What are Time Sensitive Materials?
Time-sensitive materials (TSM) are materials whose quality or effectiveness degrade over time and are often kept in a controlled environment when not used on the shop floor. For example, composite prepreg (pre-impregnated) materials are used during various assembly and fabrication processes in the high-tech, aerospace, automotive, and life sciences industries.
Time-sensitive materials require unique management and monitoring to capture and track time associated with materials’ shelf life. Unfortunately, material handling is a critical variable often ignored or forgotten in the manufacturing industry. Companies must take these measures seriously to protect the time-critical material enclosed, resulting in less wasted resources and lost time.
In addition, substandard material handling procedures & equipment lead to higher product costs and reduced productivity, while top-tier processes and tools positively impact nearly every business function.
What Do Time Sensitive Materials Require?
Time-sensitive materials are integral to many manufacturing processes and deserve the utmost care and attention. Time-sensitive materials are like food because they have a maximum shelf life; this is the most time a company may store material without losing quality or effectiveness. Technological tools, automated systems, or process improvements can help manage these materials. At a minimum, such materials would require:
- Implementation of Cloud AI Solutions – Cloud AI solutions can track, record, and monitor parameters that affect the shelf life of time-sensitive materials. For example, manufacturers could enable software to sync IoT sensors that can measure temperature, humidity, and light levels, alerting operators when problems arise.
- Temperature and Humidity Monitoring – Manufacturers need innovative solutions to optimize the temperature and humidity for various time-sensitive materials. In short, they must invest in temperature-control systems or humidity-controlled storage areas like temperature-controlled shipping pallets and trucks, temperature-controlled shipping containers, and even protective clothing for workers handling temperature-sensitive materials.
- Time Tracking – Automated inventory management systems track every item in stock and know precisely how long a material has been sitting in storage so the shop floor can use it before the end of its shelf-life. In addition, time-tracking solutions allow manufacturers to monitor the production process, from time-sensitive material ordering to inventory management.
- Increased Storage Capacity – Manufacturers must also increase their warehouse storage capacity to accommodate large quantities of time-sensitive materials. Warehouses can use automated systems and equipment that enable the protection of a time-sensitive delivery. Such solutions may include horizontal carousel storage systems for low-ceiling environments.
Overall, manufacturers can use the data collected to optimize processes and reduce waste due to improper handling. To create higher quality composite materials while avoiding re-work and waste, companies should use technology such as Freezer Management Software. This software automatically and digitally tracks time and temperature-sensitive materials throughout production.
How to Further Optimize Time-Sensitive Material Handling
Implementing software-based solutions, pairing software with AI, and improving handling and monitoring equipment isn’t enough. Keeping current on new materials and supplier information is essential in helping manufacturers meet time-sensitive material needs. Furthermore, companies must alter their thinking to improve operations and reduce damaged or lost goods.
Collaboration – Manufacturers should also work closely with suppliers to ensure their materials meet the required specifications and arrive on time. By proactively engaging with suppliers and other stakeholders, companies can reduce the risk of delays due to material shortages or incorrect orders.
- Establish Clear SOPs – Manufacturers must also document processes so employees understand their responsibility; this includes clear Standards of Operation (SOPs) that employees must follow to prevent the mishandling of time-sensitive materials.
- Complexity is the Enemy of Efficiency – The complexity of the material handling process can create delays and disruptions that could impact delivery timelines. To reduce this complexity, manufacturers should focus on streamlining their operations, automating processes, and using data-driven solutions to improve material handling.
- Recycle or Reuse – Manufacturers must establish clear protocols for disposing of expired or damaged materials. They should also clearly communicate when and how to dispose of time-sensitive materials so they can be appropriately recycled or reused.
Manufacturers can reduce delays, improve quality control, and effectively handle time-sensitive materials by streamlining processes and automating time-tracking. Additionally, utilizing data-driven solutions to monitor materials and prevent waste can help companies remain competitive in the ever-evolving market.
Proactive Intelligence In Manufacturing