If Material Handling Seems Complicated - Break It Down!

I am a big football fan (Go Pack, Go!), and even though my team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, I am still a huge fan of the sport. I love everything about it, the exciting games, the players (pre-long hair Aaron Rodgers especially), the touchdown dances and celebrations after big plays, etc. I love football so much that I struggle knowing there are people out there that think it is too complicated to understand. Much like people think football is a complicated sport, I was thinking how complex a material handling operation can be.

Break Down Material Handling So It Isn't ComplicatedIt is crucial to make sure the whole plant is operating properly and you achieve that with a unified team, just like football. My coworker is a great example of someone who doesn’t understand football AT ALL!! She and I literally agree on most everything else but when it comes to football - she will only talk about Super Bowl halftime shows and how she doesn’t understand why they don’t broadcast or even have halftime shows in the regular/postseason games 👯. Anyway, that’s a conversation for a different day. I tend to not bring up football around her but the hype of the upcoming Super Bowl has made the topic unavoidable. 

What really gets her confused are the 4 downs. I know you’re thinking, what about 4 downs is confusing (trust me, so am I)? She doesn’t understand that you have 4 downs to make it 10 yards. If you get those ten yards in the first try, you now have 4 new downs to go another 10 yards. I was getting nowhere so I decided to take a new approach to explain football logic.

The Material Handling Game

I told her to imagine that:

  • the referee = MSHA inspector
  • the defense = plant supervisor
  • the quarterback = Martin Service Technician.

The referee has just shown up on-site and is ready to start throwing penalty flags because he notices there is a spillage problem on the 40-yard line. The defense has done all they can do, exhausted all options to stop this penalty, and are sitting on the bench taking a break. It’s time for the quarterback to go out there and shine! 

Inspecting Material Handling Operations Ensures Productive and Safe Operating Conditions

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The quarterback walks up to the conveyor(s) encountering spillage issues. It’s first down and they identify the problems. Good job, advance 3 yards. 2nd down = 7 more yards to go. The quarterback takes another snap and offers a solution to the problem, 3 yards gained accompanied by a sigh of relief from the defense. 6 yards to go and the foreman just approved the quote for the installation of the specified solutions. 3 more yards gained! The quarterback is back on site ready to install the solutions = 3 more yards. FIRST DOWN!!

The referee put his flag away, no more penalties to give out on this drive. On to the next 10 yards to see what other solutions the quarterback, the service technician, can offer this plant. The defense did the right thing, they stopped the problem from becoming worse and let their quarterback take it from there. Had the quarterback fumbled, it would have been the competitor's ball. 

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Touchdown 🏈

Teaming Up With Experts Ensures Plants Are Operating at Maximum EfficiencyWhile I don’t think she completely understood my analogy, she clearly understands that it’s important for the plant supervisor to know when it’s time to call in the expert service technicians to diagnose the problems, offer solutions, and get those touchdowns by fixing the problem. As a plant manager (defense), it would be nice to fix everything yourself and carry the team, but that’s not always the case. You have to call on your quarterback (technician) when you need to and let them go in and do the job, making sure to get those first downs. And hence, continually getting asked to come back to help. This situation makes me think of the phrase “offense sells tickets, defense wins games.” In this case, the offense offers solutions and products to fix the problem and the defense maintains a well-operating plant with no penalty flags!