Millions of dollars are wasted every year due to inefficient warehouse operations. Whether it’s due to higher operating costs, inefficient warehouse layout, forklift accidents or material handling delays, huge financial losses often result to many businesses being shut down (effects get magnified during economic downturns).
To prevent the waste and make the operations more efficient, many managers immediately turn to automation and huge financial investments. However, it only works if some mistakes and inefficiencies were removed or corrected in the first place.
1. Optimising the warehouse layout
When it comes to warehouse fleet management, we often pay attention first to the fleet (forklifts and other material handling equipment). However, the working environment itself might be as important as the equipment your team utilise.
Most businesses start with an empty floor plan. As operations resume and grow in manufacturing and warehouse settings, shelves and boxes start to fill in the space without much thought about their placement and positioning. Soon, the space becomes cramped. As a result, operations slow down and worse, collisions start to occur (forklift vs forklift, forklift vs pedestrian).
It seems there’s no way to solve it but to move to a larger place (or expand the warehouse). Good news is by making some modifications, the warehouse can be made much more efficient. For instance, bestselling and fast-moving products should be placed very near the entry points. Forklift drivers and other personnel should have an easier and shorter time when they get to those items. This measure alone can drastically improve productivity and cut down operation times. In addition, this will result to a lot fewer collisions because travel times will be a lot lower (fewer things will happen).
Take note that long travel times lead to increased labour and fuel costs. The unnecessary movements result to time and financial losses, which could have been invested in additional machinery or technology. Moreover, those long travel times might lead us to an incorrect conclusion that we need a larger space for our products and materials. This is a huge financial commitment because of the additional rental costs or construction expenses.
But when we optimise the existing warehouse, we acquire huge cost savings and maximise the space utilisation. Every square metre will serve some purpose while also shortening the forklifts’ travel times. To accomplish this, your team (or an expert consultant) can perform a simulation or active monitoring so you can better see the workflow in your warehouse. Some rearrangements might be enough already to significantly improve productivity and operations.
2. Specify low-speed & hazardous areas
Again, warehouse fleet management is also about monitoring and modifying the working environment. After all, successful operations often result from efficient and safe interaction between the equipment and workplace.
One way to ensure that safe interaction is by specifying low-speed and hazardous areas. In these sites forklift drivers must slow down to prevent collisions with pedestrians, management personnel and other forklifts. These sites could be in tight corners and intersections, people-dense, under renovation, with conveyor belts or the area stores corrosive chemicals.
Clear labels and signs should indicate that it’s a low-speed area. Those signs should be placed near doorways or hanging in the ceiling (the signs should be highly visible). This way forklift drivers can slow down and appropriately manoeuvre. They will have sufficient reaction time to change course if there’s an obstacle ahead or an incoming pedestrian.
Aside from labels, there are now tools and technologies that can be used to accomplish the same goal. For instance, here at ShockWatch we install Low Speed Area (LSA) systems that automatically send a speed limitation signal to the truck. This occurs when the truck is inside the area where forklifts need to slow down. This will help in limiting the vehicle speed in certain areas.
This system can also be used to signal to the driver that it’s a high speed area. This is very useful because the forklift truck can now cover much ground in less time. The vehicle then can be operated at full speed in relatively safer areas. The drivers will also be focused because there will be not much worry ahead.
3. Accurate & real-time asset monitoring
The working environment has a huge impact on the workers’ productivity and safety. Earlier we discussed how to slightly modify the workplace layout and design to improve workflow and make operations more efficient.
Aside from the workplace or warehouse itself, information can also be a powerful resource to achieve better outcomes. With the timely and proper use of information, managers and the whole team could optimise operations and minimise losses and downtimes.
What if you can monitor in real time the following?
- Speed & fluid pressure of forklifts
- Travel times
- Location of each asset
- Impacts & collisions
Aside from those, what if you can ensure the timely maintenance of your forklifts (through a maintenance alert) and analyse usage patterns to minimise downtimes?
Decades ago this was only a dream for many warehouse and logistics managers. If only they have those information and capabilities back then, they could have prevented millions of dollars of waste (while achieving superior productivity). Also, many accidents could have been prevented because all the material handling equipment were promptly maintained.
Fortunately it could all be a thing of the past. Fleet management can now be performed smarter and more efficiently. For instance, ShockWatch’s EquipManager allows for complete management, monitoring and data collection about the whole fleet. With timely information in your hands, you can monitor almost everything that is happening with your forklifts.
Do you want to quickly verify the locations of your forklifts right now? EquipManager makes asset location monitoring and auditing possible and much quicker. Do you want to include a pre-shift safety checklist so drivers can be sure that the forklift is in top condition before driving? With our system you can also configure and customise the checklist according to your requirements.
Although it’s still best to start with things that don’t rely much on technology (improving the work environment first), the appropriate technologies can increase productivity and magnify the efficiency several times. And with the gathered data, the managers and the whole team can perform analysis which could then result to further operations improvements.
It’s a never-ending pursuit for optimisation and higher productivity. As your company acquire more cost savings, these could then be allotted to more tools and technologies that increase productivity and reduce costs. This is very important especially when your business grows. Growth is always a good thing but there’s often an accompanying initial capital outflow and the order of things gets interrupted. That’s why it’s always recommended to stay lean and efficient.
Effective warehouse fleet management starts today
Warehouse operations seem cluttered and disorderly at first. It’s especially the case with fast-growing businesses with large volumes of transactions. In these scenarios the focus is placed on expansion and figuring out how to handle the growth, which usually leads to huge additional capital investments.
This doesn’t always have to be the case. Moving to a bigger warehouse (or expanding your current facility) can be very costly. In addition, you might not be using the full potential of your existing space. With some analysis and modifications, you can instantly transform your warehouse to achieve higher efficiency and performance (while also reducing the number of accidents and mishandling events).
That’s why here at ShockWatch we’ve dedicated decades to Damage Prevention. This allowed our customers (from small businesses to Fortune 100 corporations) to optimise their warehouse operations. Their managers and engineers were able to surpass performance targets for the month or year.
We have fleet management and accident prevention solutions that make warehouses safer and more productive. Many forklift drivers are now able to get more things done in less time. Downtimes are now also being reduced because of proper monitoring and prompt maintenance. Overall, operating costs are continuously being reduced and the savings are now being invested to more technologies and tools.
Call us today at (02) 9586 1933 if you require such tools for your dynamic workplace. We can provide you with excellent recommendations appropriate for your warehouse or application.
We’re located at Unit 1, 176 Forest Rd. Hurstville NSW 2220 Australia. For over 40 years we’ve built our global expertise to minimising Damage Prevention and mishandling in various businesses small and large.