Easy ways to increase your materials handling efficiency

May 31, 2019

three plastic bins

We’ve been in business for over a century now here at Excelsior, with many years of success behind us in using our rotomoulding plastic manufacturing processes to create reliable, durable products for our clients. Some of the most popular products in our standard range include our materials handling containers, which are used typically used alongside a variety of other vital warehouse equipment. If your business uses a warehouse or similarly expansive premises, it can always be helpful to know how to streamline your own materials handling efficiency, and we’ve got a couple of great suggestions on how you can do it!

Consider new layout options

A poorly-laid out warehouse can be more time consuming and difficult to navigate than it necessarily needs to be. Taking the time to restructure it can be time-consuming in itself and very disruptive, we’ll grant you, but it can easily pay off in the end. One of the measures you might want to think about is having narrower aisles to pack more into the space. Obviously if you go down this route you’ll have to ensure that it’s still safe for your employees to navigate. To facilitate this, you can think about specialised machinery like narrow aisle forklifts.

Speaking of your employees, you can also look on an even broader scale, by re-routing your foot or vehicle traffic. If your employees have to cross each other’s paths in different directions on a regular basis it’s bound to slow them down, so try and have a good flow of movement which has as many people as possible going in the same direction. You can use clear labels like tapes or signage to signal to employees which way they should ideally be moving.

Make sure you have the right equipment to hand

One of our latest posts explored the importance of having the right equipment to hand in your warehouse. As well as loose objects though, you’ll also want to think about its general infrastructure. Vehicle-mounted technology, for example, can save massive amounts of time and enable you to be exponentially more productive. For example, you can outfit your forklifts to enable your drivers to broadcast or receive information from throughout the facility, enabling better communication between employees and the timely preparation of certain sites. Vertical carousels are another common measure, which cut the amount of walking required and saves a lot of effort for employees.

Keep a log of everything – record, refer and optimise

If you’re trying to streamline efficiency in your warehouse, the importance of recording detailed data can’t be overstated. You’ll want to keep a note of man hours, timelogs and how they all compare to each other as you introduce or phase out different measures (for example, like trying out new layouts as we covered above).

Another aspect worth recording is how often particular items are touched and moved. Some experts recommend limiting human contact with certain items as much as possible, which supposedly minimises the chances of human error. Different employers have various views on that, so we’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that one, but there’s no doubt that keeping logs is invaluable for helping you to spot inefficiencies. While you’re at it, it’s also worth ensuring that everything is properly labelled, so that you can track the flow of materials and work out where you can make improvements and time savings.

Switch up your staffing procedures

Again, measures to do with staffing can be heavily dependent on the structure of your individual business, as well as the number and abilities of the staff themselves. Some experts advise using particularly experienced employees in receiving, as they know your products and understand the stocking system better than anyone else. You might also want to consider using different shifts for shipping and receiving, as it halves your staging area requirements and allows a single team to do the job more efficiently. Although as we’ve just mentioned, you might find this a more or less effective way of doing things, depending on how your business works. It’s always worth experimenting!

You’re the best judge to decide which of these measures (if any) produce tangible results for your company, but if you’ve got the time and flexibility to try out different measures, we’d suggest these ones first! And if you need some equipment to help you achieve your goals, you can find some perfect products right here at Excelsior. As well as our materials handling products, we also stock handy products like our safety steps, and can produce bespoke plastic pieces using our roto moulding plastic manufacturing processes. You can find out what sorts of products can be made with rotomoulding, or give us a call on 0161 275 2010 to see what we can do for you!