To save money, many distribution and fulfillment companies utilize floor-loaded shipping containers from overseas. Even though this shipping method requires additional labor to unload, palletize and check the inventory compared to a palletized load, it can hold more, weighs less and is usually more cost effective due to the freight savings.
Most of these companies concentrate heavily on outbound analytics and costs associated with running their business that there may be wasted labor in some areas that go unnoticed. A company may receive up to 20 containers per day. Depending on what is in the container, the number of products, etc., it may take several hours to unload each one.
What’s Behind the Doors?
Much like labor, time is a critical factor in warehousing and logistics. Many of the same variables that affect time impact the bottom line, including location, product size and weight, the number of boxes per container, dock door availability and the number of shipments received and unloaded each day. Do any of these processes sound familiar?
- Four workers unload and palletize, one feeds empty pallets while two people check all the cartons. This labor-intensive solution is a very costly and can result in higher rates of injuries.
- Using an accordion conveyor, three workers unload, two bring empty pallets and palletize, while one checks all the cartons. This is a costly solution, but risk of injury is reduced.
- Using a carton clamp on a forklift, (most large cartons will have this) one worker drives the forklift while two check cartons and stack pallets. Product damage is reduced using this solution and it is a quicker, less labor-intensive process.
- A container robot empties and palletizes the cartons. One worker feeds the robot while another checks cartons. This automated approach is fast and often cost effective. If an issue in your business, shrinkage may be reduced when using a robot to unload product.
Receiving and unloading containers is just one of many processes that can be streamlined in your operation to increase efficiency while reducing time and labor.
Evolving Best Practices
Now ask yourself:
- Why we are doing it this way?
- When was the last time we analyzed our processes?
- How have our customers’ needs and expectations changed in the past year?
- With increasing demand for warehouse labor and rising wages, can we attract enough workers to handle future growth?
- What technologies have we recently implemented and how has it improved our process?
- Can we integrate automation to achieve a faster, more accurate process?
In warehousing, manufacturing and distribution, one size doesn’t fit all. There are many flexible, scalable and innovative solutions that can make significant improvements in every operation. By gaining insight and visibility into yours, a material handling expert can evaluate your operation and help uncover those areas that may have gone unnoticed so you can make every move in your warehouse count.