Knowing where your products are and where they need to go at all times is how you run a successful business. Because of this, material management is considered the basis of manufacturing and production.
Because of the important role that material management plays into a businesses success, we have compiled three tips that we believe will dramatically help you to improve your current material management operations.
1. Establish a Process
One of the most important things you can do as a manufacturing business is to define a set process. When a company has no inventory control system or formalized materials management, one of the most frequent problems that arises is workers walking around the warehouse aimlessly trying to locate specific items. That is an absolute waste of time and labor for everyone involved.
Thus, in order to get inventory logged into the system and under control you need to establish a process.
Ask yourself, "What is the process that my business needs to follow on a daily basis in order to successfully get orders out the door and make informed buying and selling decisions?"
Defining a set process from when a material enters your facility to when your product leaves allows you to have complete control over everything you do, as well as minimize error. You might have a top of the line ERP or WMS system, but the system by itself won't solve your problems—you still need to establish a process first.
2. be disciplined
Whichever system you put in place and whichever process you create, your team has to be disciplined to adequately execute it. If you have people on your team that aren't following the process or utilizing the system correctly, you might as well not have anyone utilizing it at all. Regardless of how good your process or system is, without a good team to execute it, you won't accomplish anything.
Keeping your team disciplined is not an easy task, especially at first. People don't respond well to a new process or system, especially when you are implementing it in place of one they have been using for years. New technology and methods of doing every day jobs can be overwhelming, and lead to user rejection. You have to do everything in your power to combat this.
There are ways around this, however. Proper training is the number one way to get people on board from an early standpoint. This isn't something that you can just bypass. Sitting down and taking days or weeks to get everyone on the same board is an incredibly important strategic move in system implementation.
After the system is implemented, do things to keep warehouse workers actively engaged in keeping the system going and keeping efficiency up. Providing incentives and prizes for when workers increase efficiency for a specific KPI is a great way to keep them happy and disciplined.
3. Use Technology Wherever Possible
Paper is always a delayed process in the manufacturing industry. If you have a paper order for a worker to pull a certain product, the worker writes down what they pulled, where they pulled it, and where they put it, all on a piece of paper.
That paper is then either put into a box or keyed into a computer sometime after the fact. Nothing is live and you don't have any up to the minute information. However, if you utilize technology, that person is scanning where they’re taking the product from and where they’re taking it to. It’s controlled.
With the implementation of certain technology, you have constantly updating information at your fingertips. Everything is continuously active and you always know what is happening with your products. It allows you to make more informed decisions on a daily basis.
When that technology gets implemented on a wider basis within the company, you are able to gather a greater amount of information about your products, which increases efficiencies and processes even further.
By following these three tips, your company will see increased improvement through the materials management aspect of your business. This is because these tips represent the baseline of implementation for any new system.
These tips heavily rely upon upper management to set a standard, that is then executed through training. If the process is set, but not taught to employees, it falls through the cracks and does not produce effective results.