Welcome back to the Arrow MHP blog! As a true dealer partner, we strive to add value to your daily operation outside of engineering quality products for your customers. For this edition, we want to dive into process optimization — why it is important and how to go about improving your processes and ultimately your customer experience.
What is Process Optimization
Process optimization is the practice of incrementally adjusting a business process towards its maximum potential without negatively affecting other parts of the process. The most common goals of process optimization are minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency, common and ongoing goals for almost any business.
Why is Process Optimization Important?
At first glance, it may seem like process optimization is a fancy way of saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” However, you could find ways to make small improvements that result in big rewards by examining your processes. Any function of your business can be explored as the “process” in question and evaluated step-by-step to identify areas that have room for improvement. Refreshing the approach can breathe new life into a business that is stuck in its own way or only thinks certain areas are improvement opportunities. Process optimization puts all options back on the table and can be treated like a return to the drawing board.
How should it work?
When embarking on process optimization, you should look at every step of your chosen process while asking questions from the following assessment list found here (or a similar one) to identify potential improvements:
- Are we using antiquated methods that can be improved with new tools?
- What repetitive steps can be consolidated?
- Are some steps blocked by other processes?
Answering these questions and others that come up will get you much closer to having a cohesive process that moves as quickly and efficiently as possible, getting you out of the doing-things-the-way-they-have-always-been-done mentality.
- Are we wasting money on things that we are not using?
- Wasting product or resources that could be allocated elsewhere in the process?
- Are we wasting time?
Identifying wasted money, product and time is critical in optimization because it is going to be the easiest area to see results. Sometimes it can go hand in hand with streamlining and you realize that you are already saving time, but other times it encourages you to be more resourceful and consider everything that you are spending money on as a resource. This mindset can open the door to drastic improvement.
- Are there mistakes that are made consistently in this process?
- What steps carry the most risk for error?
- Can these errors be corrected during the process or prevented by changing the process?
Correcting common errors in the process you are evaluating can be as simple a tweak that has not been thought of before. Understanding what steps or actions in the process carry the most risk also allows you to insulate those steps and make sure you keep the errors to a minimum. Without evaluation, common errors can just become another part of the process instead of being addressed correctly.
- What are the common concerns with our products or services?
- Do we have to send a lot of replacements or provide refunds for similar issues?
- Can our products or services be better?
Assessing quality is something every business should do. The keys are to listen to both your customers and internal stakeholders and continuously review your product, services and processes. Identifying areas for improvement before a customer reports a quality issue can save valuable resources in the long run. Proactive improvement is vital to improving overall customer satisfaction.
- Are we asking customers what they think?
- Are more customers satisfied than not satisfied?
- What do our customers like about us?
- What can be done to address these concerns?
Customer satisfaction should be objective #1 for any business. If you cannot answer the above questions with insightful information from customers, that is where this step should begin. When you don’t offer a constant repository for feedback, you often only hear negative issues or complaints. By constantly soliciting feedback, you are offering customers a place to share the good, not just the needs improvement. You can use the feedback to replicate the positive experience for more customers or even adjust your target audience if you see trends in the types of customers that are satisfied with you.
What Does It Look Like?
Here is a brief example of what happened when we used process optimization in our daily procedures:
At our corporate manufacturing facility, we constantly handle forklift forks. Between selling and using them, forklift forks have a big footprint on our business. Through conversation and observation, it was realized that the way forks were being handled was not as efficient or safe as it could be. Some of the process optimization checklist items that applied in our case were:
- Streamlining: Forks are being transported one at a time or having to be touched multiple times to be placed on pallets separately.
- Resource Management: Pallets were being used unnecessarily; more time was being taken to transport forks; more people had to be involved in the transportation because there was no uniform way of handling forks.
- Error Reduction: Handling forks different ways always left more room for forks to be dropped or mishandled.
To improve this process, our engineering, production and material handling teams worked together to create a new tool for internal use: “the fork handler”. This new tool transports multiple forks safely at once, and can be used to install forks on a forklift without ever needing to touch the forks by hand. This tool made a positive impact on efficiency and reduced the possibility for several OSHA recordable workplace injuries. Dealers and others who handle forks have shown extreme interest in the fork handler and we are now offering them as a new product – passing on the benefits of our process optimization to end users.
What do you think is the most important step above? Do you have any process optimization success stories to share? Questions about process optimization? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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Welcome to the Attachment Awareness series! The Awareness series will explore how attachments for various pieces of equipment can improve the overall experience of operation. Throughout this series, we will explore attachments for forklifts, telehandlers and skid steers and the benefits these attachments provide. These benefits include improved safety and increased productivity. Without further ado, let’s learn about some attachments.
Arrow Material Handling Products offers two types of attachments for forklifts: static and hydraulic. This first edition will focus on static attachments and the value they can add to an operation. Static attachments are placed directly on the forks to add new capabilities to the machine. While these are fully manual and require some installation before use, the different functions they offer can transform a piece of equipment into a Swiss Army knife for material handling! Our product experts have highlighted some of their favorite static attachments to give you an idea of the major upgrades these attachments can provide to forklifts:
- Booms (extension boom pictured above): Used for a variety of purposes, booms can extend reach, handle loads of abnormal shape and manage specific tasks like installing trusses and frames. With a high weight capacity and fully customizable design, booms are a popular static attachment because of their versatility.
- Carpet Poles: While not quite as universal as booms, these unique attachments have saved many operators headaches and frustration. Trying to carry something long and cylindrical using traditional forks is not only difficult, but also dangerous to the product. Carpet poles allow operators to safely and easily move rolls of carpet and similar items in a fraction of the time.
- Fork Spreaders (pictured below): These fully customizable attachments are a must have for any facility that is moving loads of different sizes and shapes. Fork spreaders stabilize wide loads and make moving them as easy as sliding the forks in. These are custom made to fit all carriage types and can be used with adjustable carriages for a more versatile experience.
- Fork Extensions: This heavy-duty attachment is a safe and cost-effective option for extending the reach of forks as well as adding stability to longer loads. High-strength steel works to prevent wear to the extensions while the curved tip design protects people and assets during use. For those not ready to make the jump to hydraulic attachments, these extensions are a great addition to the fleet!
Already have a favorite static attachment? Have questions about the attachments we covered? Let us know in the comments. We want to hear from you!
Our next attachment awareness topic will cover hydraulic attachments for forklifts, which can elevate your fleet to maximum, safe performance. Join our email list below to be notified of future blog posts and product updates.
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