Best Practices in Shipping and Receiving Structural Steel

Those of us who work with steel should always strive to eliminate waste in our operations.  Some call this approach “lean manufacturing” or “just in time manufacturing.”  Whatever you call it, it can contribute to your productivity.

Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to how we receive steel in our plant.  We might be focusing too much on the fabrication processes themselves.  But there is much to be gained by looking closely at our receiving operations.

When steel is delivered to our shops–either material we bought or material our customers have sent in–it is, of course, critical to maintain its identity for traceability reasons.  Our customers must know that the right material was used for their parts.  Many will require mill “certs” which identify  the heat as well as the chemical and physical properties of the steel.  Those employees charged with that responsibility must match up the paperwork and the steel to ensure traceability.

Once the material is properly identified, ideally it would be stored at the point of use, i.e. next to the machine(s) that will process the material.  If this is possible, then such storage could elminate handling the material a second time in order to move it to the machine(s).

If the material needs to be stored elsewhere, then it is important to record the location so it can be easily found when needed.  Identifying zones with a grid system can help in this regard.  Also, if the material cannot be stored next to the machinery, then it is desirable to store it as close to the processing area as feasible.  This will result in a reductin of both flow time and flow distance–goals of any lean manufacturing initiative.

Lastly, good housekeeping can also contribute to the effective receiving of material.  Excess material must be disposed of quickly so there is no chance of mixing it with new material.

Any improvement, however small, in the effective receiving of material will pay dividends far beyond the cost involved.


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