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New year; new heights

1/2/2018 12:00:00 AM by Kathryn Hyde

A new year brings a chance to do things differently and is the ideal time to take stock of your performance and set plans in motion for your vision for the year ahead. The best starting point is to analyse your current performance and identify any challenging areas. The areas for improvement will form your plan for the year ahead.

Here are some areas for consideration, and some questions you could ask yourself.

Have you optimised your warehouse layout?

It is important to continually assess how efficiently you use the space available to you. It may be that you have done this extensively before but that you have experienced a growth of volume or diversified your operations and the previous layout and methods are no longer the most effective.
Using a 3D simulation of your warehouse can demonstrate a flow of operations and identify where congestion or risks occur. It allows you to trial possible alternative layouts without commitment and is an excellent tool for demonstrating rationale for change and improvement.

Is your materials handling fleet working as hard for you as it could be?

Completing a fleet rationalisation involves looking at every piece of equipment you own and assessing how well it is performing for your business. Consider what equipment you are using, for what and when. If you have many pieces of similar equipment, are they in operation for a similar number of hours, or are some of them clocking up a much higher usage than others in the fleet? If so you may want to consider rotating the equipment as it will mean an even level of usage across the fleet and will help to avoid carrying out unnecessary repairs and maintenance on those fleet items that have experienced a much higher degree of wear and tear.

It might be that you have a number of different units that you use for very specific jobs at different times. Are you able to replace any of those with one unit that has multiple uses? This could prove more cost effective than having spare units including the cost of the lease, the cost of maintenance and saves precious space.

How visible is your fleet performance to you?

Did you know it is possible to track every aspect of your fleet’s performance from number of operational hours, to uptime, cost of repairs and servicing with figures from the entire fleet across multiple sites, by site and right down to each unique unit?

This information can be pulled into an online reporting system for you and puts the power completely in your hands to manage your fleet to its full potential. It helps you to recognise trends and identify unnecessary costs to the business and remedy them.

If a unit suffers breakdown, how quickly is it back up and running again?

For many operations accidental damage or the breakdown of a piece of equipment can seriously reduce productivity, and the longer the unit is out of operation the greater the impact. Think about the number of hours your fleet has been out of action over the course of the year. Could the number of hours been reduced by your internal team having faster access to report the issue or by your service supplier getting to your site more quickly?
How well were you covered by your current service plan for any issues you faced during the course of 2017? Do you need to enhance your support for the year ahead?

Are there any opportunities for safety gains?

As businesses grow, operations adapt and new staff members join the team, it is advised to reassess the safety of your environment. This is particularly important if you have operators carry out manual handling at height, or if there is high pedestrian traffic at a close proximity to handling equipment.

If your team is handling stock at height, are they able to access it with complete safety? You can reduce the risk of falls by introducing Mobile Elevated Work Platforms which provide a solid grounding for staff to stand on, are enclosed so that the operator can’t fall, and make handling stock easier as the height of the platform is highly adjustable.

Another example of a high risk situation is where there is the combination of high pedestrian traffic and a high noise environment. This can cause accidents at blind intersections as if pedestrians are not able to see or hear that equipment is exiting an aisle they may walk out in front of it. This risk can be reduced by adding Pedestrian Awareness Lighting (PAL) along with ‘red danger zone’ lighting to your equipment. The PAL provides advance warning of an approaching vehicle to pedestrians as a bright coloured light is projected onto the floor in front of the moving vehicle. The red danger zone lighting works as a reminder to pedestrians to keep clear of a moving vehicle, ensuring they keep a safe distance from the forklift. It projects a bright red or blue line on the floor around the vehicle as a guide and can be adjusted to the distance of your choice.

An additional safety consideration is the tidiness and cleanliness of your working environment. It is common sense that keeping a tidy work environment reduces safety hazards, but leaving debris over the warehouse floor can cause unnecessary damage to the equipment that drives over the top of it.
Give some thought to whether your current cleaning plan is sufficient and consistent. If not, is it worth employing somebody just to keep the premises clean and tidy, or should you contract the work out?

Of course you still need to ensure your cleaning equipment is fit for purpose and with a comprehensive range available that is suitable for every application from outdoors heavy duty cleaning and clearing of debris, to getting into the tightest of corners there is no reason you can’t achieve the ideal safe environment.

Is there a need for additional staff training?

People are the heart of every business, and ensuring that they have the right skills and equipment that they need to do their job is imperative. It might be that only a small number of staff members are trained to use a particular piece of equipment and their shift patterns dictate when they can be used and training additional members of staff will improve the flow of operations. It might be that natural staff turnover means specific skill sets have left the business and need to be reintroduced. It might even be that you have noticed damage is being caused to certain pieces of equipment. If this is the case providing additional training is a proactive approach and is likely to reap a cost saving in the longer term.

As your trusted materials handling advisor, Briggs Equipment can help you address all of these aspects and help you get ahead in the New Year.