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Intelligrated InSights

Why assessments are the foundation of effective lifecycle management

Intelligrated's Lifecycle Support Services (LSS) understands the crucial role that assessments play in our abilities to predict and prevent issues before they occur. But for many plant managers in order fulfillment or manufacturing environments, the importance of performing regular assessments is often overlooked. And while some may think that planned preventive maintenance activities are enough to keep operations running at sufficient levels, the truth is they're often not equipped to identify unseen problems in mechanical structures or uncover issues that may lie dormant in material handling control systems. Unfortunately, when a piece of the system breaks, their parts inventories are often unorganized and understocked, preventing fast issue resolution and prolonging costly downtime.

These were the very scenarios our LSS team addressed in Intelligrated's most recent On The Move webinar, "Identifying minor issues before they become major problems." Joining me for this live webinar were Javiera Aguirre, assessment manager and Doug Bach, director of lifecycle sales. Together we discussed the importance of assessments and then answered many questions from attendees after the presentation.

We started the webinar by introducing the concept of assessments and discussing what's at stake for those who ignore this crucial step. In our first polling question, we asked attendees how many unplanned downtime events they had experienced in the past year. We weren't surprised to learn that 50 percent had experienced at least one unplanned downtime event. From our experience, we've found that these downtime events can cost anywhere from $10K to $200K per hour. Obviously, prolonged outages can have lasting operational and financial impacts.

Javiera explained that assessments are analogous to the annual physicals individuals typically have performed by their doctors. Just as we have our skeletal, blood and neurological functions evaluated to check our overall well-being, manufacturing and distribution operations should have their MHE system mechanics and controls assessed at regular intervals to prevent costly and dangerous conditions and ensure optimum performance.

But assessments don't stop just at mechanical systems and controls. Javiera discussed the many types of technology, mechanical and maintenance assessments that LSS teams perform - from software, sorters, palletizers and conveyors to personnel safety, thermography, parts and computerized maintenance management systems. Simply put, these assessments can uncover "what's under the hood" and potentially prevent substantial productivity loss, accidents and expensive repairs.

Javiera walked through the key steps involved with the assessment process, starting with understanding the baseline system performance and culminating with taking necessary remediation steps to return the system to optimal operations and plan a system's lifecycle. She emphasized the importance of using assessments to not only take a proactive stance toward maintenance, but also to better prioritize repairs and align them with the capital planning process.

Finally, Doug demonstrated that assessments are integral for all types of facilities, regardless of their current phase in the system's lifecycle. Whether you're operating a brownfield site, sharing maintenance tasks with multiple vendors or starting up an all-new greenfield site, everyone should make assessments a mandatory part of their maintenance processes. 

To learn more about how assessments can help you formulate and execute an effective lifecycle management strategy, please view this webinar in its entirety. 

Wall-to-wall utility: Versatile put walls serve many purposes

Whether your DC relies on operator-to-goods batch-picking, zone-picking processes or an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), put walls drive order fulfillment efficiency by providing convenient demand consolidation points. But exactly where and how put walls should be integrated can vary widely, depending on the needs of your operation.

Typically, the upstream picking or sortation method used in a facility will determine the most efficient way to utilize a put wall. Here are four of the most common scenarios, organized by the level of throughput they provide.

1. Batch-pick

This scenario minimizes picking execution by allowing pickers to aggregate demand in batches. For example, 10 units might be picked, then distributed to 10 different put wall cubbies. Case picking, where cases of one SKU are picked and distributed to multiple orders, is enabled in the same way. 

2. Zone-picking

In facilities with designated product zones, this scenario allows batch or "eaches" picking to take place in each zone. Pickers send totes from their zones to the put wall, where items are then distributed and consolidated by the operator. While still a relatively simple process, picking efficiencies are maximized by breaking order line items into individual zone-picking tasks.

3. Mechanized picking

In this highly efficient scenario, picking is handled by automated storage and retrieval systems, shuttle, carousel or mini-load automation technologies, minimizing the amount of operator movement required. For example, if 25 percent of a retailer's SKUs come from an AS/RS system, these items are automatically batch-picked as needed and delivered to the put wall.

Put walls can also be integrated into the sortation automation process, allowing sorted goods to be conveyed to the designated put wall station.

4. Cross-dock (receiving to order fulfillment)

To expedite delivery of high-demand products, put walls can be deployed in the cross-dock receiving process. In this scenario, items are taken out of cases and distributed directly to the put wall. Orders are conveyed to a pack-out station once demand is filled at the put wall. 

What's next?

Most of today's put walls are designed with fixed, uniform cubby sizes. The next generation of put wall technology will enable customizable configurations to address the challenges of SKU proliferation and changing product and order profiles. 

By combining the ability to customize put wall cubby sizes (hardware) with user-friendly programming (software), integrated put wall and light solutions give operators the ability to modify cubby sizes to accommodate varying product and order profiles in the same put wall. 

Intelligrated is leading the development of these customizable put wall solutions. With user-friendly software that automatically configures the light-directed confirmations of the cubby sizes, our modular put walls allow DC managers to expand their operations without having to do major material rework to their facilities. 

To learn more about how Intelligrated's enabling put wall technologies can enhance your DC's efficiency, click here

New OTM webinar: Assessments - identify minor issues before they become major problems

Investments in material handling equipment (MHE) are among the most significant capital expenditures a company can make in its order fulfillment and manufacturing facilities. To maximize ROI and extend the longevity of these systems, facility operators must always be mindful of the working condition of their equipment. But too often that is not the case, and minor issues that could easily have been fixed are ignored until they become major problems.

The true costs of this inattention can be far-reaching, from unplanned downtime and lost productivity to expensive repairs and untimely equipment replacement. But these consequences can all be avoided - even prevented. By performing periodic assessments, facilities managers and maintenance teams can gain accurate knowledge of equipment status and plan accordingly. 

On Thursday, August 17 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT, three of Intelligrated's Lifecycle Support Services (LSS) team members will host the next On The Move webinar and discuss the importance of periodic MHE equipment and system evaluations. Javiera Aguirre, assessment manager; Doug Bach, director of lifecycle sales; and Dave Trice, senior director of business development, will explain how assessments not only give operators insights into the condition of their equipment, but also recommend how to mitigate imminent risks and potentially extend system lifecycles.

Webinar attendees will learn about diverse types of assessments and how they help solve numerous business challenges, including:

  • Prevent system downtime and productivity loss
  • Guide capital planning priorities (obsolescence, major projects, upgrades, changes in operational requirements)
  • Establish effective preventive maintenance plans
  • Identify gaps in the maintenance operation

Register now to join the LSS team on Thursday, August 17 and learn how assessments can help you identify minor issues before they become major problems. 

Single-source OEM parts strategy: The most efficient way to the right part at the right time

Unexpected downtime can accumulate significant costs, exceeding $20,000 per hour for some operations due to idle employees, delayed shipments and overtime expenses as operations recover. Avoiding these costs of downtime requires quick access to a well-managed stock of spares. Since fast-paced maintenance departments are often occupied attending to other service demands, speed and simplicity are paramount in the parts ordering process.

Using the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as a single-source parts supplier provides several important benefits to keep equipment running with the right parts at the right time. The OEM offers access to the latest versions of parts, simplifies the ordering process, proactively extends system lifecycle and more efficiently leverages inventory. 

Long-term, trusted partnership

Automated systems can last decades, meaning that the OEM has a vested interest in client success that eclipses that of a third party simply fulfilling a parts order. Furthermore, using the OEM as a single source for parts can yield easier budget management, better parts value and quicker root-cause analysis in the event of an equipment issue.

In practice, this single-source parts relationship can be especially beneficial for multi-site enterprises. If a facility places a large parts order but the OEM knows the retailer already has a large stockpile of the same parts at another location, they advise the customer to source the parts from another site, rather than place a redundant order.

Reduce transaction costs, increase confidence

Ordering parts from multiple vendors dilutes accountability and increases overhead thanks to extra purchase orders, additional invoices and more time spent managing vendor relationships. Ordering all parts from a single source simplifies the process, saving time, providing clear accountability and inspiring confidence that the right parts are available when needed. 

Intelligrated offers a dedicated team of support specialists to not only provide information on lead time, parts availability and technical documentation, but also offer unique insight on how parts function within complex material handling systems - insight that third-party vendors simply cannot offer.

Enhanced support for complex systems

Spare parts usage can provide clues about overall system health, but only the OEM has the knowledge to turn this data into the most complete picture of system performance. OEMs know how each part should function within a system and can compare purchase activity with metrics like expected time-to-failure for each part. This analysis can be used to detect part usage anomalies that may indicate more serious problems elsewhere in the system.

Furthermore, OEMs often issue updates to existing equipment as technology advances. As they phase out older spare parts in favor of more efficient, longer-lasting designs, OEMs provide recommendations to match systems with the right alternatives. 

Using a third-party vendor provides neither access to ongoing system improvements, nor a singular, holistic view of the system. This lack of information can limit system performance, drive unnecessary parts costs and even lead to system failure.

Using the OEM as a single-source parts provider saves time, simplifies accountability and helps get the most out of long-term automation investments. For more information, visit Intelligrated's OnTimeParts.com parts procurement website or read the Intelligrated white paper, The value of OEM genuine parts vs. the cost of generic parts

 

7 myths of labor optimization debunked

With order fulfillment and replenishment activities accounting for up to 65 percent of total warehouse expenses, labor management software (LMS) proves invaluable in offsetting escalating labor costs. From increased efficiencies, accuracy and throughput to reductions in errors, training time and turnover, LMS repeatedly demonstrates its ability to transform omnichannel fulfillment operations. But despite these obvious benefits, many warehouse and operations managers have reservations about utilizing an LMS in their facilities.

Intelligrated has deep experience implementing LMS in a variety of fulfillment operations. During these engagements, we've heard many of the misperceptions that persist about the limitations of implementing an LMS. What follows are the top seven LMS myths we encounter as well as explanations to set the record straight about these incorrect assertions.

1. We don't need labor optimization because we don't have enough direct labor resources to get a reasonable ROI. Even with a smaller number of resources, LMS can often provide sufficient process improvements by getting more out of the current workforce, thus putting off the need for making capital investments or other large cash outlays. Improving a resource from 50 percent to 75 percent performance effectively adds a half-resource to the area with a minimal investment in coaching. 

2. My WMS provides me with all the productivity information I need. A WMS reports only on single metrics like cases-per-hour and doesn't account for foot travel and product attributes. Unlike an LMS, a WMS also does not enable a cultural change or ways in which to maintain a continuous increase in performance (via coaching).

3. My processes are well defined, so I don't need an LMS. The old management adage, "you can't manage what you don't measure" applies here, in that there's no way to know if processes are efficient if you are not tracking them. LMS reveals which employees are (and are not) following processes, and can uncover individual organic process changes that should be shared and added as a standard operating procedure. 

4. Real-time feedback is needed to make proper staffing decisions. The truth is, there is an opportunity cost for evaluating labor movements in real time. Staffing decisions should be based on longer (15- to 30-minute) time frame "trends" to avoid losing the time it takes to move from one area to the next.

5. LMS provides only metrics around activities that have already happened. By continually gathering key performance data and other metrics, LMS allows warehouse managers to predict with high accuracy how they will process work in the future. This provides benefits to both short term, daily plans as well as longer-term staff planning for seasonal or other high volume events. 

6. My wave process drives efficiency through planning and execution. While wave processes can drive process efficiencies, LMS also addresses the peaks and valleys as other priorities make their way into the daily product flow. 

7. Optimizing each area separately optimizes the entire facility. Without a complete view of the entire facility, operations managers are unable to see how different areas feed or starve other sections with work. LMS takes a holistic look to tune the entire facility.

In addition to solving all the above challenges, Intelligrated's GoalPost® LMS is designed to address the ever-increasing complexities associated with omnichannel and e-commerce order fulfillment. Consult with one of our labor management experts to learn how you can realize the many benefits of LMS. 

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