Warehouses can be optimized for improved operations in less time than many managers think - but a solid plan is the key to ensuring that everything continues to run smoothly.
All Day: Tech Support
Warehouses deal with technical support in various ways, and how your location has things set up will have a major impact on your one-day optimization plan.
- Outsourced Technical Support: Send over copies of the user's manual for each type of mobile workstation cart and ask your contracted support to become familiar with the products. Be available to answer questions and send photographs, but this is otherwise all you need to do.
- In-House Team: This is much the same as dealing with outsourced support, but if the normal support team is not in the building, ask them to only perform the most important maintenance tasks during the day and focus on studying the manuals.
- On-Site Support: If technical support actually works at the warehouse, give them the manuals and allow them to practice with at least one unit of each type in order to become more familiar with their functions. This will drastically reduce the time it takes to solve any future problem with the machines, especially if you're changing hardware at the same time you're acquiring the carts.
Morning: Identifying Areas and Marking Issues
After sending materials to tech support, begin the day by marking out the areas where each mobile workstation cart is intended to go. Remember, the "safe zone" for each cart should never be closer than two lengths of the largest forklift in the building towards the end of any given aisle. Use durable tape or paint, either on the floor or the walls, to mark the areas where carts should be stored at any given time. It may also help to specifically number each cart, even among those in the same group, if many workstations will be used within the warehouse.
Each mobile workstation cart should have a parking place where it can be stored to be out of the way - somewhere in the middle of its area of operations is usually a good choice, as it can easily be retrieved without needing to walk the full length or width of the facility.
Next, task several employees with walking through the entirety of the warehouse with the carts connected to the building's internet. Mobile carts will almost always be wireless, so the connection should be tested regularly - live, streaming video is an excellent choice if available, and stops every few feet will work otherwise. The purpose of this is searching for "dead spots" in wireless internet access - if found, they must either be avoided or filled in by installing a wireless transmitter closer to their location.
Mid-Day: Employee Discussions
Once every employee understands what the carts are and how they'll be used, it's time to talk with them about their own ideas. There is a good chance that they have ideas on how to use the carts more effectively, and all suggestions given should be taken seriously. Ask the following questions:
- How easy are the carts to move around? Are there any areas of the warehouse that are blocking their movement or preventing you from getting things done properly?
- Do the carts being assigned to you have all of the hardware they need? If not, what are they lacking and why do you think those pieces should be mobile?
- What other things can we use the carts for, and which protocols can be eliminated from the employee handbooks?
- Are the carts comfortable enough to use over a long period of time?
Employees may suggest uses of a mobile workstation cart that are radically different from what you had in mind when you purchased them. Employees can offer valuable feedback. Even the smallest improvements can add up to great savings over time, so spending a few minutes talking about each idea can be more than worth it in the long run.
Afternoon: Implementing Changes
One employee should focus on creating a manual for using each mobile workstation cart, including details like where the carts should be moved, when it's acceptable to take them, and who is allowed access to each color-coded unit. Review their work at the end of the day, and pass out copies of the in-house manual to each employee before they go home. Encourage them to become familiar with everything it contains and continue contributing suggestions over the next several days.
The rest of the afternoon should be spent implementing any changes that can be put into place. This will almost certainly cause disruption in the day's activities, so plan the day for when things are quieter - this will make the chances easier to implement on-time.
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