Capturing real-time manufacturing data using a mobile ERP app is the ticket to improvement and cost-savings
Manufacturers are on a grand quest for efficiency. Many companies have used real-time ERP data to identify savings opportunities on the manufacturing shop floor. External processes, such as logistics, are also commonly targeted to trim costs.
Material handling, by comparison, is a relative latecomer to the efficiency party. Today’s technologies finally make it possible to realize significant ROI on material handling improvements. Now manufacturers are rushing in to maximize productivity and compete in a global market.
The foundation of any material handling overhaul is visibility. The more complex the operation, the more important real-time information becomes.
Manufacturers need a view into all aspects of the material handling function, from the labor and equipment involved to the location of materials in the warehouse. Here are some of the benefits you may see if you grab hold of that information.
#1 PERFORMANCE TRACKING
Capturing real-time material handling data empowers an organization to track key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to employees and the department. Monitoring KPI trends can then guide management practices and improve senior-level decision-making. Real-time data can also enable manufacturers to calculate the material handling equivalent of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) to determine the percentage of time that’s truly productive in the warehouse and make changes to increase those results.
#2 PICK LISTS
There is immense benefit in eliminating manual warehouse processes. Paper pick lists are a prime example. When employees are armed with an ERP app with barcode scanner integration, it’s easy to see how speed and productivity improves. Workers can more efficiently identify the required items and instantly mark the list, with no after-the-fact data entry required. All the data is immediately sent to the ERP system to guide process improvements in picking waves as well.
#3 ERROR REDUCTION
Doing work twice is always a productivity killer. Real-time data helps reduce human error. For instance, when a worker scans the wrong item—one that doesn’t match the pick list set up in the ERP—an automatic notification lets them know they’ve misread the order. That way, they can make the correction on the spot, rather than redoing the work later.
Material handling is all about throughput. Manufacturers save time and money when they can “keep all the machines fed.” With better data comes improved predictability. Companies can track the rate at which materials are being used, determine when shortfalls might occur, and highlight when overproduction indicates a misallocation of resources. Analyzing this data over time drives optimization, from supply chain communications and order handling through final production.
#5 INTAKE TIME
There’s a lot of work involved in material intake. Deliveries need to be compared with the purchase order and discrepancies resolved. Additionally, details and coding required for internal operations must be added as materials are sorted and stored.
Many manufacturers have slashed minutes and even hours off their intake time by arming employees with mobile and automation technologies. With these tools, all the data regarding each shipment automatically feeds accounts payable, inventory management, and other systems.
Materials don’t always stay put, so manufacturers need end-to-end materials tracking capabilities to trace items from intake to the warehouse and to each new location therein. Manufacturers can eliminate time wasted in hunting materials, as well as reduce capital investment to replace materials that are “lost” in storage, by gaining an accurate location picture. What’s more, the data can feed analysis of when and why materials are being relocated to minimize unnecessary moves.
#7 INVENTORY RIGHTSIZING
Inventory is the ultimate Goldilocks challenge. Have too much and you’re expending funds too early and paying good money to store, move, and track materials you don’t yet need. Have too little, however, and any supply chain hiccough threatens to shut down a production line. Real-time data helps decision-makers forecast ensure the volume of supplies on hand is just right.
#8 SHOP FLOOR REPLENISHMENT
Real-time data also smooths production materials replenishment. Managers can use this information to identify bottlenecks threatening to pause a line and devise the most efficient replenishment methodologies.
#9 EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE
Predictive maintenance isn’t just for the shop floor. Warehouses also have equipment in need of upkeep. Something as simple as tracking forklift time can inform teams when to recharge batteries and perform other basic maintenance, which improves lifespan and reduces productivity-killing breakdowns.
#10 ALL TOGETHER NOW
The most powerful advantages to real-time ERP data come as part of a broad information capture and analysis approach. If purchasing data feeds directly into materials planning, for example, it can improve decisions in both areas.
By the same token, linking material information with quality rates can, with corresponding evaluation, reduce rejects caused by materials issues, such as underperforming suppliers. Building order data into the overall system can help manufacturers work backward to predict raw material needs.
Material handling lies at the center of manufacturing, between initial supply and final goods. It’s no wonder that focusing on the data related to this essential function promises great returns in efficiency and productivity.
If you’re ready to investigate the possibilities of using mobile ERP data for material handling optimization and operations-wide efficiency improvement, simply contact us. The tools required are more affordable and easier to implement than you may expect—it’s just another example of how information is power in manufacturing.