Lean Optimization for Pack Out and Manifest Operations

Written By: Aaron Jones

Lean manufacturing is a common production practice. It considers the spending of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be a wasteful practice, and thus a target for elimination. Wasteful practices are those practices that do not add value to our customers. When considering each process within your facility it becomes necessary to consider those goods and services that you, as a customer, are willing to pay for and those goods and services that you do not see value in.

From a holistic perspective I would bet that each of our customers are willing to pay for the products that we are selling, but many of them are not inclined to pay our company a premium price for standard packing cartons. While the act of purchasing these goods is necessary and desired, the act of paying top dollar for packing and manifesting is not.

When it comes to lean management within a distribution center, most companies do a decent job of eliminating wasteful practices in their picking or assembly tasks. But they stop short of considering lean optimization for pack out and manifest operations. One area that I feel is perfect for lean optimization is pack slip insertion within a carton. Undoubtedly a packing slip provides great value to the final customer and is a critical piece in the inventory management practice. Unfortunately, the act of inserting the pack slip is something that our customers often do not see value in.

In the quest for total lean optimization, there is automated pack slip inserting equipment. While there are different styles of this automated equipment, end users should set their goals high with the final return in mind. In my experience, I have not seen consideration of automated pack slip inserting with a return on investment (ROI) greater than one year. The more common ROI, however, is around eight months. An automated pack slip inserter should be able to effectively insert between 35-40 single page documents each minute (this commonly performs the job of 4 to 5 operators) with perfect quality.

With automation of this practice, bar code scanning confirmation has been integrated to assure that the correct pack slip has been inserted every time. Lastly, don’t forget the cost of ownership. While many automated pack slip inserters can reduce their equipment costs by printing to a thermal label, the cost of the label becomes expensive, which ends up being added to the product’s final price. The automated inserting equipment with the lowest cost of ownership will use a common 8.5 x 11” standard piece of printing paper.

What lean manufacturing processes is your company using?  Share your questions and comments below.

For more information on optimizing your pack out and manifest operations, feel free to contact me at ajones@bastiansolutions.com.

Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones was promoted to President of Bastian Solutions in January 2014 after serving as regional manager for five years and vice president for four years. During his time with the company, he has opened new international offices and has been instrumental in introducing new technologies and innovations to the Bastian Solutions’ arsenal.

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