A typical automation project requires some kind of justification based on labor, quality, or throughput. It’s always interesting to learn about how well they met their original goals after implementation; sometimes they fall a little short, often they are exceeded. Sometimes, they achieve goals that were not even originally on the list.
Recent installations of MDR conveyor and an automatic box cutter for a retail clothing distributors, eliminating manual box cutting and opening processes downstream of receiving and just upstream of an unpacking area, the new conveyor systems provide a buffer to allow the cutters to process “waves” of incoming received boxes.
After the integration team had finished the project during a visit to see how well the system was performing, the operational supervisors noted at least two operational benefits that had not been anticipated in the original return-on-investment studies:
- Not only did the system eliminate the box cutter effort, but labor downstream of the automatic box cutter areas had dropped, too. In the previous manual process, cutting area operators tended to wait until there were many boxes and then cut them all at once, creating inefficient peaks and valleys for the downstream un-packaging operation. With the new automatic cutter, pre-cut cases flow at a reliable 8 per minute, allowing for a level-loaded work process – reducing the unpacking labor.
- The second unexpected benefit was that the by eliminating the manual cutting – in fact removing knives from the area – our customer was able to negotiate lower insurance premiums from their carrier. No one had anticipated this benefit, but the dollars were real.
We love to hear about what is going well – and occasionally, not – this kind of feedback makes our day.