Improving productivity is an underlying goal of every food manufacturer. By making productivity gains in areas like production throughput, yields, labor consumption and product quality and consistency, you can increase organizational profitability. And while there are opportunities for improving productivity throughout the entire production process, starting at your receiving docks can deliver productivity gains that can propagate through the rest of your production processes. Here are some ways we’ve seen food manufacturers improve productivity on their receiving docks to help drive overall productivity improvements.
Improving Productivity by Performing On-Trailer Quality Checks
In our experience of working with food manufacturers across several segments of the food industry, we’ve found that there is a large degree of variation in how processors perform quality checks on inbound raw materials, dry ingredients, and packaging. Some perform quality checks before any product is unloaded, some unload all product into a holding area and then perform checks, and some perform quality checks in stages as the trailer is unloaded.
If there is going to be an issue with a load, your best chance at improving productivity is to process the load as little as possible. As such, performing on-trailer quality checks is the best way as it consumes the least amount of resources if the load ends up getting rejected. If a load is fully unloaded and then rejected then you must reload everything back onto the trailer, which ties up one of your loading dock doors, a forklift and a driver for an extended period of time.
In some cases, it’s not always possible to perform quality checks without partially or fully unloading a trailer. Fully unloading might be required if you need to clear the dock for another shipment as quickly as possible or if all the product can’t be accessed without unloading. Even in these cases, minimally unloading product from the trailer is still your best chance at improving productivity if you can do so without interfering with other parts of your production processes.
A capable plant floor MES system can help balance the pressures of getting trailers unloaded quickly but ensuring that you’re not rushing ahead to unload product that might need to be reloaded if the load gets rejected. By integrating product quality checks with the unloading process, you can optimize your receiving processes, improving productivity on your docks.
Improving Productivity by Streamlining Scheduled Deliveries
One of the key premises of lean manufacturing is receiving supplies as close to the time they were needed for production as possible. Optimizing production processes using lean manufacturing methodologies reduces the need for on-premise storage, reduces the risk associated with storing raw materials, and reduces the value of inventory that needs to be purchased and paid for before it is needed in production.
While just-in-time (JIT) deliveries would be ideal, the potential and cost of downtime caused by product starvation far outweighs the practical implementation. However, streamlining scheduled deliveries is a step towards improving productivity.
By carefully time planning what materials are needed to supply production and when shipping facilities and resources are needed to get finished product shipped, productivity improvement gains can be made.
If on-premise storage facilitates, receiving inbound raw materials, dry ingredients and packaging materials during shipping downtime can replenish inventory but also leave shipping docks available for when finished goods are ready to be shipped. If deliveries arrive during the height of shipping outbound product, holding them in a trailer on the yard might help with improving productivity in the shipping department. This is only practical if there isn’t an offsetting penalty for holding product in a trailer on the yard, in which case a decision must be made on how to balance both needs.
Improving Productivity by Optimizing Inventory Management
Productivity gains can be made by optimizing inventory management practices, in terms of both product accessibility and retrieval times.
Optimizing product accessibility relates to managing where raw materials, dry ingredients and packaging materials are stored once they are received so you always know where these products are. Even organizations that have rigid protocols for putting inventory away in specific locations suffer from downtime caused by retrieving misplaced inventory and product expiring because it got lost in storage.
Optimizing retrieval times aims to minimize the amount of time spent getting raw materials, dry ingredients and packaging materials needed in production. As the JIT delivery model from suppliers helps, getting internal products to the production lines as close to when they’re needed also helps with improving productivity. Food manufacturers use strategic organization of their inventory locations to help with this, making sure that products that have the highest inventory turnover are in the most readily accessible locations. Other strategies focus on reorganizing coolers outside of production hours to optimize inventory availability for upcoming production shifts, and pre-staging inventory that is going to be needed in a separate inventory location closer to the production area for faster access.
A product tracking and inventory management system can help optimize inventory management by tracking where product is put away, but more so by directing users to put inventory into optimal storage locations.
However, a tracking system isn’t going to solve all inventory management problems as users will still forget to record transactions and make other mistakes. It’s important that production managers review system and process performance to look for exceptions and errors, then dig down to identify and eliminate root causes to achieve long term and sustainable productivity gains.
Driving Bottom Line Results
Improving productivity is the goal of every food manufacturer. By streamlining manufacturing processes, eliminating waste, and maximizing production effectiveness, organizations can achieve higher levels of profitability. Improving productivity starts at the receiving dock by performing quality checks as soon as possible while minimizing the amount of product unloaded, streamlining deliveries as not to interfere with shipping processes, and optimizing inventory management for better product availability and reduced retrieval times.
Data Navigator is an end-to-end MES solution built specifically for the food manufacturing industry. For more than 25 years, Data Navigator has helped food processors improve throughput, increase yields, and ensure product quality. Data Navigator puts the right production in the hands of the right people at the right time so they can make the best decisions possible for your organization.
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If you’re looking to improve productivity in your food manufacturing facility, get in touch today! Talk to one of our food industry technology experts, book a live demo to see Data Navigator in action, or let’s set up an introductory call to see how we can help!