Discovering the right time and the right place

If manufacturing is organized chaos, then the warehouse is where that organization lives – or where the chaos lives. The process of making things works only if you have someplace to receive the raw materials, and then someplace to send the finished goods. The ingress and egress of materials through a plant is critical to the process itself, and it is that process that brought plant manage...


If manufacturing is organized chaos, then the warehouse is where that organization lives %%MDASSML%% or where the chaos lives.

The process of making things works only if you have someplace to receive the raw materials, and then someplace to send the finished goods. The ingress and egress of materials through a plant is critical to the process itself, and it is that process that brought plant managers to Chicago last month for the annual ProMat show, sponsored by the Material Handing Industry of America.

A lot of the talk at ProMat centered on this idea of making strategic decisions about how materials flow from an incoming truck to the plant floor to an outgoing truck. The idea of Just-In-Time manufacturing makes tracking materials at every step of the manufacturing process critical to productivity.

While much of the discussion looks at warehousing and logistics for finished goods, a good bit of attention is being paid to how those goods get finished. In Lean manufacturing, not only is the assembly process studied to get the maximum benefit for every piece used, but every piece must be in place exactly when it is needed. Lean is about eliminating waste, and that must be a focus for every manufacturer.

When you look at our Top Plant winners this year, you find different products, but common ways of producing them. The success of manufacturers such as Toyota, Square D and BMW is found not just in making things well, but studying new systems and ideas to make things better. Every step in the material handling process is a critical part of that success, and part of what we will honor at our Manufacturing Summit April 2 and April 3 in Chicago.

There is a further convergence of thinking about matching the hardware %%MDASSML%% in this case, the trucks, lifts, conveyors and hoists needed to move materials throughout the plant %%MDASSML%% and the software that tracks how much is being used how fast and where any item is in the manufacturing process.

When you see fork lifts outfitted with RFID readers; when you observe automatic picking systems; and when you watch conveyors with barcode readers whipping packages from one line to the next, you understand that it's not enough simply to have materials moving through the process. It's about having everything in the right place at the right time.

Time is every manufacturer's biggest enemy. Too fast and we risk quality and safety; too slow and we lose productivity and our competitive edge. Finding the right balance is a constant challenge. It's why the plant manager's experience is so valued (look at January's Salary Survey for an object lesson on how that is changing for the better.)

The essence of material handling, as we discuss this month, is finding that right place and that right time. The right time and right place to study this issue in your own facility is here and now.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
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The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
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Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
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