ANALYSIS OF TIMES AND 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 analysis of times and methods has represented and still represents a tool of extreme efficacy to obtain significant improvements in efficiency.
The analysis of times and methods 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 analysis of times and methods too has been computerized and the analyst uses hand-held computers 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 data in order to link the results to specific situations of the analyzed reality 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
The analysis of times and methods 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 work 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 efficacious 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 started actions are right or find in time possible negative outcomes.
A campaign of analysis of times and methods is developed according to six main stages:
- mapping the processes that have to be analyzed on the basis of the professional experience of the Consultant and the cross-examination with the warehouse staff, both managers and/or operators
- modeling of the process with the specific software of time analysis
- fine tuning of the model led procedure on site
- carrying out of the survey campaign; the duration of this stage varies according to the complexity and unsteadiness of the examined process conditions and will end up when the Consultant perceives a stabilization in the statistical data
- processing and interpretation of the gathered data; the used software supplies several synthesized data. Very often it is useful to cross-check these data with others obtained from the management software or the WMS to obtain suitable cause/effect relations
- showing the results to the client, pointing out the main critical aspects and the possible improvement actions to start.