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What Are Lane Assignments? | Their Role in Manufacturing

Many processes occur within a supply chain — procurement, manufacturing, warehouse management, and order processing. Without order, supply chains would be full of chaos. Picture a busy manufacturing plant lacking any organization whatsoever: raw materials strewn all over the place, unfinished products piled haphazardly, and finished goods unpacked, awaiting shipment, scattered in confusion. The absence of a structured yard management system would both lead to operational inefficiencies and pose significant challenges in meeting production timelines and quality standards. Lane assignments are one of the components that keep supply chain challenges at bay by bringing sanity and direction. 

Lane Assignments 101

Before learning how to optimize lane assignments in manufacturing and overall supply chains, you must first understand exactly what they are and why they are important.

Definition and Basics of Lane Assignments

Lane assignments refer to the strategic allocation and organization of specific pathways or lanes within a warehouse. These designated lanes streamline the flow of goods, materials, and equipment, contributing to a well-organized and productive working environment.

In the context of manufacturing, the concept of lane assignments extends beyond mere physical pathways. It comprises a systematic approach to managing the various stages of production, ensuring a smooth transition from raw material storage to the assembly line, quality control, and eventual shipment.

The Importance of Lane Assignments in Supply Chain Optimization

Just like a warehouse, supply chains consist of numerous processes, and without organization, they are highly inefficient and unreliable. Lane assignments serve different purposes across different stages of the supply chain.

  • Streamlining Workflows: Lane assignments provide a structured framework for the movement of products and materials within warehouses and manufacturing facilities, by designating specific lanes for different purposes, such as receiving shipments, sorting, inventory management, and order preparation. This structured approach minimizes congestion, reduces the likelihood of errors, and enhances overall operational efficiency.
  • Inventory Control and Management: Designating specific lanes for different types of products ensures that you store goods in a structured manner. This not only facilitates accurate stock-taking but also streamlines the replenishment process, so you never experience stockouts or overstocks.
  • Improving Order Fulfillment: Designated lanes for order assembly allow workers to follow a systematic approach, reducing the likelihood of errors in picking and packing. This, in turn, improves order fulfillment accuracy and enhances customer satisfaction.
  • Resource Optimization: Whether it’s manpower, equipment, or storage space, strategic lane allocations allow you to utilize supply chain resources optimally and achieve lean manufacturing. This not only improves operational efficiency but also helps in controlling costs associated with unnecessary redundancies or inefficiencies.

Types of Lane Assignments

There exist two main types of lane assignments:

Physical Lanes

Physical lanes refer to the tangible and designated pathways within a warehouse or manufacturing facility. These are the actual, physical spaces that you allocate for specific purposes, such as receiving, sorting, storing, and dispatching goods.

Physical lane trackings appear as demarcated areas within the facility, often marked with floor lines or signage to indicate their purpose. They also typically have physical boundaries, such as racks and shelves, to guide the movement of materials and equipment, ensuring a systematic flow of activities within the warehouse.

Virtual Lanes

Virtual lanes refer to designated pathways that exist in a digital or software-based form. These lanes may not have physical demarcations on warehouse floors but are strategically assigned for specific purposes through software, RFID technology, and IoT connectivity. Virtual lane tracking helps in asset traceability through real-time asset tracking of the movement and location of inventory items in digital supply chains, which is essential for accurate and real-time inventory management.

Combined, virtual and physical lanes create a flexible and adaptive system for managing the flow of materials and products, known as hybrid lanes. The concept of hybrid lanes recognizes the strengths of both physical and virtual components, allowing businesses to harness the benefits of each approach in a complementary manner.

Factors To Consider When Assigning Lanes

Due to the different features that lanes exhibit, you must carefully approach lane assignments to ensure supply chain optimization and efficiency. Here are some factors you should consider when doing so.

  • Product Characteristics: When assigning lanes within a manufacturing facility, one of the foremost considerations is the nature of the products you’re processing. Products vary widely in size, shape, and fragility, and these characteristics influence the type of equipment and handling they require. For instance, delicate electronics may necessitate specialized handling equipment and designated lanes to prevent damage.
  • Frequency of Movement and Priority: Efficient lane assignments take into account the frequency at which materials or products move within the facility. Some items may require rapid transit through the production stages, while others might undergo lengthier processing. Prioritizing lanes based on the frequency of movement ensures that you allocate high-priority items to faster lanes, minimizing delays and keeping production timelines on track.
  • Communication and Visibility: Clear communication and visibility within the manufacturing facility are indispensable for smooth operations. Lane assignments should facilitate easy communication between workers, machinery, and control systems. Implementing visual cues, such as color-coded lanes or digital displays, enhances supply chain visibility, reducing the likelihood of confusion or errors.
  • Worker Safety: The safety of workers is a non-negotiable priority in any manufacturing setting. Therefore, you should structure lane assignments to minimize the risk of accidents or injuries by considering factors such as the movement of heavy machinery, potential bottlenecks, and ergonomic considerations.
  • Customer Requirements: Ultimately, the goal of manufacturing is to meet customer demands efficiently and deliver products on time. To do so, you should align lane assignments with customer requirements, such as order size or packaging preferences, ensuring that your facility processes orders promptly and meets quality standards.

Leverage IoT Supply Chain Intelligence for Your Lane Assignments

In conclusion, lane assignments are an essential component of supply chain and manufacturing optimization. They make the supply chain process efficient, effective, and streamlined. However, merely assigning lanes is not enough — you must be strategic to truly unlock the full potential of your supply chain. One way you can do this is to incorporate IoT in supply chains, and what better solution than Surgere’s Interius? 

Interius is an IoT supply chain technology that empowers you with real-time data needed to optimize real-time asset tracking and operations management by giving you insight into not only lane assignments but also inventory and warehouse management, localization, and yard management.It provides you with supply chain analytics with 99.9 percent accuracy so you can make informed decisions related to your supply chains.  Looking for supply chain solutions that bring efficiency and order to your processes? At Surgere, we can help. Contact us today for the best supply chain tools.

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