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Information on the products and techniques to better store, handle, and move products in your facility.

Benchmarking Warehouse Performance…What do You Measure, and How?

November 8, 2007

For about $110 (or half that if you’re a WERC member) you can buy the Warehousing Education and Research Council Manager’s Guide For Benchmarking. The book details different kinds of benchmarking, why you should benchmark, how to pick appropriate metrics & measurements, and analyze your company’s performance. It’s also got techniques for communicating to get the results you need. The group’s website describes it like this:

“As competition grows for dollars, time and resources, the demand to improve performance takes on greater importance. WERC developed this Guide to Benchmarking to help you unleash the power of benchmarking for your organization. You’ll read about the different kinds of benchmarking, why it’s important to benchmark, how to choose the right metrics, how to analyze your company’s performance, and techniques for communicating to get the results you need. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn how to develop a benchmarking strategy specifically for your operation.”

It’s a relatively short, 44-page read. It’s appealing to me because we stress performance measurement at Cisco-Eagle, and the metrics are perhaps the most difficult aspect of that. Get them defined correctly and everything else should fall into place.

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Hytrol E24™ Conveyor: here’s why it’s a big deal

November 5, 2007

E24 motor boxIf you’ve paid attention to the trade magazines, to this website, or to Hytrol recently, you’ve seen cryptic references to something called “E24”. This week, it’s no longer a secret.

I got to see this conveyor up close a couple of months ago when it was in development at the Hytrol Technology Center, and was sworn to secrecy–which is hard when your job is to tell people about things. Hytrol wanted to have it under wraps until this month and to debut it at their distributor convention. We had the privilege of giving PackExpo attendees a sneak peak at the Cisco-Eagle booth this year, and we were doubly excited after seeing how people reacted to Hytrol’s innovation.

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10 ways material handling can make your operation more secure

November 2, 2007

We’re preparing to release the latest Cisco-Eagle publication: “10 Ways to use Material Handling to Increase Security.” It’s common sense that the way you store, handle, segment, and track inventory has a great deal to do with security. Material handling is important because it’s a persistent, passive enhancement to regular security procedures and equipment. Material handling certainly doesn’t replace guards, careful hiring, a culture of honesty, and camera systems, but it can make all of them better.

  1. Store the most valuable, highest risk inventory & tools in secure areas
  2. Secure palletized loads, even when stored in racks
  3. Tightly control dock door access
  4. Secure valuable inventory as early as possible after receiving it, and prior to shipment
  5. Enhance security with automated material handling systems
  6. Lay out your plant with security considerations in mind
  7. Utilize cycle counts, irregular monitoring to detect & deter pilferage
  8. Separate staging areas from loading & shipping docks
  9. Secure inventory “where it sits” during receiving
  10. Erect a barrier between shipping and receiving doors

Sadly, most industrial operations suffer more from employee-based pilferage, since they don’t face shoplifters or other intruders. There is a fully developed industrial security area relating to material handling on our website, with articles, products, specifications, links and more information. Check it out. If you want to receive a copy of the upcoming paper, sign up for Material Handling Tips & Info, our award-winning newsletter. All subscribers will receive a link to the digital version when it publishes.

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Is the midwest the best location for your distribution center?

October 31, 2007

That’s what Todd Yadzi of the 3PL TAGG Logistics thinks, and writes in this Operations & Fulfillment article, “DC Operations Why Midwest is Best”. His basic premise is that operations on either coast slow an entire supply chain down and increase its costs. Part of this comes from the proximity issue (I suppose he’s thinking that you would spend more on a coastal DC’s for each coast than you would for one larger operation in the middle of the country). It makes sense in that land, labor and utilities are less expensive down the center than they are near the larger urban centers. He believes that if you’re shipping from coastal ports to your facility, it still makes economic sense to move product inland due to the higher carrying and transportation costs.

Take that a step (and a few years) further: as the NAFTA corridor matures, you will see areas that align with it receiving larger and larger amounts of cargo, not only from Central America, but from other areas as the Port of Houston capacity grows. This is already happening, and all that growth will travel north from Texas and into the heartland.

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Cisco-Eagle debuts E24 power roller conveyor at PackExpo 2007

October 30, 2007

Cisco-Eagle Pack Expo booth with E24 power roller conveyor demonstration

We met a lot of great people, saw some of the latest packaging and handling technologies, and were privileged to debut Hytrol’s innovative E24 conveyor, which can be seen in the foreground of this photo. It’s a revolutionary powered roller design that eliminates the limitations of conventional powered roller conveyor. It’s got about ten times the life of traditional MDR motors because the motors run only when needed. It also reduces the amount of heat in the process, and lowers maintenance dramatically. I’ll have more information, including video, product specs, and literature loaded soon. You can use 1-3/8″ rollers for the first time in a powered roller application.

We think this conveyor will be great in packaging lines, linking automation cells, machine feeding, in-motion weighing, assembly applications, food processing, and more.

Like I said – keep your eyes peeled, or subscribe to our Material Handling Tips & Info newsletter for updates.

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WMS on demand – is it for you?

October 29, 2007

You’re probably familiar with the software on demand movement. Hosted, web-driven software has been deployed to good success, particularly in fields like customer relationship management (CRM), with SalesForce.com being the most famous. It’s good because smaller companies can utilize software that might have been out of reach in the past. You can quickly get a handful of seats and cut the service off, if it isn’t to your liking. It doesn’t require a large IT staff, doesn’t require hardware, or much in-house expertise to use these packages.

The last few years, WMS (warehouse management) software has started to trickle down from gigantic enterprises to mid-size and even small companies because the standard products have gotten better, requiring less customization and less (or easier) integration with back office, inventory, or enterprise systems. Now, it’s taken the next step — toward WMS on Demand. WMS software provider SmartTurn has introduced an on-demand product in the WMS space.

The company’s website claims that its package, which is hosted on SmartTurn’s servers, can handle purchasing, receiving/putaway, inventory control, order fulfillment, shipping, and mobile computing. SmartTurn offers demo versions and a free trial. Since its launch, SmartTurn has garnered more than 50 customer sites, spanning multiple industries including Warehousing, Beverage Distribution, Manufacturing, Retail, Medical Supplies & Devices, and Importers. The appeal is easy to understand: WMS without many of the things people hate about WMS — the increased IT load, the management of technical issues, the servers. In essence, all you have to have is a web browser.

The basic thing to remember when you automate is that automation isn’t really a solution. It’s a way to express processes in a systematic manner.

“By putting in an automated system, you become accurate,” said David Marshall, President and Chief Operating Officer of RobRoy, Inc. His company has implemented WMS, and stuck as closely as it could to standardized software rather than customization. “But you just get bad information faster if bad information is what you already have. An automated system won’t solve that problem. You have to solve a problem, then automate the solution.”

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What is Dynamic Zone Allocation, and why do You Need it?

October 25, 2007

conveyor line dynamic zone allocation

A recent development in conveyor technology is dynamic zone allocation.

Zero and minimum pressure accumulation systems have been around for years, but suffered from variable loads. If you have zones of, say, 24″ and some cartons that are 15″, the smaller cartons have to take up space as if they were the longest load on the system. An animation depicting DZA can be found here.

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Are You Loading Pallet Rack Beams Near to Rated Capacity?

October 23, 2007

pallet rack loading diagram

It’s easy to understand the idea of pallet rack beam capacities. They’re listed, mostly, in a per-pair style and common in the 5,000 pound range so that you can rack a couple of 2,500-lb. pallets on a 96″ span. That’s probably the most common pallet storage setup in the world. But if you’re not loading pallets correctly, you aren’t getting your full capacity rating. This article on beam loading methods explains it in detail, but the basic story is that if your load does not fully overhang or rest on the tallest part of the beam, you aren’t getting the full capacity because you’re not using all the steel and your load isn’t setting flush in the horizontal space.

Loads that rest on decking or pallet support put more pressure on the thinnest vertical section of the beam, in the ‘step’. This can diminish beam capacities. I’m not saying you can’t load racks this way (people do it all the time) but that you need to check out the capacity of the beams when they’re loaded on the step, not the full beam.

Read the article. It tells the story better.

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Cisco-Eagle safety white paper recognized by Material Handling Industy of America

October 23, 2007

cover of safety brochureThis is an honor that I’m pleased with because one of the things material handling, when done right, does best is to make industrial facilities safer. When you are storing and handling heavy, bulk products, the way you do that has the potential to make the operation more dangerous (if you do it wrong) or safer (if you do it right). Companies that make a conscious effort to emphasize safety should start with the way they store things. That’s not the end of the safety story, it’s the start. But it’s an important start.

The The College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) through MHIA awarded us third place for a white paper we published last year on material handling and safety — “15 Ways Material Handling Can Make Your Operation Safer”. There are more than 15, of course. There are probably as many ways as there are storage methods. And there are ways to enhance safety with simple products like guard rail and rack enclosures that also help operations in other ways.

You can get the PDF of the paper through the link above. You can also check out our index of materials handling safety related articles and resource links.

The award was a nice thing. To have placed with people like Modern Materials Handling and FKI was very gratifying for us. Thanks to Mike Ogle, CICMHE and MHIA for putting the awards together. It’s the second time we’ve placed. Maybe in 2009, the next time they run it, we can win!

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