Planning in the Age of 24/7 Distribution

Planning in the Age of 24/7 Distribution

Quick announcement: The day after we published our post on the chip shortage, Intel unveiled plans to build a new chip manufacturing facility in Ohio, which they claim will be the largest in the world. For more information, check out this story in  City Beat magazine.

Craig Arnold, Vice President of life-cycle services at the logistics company Vanderlande, recently published an advice column on the changing nature of warehouse operation in 2022. According to Arnold, changes in e-commerce (i.e. the expansion of online platforms like Amazon, where people can buy a variety of goods around the clock) as well as supply chain pressures from the pandemic have forced industrial and commercial distribution centers to switch to operating on a 24/7 basis. He writes, "Across the globe, warehouses are being asked to process greater volumes while maximizing uptime. For facility directors and the maintenance teams, this sudden demand on systems paired with less time to maintain them, presents many challenges."

He presents six pieces of advice for would-be 24/7 warehouses, but we're only focus on three of them--two relating to technology and one relating to personnel.

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance!

"The maintenance schedule that worked fine when running two shifts will not work when running three shifts over a sustained period," Arnold writes. This entails not only greater emphasis on regular, in-person inspections but also investments in 24/7 monitoring and predictive technologies. Luckily, there are numerous products on the market that use IoT-style sensors and algorithms to provide managers with a constant flow of information. This allows warehouses to find problems and fix them before they become debilitating.

The second technological point has to do with standardizing components. Standardizing equipment, according to Arnold, can ease up some of the pressure caused by disruptions in the supply chain. In a world where, "most suppliers are dealing with significant backlogs for parts and service," organizing and standardizing parts makes replacing broken equipment much quicker and easier.

People, People, People!

Lastly, let's consider Arnold's advice when it comes to an operation's employees. Unsurprisingly, it's an old piece of management advice that bears repeating: "Invest in employees." Even with increased automation and digitization, you still need people to run your machines and make decisions. The challenge arises when advancements in technology outpace the rate at which people can get trained to use them. This means that companies have to be proactive in ensuring that their workers can effectively keep up with the changes, especially when it comes to novel automated maintenance, production, and distribution systems. "Now is the time to invest in training for long-term members of your maintenance team," Arnold writes. Giving people the skills necessary to adapt to uncertain circumstances (circumstances that might otherwise make them jump ship) will provide a level of stability in these uncertain times. In short, if you take care of your people, they will take care of you.

All of this is easier said than done. If you're a distributor or producer who needs help assessing their operation in preparation for a 24/7 operation model, you'll need trained experts to give advice on practices and products to improve your facilities. Give Titan Tech a shout today to schedule your free consultation.

And for all your tech news, stay tuned for another post later this week.