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MHE – Tracking of Idle Time – Pocketlab Voyager


The Operations VP was walking in the operations area when he realized there were a number of MHE (material handling equipment) stationary. This was during the working hours of the warehouse.

He subsequently posed a question to the team. “What is the utilization of these MHE? Do we need that many forklifts and reach trucks? Can they be co-shared between the various processes?”


Possible Solution

As an engineer, given a challenge, I like to solve this problem.

One quick way is to look at the timestamp data from the system. These timestamps originate from the pickers performing the picking operations with the RF scanners. From the data, you can assume the timestamps equate to the completion of the scanning, which links to the activities that require the MHE.

However, how accurate will this be? Are the assumptions valid?

There might be blind spots which the timestamp data do not account for. The dependent factor of the scan might be misleading as well. Is there a more accurate way of determining the idle time of the MHE?

If only we can track the movement of the MHE for the entire day. If only there is a device that can record and determine the duration which the MHE is actually operational.


Alternative Solution

I was searching online and chanced upon pocketlab. The devise is invented for science experiment purposes. The intention is to provide a better way of capturing data during science experiments and allowing students to better appreciate the logics behind the experiments.

The latest version, Pocketlab Voyager, is capable to capturing 32,000 points in its on-board memory. This means that given 4 data points (x, y, z, rotation) are captured every minute, we can record continuously for 5 days’ worth of data.

If we place the device on the MHE, and the machine is stationary, the recorded readings should show zero movement. However, once the operator starts using the MHE, the device will start recording the data for every minute.

This will be sufficient for us to deduce how frequently the MHE is in motion.

Estimated Calculations

Currently, the price of one Pocketlab Voyager is USD 128.

Assuming you get 20 of such devices, the total cost is approximately USD 2,560 (excluding tax and shipping cost).

Rental of 1 MHE is approximately USD 1,000 (assume) per month.

Returns of investment is 2,560 / 1,000 = 2.56 month.

If you are able to reduce the unit of rental forklift by 1 unit, the returns of the purchase of the devices will be done in 3 months’ time.

In addition, these 20 devices can be used for multiple warehouses as well.


Next Step

For the next step, I will purchase one unit of the Pocketlab Voyager to test it out.

Since the objective of the test is to determine the usage and idle period of the MHE, this unit will be installed to a random MHE for 3 days. After which, the data will be gathered for analysis.

Stay tune for the results of the test.

While waiting for the arrival of the PocketLab Voyager unit, what do you think of this approach to measure the utilization of the MHE?