Sep 26, 2018

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

Can you and your team members identify where you have material handling problems and opportunities?

Material handling issues and opportunities often go overlooked or unaddressed even though they are readily visible to those that have their eyes open to them and have a little bit of knowledge of what to look for.

  1. The more eyes open the better: our first recommendation is to empower and motivate your team to look for material handling improvement opportunities throughout your entire operation. You believe in the benefits so now it’s your job to convince and empower others in your organization to look around for opportunities.
  2. The second recommendation is to familiarize yourself and your team with basic ideas of what constitutes bad material handling vs. good material handling.

The two most basic principles are:

Reduce unnecessary/excess human movement.

The goal is that all human movement should be safe and ergonomically sound. Operators should pay close attention to task-related movement and seek to reduce bending, stretching, twisting, turning, straining, or reaching to accomplish their job. Actively observing the way humans interact with material  will not only help identify health and safety issues, it will also identify wasted time and energy.

Minimize material transport.

Similar to the previous principle, material should move as little as possible in order to get the job done. And what movement is required should be done as quickly and with as little energy as possible (without jeopardizing the safety of people, equipment, or the material itself). In a manufacturing cell, this can be as simple as measuring the physical distance material must travel from its lineside container or rack to its point of use.

It also helps to pay attention to other factors including frequency of movements, the weight of material, any change in orientation of the material during the operation, and the quantity of material that is presented. This principle also deals with the physical distance and transportation method used to transport material from one storage area to another, or from a storage area to a lineside container or rack.

(A savvy reader might recognize these two principles from the 7 forms of waste at the core of lean manufacturing.)

Recognizing material handling issues and opportunities comes from having a little bit of knowledge about what to look for and then actively looking and staying vigilant. It also helps to have an attitude of, "There has to be a better way," even if you don't know what a better way might be. Start to think through solutions on your own or as part of a team effort. You can also bring in an outside expert to help with this stage because they see and study these issues and implement solutions on a daily basis.

Ask the experts at Ohio Tool to help.

We’ll continue to address your questions in detail over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!