TIME & METHODS
The analysis of processes is a main activity to be critical about one's actions, find activities which do not create added value, and develop a program of improvement. To be concrete and objective the analysis shall produce numerical values beyond quality and organizational assessments, in order to better support initiatives of improvement, mainly if they have to be backed up by investments.
Warehouse processes, from the receipt to the shipment of goods, are characterized by the high contribution of the labor force that, by the way, usually represents the main cost item. In labor intensive activities the methods-time measurement has represented and still represents a tool of extreme effectiveness to obtain significant improvements in efficiency.
The methods-time measurement also allows to "find" those inefficiencies which are not noticed using a traditional assessment; obviously, the analysis shall be carried out by people expert in the analysis and layout of warehouses using the suitable tools; today, chronometers and survey sheets are no longer used. The methods-time measurement too has been computerized and the analyst uses hand-held devices allowing carrying out a more detailed and precise study of the process as well as a quick and more accurate processing of data; we can sum up by saying: more efficiency and accuracy of the analysis.
A crucial and particularly delicate aspect is represented by the interpretation of the surveyed datain order to link the results to specific situations of the analyzed situation connecting, for instance, the picking productivity with the structure of the processed orders (number of lines, pieces/line, volume, etc.), comparing the distances travelled with the mapping quality and so on.
The methods-time measurement is an activity often neglected by the companies because almost always they are not equipped to carry it out (especially commercial and services companies) since they do not have suitable know-how and updated tools; on the contrary, we can state that having an expert for a few days in the company to analyze the warehouse activities represents an investment with a sure and decidedly high return.
Usually, the main warehouse processes are analyzed; first of all the picking activity, which generally represents about 50% of the labor force employed in the warehouse. According to the results, the entity of inefficiencies can be quantified (in terms of time and cost) and actions can be started (concerning that specific process or others linked to it) to improve efficiency, ergonomics, and accuracy of work. The work analysis is more effective if it is carried out periodically (for instance every 2 or 3 years or when a significant change in the processes or needs occurs) in order to check whether the undertaken actions are right or to find in time possible negative outcomes.
Time analysis campaign is developed according to six main phases:
• Mapping of the processes to be analyzed based on the consultant's professionalism and experience with the warehouse's responsible and operational personnel
• Identification of the most important processes in terms of absorbed resources
• Process modeling on time analysis software
• Fine tunig
• Carrying out the survey campaign; the duration of this phase is subject to the complexity and variability of the process in question and will end when the Consultant notes a stabilization of the statistical data
• Processing of collected data; the software provides a series of synthesized elementary data. It is useful to cross-check these data with others found on the management or on the WMS to generate appropriate cause / effect relationships.
• Results to customer with indication of the main critical issues and possible actions for improvement