Material Handling Experts


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

Vertical Lift Modules vs. Horizontal Carousels

May 2, 2012

Horizontal Carousels vs. Verticla Lift Modules

When you are considering an automated picking solution, you have lots of choices. One of the more frequent comparisons is between horizontal carousels and VLM’s – vertical lift modules. Both promise similar efficiency gains: they bring products to pickers rather forcing pickers to move to picking stations in shelving or racks. But which is best? That depends on what set of criteria you use, and what’s important to you.
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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pack Expo, Safety & Ergonomics| No Comments »

Does Labor Cost you $2.24 an Hour?

May 2, 2012

Costs of warehouse labor

We all get it: labor is expensive. In distribution & warehousing  it’s one of the most expensive line items.

Automation and utilization of certain technologies (conveyors, as/rs, robotics) has helped alleviate these expenses and made companies more competitive, but there is no end in sight to cost pressures coming both from foreign competition and customer demand. Seegrid has created this graph, comparing the hourly costs of its driverless automated forklifts and that of a human operator.  The Seegrid trucks require no overtime, no dental insurance, and don’t take breaks. The unique thing about the Seegrid line is that it can deliver day-one ROI.

Posted in Automation, Cross Docking, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Palletizers, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

ICWM Issues New Caster & Wheel Standards

April 30, 2012

Casters & WheelsThe ICWM (Institute of Caster & Wheel Manufacturers) has created a new set of standards for industrial caster manufacture and usage.  The standards, which cost $50 as a download from the ICWM’s website. It’s an excellent resource for engineers, designers, fabricators, and caster users.

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OSHA, Whistleblowers, and Safety Bonuses

April 9, 2012

carrying cartons in a warehouse, wearing safety vest

OSHA has recently released a guide to safety incentives, disincentives, and reporting issues. It’s worth a quick read if you manage a manufacturing, warehousing, or industrial facility.

This document focuses on reporting/non-reporting workplace injury issues. OSHA says that “Reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right, and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11(c).”  Of course, smart companies want to know if there are unsafe conditions or practices. But what if your safety rewards program is discouraging employees from reporting incidents, or even near-misses?

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Manufacturing, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics| No Comments »

Inspecting Your Pallet Racks for Damage

April 1, 2012

drive in rackWhen was the last time you had your pallet rack inspected?

Every operation that operates mechanical lifting equipment is required by the  Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to inspect and document the safety of their racking systems. It’s the most common storage equipment in the world, and an inspection can not only help you comply with the law – it can help you see other issues in your warehouse. We have created a checklist of items to check and ways to check them.

Posted in Docks & Shipping, Industrial Shelving, Material Handling, Mezzanines, Pallet Rack, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

How to Benchmark Your Warehouse

March 26, 2012

Warehouse measurement

Everyone likes to see how they’re doing vs. their industry peers.  This isn’t just a natural urge to compare yourself, it’s a vital part of doing business.

Benchmarking, at the heart of it, is comparing your performance to others like you. You look at your business processes and outcomes, and how they stack up to the performance metrics of industry leaders, your peers, and the best from similar operations. In warehousing, it is particularly important to understand where you are, and where you could be with reconfigurations, tweaks, and innovations that others are using to improve their numbers.  What do you specifically measure? Typically this can include quality, cost, and time. Specifically, it can get much more complex.

At the end it helps you understand the success of your peers and how you can reproduce that success.

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Visitors to your operation: how to make them safer

February 29, 2012

Are your warehouse visitors paying attention?

Safety is always a concern for industrial operations, but visitors take the dangers to another level.

In a fast-paced distribution center, there is plenty of forklift traffic, moving conveyors, packing machines, carousels, and dock doors. Same with manufacturing; you have all kinds of production machinery, welding (human and robotic), and heavy material being handled, stacked, or processed, along with the forklifts and other handling equipment. It’s hard enough to keep your own people – the ones who should know the lay of the land – safe in these environments. But what about visitors who haven’t had the benefit of your safety training and the situational awareness that your employees develop over time?

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Posted in Conveyor, Cross Docking, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

Ways to Reduce Product Damage in Your Warehouse

February 16, 2012

crushed box
In warehouse & manufacturing operations, things get broken. They break in a number of ways, and it’s expensive. You’ve probably seen product broken or damaged in amazing and improbable ways  if you’ve been in this business for any length of time.

We had a client once buy a bunch of mismatched, used industrial shelving (not from us), only to see it collapse and dump thousands of tiny aircraft components on the floor. It had to be swept up and discarded since it was all mixed up and visually impossible to sort.

Those are extraordinary examples, but everyday inventory damage that cost “only” a few hundred or thousand dollars can savage your bottom line.

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Posted in Industrial Shelving, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

To-Do’s For Moving Your Warehouse

February 7, 2012

warehouse reconfiguration

Over the past four decades, we’ve seen plenty of operations move. We’ve installed entirely new conveyor systems into functioning operations without disturbing the flow of existing work. We’ve seen companies pick up an entire distribution operation and move it across two hundred feet of parking lot into another building. It’s not new territory for us, and probably if you have managed a manufacturing or warehousing operation long, it’s not for you either.

Like moving your personal household, it’s chaotic, fast-paced, inconvenient and usually painful – in fact more painful than a personal move because there are so many moving parts, so many ways to get it wrong. How can you reduce the pain and get back into gear as fast as possible?

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Posted in Conveyor, Docks & Shipping, Industrial Shelving, Material Handling, Mezzanines, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

Automation More Important Than Ever

February 3, 2012

Manufacturing - motors at an automotive plantPresident Obama’s State of the Union address focused on manufacturing in the United States – which everyone, no matter their political persuasion, can agree is a vital part of our economy. Countries that don’t make things aren’t world powers, period.

And the numbers, on the surface, can look dire. According to Forbes Magazine,  22 million manufacturing jobs were lost globally between 1995 and 2002. The U.S. lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in that timeframe.

The common belief is that these jobs were palletized and shipped east to China or south to Mexico. While that has happened – we’ve seen it in our client base more than once – it’s only part of the story. The reality is more complicated, and may help us to understand why manufacturing output has increased in the U.S. while jobs have been reduced. Manufacturing output didn’t just grow; it rocketed 30% since 1995. China – the supposed vampire of manufacturing employment – has lost a whopping 16 million manufacturing jobs.

In a word, the “culprit” (if you want to call it that) is automation. Robotics is less expensive and significantly more capable – and continues to improve. The same goes for other automation of other kinds.

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