There have been so many unforeseen changes in the last three years for manufacturing, and it’s forced the industry to change quite quickly. This has led many manufacturers to consider the best way to avoid getting caught short in another potential disruption.
One solution? Future-proofing. Future-proofing in manufacturing refers to adapting warehouse and business practices to adapt to the nature of the changing industry landscape. Manufacturers who could not keep up with the demands of the e-commerce boom in 2020 and 2021 suffered greatly, which offered a lesson – those who were behind the times would be left behind.
It’s time for manufacturers to take a proactive approach and update their processes to adapt to the new demands of the industry quickly. Let’s consider some of the best ways to accomplish this:
Transitioning to Smart Warehousing
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your current warehouse process. But even if it’s worked in the past, it may not be doing you any favors now.
Manufacturers working to stay ahead of the curve are focused on future-proofing their technological and operational systems. This can be accomplished by implementing smart warehousing methods.
Smart warehouses use automated tools or machinery to improve their process, inventory management and employee tasks. It’s proven to help in several manufacturing and warehousing areas, including minimizing picking or shipping errors, reducing the likelihood of employee accidents, and increasing operational efficiencies.
Let’s look at some of those smart warehousing methods:
- Warehouse Management Systems: WMS comprises software, hardware, and processes that allow warehouses to manage operations from when materials arrive until they are shipped out. Centralizing the information makes tracking inventory, pulling goods and shipping products more efficient.
- Enterprise Resource Planning: ERP is a management software designed to boost your facility’s efficiency. It centralizes the information needed to create a bill of materials for each project, route and pick materials for assembly, produce work orders and monitor quality assurance.
- Industrial Internet of Things: Industrial Internet of Things is a technology-driven approach that uses interconnected IoT devices to make the manufacturing process “smart.” For example, sensors placed on manufacturing machines gather data to help you understand how they perform. This allows manufacturers to optimize their maintenance process, reduce machine downtime and even predict when things will go wrong.
- Tech Wearables: Tech wearables can be a game-changer for picking process. For example, employees wear headsets connected to voice-activated technology. This way, they can receive picking instructions via an automated voice without needing to circle back or refer to paperwork.
- Radio Frequency Identification: Instead of labels or barcodes, manufacturing plants are placing RFID tags on materials as soon as they enter the facility. RFID tags enable you to track materials through all manufacturing process components. This tracking allows for easier identification of bad batches of parts, helping to improve quality assurance.
These tools are a way for manufacturers to streamline their systems, boost their output and keep their employees safer and less at risk for burnout.
Optimizing Manufacturing and Picking Process
It may not just be your management systems that are holding you back. Don’t hesitate to review your current operational methods and how your products get out the door from start to finish.
Handling issues proactively, such as lack of floor space and too much inventory, can keep you ready to navigate any changing industry standards or demands that may be coming in the future. If you’re looking to transition to different systems, we suggest:
- Lean Manufacturing: Lean manufacturing is designed to eliminate waste in manufacturing warehouses, which can be defined in terms of time, inventory and cost. Its goal is to maximize productivity and quality.
- Cellular Manufacturing: Cellular manufacturing offers increased efficiency and control over the entire production process. Rather than processing multiple parts before sending them on to the next machine, cellular manufacturing aims to move products through the manufacturing process one piece at a time, determined by customers’ needs.
There’s also ample opportunity to future-proof your facility by reassessing your picking system. Through this, you can identify the steps or parts that are no longer working. Optimizing that process will help reduce waste, increase productivity and make it easier for your employees to do their jobs.
Different methods of picking processes include:
- Wave Picking: An employee can pick items to fill one order through one trip through the warehouse.
- Batch Picking: An employee can pick items to fill multiple orders (in batches) through one trip around the warehouse.
- Zone Picking: Employees can be assigned to specific zones, where they are only responsible for picking order items in their zone.
By reconsidering the way their warehouse and employees function, manufacturers can not only optimize their efficiency in the moment and the future.
Staying sustainable is a significant step toward future-proofing for manufacturers. It ensures they’ll be able to continue working efficiently without severely impacting our changing environment. Sustainable warehousing can reduce energy costs, improve efficiency and boost your bottom line.
Sustainability in warehouses can look like:
- Reducing Energy Consumption: This can be achieved by turning off applications and warehousing equipment, installing an enterprise-level energy management system, using efficient lighting and minimizing air infiltration.
- Eliminating Waste: A reported 67% of warehouse waste can be reduced. Warehouses can decrease this wasteful impact by recycling, reducing inventory and paper waste, and investing in automation.
- Reducing Excessive Employee Motion: Sustainability also relates to your employees. With a labor shortage and the likelihood of employee burnout increasing, manufacturers need to consider keeping their team members safe and healthy for the long run.
Industrial Manipulators and Handlers
Having technology that can remain useful for the years to come is crucial when it comes to future-proofing. Large machinery is a hefty investment, so manufacturers should be confident that they’ll see a positive ROI in the long run.
Material handlers like industrial manipulators can be customized to a warehouse’s specific needs. This means that these machines will be relevant and valuable for manufacturers longer, saving money and continuing to streamline efficiency.
Industrial Manipulators increase productivity and lower injury risks, helping your company strive toward optimization. These handlers are ideal for instances when:
- A product is too heavy for a person to move manually.
- A product must be moved to a not easily or quickly accessible location for a person to reach (like a very tall shelf).
- A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually.
- A person will quickly fatigue from moving products manually.
- A high volume of products must be transported in a timely fashion.
With high-quality, durable and customized industrial manipulators, manufacturers can ensure several years of successful material handling going forward.
Future-Proof with Industrial Manipulators
Don’t wait until it’s too late to prepare your warehouse for the future. By updating your management technology, optimizing your production process, investing in sustainability and working with flexible, reliable industrial manipulators, you can set yourself up for success regardless of what innovations or trends may come your way.
Ready to work with industrial manipulators customized for your warehouse? Talk to our experts today to find the right solution for you.