Industrial engineers are the ones that you look to when relocating a manufacturing operation. My favorite industrial engineer John Barry’s mantra is “improve while you move.”

By speaking with an industrial engineer about your manufacturing process, you can learn what other industries are doing to increase quality and throughput, and see what knowledge transcends industry boundaries. The reality of manufacturing is that it is a capital-intensive business. Significant machine upgrades are infrequent. Reorienting a manufacturing process without disrupting client orders is challenging, and space is usually limited. This complexity means that the process of relocating a manufacturing operation might be the only opportunity in a 10, or 20-year period, for a company to make significant changes in how they manufacture their goods. The manufacturing environment has changed in 20 years from offshoring to China, nearshoring to Mexico, and reshoring to the Midwest. It is helpful to have a guide with you, helping you create a manufacturing process that can produce efficiency and be adaptable.

A great example from Bob Barry of JBA Associates is:

“We’ll first meet with a client and define their facility requirement which would be the total square footage they need, and then a breakdown of their manufacturing, warehouse, office and varying support areas. Then we get into the three things people ask us for up front: facility requirement, new or existing building, and an initial budget. One of the areas where we provide the most value for clients is by really driving home the concept of “Improve While You Move”. A lot of clients only move a few times in the life of a business. We always encourage them to take a look at new ideas. We may share new ideas that automation companies might share at their industry conventions, so it’s a big opportunity to implement these improvements. We’re not only helping somebody move efficiently but looking at a blank sheet of paper to see how we can improve the process with their current equipment and automation.

One of the main challenges right up front is time. We have a client right now who really needs to move. They have to be out of where they are currently located in a 6 to 7 month window, but with their heavy manufacturing operation, an ideal time would have been 10 or 12 months. In a distribution center, which we’ve done a lot of, you don’t require as long of a timeline normally due to the fact that the vast majority of the warehouse might just be racking. The key thing is looking at your racking relative to current permits; many clients will look at getting new racking if necessary.

If somebody is thinking about making a move, the earlier we can get in the better. A lot of people we help move have been in the same spot for 7, 10, 20 or in some cases, over 40 years. As a result, they have no idea or very little idea of the requirements that they must meet now, like ADA or high pile storage. For example, some of their racking – which is doing a fine job for them now – will not meet the current codes in Ontario, so they may be forced to get a new rack to meet the codes. Or perhaps they’re moving from an 18-foot clear building to a 32-foot clear building and they’ll need updated uprights to maximize the utilization. Whenever possible, we try to get something going earlier than later because the time can be costly.

We moved a popcorn manufacturer. They were in nine different buildings and moved into one. It was a huge cost to do that, but the efficiency of labor space, inventory, and process flow is now outstanding. People who do move often will really underestimate the cost of making the move, but also underestimate what kind of added value and added productivity they can enjoy.”

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