Flow Planner Overview
Flow Planner is a material flow diagramming and analysis application. With Flow Planner, companies can quickly visualize and quantify the movement of historical or proposed material and worker moves within factories and warehouses. Using this information, companies can identify opportunities for reducing non-value-added movements and evaluate the proposed cost savings from layout changes and automation.
Quick and easy with no models to build! Working as an application within AutoCAD, Flow Planner needs only a scaled layout drawing and a spreadsheet-based list of material moves to automatically create color-coded and variable-width material flow diagrams point-to-point or through the aisles identified in the drawing. From the spreadsheet routes and flow diagrams, Flow Planner can extract move frequencies (trips), distances, stops, and turns in order to determine total travel distances and travel times for each worker, device, part, container type, or even location grouping.
Diagramming and quantifying actual moves made by your material handling staff is an emerging new use for Flow Planner. For many clients, this involves the installation of a tracking device on the fork truck or tugger or even a small wearable device on the worker. These devices often use RFID coding or WIFI/Bluetooth triangulation to generate a set of location points at moments of time for each worker throughout the work shift. In some cases, these location points are X, Y coordinates in the facility while in other cases they are named intersections or location zones passed by within the facility. From this location and time data, Flow Planner can generate a point-to-point and/or aisle-based flow diagram for every move as well as color code and aggregate the distances and times by each worker during their entire work shift.
Point-to-Point moves work best when the dataset consists of intersection locations. In this way, the worker’s moves are simply reported intersections they passed at specific times. Flow Planner can diagram these moves, calculate their distances, and compare them to expected times. Managers can then review where each worker went on a particular day as well as how long they spent at those locations compared to expected standard data. It is possible to create these intersection locations by pre-processing all of the reported X, Y location moves (perhaps thousands) for the purpose of generating only 10’s or a few hundred aisle intersections, origin, and destination locations for each move.
Aisle-based moves work well for location-based move data. This data typically represents the name of a few locations that the user passed when performing a move. From this limited data set, Flow Planner can automatically generate aisle-based flows which assume the likely path taken. Like with Point-to-point moves, these aisle-based moves also generate a reasonably sized list of travel points from which flow diagrams, distances, and times of worker activity can be reported.
While having actual flow diagrams, distances, and times for worker moves is very valuable to the materials handling management team, it is even more beneficial to be able to match those moves with their intent. In other words, Flow Planner can take a list of moves assigned to a worker (i.e. in the form of a spreadsheet of move tickets) and then correlate the optimal expected time and flow for those moves against the worker’s actual moves during that same shift. In this way, Flow Planner can identify the greatest discrepancies among the HOW, WHEN, and WHERE attributes of every move for every worker on any particular day.
Companies that have performed these studies have been able to identify problems with the layout, containerization, move ticket system as well as potential training and management opportunities among the materials handling team. Essentially Flow Planner’s diagrams and reports of actual versus expected material flow behavior provide the key knowledge those managers need to continuously improve their in-plant logistics operations.
Today with the advent of IIOT (Industrial Internet Of Things) technologies there are many vendors who can provide this tracking data of your assets (workers, fork trucks, containers, carts, etc.). Often the greatest cost of these systems is their communications infrastructure in your facility. Often facilities with extensive WIFI access (i.e. 3 routers in view everywhere in the facility) can take advantage of Wi-Fi triangulation products. Otherwise, Bluetooth or RFID location-based technologies that generate a log entry every time a specific worker passes by them are your most cost-effective option. Either way, Proplanner can work with your IT team to assist you in evaluating your technology options.
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