Many of us begin 2020 with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation; with the manufacturing arena facing some key challenges. With Brexit finally happening, seemingly inevitable trade wars on the cards, and increased border controls; manufacturers are being forced to continually innovate in order safeguard production and increase efficiencies. However, are there highly impactive areas of improvement, much closer to home currently being overlooked?

Harry Watts, Commercial Director at SEC Storage, puts forward a case for storage as a critical component of the manufacturing process and identifies key benefits of an efficient storage strategy.

Manufacturers are concerned with just that, manufacturing. So when it comes to efficient use of their facility, their understandable focus is on the all-important production lines. However, unfortunately, this often results in the warehouse or storage areas being an underinvested element of the overall process. This is despite the fact that typically, enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness and space-utilisation of a storage area requires far lower-levels of investment when compared to other types of ROI projects, and can have several considerable benefits.

An optimal storage layout will enhance space utilisation and drive-up operational efficiency and effectiveness. Every inch of the footprint should be designed to add value to the operation and minimise waste. Gains are achieved by reducing travel-times and therefore increasing pick-velocity, which minimises the time taken to get the required components line-side. Storing more product in the same footprint allows for a greater capacity of inventory, or the opportunity to free up space for other tasks or equipment. In one significant project for Rolls Royce, by implementing a multi-tier picking solution, we significantly increased space utilisation and improved stock-taking activity by 25% with regards to time and resources deployed.

Another principal benefit of introducing a strategically considered storage solution is the opportunity for improved stock control and quality it can offer. There are clear cost and quality benefits of precise inventory control; however, additionally, it offers the ability to provide operational information that can be further leveraged to improve processes, procurement activities and increase output. At SEC we extensively analyse operational and product-related data, both while designing our solutions and post their installation as this allows us continually identify insights that can help make our customers’ operations leaner, more flexible and more productive: targets for all manufacturing operations.

Yet, despite the constant mantra that is seen in manufacturing to eliminate waste and increase operational performance; the truth is, we rarely come across facilities that have completed the relatively basic step of optimising their storage solution. This is generally due to a lack of expertise, or awareness of alternative options – and the decades’ old perception of storage being a cost-centre rather than opportunity to add-value doesn’t help. 

The potential impact of leveraging upon innovative storage solution design is hugely significant. Consequently, we are frequently able to design solutions that enhance productivity and reduce costs so dramatically, that the return on investment period far exceeds our customers’ expectations. Therefore, I’d strongly encourage anyone on the lookout for ways to improve their manufacturing operation to seriously consider whether their warehouse could offer a simple, quick and accessible opportunity for significant operational improvement