When considering new solutions for material handling challenges, there can be an overwhelming number of options and potential vendors, technologies, or equipment types. Finding the right solution for your specific needs is imperative to achieve optimal performance.
Before investing in a solution, decision makers need to understand the ins and outs of their current system, establish clear goals, and communicate budget considerations.
Let’s take a deeper look at the areas warehouses and distribution centers need to examine in order to ensure implementation of the best conveyor application:
Define Your Load
When it comes to specifying the right conveyor, the devil is in the details – finding the right solution means defining the load. These questions must be answered:
- Size and weight of conveyed product(s)
- If the product is bagged or boxed, what is the product contained within the bag/box? Are they uniform?
- Is the product evenly distributed within the transport container?
- What is the color of the packaging of the carrying container? (Some devices, like barcode scanners or vision systems, can’t read certain materials.)
- Is the product solid or liquid?
- Are you using totes? Do they need bar codes or RFID tags? If you are handling multiple products, what are the smallest and largest products that will be conveyed?
Knowing your particular load (or load mix) helps narrow in on the optimal choice for a conveyor application.
Communicate Your Expectations
Conveyors shouldn’t be considered an equipment purchase. They’re an investment in business performance. This should be defined in advance and thoroughly understood by all parties. “What does this system do for my business” should be the first question, and the true north of any conveyor project. Defining and then communicating those expectations and key performance indicators is vital. Every decision and design consideration should be run through this filter.
Be sure to understand the baseline ROI and operational improvement goals. Some goals to consider:
- Improve speed from production to shipping
- Add floor space by utilizing overhead space and/or increasing handling efficiency
- Increase storage capacity
- Reduce labor costs
- Improve safety and workplace ergonomics
- Reduce maintenance costs
- Implement technology to help optimize systems
- Reduce energy costs
Keep in mind, specific (and realistic) goals should be attached to these areas where applicable.
Consider the Location
Where the conveyors will be installed can make a difference in whether or not it will perform to its optimal capacity. Discussion of all possible scenarios – including worst-case – should be thoughtfully considered in order to implement a safe and effective conveying solution.
- Do you operate in a dirty or dusty environment?
- Is there a possibility of oil, water, or liquid spray or spillage on the product being conveyed or on the conveyor itself?
- What work happens around the conveying equipment – is there a busy workforce, forklift traffic, etc.?
- What machinery and storage areas does the conveyor interact with?
- Will the conveyor be installed overhead? How will that affect product flow, safety and other considerations?
- How is the temperature controlled within the work space? Conveyors behave differently at very high or very low temperatures.
Asking these questions will determine if any sort of specialized construction is necessary to ensure performance.
Be Clear on a Timeline
This is often a final consideration in the bid process but it should be central to the discussion from the start. It’s often easier to determine a timeline for completion of an entire project, then work backwards to ensure each piece has ample time to be completed.
Be sure to make allowances for weather-related setbacks or construction delays. Most importantly, communicate these deadlines to involved parties.
Develop a Plan of Action Post-Installation
The work doesn’t end once a new conveyor system is up and running; in fact, it’s only begun. Creating a plan to train employees, communicate safety rules, monitor performance, and perform regular preventative maintenance is essential to a successful implementation.
Finding the right material handling solution for your warehouse takes a strong understanding of your business and a close examination of needs and performance goals. Follow these five simple rules – and find a trusted partner to work with – and you’ll reap the rewards of an optimal material handling solution for years to come.