Tuggers: Removing Waste from the Process in Manual Materials Handling

posted on: Friday May 10, 2013

Productivity is ever important in the MMH industry today. Between a waning recession and lack of qualified new applicants, companies are relying more heavily on getting more out of their existing workforce. Some companies are following approaches developed by companies like Toyota; they’re going lean, green, just in time, or even flexible. Regardless of the manufacturing model, reducing waste is a key to improving productivity. Today we will look at how power tuggers can advance productivity by removing waste from a process.

There is a consensus in research land that ergonomics leads to greater productivity. Jim Galante, Southworth Products director of product development, states, “There are enormous productivity gains to be made through the use of ergonomic devices” and, “If a company has an ergonomic issue it also has a production bottleneck.” He further illustrates that, “If it takes two people to lift a crate and put it onto a pallet, that’s a wasteful job that could be safely done by a single person.” When it comes to pushing and pulling tasks, filing a multi-person job down to a solo mission is one thing for which the tugger is most valued. This equipment is durable and built to move up to 50,000 pounds depending on the model. Another common application is to hitch several carts together – as many as can safely be maneuvered through a space – and pulled by the tugger. Whether one person made several trips or multiple people made one, excess labor is cut significantly by utilizing this practical feature.

Another aspect of ergonomics that relates to waste is down time. Physical labor is tiring and dangerous. A person can only do so much in one shift; he also can only push himself so hard day after day before he risks injury. Again, when it comes to pushing and pulling, the tugger bears the stress. This leaves people less fatigued and therefore needing fewer breaks and accomplishing work with more energy. One meat packing plant in northern Illinois used a tugger to push giant slabs of meat along rails in the ceiling. Before the tugger, employees would suffer such fatigue that several of them had to take shifts pushing the meat, and by the end of the day, they were worn out. After the tugger was introduced to the process, just one employee could do the job, and without fatigue.

An interesting element of eliminating waste to optimize production is distance traveled. Whether batch picking, truck loading/unloading, or moving products through an assembly line system, time is surely wasted walking between points that are furthest from each other. In something like batch picking, distance walked actually dominates the total pick time. There are a couple of ways that tuggers have been used to cut down walking time. The first is to attach carts together, as mentioned above. Rather than filling one cart at a time and making multiple trips, several carts can be filled at once and moved around the warehouse. The second requires more than one tugger and is suitable for an assembly line. Since the tuggers can be easily operated by anyone, employees at any station can move product forward with the tugger. When it is moved steadily from station to station as product is ready, it improves the work flow and time needed to complete a task.

Overall, tuggers have reportedly cut waste, reduced injury, and propelled productivity. They have been instrumental in transitioning to lean and just in time manufacturing, but have proven worth their weight outside of those initiatives, too. For information on high-quality, state-of-the-art power tuggers, visit http://www.loadmoverinc.com/, email Info@loadmoverinc.com, or call 952-767-1720.