In factory settings, materials get handled and moved as parts arrive, get stored and eventually put to use on the assembly line. With thousands upon thousands of parts of numerous makes and sizes to account for at any given time, automakers must ensure that nothing is moved more than needed as productions take place. Otherwise, materials could be misplaced, mishandled, lost, damaged or misapplied as work crews sort through numerous parts from shift to shift. Not only can such mistakes be costly, the excess time spent needlessly moving and handling things could be put to better use for more efficient productions.
According to figures gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, material moving accounted for roughly 679,900 U.S. jobs in 2014. Tellingly, North America ranks just behind Asia and Europe as the third–largest global market for material handling equipment as of 2015, with 21% of the overall share. As the field continues to grow, higher–ups in the auto industry have inundated Google with search strings such as “material handling automobile dealerships,” “automotive material handling solutions” and “material handling automobile manufacturing.” Thankfully, innovations in material handling have helped make the processes of receiving, storing and safe moving easier and more efficient in the world of automotive productions.
Conveyor Systems for Automobile Assembly Plants
When it comes to the assembly of cars, trucks, vans and other vehicles, conveyor systems are among the most vital components of material handling in the automobile industry. Thanks to the power and convenience of conveyors, car parts and bodies can be moved from one application to another with consistency. Conveyors make it easy for factories to move heavy equipment along assembly lines with little or no heavy lifting of carrying involved.
Throughout each given work shift, conveyors make it possible to apply hundreds of applications per hour — a pace that would be unimaginable if everything was left to human hands and old–fashioned lifting equipment. Essentially, the benefits of conveyors can be summarized as follows:
- Easy movement of heavy parts along assembly lines
- Relieves workers of heavy lifting and carrying duties
- High volume of applications performed per hour
Parts handling. With conveyors, material handling in the automotive industry is streamlined because each part on the assembly is moved exactly as needed from one end of the factory floor to the other. Therefore, parts are never needlessly moved back and forth out of confusion, because the machinery behind each conveyor system isn’t prone to human error. Without conveyors, lifting equipment would have to be used to lift the various pieces that comprise each embryonic automobile, and all of this lifting, moving and handling would inevitably lead to costly damage of countless parts. As such, conveyors allow factories to prevent the following costly and time–consuming problems:
- Needless moving due to on–floor mix–ups
- Additional moving equipment consuming floor space
- Damage of expensive auto parts
Tire handling. For car companies, conveyors are the driving force of automotive material handling solutions. For example, during the assembly of the front and rear wheels, conveyors bring utmost simplicity to the process. From the fitting of tires and hubcaps to the tightening of lug nuts, the application of all four tires to each passing car on the assembly is aided by the stop and go motions of the conveyor system.
Door handling. As doors are applied to each formative car body, conveyors bear the heaviest brunt of the task as machines and workers bolt each door into place. It’s a balancing act accomplished in mere minutes, and most of this speed is thanks to the movement capabilities of conveyor technology. In addition to the application of big parts like tires and doors, conveyors are invaluable to the following tasks:
- Engine assembly
- Window installation
- Headlight installation
- Cab / passenger compartment installation
The purpose of material handling for automobile manufacturers is to ensure that the handling of vehicle parts is kept as concise as possible. With conveyor systems, auto parts enter the assembly plant as individual pieces but exit as finished vehicles.
Lighting in Automotive Facilities
Material handling at automobile dealerships wouldn’t be nearly as efficient without adequate lighting. With the proper light on the subject at auto parts factories and assembly plants, on–floor managers are able to guide operations properly. Likewise, light gives workers the needed clarity for tasks that involve the identification of parts and superior hand–eye coordination. When factories don’t have optimal lighting, the material handling aspect of automobile manufacturing is undermined, because such conditions rob workers of the following abilities:
- Read serial numbers on auto parts with clarity
- Guide manual tool operations visually
- See moving objects from far distances on the factory floor
- Point tools on the right spots
- Spot errors in the assembly process
Consequently, inadequate lighting at auto factories can be costly due to the heightened likelihood of misidentifications, oversights, and faulty applications, all of which can lead to time–consuming re–do’s on vehicles, whether in whole or in part. For reasons like this, lighting systems should be updated at all auto pressing plants that still use older types of fixtures. If outdated metal halide fixtures are still used at your factory, they can easily be upgraded with retrofits by Logic Material Handling. With updated lighting, eyes endure less strain, energy is better spent, mistakes occur with far less frequency and automobiles get put together with greater speed and efficiency.
Modular Offices in Automotive Factories
Material handling in the automobile industry is easiest when high–ups are in close proximity to the workers on the factory floor. With the installation of a modular office inside an auto factory, management can field incoming questions in real time from all lengths of the assembly line. With modular offices on the factory floor, the factory chain of command is under the same roof, which greatly reduces the possibility of delays on simple questions such as:
- What parts are needed and where
- The location of specific parts and spares
From a modular office, management personnel can delegate tasks along the floor of an automotive factory. Since the office itself is located on the floor, it’s much easier for management to communicate with team leaders and in turn provide minute–by–minute updates on assembly progress to company headquarters. The location of modular offices also makes it easier for companies to streamline productions at all levels across the floor.
The location of a modular office also puts factory superiors closer to the heart of production. As such, less time is wasted when confusion ensues along one part of the assembly line, because the people that know the answers are under the same larger roof. Therefore, workers on the floor are less likely to be held up waiting for answers to important questions that might arise.
Mezzanines Inside Automotive Warehouses and Factories
Automotive material handling solutions are most fully realized when as much space as possible is put to good use in a given factory. Why walk to an adjacent building when everything can be stored under the same roof? The less that materials have to be handled, reorganized or moved, time is used more efficiently and items are less subject to damage or loss.
With the installation of a mezzanine, any large factory can make good use of high space that would otherwise go to waste. Considering the height of certain factory ceilings, there’s a lot of potential storage and office space to be gained by building a secondary floor structure under the same roof. A mezzanine could solve the problem for a factory short on space that would otherwise need to renovate and expand itself outward. With a mezzanine, an automotive factory could gain:
- Hundreds of square feet of additional storage space
- Additional office space
- Above ground workstations
- Balcony space to oversee productions from above the floor
Mezzanines also benefit material handling in the automotive industry by allowing different wings of operation to be in closer proximity. As with modular offices, mezzanines provide ample space for management to work under the same roof as assembly personnel. At parts factories, a mezzanine can expedite operations by placing the production and fulfillment branches just a stairwell apart from one another.
Workstations at Automotive Plants and Warehouses
The smaller details of material handling among automobile manufacturers are typically handled at workstations, where personnel are assigned to numerous tasks that don’t involve heavy–duty factory machines. Whereas people on the factory floor put vehicles together, the people at workstations assemble the smaller components that go into vehicles.
At workstations, parts makers work on small components that require manual assembly. Alternately, workers will diagnose faulty parts to determine where the problem lies. In order to facilitate such work areas, stations are equipped with shelves, computers, partitions and various other facilities. From here, workers can input data into company computer systems, as well as retrieve data when needed. For the completion of projects with minimal movement or changing of hands, workstations aid material handling by providing:
- Ample space for parts assembly
- Suitable workspace for non–industrial parts work
- Direct access to computer data systems
Workstation personnel can also field incoming calls on parts inquiries, as well as make outgoing calls regarding parts completion. For example, if a party at another facility is waiting on the shipment of a particular component, the parts makers responsible can keep said party updated on when the component is expected to be ready. Workstations can be set up and equipped with the needed partitions and cabinets at any factory building of ample size for optimized material handling in automobile manufacturing.
Shelving for Auto Parts and Assembly Factories
One of the most crucial aspects of material handling in the automobile industry is organization. With so many auto parts to be assembled, pieces must be neatly stored for instant access during any moment of a given shift. At the same time, it’s important that pieces not change hands or be touched or moved around more than necessary. After all, the more that parts are moved around and change from hand to hand, the risk increases that parts will end up lost or damaged. When it comes to parts access, shelving is a boon to material handling in the automotive industry due to the following benefits:
- Better organization on the floor
- Neat, convenient storage of engine parts
- Less movement of parts across the floor
- Less change of hands of parts
- Less risk of loss or damage of parts
Efficiency is another thing at stake when it comes to storage. If storage is poorly organized, time and money are lost because products get hampered as workers fumble around just to find parts when needed. Whether parts are being shipped out, shipped in or pulled from a shelf for use in the assembly of a vehicle, each part can be stored in a neatly filed, easy–to–find location and only moved when necessary. Therefore, vehicles get completed faster and more frequently, and suppliers are able to stay on top of shipping demands. In terms of efficiency, shelving is one of the key automotive material handling solutions for the following reasons:
- Easy to locate things as needed
- Less time wasted fumbling for parts
- Vehicles completed with greater frequency
- Order fulfillments met with flying colors
- Eliminates unnecessary movement of parts
In auto–parts factories, vehicle–assembly plants and even at auto–parts stores, hundreds of different engine, wheel and chassis parts can be filed away neatly with an assortment of shelves, some of which are made for larger pieces and others which are suited for small parts. At material handling automobile dealerships, the following types of shelving are invaluable for the streamlining of workflow:
- Open/closed metal shelving, where small parts can be filed away in slots.
- Boltless shelving, which provides ample space for larger parts and boxed supplies.
- Wide span shelving, on which big parts can be stored, large boxes can be shelved and small boxes can be stacked.
In addition to boosting the efficiency and improving the ergonomics in material handling among automobile manufacturers, shelving is convenient for its weight capacity and flexibility. When shelving space needs to be expanded or reduced, such modifications can easily be applied to any boltless, wide span or open/closed metal row of shelves.
Solutions for the Automotive Industry from Logic Material Handling
In any type of large–scale production, there are numerous aspects that must be managed with utmost efficiency. Materials need to be stored properly and moved with care, but preferably only handled when needed. In the past, material handling in automobile manufacturing has not been the easiest thing to achieve with utmost efficiency due to the thousands of materials involved in a given shift. Today, the automotive industry has far greater options on hand thanks to the innovative solutions of Logic Material Handling.
From conveyor systems, lighting and modular offices to shelving, mezzanines and workstations, Logic Material Handling provides an array of solutions that are perfectly applicable to the material handling needs of the automotive industry. To learn more about our storage systems, industrial structures, automated systems and order–fulfillment software, visit our products pages and contact Logic Material Handling today for a free consultation.