandemic caused inordinate headaches, work stoppages and all kinds of other problems. But it also forced manufacturers of all stripes to focus on efficiency and agility, create new processes and procedures, find alternate routes on their supply chains and a host of other things. The key was finding ways to pivot quickly. Carrying forward some of those lessons learned can make your operations more efficient and leaner than before. Another way disruption might ultimately impact F&B is the trend toward more localized production. On the consumer side of the F&B industry, it’s been about farm-to-table for a while. It may slide into the manufacturing and processing side as well, with good reason. Global supply chains may remain unreliable for the near future.
Automation is here to stay.
Many F&B manufacturers and processors relied on automation on the line to get the job done with fewer people, due to layoffs and social distancing restrictions. All signs point to this trend being permanent. This is not replacing people with machines. It’s using technology to help people do their jobs on the line faster, more efficiently and with less repetitive injuries than before. Automation also creates new work and new ways to work. All of this is an acceleration of the Industry 4.0 revolution that started a few years back with the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s about interconnectivity. A new term is coming into play: smart manufacturing.
Increases in process efficiency.
Making operations more efficient with the goal of increasing throughput for the long term is the core of our business. Every company out there wants to be more efficient, do more with the assets they have or do the same with less. Competing in the post-pandemic marketplace, when hiring is tight, low-end jobs remain unfilled, and demand is rising, means that being as lean and efficient as possible isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a vital necessity.
A heightened focus on forecasting and demand planning.
We recommend a process we call SIOP to get the clearest look at your operations now and down the road. It helps companies make better strategic decisions. The common version of this process is sales and operations planning. We think it misses a critical piece of the puzzle: inventory. Adding inventory into the mix is just one additional step, but we find it can be the key to the whole thing. When you’re focusing on inventory, it requires more careful planning and elevates the entire planning process up a notch. We like to tell our clients that the purpose of SIOP is making sure you’re having the right conversations about the right things at the right time. And getting what you need when you need it.
According to the survey, other issues on the minds of F&B manufacturers in 2021 include food safety, worker safety and cost control. Ultimately, it boils down to better, more efficient processes, and a leaner, more agile operation that increases throughput and cuts expenses.
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping companies do just that for half a century. If you’re interested in talking with us about how to position your F&B operation for the future, contact us today.
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In 2020, business as usual was thrown out the window. Companies in all industries needed to make changes on a dime.
For manufacturing, that meant slowdowns in production caused by various factors including delays in getting workers on and off the shop floor due to COVID-19 protocols, and socially distant spacing resulting in fewer people on the floor at one time. COVID-closed borders disrupted supply chains industrywide, forcing manufacturers to look outside the box for new supply sources and causing further delays getting product to consumers. Outright shutdowns. Layoffs.
There were other sorts of changes that didn’t involve production. People who could work at home, did. Business travel ground to a halt. And companies started thinking more and more about automation.
As 2020 drew to a close and the COVID-19 vaccine became a reality, we began to see light at the end of this socially distanced tunnel. It’ll be awhile until we can get out from under this pandemic, but manufacturers are already looking at what the landscape might be once the dust settles and the pandemic is over.
Some of the changes brought about by COVID will surely be permanent. In our whitepaper, The State of Manufacturing Operations: Then, Now and What Comes Next, we analyzed where manufacturing is today, and where it might go in the future. Here’s what our crystal ball, based on our half-century in the business, found:
If companies brought in automation, it’s here to stay. The efficiencies realized by automating manufacturing tasks will boost companies’ bottom lines. AI will help speed production and guard against the downtimes and downturns that manufacturing experienced because of COVID if another pandemic hits our shores. These changes aren’t just affecting people on the production lines. Office tasks will increasingly be automated, too.
Less business travel
Why take days to travel across the country for a meeting, incurring expenses like gas or plane fares, hotel rooms and meals on the road, when you can accomplish the same thing with a Zoom meeting before lunch? The savings companies will realize by limiting or eliminating business travel are enormous and will have a substantial effect on their bottom lines. We can see the end of the “road warrior” era on the horizon.
More working from home
People’s lives and structures have changed because of COVID-19. Employees who never worked at home before were suddenly forced to do so because of the lockdown, and it opened a lot of eyes. Employers who previously required “face time” in the office found that employees were just as productive, or even more so, at home. And employees found they like working from home. The lack of the daily commute alone is a great benefit, reducing people’s stress levels, giving them more time in their day, and increasing happiness. Working at home increases work/life balance. Why go to the office if you’re not physically using a wrench?
Changes in operations
COVID has forced everyone to put a laser focus on safety and efficiencies. Many of the new safety protocols arose from the need to find new ways of doing the same processes, with new efficiencies emerging as a result.
We will see a resurgence of brick-and-mortar transactions, to be sure. But now that people have been used to buying online, why go back to the old way? The effect is cutting out the middleman.
New sources in the supply chain
Manufacturing has lived through the disruption of supply chains caused by COVID, found new partners, new sources of materials and product, and new ways of meeting the demand. Where can you source products if the borders close again?
Permanent changes in manufacturing after COVID:
- More automation
- Less business travel
- More working from home
- Changes in operations
- Less brick-and-mortar
- New sources in the supply chain
At USC Consulting, we’re boots on the ground for the manufacturing industry, before, during and after this pandemic. Get in touch to find out more.
For more information on The State of Manufacturing Operations, download our free whitepaper here.
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Vaccine rollout is well underway in the U.S., painting a positive picture for the future. Still, it will take time for everyone to be fully vaccinated, and even then, COVID-19 safety protocols could linger for a while. In the meantime, workplaces can turn to automation to improve their anti-COVID-19 measures.
Temperature checks, social distancing, and mask mandates have become standard across many businesses. While necessary, enforcing these protocols can limit facilities’ productivity, as they rely on staff who could otherwise work on value-adding tasks. Since many companies had to reduce their active workforce by 39% on average, they need to improve productivity wherever possible.
Automating COVID-19 safety protocols also further removes employees from situations where they could contract the virus. Automation minimizes or eliminates close contact between workers during things like temperature checks.
Here’s how you can automate COVID-19 safety measures to stay safe and raise productivity.
1. Install Body Temperature Cameras
Temperature checks are one of the most common anti-COVID-19 measures, but they typically require close contact. Some businesses have found a way around this by installing thermal camera systems by employee entrances. These systems, which resemble metal detectors, scan worker temperatures as they walk, alerting relevant parties if they’re feverish.
Setting these systems up may be expensive at first, but you gain productivity in the process. The employee who would’ve performed temperature checks can instead work as usual, making your workplace more productive. Since these cameras can scan 30 people at once, they’re also more efficient than human-run checks.
Similar cameras throughout the workspace can detect if an employee develops a high temperature at work. You can then investigate further to determine if they need to go home or not.
2. Distribute Wearables for Social Distancing
Maintaining at least a 6-foot distance between workers is another crucial step in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks. Instituting a social distancing policy by itself isn’t enough to ensure people stay distant. It’s not economical to have managers monitor employees, either, so automation is the ideal solution.
Many warehouses and factories have turned to wearable technology to facilitate social distancing. These devices alert employees when they come within six feet of one another through noises and vibrations. These alerts are particularly helpful in areas with limited visibility where workers may not see each other.
You can’t expect to enforce social distancing by having managers roam the workspace. They can’t feasibly cover enough ground, and they could be working on more valuable tasks instead. Using wearables to maintain distance lets you keep employees safe without sacrificing productivity.
3. Use AI Cameras to Detect Masks
Masks are one of the simplest yet most effective ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Like with other regulations, though, mask mandates are only effective to the extent that employees comply with them. AI-enabled camera systems can detect if workers are wearing masks or not.
Machine vision systems can analyze video footage to see if anyone isn’t wearing a mask when they should be. You could deploy these with facial recognition to identify non-masked employees, but you may run into privacy concerns. An alternative would be a system that alerts managers when someone isn’t wearing a mask so they can look into it.
No matter what type of cameras you use, you should make sure your employees know about it. Privacy laws forbid employers from placing hidden cameras in private areas, and workers must know if and when you are recording them. Keep these factors in mind so you can protect employees from COVID-19 while preserving privacy rights.
4. Employ Sanitation Robots
Sanitation has found itself in the spotlight throughout the pandemic. Many businesses have adopted new cleanliness standards to eliminate cross-contamination and disease spreading through shared surfaces. Most companies pursue this by hiring cleaning crews or requiring workers to clean more frequently, which isn’t efficient.
A more cost-effective measure is to use sanitation robots. These automated cleaners are typically expensive but represent savings in the long run. Some take just 12 minutes to disinfect an area that would take a human worker more than an hour.
When you factor in how much it would take to pay a cleaning service over several months, the robots are more cost-efficient. Automation in this area also keeps people away from potentially contaminated surfaces, improving workplace health.
5. Implement Access Controls
Knowing where all employees are at any given time facilitates easier and more accurate contact tracing. Partitioning a workspace into separate zones can also help enable social distancing. To enforce these protocols more efficiently, you can use electronic access controls.
You can install locks that only open when workers scan their IDs. When employees have to scan into an area, you have a record of who was where if an outbreak occurs. You can then alert any other employees who might’ve contracted the virus so they can quarantine.
You could post workers by the doors to record who goes in and out, but that would be highly inefficient. Automatic access controls help ensure everyone working that day is adding value to the company.
Automation Improves Safety and Efficiency Amid COVID-19
Automating COVID-19 safety protocols lets you stay safe and maintain productivity. These solutions may come at a higher upfront cost, but their safety and efficiency benefits are impossible to ignore. They will also continue to help after the pandemic fades, ensuring productivity while preventing diseases like the flu.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many businesses, but you can take measures to mitigate it. These five automation options will help keep your employees safe and efficient.
This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in the IIot and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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When the general public hears the word “warehouse,” they most likely envision a rather low-tech environment. After all, a warehouse is but a large building filled with shelves and boxes, right? That may have been true in the past, but today these facilities are on the cutting edge of technology in a big way.
The demands of e-commerce and the impact it has had on traditional retail have made speed and efficiency absolutely essential. Warehousing is a critical link in the supply chain, and as such it needs to adopt every technological advantage to keep up with consumers’ expectations.
What Warehousing Looks Like Today
Far from the dusty, quiet spaces many people might imagine, the warehouses of today are extremely high-tech environments. They need to be, with thousands of SKUs on the shelves and just as many orders pouring in every day. The technology these operations employ take many forms, from handheld scanners to robotic arms to cloud-based software platforms. What they all have in common, however, is a focus on improving the flow of orders and goods through the supply chain.
For instance, one of the most conspicuous additions to these facilities in recent years is the autonomous vehicle. Driven automatically by computers, these motorized carts and forklifts are now responsible for much of the heavy lifting in many warehouses. Because they don’t require operators and can work around the clock, they have been a crucial factor in improving productivity and efficiency in many buildings.
Another recent development is the introduction of wearable devices that keep personnel connected to a centralized system at all times. One primary example is voice picking, which directs workers to items to be picked through computer-generated verbal instructions delivered over a headset. This results in more efficiency, less paperwork and up-to-the-minute information. Plus, it keeps workers’ hands free to do their jobs more effectively.
Envisioning the Future of Warehouses
As the speed of commerce continues to increase and consumers rely on more online shopping, the need for high-tech solutions in the warehouse is only increasing. Even if most facilities don’t use artificial intelligence or handheld devices right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t.
To learn more about common technologies that are transforming the warehousing industry, take a look at the accompanying infographic. It details some of the most popular and powerful devices and concepts that are expected to have a significant impact now and in the near future.
The Warehouse of the Future from The Numina Group
The future is now in many cases, but if your organization needs a helping hand to affect positive change in your operations please give us a call. We can improve your process efficiency, inventory management, and guide your team into the future.
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“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” — Winston Churchill
Churchill said this famous line as World War II neared its end. It’s inspiring for many reasons, chief among them the optimism that comes from looking for a silver lining in the darkest of clouds. The manufacturing industry, and indeed our world, has been engulfed by a different type of dark cloud during the pandemic. Some businesses have closed. Others have had to pivot in response to COVID-19 challenges. The supply chain has been disrupted. Production has slowed. Demand is all over the place. Employees are wondering if their jobs are safe. What would Churchill say now?
At USC Consulting, we’d like to think he would have retained that sense of optimism. Yes, we’ve been through a trial by fire. And it’s not quite over yet. But great opportunities may arise from the ashes. Changes made on the fly in response to COVID might actually lead the manufacturing industry to bounce back stronger, leaner and more efficient than before.
The subject matter experts at USC Consulting Group have analyzed and explored the state of manufacturing operations today in search of a silver lining to our current landscape. From our findings, we have compiled a detailed white paper “The State of Manufacturing Operations: Then, Now and What Comes Next.” In this white paper, we provide an overview of our research as well as identify the challenges and issues manufacturers are facing now. Plus, we shine up our crystal ball to take a look at what might be coming down the pike in the future. No doubt that 2020 was a bumpy ride. But we just might be happy with the destination.
Download White Paper
No doubt, 2020 was a trial by fire for the manufacturing industry. But out of that crisis, opportunities for positive change have emerged. Many manufacturing businesses are rethinking everything from their supply chains to employees working at home to business travel. Change is coming to this traditional industry, change for the better.
If your business is ready to adopt to positive change and become more efficient, please contact us today.
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If you’re like most manufacturers, your supply chain has been disrupted by COVID-19, especially if much of that supply came from China or Southeast Asia. Supply disruptions and downright stoppage hit back in February 2020, and demand dried up when the economy shut down shortly thereafter. Many manufacturers felt that one-two punch deeply. The U.S.-China trade war and other trade restrictions didn’t help matters, either.
Harvard Business Review predicts that, when the dust settles, this situation is going to shake out in the following ways:
- It will be a competitive advantage for manufacturers to increase their domestic production and domestic jobs.
- Manufacturers may face pressure to reduce or eliminate suppliers that are perceived as “risky,” like China.
- Manufacturers may want to consider cutting down the inventory in their global supply chains.
That sounds about right to us. We would add “look for hidden opportunities for efficiency” to that list.
But no matter how your supply chain looks when we emerge from this pandemic (and we will emerge from it) one thing will be certain. Consumers will still want a fair, if not low, price for whatever it is you’re manufacturing. Just because their supply chain is different than it was before February 2020, it doesn’t mean prices can soar. That’s going to be the biggest challenge. Moving forward, it will be vital to focus on supply chain improvement to ensure the success of your operations.
The Institute for Supply Management agrees, saying purchasing managers at some of the largest manufacturing companies expressed ongoing unease about future shocks to their supply chain while they scramble to remedy current shortages.
If your company is in a similarly tenuous situation, we have some recommendations for you to help shore up your supply chain risks and mend a broken supply chain.
1. Enhance communication with both customers and suppliers
Touching base with partners more frequently to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings is one of the best things you can do now in this uncertain supply chain environment. This is true for your customers as well as your suppliers. Customers who have low switching costs will find alternatives to your product if competitors are able to more promptly satisfy demand. Customer service level expectations have been lowered for many hard-to-get items during the pandemic, but if your product isn’t prompt, communication should be. Courteous responsiveness goes a long way to ease customer impatience.
2. Focus on strategic sourcing
It’s about enhancing transparency by leveraging intelligent data to more effectively forecast shortages. Strategic sourcing focuses on the development of long-term supply relationships for operationally critical products and services. Start by assessing the reliability of your current suppliers. Understand your relative importance to them as a customer, as well as the risks they are experiencing with their suppliers. Assess alternative vendors and your readiness to pivot quickly to a new supplier. If there are multiple vendors for a key material, inquire regarding their capability to handle increased supply requirements. This will help you affect supply chain improvement.
3. Stop, look and listen
No supply chain is perfect. Take time to walk the floor to see what could use some fine-tuning. Simply using your senses — looking and listening — can quite literally be eye-opening. Your employees and your machines can tell you a great deal about your current state of operations.
4. Increase your inventory
Lean manufacturing and Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory principles have enabled manufacturers to significantly reduce operating expenses and increase profitability. However, JIT inventory inherently comes with increased risk of supply outages. During times of uncertainty, perform cost-benefit analysis by assessing the holding cost of increased inventory levels versus the likelihood and cost of production disruptions.
[While you should increase your inventory to mitigate risks, here are 5 Reasons Why You Need to Stick with Lean Manufacturing Principles]
5. Look for ways to automate
Identify opportunities to automate certain work processes, diminishing cycle time and enhancing throughput. It’s about ferreting out those hidden opportunities for greater efficiency in your processes. That’s our wheelhouse, enhancing a company’s operational efficiency working with their current assets.
6. Keep an eye on maintenance
This isn’t the time to let machinery run on autopilot. Keep a regularly occurring maintenance schedule to head possible equipment breakdowns off at the pass. You can significantly reduce the effects of machinery snafus on production output if you’re on top of maintaining those assets.
At USC Consulting group, we’ve spent more than 50 years focusing on supply chain improvement and optimization. We can help you reduce your risks and vulnerabilities, which will lead to a more resilient and solid supply chain. Get in touch today.
[For more information about supply chain management, read our blog, 4 Ways Manufacturers Can Perfect Their Supply Chain]
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