How to speed up your production line

How to speed up your production line
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When business is going well, you may find yourself with more orders to dispatch each day than you can handle, and it’s tempting to put an extra couple of bodies into that part of the company to help with the extra work and get more parcels sent out more quickly. That, of course, is the quick and easy solution.

Before you do that, though, it’s worth spending a little time examining all the processes involved in your dispatch area to see if things could be done more efficiently. In other words, without overloading your existing staff, seeing whether you can help them get more done with the same level of resources – or, rather than spending your money on a short-term answer, seeing whether it’s worth investing money now to save in the long run.

The best way to start is to log how everything is currently done. Spend some time in packing and dispatch and try to see where delays and bottlenecks exist which can be eliminated. There may be more than you think; these are some of the areas you might look to improve upon.

1 Storage
Any packing area needs certain items in relatively large quantities on a regular basis. Things like cardboard boxes, packing tape, bulky protective packaging like bubble wrap and packing peanuts, that sort of thing. Some of these can take up a lot of your precious space, so they will need to be stored, usually out of the way on high racking; but how are you monitoring when they are going to need replenishing? Does one of your team have responsibility for keeping an eye on usage and making sure available stocks are replenished on a regular basis? Having your team sitting around doing nothing several times a day, because everything they need is up on high shelving and needs fetching down, is a waste of their time and a waste of your money.

2 Workspace planning
Once you’ve got your materials down and in the right area for your team, you may still need to organise your workspace to get the best out of it. In other words, is everything located so your team can lay their hands on what they need quickly, or are they walking here, there and everywhere after all the different things required to do the job?

Usually it’s just a question of making sure your team has enough space to work in and that the things they need have designated places. One of the most common solutions is to buy intelligently designed packing benches, which should have convenient dispensers for packaging materials on a roll, like bubble and brown kraft paper, compartments for regularly used tools, and space to store flat-packed boxes ready for use.

It’s also worth encouraging your team to tidy up at the end of the day, so that the next shift can start immediately, without having to hunt everything down, and/or clear the necessary space for them to work.

3 Packaging
There is a wide selection of packaging specially designed to help boost output in a modern packing area. These are some of the best:
a) Crash lock boxes: quicker to construct than a standard carton; just unfold and the base automatically slots into place, ready for you to start packing.
b) Perforated bubble wrap: if you’re using the same amount of bubble each time, you can have your rolls perforated at the manufacturing process so that it’s a lot quicker to just tear off the amount you need.
c) Extra long rolls of tape: standard rolls of packing tape are 66 metres long. Every time one runs out, you have to take off the finished roll, find a replacement and slot it onto your dispenser ready to start again. If you use rolls of tape over twice as long, you only have to do that half as often.
d) Combination strapping tools: take two strapping tools into the packing area? You don’t have to if you use a combination tool, which tensions and seals in one easy movement. It may cost a little more than the individual tools, but the time it saves will mean you can quickly make that back in improved output.
e) Automatic tape dispensers: that might sound like a bit of a luxury, but it does have two important benefits. Firstly, it means your operator can work faster, because the next bit of tape is always there ready to be used; secondly, because you can programme it to dispense a specified length, you can cut tape wastage to as near zero as makes no odds.

4 Automation
Of course, if you’ve got enough work to justify it, then automating your packing and dispatch area is the ultimate. Today’s machines are capable of delivering about 65 straps a minute, or taping 1200 cartons every hour. Now, that’s some serious speed.

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Rick Stanford

Rick has been a salesman in the packaging supplies business for more than thirty years. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between tending his allotment in north Devon, getting depressed at the continuing travails of his home-town football club Macclesfield Town, and sharing his considerable experience and knowledge with the readers of the Davpack blog. Davpack

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