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Combating the Manufacturing Labor Skills Shortage

The manufacturing industry boomed throughout the 20th century, providing 19 million jobs during its peak in the 1970s. Today, however, manufacturing is experiencing a labor skills shortage, despite the prevalence of jobs in the field. With many baby boomers retiring, manufacturers are struggling to recruit millennials.

Manufacturing jobs appear not to have the same appeal to the latest generation to enter the workforce, forcing companies to find new ways to recruit talent.

Partnering with colleges

Millennials grew up in the digital age, so they’re comfortable withand interested in technology. To match millennials’ interests and promote manufacturing, colleges are starting to invest in manufacturing programs. The programs prepare students to work with manufacturing systems and develop the skills required of the field. Colleges across the country are participating by creating programs and degrees in manufacturing, dedicating millions towards training, offering certification from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, and more.

Redefining “manufacturing”

Many millennials are deterred from a career in manufacturing because they perceive it as hands-on work that’s “grimy and dangerous.” However, leaders in the field are changing the public’s perception of manufacturing through education. Millennials are the most educated generation, with around 61% having attended college, so they’re looking for a job where they can apply their knowledge. Manufacturing offers career opportunities in a wide array of fields, including but not limited to biochemistry, aerospace, industrial engineering, and supply chain management.

Embracing technology as a communication tool

While technology is advancing manufacturing, hands-on work is still necessary, which is where the majority of millennials lack crucial experience. This absence of apprenticeship among the next generation of manufacturers is called the skills gap. However, the gap can be filled through the use of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The system allows all employees to access important supply chain management information anytime they need it on any electronic device. The ERP will help reduce training time and close the skills gap.

Through education, embracing technology, and redefining common notions of manufacturing, it’s possible to reverse the existing labor skills shortage. Like the rest of the world, the manufacturing field is evolving with new, advancing technologies and practices every day. At KION North America, we not only want to recruit the next generation of manufacturers, but also get them excited about the industry and its plethora of opportunities.

Interested in a career in manufacturing? See if working at KION North America might be right for you.

Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Forklift

A forklift is more than just machine—it’s an investment for the good of your business. Purchasing a forklift is not a decision that should not be taken lightly. Every forklift model has its advantages and choosing the model that best suits your material handling needs takes time and careful consideration.

Asking the right questions is vital when investing in new equipment. Whatever your forklift needs may be, make sure to ask these five questions when considering your next purchase.

What is my budget?

Deciding on a budget will not only save you time and resources, but it will also narrow down your options. If you’re not sure whether purchasing a new forklift is the right option for you, other possibilities include leasing, renting or buying used.

While buying a used forklift may seem tempting, keep in mind that buying used means you’ll get shorter life out of the machine. A new forklift is a larger investment, but purchase ensures brand new parts.

Will I be driving the forklift inside or outside?

It’s important to know where you will be operating to determine what type of forklift you should purchase. Electric forklifts are often thought of for use indoors. However, a Linde forklift with its splash-proof electrical system can also be a great option for outdoor use.

When it comes to the difference between indoor and outdoor forklifts, it comes down to the tires versus the power source. Electric forklifts commonly have cushion tires, which are ideal for smooth surfaces or loading docks. They also offer a smaller turning radius and last longer than their pneumatic counterpart.

Internal combustion engine forklifts with pneumatic or super-elastic tires have strong traction on rough or uneven terrain, making them the perfect choice for outdoor applications like construction sites or lumber yards.

What are the maintenance costs?

Owning a forklift is a big responsibility, so make sure to ask about maintenance costs when considering the purchase of a new machine. Typically, there are two types of maintenance agreements that are offered by the forklift dealer.

Planned Maintenance (PM) is a basic plan that states the dealer will perform service to the forklift over a determined schedule. Full Maintenance (FM) charges the customer a monthly fee to cover breakdown and maintenance over a certain period.

Does the brand of forklift matter?

While it may be tempting to purchase a forklift based solely on price, the brand of forklift does in fact matter. You should never buy a forklift based on price alone. Brands like Linde and Baoli are backed by more than 100 years of material handling expertise, making them more reliable. Small or unknown brands may be less expensive, but what you may save in up-front price, you’ll most likely pay for in replacement parts when your forklift breaks down.

Should I try before I buy?

You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, and the same should apply when purchasing a forklift. Before purchasing, request a demo to test the machine in your facility. Test driving a forklift will give you a good idea of how well it functions and how suitable it is for your needs.

By asking these questions and talking to a knowledgeable dealer, you can be sure that you are making a great investment for your business. At KION North America, we provide innovative forklift models to help your business become more productive and profitable. Check out our website to learn more about our models and find a dealer near you.

Collaborating with Robots in Manufacturing: Industry 5.0

Set aside your dystopian fears about machines replacing man in the near future. Robotic technology is more sophisticated and accessible than ever, but this has also given skilled workers the opportunity to collaborate with robots. Industry 4.0 involved digital communication and automation while Industry 5.0 merges human knowledge and skill with artificially intelligent and highly productive machinery.

Humans will be in charge of guiding the production process, while collaborative robots, called cobots, will do the literal heavy-lifting. This connected workforce will enable vast improvements in output while continuing to value human contribution. Industry 5.0 has the potential to combine the best talents of machines and people to create jobs, customize new products, and improve working conditions.

Combining machine and man

Although machines are more efficient at performing monotonous tasks, human possess two important attributes that robots lack: empathy and common sense. Despite enormous strides in artificial intelligence during the last decade, even the most advanced machines cannot compete with our analytical problem-solving and cognitive thinking. Industry 5.0 warehouses combine these human attributes with the dependability, productivity, and quality of robotics.

Create jobs

Although some have expressed concern over the potential of job loss for low-skilled workers as a result of automation, the ability to produce more output at a lower cost can vastly improve the global standard of living. For example, if automation makes the production of cars cheaper, then this reduction may be enough to offset slight decreases in wage or provide new jobs in fields such as taxi driving. Cobots will replace monotonous and dangerous jobs while freeing up higher-skilled individuals for better employment.

Customize new products

Robots are well-suited for assembly line production, but the human employees are much more capable of product customization and personalization. Art, design, and innovation are three uniquely human qualities. Robots can only perform the tasks which they are programmed to do over and over again. Without a spark of human creativity and ingenuity, we could never see improvement or deviation from these repetitive actions. Cobots’ purpose is to enhance the human labor force by specializing in fields we are unwilling or unable to work in.

Improve safety

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was marred by the grievous injuries suffered by assembly line workers. However, improved safety regulations and better machinery have systematically eliminated these dangerous jobs. Robots are not at risk of losing life or limb in a workplace accident, and they are relatively indestructible. While robots are performing the difficult and strenuous tasks, their human co-workers can practice ingenuity and creativity while monitoring multiple robotic systems.

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 our website.

How “Digital Twins” Are Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Technological advances have come a long way in helping warehouses operate more efficiently. The latest software promising to shake up the manufacturing industry are “digital twins,” a virtual representation of a product, machine, or factory. Sensors in the physical warehouse are linked to a virtual model and generate real-time information about the factory. The ability to simulate, analyze, and control the factory or product, as well as test alternate strategies, will radically change warehouse operations. Deciding whether or not digital twins are the right fit for your warehouse operations could put you ahead of the latest technological curve.

Business Applications

Digital twins have numerous applications for manufacturing industries and warehouse operations. Linking the digital twin to each stage of warehouse production, beginning with designing and testing a new product, will help managers release the best model to customers. Businesses are more productive when they can control the entire production chain from start to finish. NASA was the first company to develop and test digital twins for their space exploration programs, but many other industries are adopting the twins. The software is also able to improve customer service by modifying existing products to better suit customer needs.

Advantages of Digital Twins

Digital twins have many advantages for business owners. The simulation feature allows managers to test potential improvements or changes to the system. Real-time monitoring of the warehouse can lead to safety improvements and could prevent accidents before they occur. Pairing a virtual model with a physical asset can help train new employees and allow technicians to operate or fix machinery remotely. In some cases, a digital twin may not even need human management. High-functioning AI units can observe the digital twin and order maintenance accordingly. Creating a digital twin for each existing product can help managers compare data. Based on data comparisons, managers can make informed decisions that account for a range of otherwise-unknown factors.

Disadvantages of Digital Twins

Although existing warehouses can benefit from the implementation of a digital twin, startup factories will have an advantage. To create even one digital twin, businesses will need a sophisticated IT system. Although the Internet of Things has helped drive down the cost of digital twin software, developing a twin for machinery with a lifespan of 30 to 40 years can still be prohibitively expensive. During this timeframe, the virtual interface will need to be updated along with the machines. Training employees or purchasing AI systems to manage the digital twins presents another expense. Before investing in digital twins, managers will have to ensure that the rest of the factory’s systems are compatible. Companies that can incorporate this technology into a warehouse from the start will benefit more from the system than a late-comer.

At KION North America, we are committed to providing facility managers with information about cutting-edge-technology with the products to match. To modernize your factories, check out our material handling and supply chain solutions.

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 Technology Can Improve Your Warehouse Operations

The benefits of technological advancements touch nearly every aspect of our lives and daily activities, including warehouse operations. For anyone looking to increase the productivity of their warehouse while saving time and money, adding certain technological methods is the way to go. Here are just a few of the ways that technology is making warehouses more productive and efficient than ever.

Warehouse Management Systems

WMS is a special software that helps better manage products when it comes to packing, handling, and stocking inventory. The software allows you to keep track of items and easily find the location of a product. WMS requires less hands on labor when it comes to finding, sorting, and handling inventory.

Dock Door Scheduling

Another helpful technology in the warehouse is dock door scheduling software. This technology helps schedule and assign doors to trucks carrying product. Truckers often spend longer waiting for a dock door to open than it takes to unload items for the truck. Avoid more traffic jams at your dock doors and save both your warehouse and truck drivers time and money.

Scanning devices

Most warehouses likely already use scanning devices in their operations, and for good reason. This simple technology locates and keeps track of inventory, therefore increasing productivity as workers do not have to take the time to locate an item manually. These devices also allow for more visibility for workers, telling them where a package has been or is supposed to be. The portability of these devices also makes for easy, convenient usage.

Communication

Warehouses can be quite large, but thanks to mobile communication devices, individuals do not have to search the stacks and various areas to communicate with a coworker. With mobile communication, employees from opposite ends of a warehouse can have instant, efficient access to one another. Just make sure that communication devices or methods are consistent across departments to ensure efficiency.

By implementing just one or two of these technological methods in your warehouse can help save you time and money. With easy access to information about inventory, instant communication tools, and systemized scheduling and tracking, your warehouse can be more productive than ever.

When adopting technology into your warehouse operations, remember that proper training is necessary to properly utilize the advantages that such systems offer. You should also consider putting training and alternate systems in place in the event that any of these technologies fail. Technology is evolving everyday, so take advantage of the technological methods available to warehouse operations and help make your warehouse more productive and efficient.

Best Safety Boots for Manufacturers

When you think about safety in the warehouse, protecting your feet may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But with all of the heavy lifting that goes on in warehouses, your feet can be injured very easily. Thankfully, there are different varieties of safety boots made to keep your feet from harm. The following information on different kinds of safety boots can help you decide which pair is the best for your manufacturing needs:

Steel-toed

Steel-toed boots are one of the most common types of safety footwear, especially in the warehouse. The toe area is capped with steel to prevent injury or harm to the toes. Steel is also generally recommended over other kinds of safety-toed shoe materials, like aluminum or plastic.

Metal instep

Footwear with metal insteps protects the foot from all outward injuries. Metal insteps are especially helpful for protecting against sharp objects like nails or glass, keeping them from penetrating the shoe and reaching the foot. This type of safety footwear is also especially helpful in large industrial warehouses.

Steel insole

Steel insoles can be inserted into the a boot to help prevent joint problems and strain. Steel insoles are more common for those already suffering from joint issues and for employees’ whose jobs put strain on their joints. Those who operate heavy machinery with pedals may find comfort from putting steel insoles in their boots.

Metatarsal

Shoes with metatarsal protection are also known as drop hazards because they protect the upper part of the foot, meaning they are especially helpful in preventing damage from falling equipment or objects. This type of footwear protects the toe area as well.  

Electric hazard

Electrical hazard boots have special soles designed to help reduce the potential of employees getting shocked from high voltage circuits and electricity. Employees that work around circuits, high voltage machines, and wiring should wear these protective boots. Electric hazards are extremely common and can lead to serious injury, even death. 

Following appropriate safety procedures is essential to the safety and productivity of a warehouse. Remember that safety procedures go beyond what your employer or supervisor mandates, and that you need to look out for yourself as well.

Tips for Reducing Warehouse Costs

The list of costs required to run a warehouse is long. From labor to handling inventory to equipment and more, running a warehouse can get very expensive very quickly. However, there are practices that can reduce costs without diminishing productivity and efficiency. Check out these tips to reduce warehouse costs while maintaining and even improving productivity.

Labor management

Labor costs are one of the largest expenses when it comes to managing a warehouse. The following are just a few of the many ways to effectively reduce labor costs and improve employee productivity.

Employee training is essential. Employees should be trained not only in their specific line of work, but also informed about the organization’s goals and expectations of its employees. Cross training is another way to improve productivity and ensure the warehouse operations continue to run smoothly in someone’s absence.  

Investing in employee training pays off in the long run, so long as employees stay with an organization long enough. Hiring someone is an investment, and if an employee doesn’t stick around for too long, your company can lose money. By focusing on employee retention, your investments can pay off.

Reducing space and optimizing storage

Another large contribution to overall warehouse expenses is land costs. It’s possible to work in a smaller, less expensive space by optimizing storage. Here are a couple of helpful storage practices to keep in mind.

Racking allows you to optimize storage space and store inventory efficiently. Use racking to increase the number of pallets stored in your space and the square footage it allows. There are different ways of racking, but one common use is to build tall and narrow. The right racking system depends on your inventory, so make sure you are using the safest method possible.

Aisles are imperative when it comes to navigating through a warehouse and allowing forklifts and other equipment to get to inventory, and they can unfortunately be quite a space consumer. But by knowing the dimensions of various lifts that need to move through your aisles and get to certain items, you can reduce aisle space for optimal use. Different lifts are required for different products, so sort your inventory accordingly with the equipment required to handle and move it.

Inventory management

After optimizing your storage space, inventory management is the next step to reduce warehouse costs. Racking and sorting items in aisles according to the equipment that needs to reach them is a start, but there are other ways to manage your inventory in a cost and production efficient manner. Slotting refers to figuring out where each item should be located in your warehouse. An effective slotting strategy will ensure that products are in the right place at the right time, making handling of materials easier and faster.

Optimize equipment use

From forklifts to storage structures and more, equipment is another expense that can become quite costly in a warehouse. Here are a few things to keep in mind to get the best out of your equipment without paying an arm and a leg.

First, consider renting or leasing equipment rather than buying. There are different advantages for renting and buying, so evaluate your options and see which would option would work best for your organization.  

Another cost to keep in mind when it comes to equipment is repair expenses. Use preventive maintenance to avoid equipment failure. Be sure to regularly check the conditions of your equipment to avoid failure and any possible incidents or injuries that may result.

Creating a Warehouse Safety Checklist

In a warehouse, there are many safety hazards that can be dangerous if they are not properly addressed. Having a safety checklist is a great way to identify any potential hazards in the workplace. Once those hazards are identified, they can be dealt with to prevent any harmful incidents and maintain a safe work environment. There are many aspects of warehouse safety to take into consideration, from handling materials correctly to electrical and fire safety.

The following are some important aspects of warehouse safety to keep in mind when creating a checklist.

General Warehouse Safety

When it comes to general warehouse safety, there are easily preventable hazards that can result in injury if not dealt with properly. Some items on your checklist should include:

  • Exposed or open loading docks are blocked or roped off, as well as any other areas where employees could potentially fall four feet or more.
  • Floor and aisles are cleared of clutter such as spills, electrical cords, or other items that might cause an employee to slip or fall.
  • Employees performing physical work are given adequate time for rest breaks to avoid fatigue.
  • The warehouse is well ventilated.
  • Employees are trained to safely work in the environment (hot/humid or cold).

Materials Handling Checklist

As safety concerns become more specific, checklists become more extensive. This is true of the list for safely handling materials. Here are just a few of the important items to include on your checklist:

  • There is safe clearance for equipment and materials through aisles and doorways.
  • Motorized vehicles or mechanized equipment are checked daily or prior to use.
  • Vehicles are shut off and the brakes are set before loading/unloading.
  • Securing chains, ropes, slings, etc. are adequate for required job to be performed.
  • Covers and/or guardrails have been provided to protect workers from stair openings in floors, equipment pits, and other hazards.

Electrical Safety

There are many essential safety steps to take when it comes to electrical equipment, exposed wires, grounding, and more. Some items on this checklist include:

  • Employees are instructed to perform preliminary inspections and/or appropriate tests before beginning work on electrical equipment or lines.
  • Portable electric equipment and tools are either grounded or double insulated.
  • Exposed wiring or cords with frayed or damaged insulation are repaired or replaced immediately.
  • Flexible cords and cables are free of splices and/or taps.
  • Employees who regularly work around energized electrical equipment or lines are instructed in CPR methods.

While these guidelines are important in beginning to create your warehouse safety checklist, they are just the tip of the safety iceberg. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has some great guidelines and templates for general warehouse safety, as well as specific safety concerns, such as fire safety, floor and wall openings safety, and much more.

How to Properly Load a Forklift

One of the most important aspects of forklift safety is properly loading and unloading the forklift’s load. An improperly loaded forklift can cause instability and potentially lead to an accident. Take the following steps when loading, operating, and unloading a forklift:

First, check the lift’s load limit, which can be found on its data plate, and make sure you are not exceeding the weight listed. An overloaded lift may result in tip over. Also try to distribute the weight of the load evenly, and spread the forks as widely as possible in order to do so.

When it comes to positioning the load, place it according to the recommended load center, and keep the load as close to the front wheels as possible. Be sure the load is secure and stable before moving, using the appropriate fixtures for the type of load, like a carpet spike or drum grappler. When lifting heavier loads, tilt the mast of the forklift back and keep the load close to the wheels to avoid the possibility of tipping. Also be sure to tip the mast back a bit before moving the lift.

Once you have the load in place and are ready to carry, keep the forks six to ten inches above the ground to avoid any potential hazards and keep the load tilted back. Do not raise or lower the load while in motion, travel at an appropriate speed, and be sure to stay aware of your surroundings, looking in the direction you’re moving.

When you are in position and ready to unload, move the load slowly into position. Check your surroundings to make sure you have adequate room for overhead clearance and have two to three inches of clearance at the sides and back of the load. Tilt the load forward and then lower it. Next, level the forks before pulling them back slowly.

Lastly, always be sure the lift and other required materials are up to date and aren’t damaged or deformed. Keeping up with proper maintenance schedules will ensure the forklifts are operating at their best.

While following these steps will help ensure safe and stable forklift operation, operators should be trained regarding the specific needs of their workplace and loading requirements.