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PART 2: WHAT SHOULD YOU ASK FROM MATERIAL HANDLING?

Oct 05, 2018

This article is the second in a three-part series addressing questions you’ll want to look into prior to updating your processes or investing in new material handling equipment or upgrades. You can also read our introductory article on the topic here.

Q2: Now that you’ve put some attention into identifying material handling processes that have opportunities or concerns it’s time to determine if and where you have justification to make improvements. To do this, you must attempt to quantify the potential impact of improving a given process (or cost of inaction) and the expense associated with implementing a given improvement.

How to quantify potential impact of action/inaction:

With material handling processes two great ways to think about this are potential time savings and potential injury prevention (either acute or chronic). To understand where your biggest opportunities for time savings are you can undertake time and motion studies ranging from very simple (think stopwatch and clipboard) to more complex (TimerPro is an easy to learn and robust video based software aimed at this). To quantify injury risk, which could lead to direct expense and lost time, a good place to start is the NIOSH Lifting Equation (Explanation of NIOSH lifting equation). NIOSH also recently published a quick and easy to use mobile app for their lifting equation. Using these two methods; go through the processes you identified one by one and start to quantify the potential for improvement.

How to quantify expense/investment:

Now that you’ve started to quantify the potential for improvement of individual processes you now need to take into consideration the potential expense associated with potential improvements. You might find that changing the height of a surface, rack, or bin might reduce wasted time and motion or alleviate ergonomic risk for a very low cost. You might have existing equipment that can be repositioned or modified with relative ease and low expense. Look around your facility for different ideas or even browse the internet on how to achieve improvements. If you believe there will be a capital expense necessary to improve a process, don’t get hung up on what that solution looks like at this point, instead think about a cost range that would be necessary to justify the solution and move on to the next process to analyze.

Analyzing your data to support these your decision making and convince yourself and other stakeholders to pursue improvements:

Using the tools and advice given here you should now have a good idea of the potential benefits and likely costs of potential improvements to individual material handling processes. It’s up to you and your organization to prioritize these and decide if you have justification to undertake any or all the improvements. Consider if the information you’re using to inform your decisions is detailed and reliable enough or if you’d like to spend more time to fine tune your decision factors. For some organizations this can look like tackling the biggest problems first regardless of expense, for others it can mean tackling problems with the biggest or fastest return on investment.

So far in our series on making Material Handling decisions we’ve discussed how to identify material handling issues and opportunities and made efforts to quantify and prioritize them into targets for improvement. In our next and final edition of this series we will give you advice on how to select the optimal process improvements, equipment upgrades or if necessary equipment additions to achieve your desired business results. Stay tuned!