Material Handling

Thinking Outside the Kit

For decades picking a kit has been the most common material handling process in the electronics manufacturing industry, but is it the best way to pick?

Kit picking is an easy-to-understand process that works for most typical manufacturing use cases. In a typical kitting process a pick list is generated for one particular work order, and all the required parts are picked from a stock location and put into a bin which is then called the “kit”. This kit is typically put into some staging area where it will sit and wait for some amount of time - hours, days, even weeks - until it is time for that work order to be produced.

It’s easy to understand why this is the most typical process in manufacturing. Most of the time we are thinking explicitly in terms of work and production orders, so we tend to think about how we can divide our inventory up to meet these orders. Kitting like this is a jack-of-all trades process that can be made to work in just about any operation, but it is never going to be the best option for every job.

The biggest issues with a typical kitting operation come from the fact that that you are taking parts from stock and putting them into WIP location. As long as nobody touches any parts in the kit, and as long as nobody moves the kit bin, then everything should be okay. However, for most manufacturers we talk to WIP is a black hole that you can’t always trust. 

Most manufacturers understand how WIP can feel like a black hole with conventional processes and equipment, but the truth is that kitting feels so comfortable because most manufacturers aren't all that confident in their stockroom inventory either! As a result, we all want to get parts picked and accounted for as soon as possible in order to get ahead of any shortages. But, the further in advance a kit is picked the more time there is for that kit to be tampered with in one way or another, leading to a potential feedback loop decreasing overall accuracy over time.

Like with everything else, the reality is that there isn't One Magic Process to Rule Them All. Since every manufacturer needs to handle material, fine-tuning your material handling processes to meet the needs of your specific operation is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce overhead, increase efficiency, and get a leg up on the competition. In order to do this you need to think outside the kit, and think outside the old ways of storing parts.

From how you create pick lists, to how you store your parts, to integrations with equipment and suppliers, there are myriad ways in which any manufacturer can work toward a more ideal material handling operation. Smart processes and software can make big contributions, but investing in a modern Smart Storage System will unlock your full potential by instantly reducing the size of your storage and increasing your pick speed. 

Don't hesitate to get in touch to learn more about how material handling can become one of your key differentiators.

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