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3 reasons to increase warehouse maintenance in 2022

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For any warehouse to remain afloat in 2022, they need to step up their maintenance game. Here is why maintenance in warehouses must change.

The modern warehouse contains a blend of equipment, software solutions and highly skilled personnel working in unison to fulfill supply chain demands. Over time, warehousing companies have established reliable maintenance practices to ensure seamless daily operations. 

Warehouse management is extensive. The company has to conduct regular inspections, corrective measures, the replacement of damaged material-handling, sorting, labeling, and transportation assets. Proper warehouse maintenance enables the company to cut down its operational costs, improves the availability of critical machinery, enhances operational safety and extends the useful lives of warehousing equipment.

Warehouse maintenance strategies have changed with the adoption of digital technologies. Despite this, companies still face many challenges. There is a myriad of difficulties that warehousing professionals deal with frequently. These challenges affect both the operation and maintenance of warehouse equipment. Here are some of the opportunities and challenges affecting warehouse operations.

  • Increased adoption of automation systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence in warehouses
  • Complex inventories
  • Dynamic changes in supply chains
  • Pressure to transition to sustainable (green) warehousing

These challenges and opportunities have significant impacts on the nature of maintenance operations. Warehouse maintenance managers must continuously innovate to match digital transformation and optimise the effectiveness of warehouse equipment. Here is why maintenance in warehouses must change.

1. Increased warehouse automation and reliance on data

Automation has proven beneficial in different sectors of the economy. Warehouse operations involve several repetitive tasks that are cumbersome to the human worker. Companies have, over time, developed different automation techniques to improve the quality of work on the warehouse floor. The strategy has given birth to several other automation opportunities. 

Currently, companies from across the globe are steadily introducing robot-based equipment to their warehouses. With that comes the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI), which facilitates the operation of self-driving forklifts, Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR). These systems have sophisticated designs that impact their functionality.

Warehouse managers must transition maintenance practices to incorporate proactive maintenance measures. These systems require prompt and accurate maintenance interventions to avert failures. You can’t rely on a run-to-failure maintenance model and expect to maintain the efficiency of warehouse operations. 

When developing maintenance schedules for advanced warehouse equipment, companies must leverage condition-monitoring techniques to guarantee timely detection of potential equipment defects.

As warehouse operations evolve, companies rely on different data streams to enhance in-house operations and meet complex market demands. This implies that warehouses must keep detailed maintenance reports and manage maintenance inventories effectively. 

It is inevitable for companies in 2022 to automate warehouse maintenance. They adopt and implement suitable Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), centralise data management using cloud-based platforms and capitalise on the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for collecting real-time data on equipment performance. 

Automating warehouse maintenance and collecting relevant performance data enables companies to identify and resolve recurring equipment failures, optimise corrective measures and strategically manage maintenance inventories, reducing maintenance costs. 

2. Supply chains are returning to normalcy post-pandemic

The warehousing sector experienced extreme disruptions at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies dealt with lopsided demands from customers. There were instances when there was little or no movement of commodities due to movement restrictions. The requirement for essential supplies shot up and unleashed a new regime for on-demand warehousing models. 

The disruptions affected warehouse equipment maintenance and management. Companies experienced low equipment demand, while others dealt with over-utilisation of warehouse equipment. Companies had to revise their emergency maintenance response and reorganise the workforce to accommodate staffing shortages.

In 2022, supply chains are returning to normalcy. That does not mean warehouses are reverting to old practices. Warehouse maintenance is experiencing a revolution. Lessons from the pandemic period necessitate the need for companies to adopt proactive maintenance strategies. 

As supply chains stabilise, customers prefer working with companies having shorter turn-around times. Some companies are currently grappling with a market demand that exceeds supply and production. For warehouse operators, this means a full-time utilisation of crucial equipment.

When the demand for warehouse equipment is high, the company must ensure minimal or no downtime. Any equipment defect causes supply chain delays, which damages the company's reputation, lowers the quality of products and increases operational costs. Every company must optimise preventive maintenance schedules and create a lean maintenance inventory to facilitate timely corrective measures. 

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3. Companies are embracing lean operations by shifting to sustainable warehousing

Ever come across “Green warehousing"? It is a term pointing to sustainable warehouse operations

Companies from across the globe understand the impact of warehouse operations on the environment. Each progressive company is working towards reducing its carbon footprint by using low-emission equipment, eliminating non-value-adding activities, utilising sustainable materials and using renewable energy resources. Collectively, these lean measures reduce environmental pollution while cutting down operational costs.

Maintenance plays a pivotal role in reducing emissions from warehouse equipment. Efficient machinery requires less energy to operate, unlike its defective counterparts. Companies are using maintenance inspections and reports to identify assets that emit excessive pollutants and to phase them out from routine operations. 

Another part of sustainability is ensuring equipment operates for an extended time. Manufacturing newer warehouse machinery is resource-intensive, demanding the use of scarce natural resources. Therefore, extending the useful life of equipment through maintenance goes a long way in preserving natural resources and limiting environmental pollution. Companies can remain competitive by transitioning to sustainable warehousing practices.

Conclusion

Stepping up warehouse maintenance practices has several benefits for companies seeking to maintain a competitive advantage. 

Attaining maintenance excellence is a process that requires several changes in staffing and technological requirements. Global supply chains are experiencing dynamic changes due to changing consumer trends, geopolitics and macroeconomic issues. There is increased adoption of modern technology in warehouse operations to improve workflows and control operational costs. 

Companies can accommodate these rapid changes by streamlining maintenance practices and establishing reliable maintenance plans. 

Authors bio

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organise, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

 

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