In today’s business world, many employees–including myself from time to time–wear multiple hats on a day-to-day basis. These additional responsibilities, combined with a decreasing amount of time in which to do them, create an atmosphere in which out-of-the-box thinking is often lost.
When presented with challenges–whether for our clients or for our own companies–we generally solve them with the first solution that comes to mind, and unfortunately, that first solution is not always the best one.
When these challenges are related to your material handling system, whether case packing, palletizing, sortation, storage, or other process, odds are there are multiple ways to solve your problem, and the solution that you are familiar with may not be the most efficient way of solving the issue.
Imagine a manufacturing plant built 25 years ago; five production lines each running 10 cases per minute. Odds are that plant has a conventional palletizer for each line. While conventional palletizing is a very robust technology, over 25 years, the machines have become very maintenance intensive. All the plant personnel are very familiar with the palletizers and comfortable with them, so when it’s time to replace those palletizers, it would be likely they purchase new conventional machines.
However, what if a few people at this plant weren’t initially satisfied with the first solution. What if they decided to think outside of the box and go beyond what is most familiar to them? For the sake of this example, let’s say these employees at the plant did some research and find that robotic palletizing might be a great option for improving their system.
They might also find out that the maintenance associated with a robotic palletizing cell is minor in comparison to a conventional machine, and that a robotic palletizer has much more flexibility in terms of layout and requires a smaller footprint. They might even discover that just two robots can easily handle all of their production needs, which means they can free up valuable real estate within their plant that could be used for additional storage or production space.
After a successful installation and startup they begin to wonder, “Where else can we use robots…?”
As I mentioned before, as busy as everyone is today, if the above plant would have simply went with what they were used to, they wouldn’t have opened up additional manufacturing space or generated higher profit margins.
So regardless of where you work or what position you hold, the next time you face a challenge, remember to think outside of the box and embrace solutions beyond your normal comfort zone. In my experience, the first solution isn’t always the best one, and you’ll benefit more from finding the innovative solution that helps your company, or client, grow.
In what ways do you foster innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and avoid getting stuck in your comfort zone?