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How Data, Automation, and Regulations Are Changing Manufacturing

The enormous demands of e-commerce are driving manufacturing plants to continuously expand storage capabilities and pick, slot, and load products faster. The cold food industry has always faced unique challenges when delivering to customers, but it has grown more complex in an age of quick turnover and delivering meal prep kits directly to a customer’s door. In addition to the refrigerated foods sector, other manufacturing industries are streamlining data analytics, automation, and improved safety regulations into their day-to-day operations.

Analyzing data

Data analytics have become a huge part of warehouse operations. The information collected influences the vast majority of management decisions. With data, managers can modify distribution centers according to customer purchasing habits and preferences. Additionally, data can highlight inefficiencies in picking and slotting strategies. Managing a fleet of wireless forklifts and collecting data from robot and AI systems can be expensive, but this technologically-driven practice provides unmatched insight into warehouse operations. Increased demand for products and their fast delivery means that warehouse managers will have to improve current sorting, picking, and slotting systems. Data analytics are the backbone of this advancement.

Incorporating automation

Automation is becoming a fixture of nearly every industry, and manufacturing is no exception. With automation, warehouses can operate 24/7 without compromising efficiency or productivity. Automated storage retrieval systems maintain a database of product locations that is updated in real-time. When the system receives a directive to ship out a particular item, it can quickly and accurately find and retrieve the product. Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, products in the warehouse are assigned a tag identifying both the item and its location. Automated systems can read the radio signals emitted by the products which leads the AI directly to the item it needs. Although expensive, automated systems have a lower margin of error and can operate for significantly longer hours than a human employee.

Developing regulations

Protecting the health and safety of workers is one of the most important aspects of the manufacturing industry. “There will be more workplace regulations considering the harsh environment, leading to worker fatigue due to heavy protective gear to combat the cold,” said Bob Hasenstab, general product manager at the Summerville, S.C. branch of KION North America. “Use dedicated ‘stay in’ equipment with freezer cabs that allow operators to work a full shift without more stoppage time. These heated cabs have features like dual-pane, shatterproof windows, heating strips with block-outs for scanners, heated seats, insulation and energy saving systems.” In an effort to increase employee comfort and productivity, many warehouses are adding heated seats, floorboards and drive handles to cabs.

KION North America is a member of the KION Group–a global leader in industrial trucks, related services and supply chain solutions.  We offer an impressive line of industrial forklifts including Linde and Baoli. Our sister company Dematic offers a comprehensive range of intelligent supply chain and automation solutions. For more information visit us at our website.

How Forklift Dealers and Manufacturers Expand the U.S. Economy

A new report by the International Truck Association (ITA) and Oxford Economics explains how forklift manufacturing brings in billions of dollars and almost 210,000 jobs into the U.S. economy. Overall, the industrial truck and forklift industry contributed $25.7 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2015. The industry also contributes to improving American services by paying $5.3 billion in taxes to local, state, and federal governments in 2015 alone. This massive industry has touched nearly every product sold in the United States at some point in its manufacturing or shipment.

Worker benefits

Industrial truck manufacturers directly employ around 60,000 people in positions such as sales, manufacturing, and customer support. Each worker directly employed by the industry supports 2.5 additional jobs in other economic sections. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that over 540,000 people are employed as forklift operators nationwide. Manufacturing jobs offer higher wages than the median income in most states. The industrial truck and forklift manufacturing employs more veterans than any other industry, according to the ITA and Oxford study.

Industry benefits

Without high-tech forklifts, warehousing giants such as Amazon would struggle to meet customers’ demands for fast shipping. An increase of two-day or overnight shipping orders means that Amazon needs organized warehouses and powerful forklifts that can keep inventory moving in and out. Food, furniture, transportation, and every other industry imaginable relies on forklifts and industrial trucks to meet customer demand.

Economic benefits

The industrial forklift and truck manufacturing sector also provides $3.5 billion to trade, transportation, and utilities. Forklifts have been compared to the “workhorses” of America in recognition of their enormous contributions to the transportation industry. Industrial forklift and truck manufacturing also contributes $2.1 billion in business and professional services. This industry employs far more than just drivers– managers, HR representatives, agents, janitors, and many more careers are all links in the chain. The truck and forklift manufacturing industry also funds  $1.1 billion in health and education services.

Forklifts power not just warehouses, but the entire world. Without the help of forklifts, anything from your morning cup of coffee, to your ride to work, to your dinner out would not be possible. At KION North America, we are committed to the continual improvement and advancement of the forklift industry. To learn more about our history and our mission, click here.

Creating a Slotting Strategy for Your Warehouse Inventory

Whether you are looking to increase profits or improve efficiency, regularly assessing your slotting strategy will help your warehouse meet customer demands and process as much inventory as possible. Efficient product placement reduces handling costs and allows for packages to move quickly in and out of the warehouse. When developing a slotting strategy for warehouse inventory, consider whether random, fixed, or dynamic slotting best meets your business’ needs.

Random slotting:

As the name implies, a random slotting method designates inventory to multiple picking locations. The advantage of random slotting is reducing replenishment time. If the inventory at one pick zone is running low, then it can be immediately collected from a new location. To design a warehouse with a random slotting strategy, build putaway lanes that directly lead to pick locations. However, the downside to this approach is that it is not always time-efficient. Inventory assigned to multiple pick locations will not move as quickly as it would under the fixed slotting method.

Fixed slotting:

With a fixed slotting approach, inventory is assigned to bins or specific locations and picked directly from there. Each pick slot will configure the minimum or maximum quantity of the item within its bin. If an order is placed that will deplete the item below its minimum fixed quantity, then a replenishment team will be dispatched to restock the product. New items are pulled from a reserve inventory and should be stored near the item’s fixed location.

Dynamic slotting:

Dynamic slotting is similar to random slotting since it doesn’t mandate a static location for inventory. Unlike random slotting, a dynamic approach uses Warehouse Management System software to calculate where to place items depending on their demand. If an item in your inventory is especially high-moving this week, then dynamic slotting will place it next to the shipping dock. These quick calculations are made through advanced software which can keep track of the demand for inventory in real-time. If inventory movement is very sensitive to changing conditions, such as consumer preference, then dynamic slotting may be the best strategy for your warehouse.

Regardless of which slotting approach you choose, it is important that your strategy is reducing the costs of manpower, maximizing storage space, and meeting inventory demand. An efficient slotting strategy should improve productivity and minimize replenishment runs. Coupled with the right slotting strategy, KION’s impressive brands of Linde and Baoli forklifts can help your warehouse increase its profits.

How to Use a Pallet Dispenser

A pallet dispenser is a simple, cost-effective machine which stacks pallets vertically and then dispenses them at ground level or on conveyor belts. The machines are easy to operate and reduce the risk of employee injuries. Incorporating pallet dispensers into warehouse operations lengthens the lifespan of pallets and increases productivity.

Almost all dispensers can work with wood, plastic, and CHEP pallets and can be customized to fit a range of sizes. Choose from manual or auto-loading dispensers based on your warehouse’s budget and size.

To stack pallets manually, use a pallet jack or forklift to insert pallets one-by-one. As each pallet is fed into the machine, it will lift the stack up to allow for another pallet to be inserted. When you’re ready to dispense the pallets, adjust the controls to allow you to pull out each pallet while the machine holds the remaining ones. You can also remove all of the pallets at once. Most machines hold 15-20 pallets.

More sophisticated machinery uses a conveyor belt to load and dispense the pallets.  This requires an operator at the controls instead of an employee on the ground. A pallet truck or a conveyor feeds a stack of pallets into an auto-loading machine. These pallets are stacked onto a forklift and can be dispersed by placing each pallet onto a conveyor belt and moving it to another location. Some automatic pallet dispensers can cycle through 360 pallets an hour—or roughly six per minute.

Load transfer stations use an automatic pallet dispenser to separate and dispense pallets. Advanced robotics can move boxes down conveyor belts, place the boxes onto the pallets, and prepare them for shipping. They can integrate with existing systems and provide a significant ROI if your warehouse moves large amounts of inventory.

Pallet dispensers require high-performance forklifts like those from our Linde and Baoli product lines. Contact one of our authorized dealerships for more information today.

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Warehouse

The biggest energy expense for warehouse operations is lighting, according to a study by Smart Energy Design. Packaging materials, cooling efforts, and failing to recycle are other monetary and environmental burdens. However, both companies and consumers are becoming more eco-conscious in the face of climate change and overflowing landfills. Investing in sustainable warehouse practices will lower costs, help the environment, and impress customers.

Use eco-packaging

Biodegradable packaging protects customers from potentially hazardous materials and prevents your business from incurring fines for violating environmental regulations. Even if you switch to eco-friendly packing materials, try to reduce the amount of packaging used in boxes. Lighter packages cost less to ship, and save money by avoiding excessive packaging.

Improve lighting fixtures

Your warehouse’s electricity use presents an opportunity to lower operational costs and help the environment. While upgrading to LED lighting or other energy saving fixtures is initially expensive, it can save your warehouse up to 80%  on utility bills. Another sustainable strategy is turning off and unplugging your equipment at night. Try plugging electronics into surge protectors so you aren’t stuck untangling a mess of cords.

Initiate recycling programs

Warehouses consume high volumes of paper and cardboard, but failure to recycle or reuse means that you’ll continue buying materials you don’t need. Initiating a recycling program will keep unnecessary waste from piling up in landfills, and promoting your sustainability efforts will draw customers to your business.

Install high volume, low speed fans

Installing HVLS fans in your warehouse can keep the AC turned off even during the hottest summer days. The integrated control system uses massive fans with a 24 foot diameter to move large volumes of air while maintaining low speeds. The fans can reduce cooling bills between 12% and 50% since they draw on less electricity.

At KION, we are the leading innovators in technology, sustainability, and efficiency. Contact an authorized KION North America dealership today to revolutionize your warehouse operations.

5 Technologies for Improving Warehouse Efficiency

Today’s digital world is connected by constant communication transmitted primarily through mobile devices. Ideally, warehouse operations can maximize efficiency and profitability utilizing these tools, but many managers of complex systems are slow to adopt new technologies. However, the rising cost of labor and an increasing demand for products means that going digital is more important than ever. Software, automation, mobile technology, voice controls, and RFID are rapidly expanding technologies promising efficient use of time, labor and money.

  1. Software

    Customers in the ecommerce market expect faster and faster deliveries, which means that warehouses are under immense pressure to receive, record, and distribute inventory. Fortunately, software companies provide an extensive line of products and may even offer free trials. Choosing the optimum software program for your warehouse can make or break a production line. Current software models will track inventory, respond to orders, and monitor productivity.

  2. Automation

    Increased labor costs have ignited the robotics development. Automation saves both time and money by fulfilling millions of orders with minimal overhead. Advanced technology is available at a relatively affordable price, which is attracting more and more managers to automate their production. Robotics also make fewer mistakes than human workers, which lowers the operational cost and increases customer satisfaction. An automated labor force minimizes safety hazards, since robots are less vulnerable to injury and also avoid dangerous errors.

  3. Mobile technology

    Mobile isn’t limited to your smartphone: cloud-based technology, wearable barcodes, and powerful tracking are revolutionizing warehouse operations. Cloud-based storage is self-updating and doesn’t require the installation of a new, expensive system. A mobile barcode device is another timesaver as it automatically scans items as employees process them. Employees can review packing lists, locate inventory, and scan items hands-free. Advanced tracking methods with a mobile device can help prevent lost or forgotten merchandise.

  4. Voice controls

    With voice-controlled technology, spoken commands dictate when to replenish inventory or change the warehouse’s shipping methods. Voice controls improve picking productivity and accuracy, require less training to operate, and a bring a higher ROI. Voice controls can track operations in real-time and easily communicate with other warehouse distribution channels. As the size of warehouses expand to meet rising consumer demand, mobile devices and digital interfaces will make instant communication with employees at different locations possible.

  5. RFID

    With voice-controlled technology, spoken commands dictate when to replenish inventory or change the warehouse’s shipping methods. Voice controls improve picking productivity and accuracy, require less training to operate, and a bring a higher ROI. Voice controls can track operations in real-time and easily communicate with other warehouse distribution channels. As the size of warehouses expand to meet rising consumer demand, mobile devices and digital interfaces will make instant communication with employees at different locations possible.

Improve warehouse efficiency with technologically advanced material equipment from our Linde, Baoli, and STILL product line, and supply chain solutions from Dematic. Contact a KION Dealer representative today.