Manufacturing

Top 4 Reasons Why Package Optimization Also Benefits Your Supply Chain

When you’re looking for ways to benefit your company’s supply chain, you probably look for ways to reduce time or costs in various departments. In most cases, this comes down to the way you might ship, store or produce the products you sell. But what about the way you package those products? Product packaging isn’t typically something you think about in supply chain and logistics, but it actually plays a major role in shipping and producing your products. Package optimization of your products for supply chain management can actually save your companies both time and money.

What Is Package Optimization?

If you’ve never heard of package optimization before, don’t worry — most manufacturers haven’t. Most companies leave packaging decisions to designers and marketing experts who understand how to make the product fly off the shelves. Unfortunately, this can add time and costs to the supply chain process.

Package optimization is a process where supply chain specialists look for ways to make the product’s packaging more friendly to the supply chain system. By making small tweaks to the way a product is packaged, they hope to save time and money in producing and transporting products.

Top Reasons You Should Optimize Your Packaging

Package optimization has many different benefits, from not wasting money on unnecessary materials to creating a more sustainable package. Let’s look at some of the ways package optimization can help a company’s supply chain:

1. Optimize Your Materials

The materials you use for packaging could be holding your supply chain down. If you’re using products that are expensive, wasteful or difficult to use, you’re adding time and money to your supply chain that you can’t afford. While you don’t want to decrease the quality of your product or the perception of your brand, you can typically reduce or change your packaging materials without your customer noticing.

Optimizing your packaging means making smarter decisions about the packaging of the product itself and the shipping materials you use to get the product from Point A to Point B.  See if you can find alternatives, such as using hot-melt instead of tape, that can save you both time and money. Through package optimization, you should look at each and every material you use in the packaging process.

2. Package Optimization Allows for Sustainability

Creating plastic containers or cardboard boxes can have serious consequences on our environment. With so many companies looking for ways they can go green, package optimization can be one of the best ways to promote sustainable business practices.

Companies can look for ways to use less materials and reduce their carbon footprint. Whether you choose to use a thinner plastic or recycled cardboard, there are many different ways to make your package more sustainable. Not only can this help save your company money, but you’ll get bonus points with your customers for being environmentally friendly.

3. Make Transportation Easier

When you’re preparing cargo for shipment, you’re looking at things like size and weight of your boxes of product. Not only does this include the size and weight of the product itself, but also the packaging it is in. If you’re not using optimized packaging, you could be wasting space and weight that could be occupied by more product.

Optimizing your product package allows you to eliminate the unnecessary excess you could be wasting your money on. By reducing the amount or changing the shape and size of the packaging you’re using, you can transport more product — saving you both time and money.

4. Finding the Right Package Optimization for You

When looking for the appropriate way to package your items, you need to consider both complexity and efficiency. To reduce complexity, you want to have as many similar packages as possible, but to improve efficiency, you want each item to have its best package. For companies with a wide variety of products, this can be difficult to balance.

Finding the optimal level of complexity and efficiency is crucial. When you find the right balance, you can lower your shipping costs, save space and weight with each shipment. You’ll save money in the long run, too.

Unnecessary costs hurt everyone. From your company to your customer, spending money on wasteful practices means everyone is getting a bad deal. Properly optimizing your packaging can mean you save money and time all throughout the supply chain process — putting more money in your company’s pocket.

No matter what industry you’re in, package optimization is important for both your business and the environment. Consider this when determining what kind of packaging you should be using for your company’s products.

Best Ways To Speed Up Your Production Line

Manufacturers should always seek improvement. Continuous improvement is one of the foundational practices of the Toyota Production System, otherwise known as lean manufacturing.

As a company, Marlin Steel has relentlessly pursued the philosophy of find constant improvement, with great results. By never settling for “good enough” and always working to find newer, more efficient ways to get things done, Marlin Steel has grown from being a company on the ropes after the bagel basket market imploded and foreign companies muscled in with cheaper-than-the-cost-of-the-steel products, to being more successful and productive than ever.

So, how can manufacturers speed up their manufacturing processes?

Here are a few things that we here at Marlin Steel have seen make a difference, not only for ourselves, but for our customers as well:

Manufacturing Speed Hack #1: Automate!

Manufacturing automation technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Jobs that once required manual labor can now be handed off to incredibly precise assembly robots.

Not only can these automated machines do the job faster than manual laborers, they do it with greater accuracy and consistency than hand-assembly techniques could ever hope to match. Unlike people, machines don’t get tired or worn out from hours of doing the same job over and over again.

The result is better parts with fewer flaws being made faster, saving time and labor while increasing productivity.

 

Manufacturing Speed Hack #2: Educate!

Chevrolet Volt drive unit manufacturing launch team members Aretha Lee (left) and Patrick Sled install an electric motor into an all-new Volt drive unit case housing Monday, October 20, 2014 at the General Motor's Powertrain plant in Warren, Michigan. The two-motor drive unit operates approximately 5-12 percent more efficiently and weighs 100 lbs. (45 kg) less than the current system. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for Chevrolet)

No matter how heavily your operation relies on manufacturing automation, the human element is still critical to your success. Robots still need to be maintained, programmed, and monitored to ensure peak production value, and the workers who operate and maintain these robots should have up to date knowledge concerning their work.

Not only should these personnel be familiar with the operation of the factory automation, they should be familiar with the product being made.

For example, if your employees make steel products, they should know about the different kinds of steel that are available, what their mechanical properties are, and how well that type of steel is suited to the purpose of the final product.

With intimate knowledge of your products and procedures, employees are better equipped to find ways to optimize your production process.

Beyond training employees about the details of their assigned tasks, cross-training employees for multiple roles/tasks can also improve speed for your production.

How so?

There are two major speed benefits that come from cross-training:

  1. Employees Think about More than Just Their Phase of the Production Process. Cross-trained employees are more likely to take into account how the efficiency improvements they enact will affect productivity further down the line.
  2. Work Doesn’t Have to Stop Because of a Single Missing Key Employee. While this doesn’t speed up production per se, it does keep production from being slowed by the absence of a single person because he or she won’t be the ONLY person who knows how to perform a given task.

Sometimes, avoiding the loss of momentum is just as important as gaining speed, and cross-training employees for multiple tasks helps with this. By taking into account how altering one phase of the production process might affect other processes further down the line, employees are less likely to cut corners that will ultimately lead to delays later.

Manufacturing Speed Hack #3: Minimize Transitional Processes

In many production processes, parts have to be moved from one machine to another. In fact, many parts have to be moved from one kind of container to another one that is specialized for a specific process.

For example, parts might have to be moved from a soft PVC-coated basket to a stainless steel or Inconel-based heat treat basket since the soft polyvinylchloride coating of the first basket cannot take the high temperatures associated with a heat treat process.

A great solution for this issue is to use a custom metal basket that has been optimized to withstand multiple phases of your process instead of just one. This saves time loading and unloading baskets between steps of your parts finishing process.

To further reduce transition time from one process to the next, consider rearranging equipment on the production floor to shorten the amount of time it takes to carry parts loads from one machine to the next.

6 Manufacturing Trends for 2016

E-Commerce for Manufacturing
The Internet’s large-scale global penetration has spawned an increasingly large number of technology and web-savvy consumers, creating a huge opportunity for both industrial manufacturers and their end customers. Over the past decade, the application of e-commerce in manufacturing and industrial distribution, has evolved from basic communication and transaction channel between buyer and seller, to an end-to-end collaboration medium between all stakeholders. This collaboration is driven by companies looking to increase sales by offering online product recommendations and promotions, as well as end-customers seeking the rich and personalized online experience that many retail websites offer.
E-commerce is a way for manufacturers to experiment with new products without risking a significant investment. Instead of setting up brick-and-mortar stores, or keeping inventory on hand, you can start offering this new product on your new store.
Manufacturing Business Technology recently wrote the 5 e-commerce trends for 2016 for manufacturers to look at that include:
  • Manufacturers will seek to increase their share of aftermarket parts sales.
  • Manufacturers will seek custom (or specifically tailored) e-commerce solutions.
  • Manufacturers will integrate e-commerce systems with IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives.
  • Equipment manufacturers will require dealers to adopt modern parts management systems, and to integrate those systems with their own.
  • Manufacturers will sell more parts directly to consumers, even if it’s still through their dealer channel.
A recent report by Frost & Sullivan, “The Future of Parts and Service Retailing in the Automotive Aftermarket” , predicts that by 2025, 10 to 15 percent of all global parts sales will be made online. This trend will be seen in the Equipment Manufacturing sector as well, especially in international markets.
The hindrance for manufacturers in the past was having a system in place to handle opening up to multi-channel or even omnichannel sales. However, with the various supply chain systems manufacturers use, such as ERP, WMS, and TMS, the systems must all provide options to integrate together with such e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, and others in order to take hold in 2016.
 
Advanced Analytics Continue to Get a Bigger Plate at the Manufacturing Dinner Table
Advanced analytics will be further involved in everyday manufacturing operations. The workplace will become more efficient and safer due to the digitalization of assets, known as digital manufacturing, which allows for digital design and even distributed manufacturing.
Manufacturers will be able to improve their inventory due to the information presented by both supply chain and operations data.
Logistics and Transportation Managers at manufacturers will have reports at their fingertips on how to continue to reduce transportation costs, a heavy portion of the expense budget, by leaning on data to continually improve.
Manufacturers are turning to advanced analytics to predict when a machine on the production floor is going to fail so they can perform preventative maintenance before a failure causes expensive unscheduled downtime.
These few areas of the application of advanced analytics are some of the applications by manufacturers. This article from Toolbox.com’s 4 other broad uses of advanced analytics for manufacturers:
Improving Quality
Databases and data storage improvements, complemented by easy-to-use, analytical software are the biggest changes when it comes improving the quality of a company’s products, says Studio B analyst David Gillman, author of the article.
Forecasting Demand
Understanding the changes in demand for their products enables manufacturers to better determine how to allocate their resources, according to Gillman. Predictive analytics help manufacturers forecast future sales based on past sales. “Good predictive analytics modelers find additional factors that influenced sales in the past and apply those factors into forecasted sales models,” he notes.
Maximizing Equipment Value
Manufacturing engineers spend a lot of their time ensuring their companies get the most value out of the equipment in their factories. Predictive analytics help them do this by automating much of the analysis processes so even people without high-level skills can perform various analyses, according to Gillman.
Increasing Equipment Uptime
Predictive analytics can also help manufacturing companies ensure that their production equipment keeps running by comparing past machine failures to sensor data from the machines to identify patterns before breakdowns occurs, Gillman says.
Having that information allows a manufacturer to perform the necessary maintenance on a machine in nonemergency conditions without having to shut down production.
 
The Role of Robotics
We have written quite extensively about the role of robotics in manufacturing as well as the impact on supply chain and logistics. The Role of Robotics in the list of manufacturing trends in 2016 cannot be understated or ignored. In fact, just today, in the MIT Technology Review, China is looking to retool their own manufacturing industry by heavily investing in robotics, stating:
China is laying the groundwork for a robot revolution by planning to automate the work currently done by millions of low-paid workers.
The government’s plan will be crucial to a broader effort to reform China’s economy while also meeting the ambitious production goals laid out in its latest economic blueprint, which aims to double per capita income by 2020 from 2016 levels with at least 6.5 percent annual growth. The success of this effort could, in turn, affect the vitality of the global economy.
Robotics have been in the manufacturing industry since the 1950s. Early industrial robots had limited “intelligence”, autonomy and operational degrees of freedom. They were mostly designed to perform one or two sets of repetitive tasks in a highly controlled environment. However, industrial robots are increasingly becoming more “intelligent” and versatile. In the future, they are expected to be capable of working without human intervention and take over most of the manufacturing processes.
According to the International Federation of Robotics:
In 2014, robot sales increased by 29% to 229,261 units, by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. Sales of industrial robots to all industries increased compared to 2013. The automotive parts suppliers and the electrical/electronics industry were the main drivers of the growth. China has considerably expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 25% of the total supply in 2014.
Since 2010, the demand for industrial robots has accelerated considerably due to the ongoing trend toward automation and the continued innovative technical improvements of industrial robots. Between 2010 and 2014, the average robot sales increase was at 17% per year (CAGR). The number of robot installations had never increased so heavily before. Between 2005 and 2008, the average annual number of robots sold was about 115,000 units. Between 2010 and 2014, the number rose to about 171,000 units. This is an increase of about 48% and a clear sign of the significant rise in demand for industrial robots worldwide.
The IFR predicts double-digit growth in industrial robots worldwide between this year and the end of 2018, citing the following reasons why we are seeing such adoption of robotics:
Industry 4.0, linking the real-life factory with virtual reality, will play an increasingly important role in global manufacturing.
Human-robot collaboration will have a breakthrough in this period.
Simplification of the use of robots will open up huge potentials in all industries including small and medium-sized companies.
Global competition requires continued modernization of production facilities.
Energy-efficiency and using new materials, e.g. carbon-composites, require continued retooling of production.
Growing consumer markets require expansion of production capacities.
Decline in products? life cycle and an increase in the variety of products require flexible automation.
There is an increasing demand, particularly from manufacturers of electronics products such as smart phones, tablets etc., for  easy to use robots with limited applications and short life cycle that have a  low price, e.g. for simple assembly tasks which do not require high precision.
Continuous quality improvement requires sophisticated high tech robot systems.
Robots improve the quality of work by taking over dangerous, tedious and dirty jobs that are not possible or safe for humans to perform.
Between 2015 and 2018, it is estimated that about 1.3 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world.
 
The Industry Image of Dirty Factories Going Away
The use of Advanced Technologies such as application development, the internet of things, the increased use of robotics and also 3D Printing will take away the old perception that manufacturing is a dirty place to work where only boring, route, tedious jobs are available.
With an estimated skills gap in manufacturing estimated to be 2 million unfulfilled jobs by 2025, manufacturing companies will promote the use of such advanced technologies to bridge the skills gap and attract millennials and procure the talent that typically goes to Silicon Valley.
This is never more so true than the hilarious current commercial video series by General Electric about a young man recently out of college who says he got a job at GE, a long time American manufacturing company, as a software developer. Watch the YouTube video below of one of the commercials, and you’ll get the point about the historical image of manufacturing when the young man’s parents gift him a hammer upon hearing the news of his new job:
Further companies will partner with both local community colleges and large university to bridge the skills gap by developing STEM partnerships.
 
Security for Internal Peace of Mind and Customers’ Peace of Mind
As manufacturing moves further and further into the Internet of Things and increases the use of e-commerce as a sales channel, in order to prevent hacking of intellectual property and keep customers’ personal data secure, manufacturers will look to increase their investment in security for their networks. According to a recent report by Booz Allen about manufacturing trends in 2016 as it relates to security:
When a cyber-attack does occur, companies will also have to demonstrate a propensity for responding in a timely manner. Security must be enhanced during the design, production, sourcing, and distribution phases, and even after the purchase is made.
As we noted in the post, “Penetration Testing: Reasons Manufacturers and Businesses Need to Take This Key Network Security Step Now:”
The growth of the Industrial Internet of Things has increased the number of opportunities for hackers to try and steal some trade secrets and intellectual property through a coordinated series of attacks.
This very real threat to your business is why you should consider a rethink your security standards and look at how to start a penetration test.
Good penetration testing involves testing a company’s network to make sure that there are no threats that can break through the company or organization’s security. But, it also involves testing non-technical security threats, like social engineering.
 
Manufacturers Look towards Logistics Efficiency to Stay Competitive
Manufacturers will also continue to invest in logistics efficiency to keep up with competitors. This requires a more efficient factory floor space and time to ensure that manufacturers can expedite the delivery of their products. They will also work to provide updates and fixes to products almost immediately. To accomplish these fixes, companies will rely on customer feedback provided by product sensors and on social media and a sound reverse logistics strategy to handle returns seamlessly.
Manufacturers of all sizes, not just larger ones, will look to invest in logistics efficiency to not only include warehouse efficiency but as well as more investment in web-based tools such as a transportation management system to more efficiently process shipments and have more visibility and control in the supply chain.
These are just a few of the myriad of trends that are starting manufacturing right in the face for 2016 and beyond.

Manufacturing Trends to Watch Out for in 2016

The Internet’s large-scale global penetration has spawned an increasingly large number of technology and web-savvy consumers, creating a huge opportunity for both industrial manufacturers and their end customers. Over the past decade, the application of e-commerce in manufacturing and industrial distribution, has evolved from basic communication and transaction channel between buyer and seller, to an end-to-end collaboration medium between all stakeholders. This collaboration is driven by companies looking to increase sales by offering online product recommendations and promotions, as well as end-customers seeking the rich and personalized online experience that many retail websites offer.

E-commerce is a way for manufacturers to experiment with new products without risking a significant investment. Instead of setting up brick-and-mortar stores, or keeping inventory on hand, you can start offering this new product on your new store.

Manufacturing Business Technology recently wrote the 5 e-commerce trends for 2016 for manufacturers to look at that include:

Manufacturers will seek to increase their share of aftermarket parts sales.
Manufacturers will seek custom (or specifically tailored) e-commerce solutions.
Manufacturers will integrate e-commerce systems with IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives.
Equipment manufacturers will require dealers to adopt modern parts management systems, and to integrate those systems with their own.
Manufacturers will sell more parts directly to consumers, even if it’s still through their dealer channel.
A recent report by Frost & Sullivan, “The Future of Parts and Service Retailing in the Automotive Aftermarket” , predicts that by 2025, 10 to 15 percent of all global parts sales will be made online. This trend will be seen in the Equipment Manufacturing sector as well, especially in international markets.

The hindrance for manufacturers in the past was having a system in place to handle opening up to multi-channel or even omnichannel sales. However, with the various supply chain systems manufacturers use, such as ERP, WMS, and TMS, the systems must all provide options to integrate together with such e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, and others in order to take hold in 2016.