Material Handling
Wednesday | 14 September, 2016 | 12:14 pm

Clarity over clamor

By Colin Linneweber

Above: Tracking orders and even knowing when batteries are low keeps material handling equipment on the move more efficiently than in times past.

Raymond Corp. helps mobile equipment operators connect from order to shipping and all stops in between

September 2016 - “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word,” American literary icon Mark Twain said, “is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Manufacturing plants can be loud and chaotic and miscommunication, from the production line to the loading dock, is often commonplace in such environments. Missed signals in a factory where material is constantly moving can cause unplanned downtime, inefficiency, confusion and imperil workers’ safety. Countless wireless communications technologies, systems and solutions have been introduced to maximize uptime and establish secure atmospheres in all types of material handling workplaces. For example, mobile apps for cell phones, tablets, digital radios and headsets are among the tools used to keep forklift operators connected in real-time with inventory managers and salespeople to ensure that orders are properly received, processed, packaged and then prepared for shipment.

Headquartered in Greene, New York, The Raymond Corp. has designed and built electric lift trucks since the 1920s. The provision of advanced mobile connectivity and data collection innovations has evolved more recently.

John Rosenberger is a manager for Raymond’s iWarehouse Gateway & Global Telematics sector. iWarehouse, he says, pulls together a comprehensive suite of solutions that collects and reports on vehicle and operator data to help drive productivity. Since its creation in 2008, the iWarehouse has been Raymond’s most popular communication product.

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iWarehouse collaborates with other industry providers through an open architecture, helping to connect entire fleets.

“iWarehouse is a pioneer solution in the material handling industry that offers an unmatched depth of experience and the ability to turn data into meaningful action,” says Rosenberger, adding that the solution offers vital analytic tools ranging from forklift battery monitoring to maintenance management, fleet optimization, labor management and professional services. 

“With iWarehouse, managers can collect and report operational and maintenance data for their industrial vehicle fleets and operators to ensure that adherence to proper equipment operation protocols are being followed.”

Managers in small to large automotive, manufacturing, construction and warehousing operations can all benefit from iWarehouse, he claims. “The solution can easily be combined with the technology that these audiences are already using to gather data within their facilities.” It’s continually updated “with new capabilities that make it easier than ever to identify data-driven insights.”

Signal trouble

Of all the communications technologies, systems and solutions used in manufacturing plants, cell phones are generally considered the most unreliable and inefficient. Cell phones suffer from coverage limitations, erratic connectivity, dead spots and battery issues. Most troublesome, noisy atmospheres often make communicating on cell phones a nearly impossible task. 

Rosenberger suggests the iWarehouse solution’s flexibility and adaptability separate it from all other methods of communicating in the material handling workplace. 

“iWarehouse is the only telematics manufacturer that collaborates with other industry providers through an open architecture. This means that customers with existing mixed fleets can use it on all their vehicles, no matter the brand, to provide a comprehensive view of their warehouse equipment,” Rosenberger explains. “The system is also scalable, meeting the basic needs for telematics, like electronic checklists. It also has the ability to evolve and meet more complicated needs like load sensing, task selection, cellular communications, multi-site hosting and labor management system integration.”

Immediate response

There is an extensive menu of features that allows managers to remain constantly aware of all warehouse and operational matters and potential issues. Rosenberger describes three specific iWarehouse features.

“First, real-time notifications allow managers to instantly deal with issues that may occur with vehicles or the labor force,” says Rosenberger. “Second, local reporting provides wider and deeper insights, leading to data-driven decisions, and therefore more impactful business solutions. Third, managers can tie data from a telematics system like iWarehouse to data from other business systems, allowing an even broader view of how one area is affecting another.”

In any results-based industry that seeks to eliminate unnecessary downtime and prevent injuries, like the metals processing and distribution sector, iWarehouse helps supervisors to boost efficiency and promote safety.

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Material handling personnel can avoid miscommunication by connecting on multiple platforms to place product when and where it’s supposed to be.

“In terms of enhancing efficiency, iWarehouse helps identify underused vehicles and process issues, eliminating unnecessary downtime. Overall communication is improved, and the telematics data can be aggregated with site systems filling in some data blind spots,” says Rosenberger. 

In terms of promoting safety, managers are able to identify any process or flow issues within their facility more quickly. “For example, knowing the number and frequency of impacts on certain vehicles can help determine if there is an issue with aisle congestion or scrap/clutter in the aisle. This helps prevent incidents before they occur.”

American manufacturing has risen from the ashes of the Great Recession. In fact, according to Wharton, New Jersey-based Northeast Communications, which supplies two-way radio communications systems and equipment, manufacturing has recovered faster than the rest of the economy, creating roughly 334,000 new jobs in the past two years. To meet growing demand for durable goods, factories are determined to augment their production capabilities and quickly transfer their goods to the market. Rosenberger says iWarehouse allows material handling managers to monitor output and distribution to meet their goals. 

Big Data

“If you’re collecting data to identify problems, you can continue to use the same data with the new procedure or process to see if your adjustments and remediation efforts are having an effect,” says Rosenberger. “Having the information necessary for informed decision-making enhances production yields and manufacturing performance.”

Raymond is on a never-ending mission to improve and expand its array of mobile connectivity and data collection tools. Many companies are now using such products and solutions. 

“We’ve heard about big data for years, but we’re excited to see it now being put into practice,” says Rosenberger. “More and more devices, regardless of industry, are collecting and transferring data for making better data-centric decisions. Overall, we’re becoming more connected because people are realizing the greater value of connectivity.”

Miscommunication when handling material is a liability on multiple levels. The slightest damage will lead to claims. Putting the wrong coil on a slitting line could cost a lot. Fortunately, equipment builders like Raymond make it easier for forklift operators, inventory managers and salespeople to exchange information quickly and allow them to decipher the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. MM

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