In many operations, things like conveyors or pipe runs or other machinery interrupt the flow of a work floor, and the obvious way to get around it is to erect a crossover. This is commonly done in larger scale conveyor systems with longer lines, but we also do them for other areas where going around the obstacle could take significant time, or where access is limited by other factors. The question is, what type of crossover best fits your needs?
Take a look at your conveyor – do you think it’s safe? Are there sufficient guardrails? Are operators wearing loose clothing? Are visitors allowed near running lines? Because conveyor seems safe at a glance, it’s an often-overlooked hazard. Used correctly, of course, it is a safe way to increase productivity.
At Modex 2012, Hytrol Conveyor’s Boyce Bonham sat down with DCVelocity to discuss distribution center sustainability. We’ve linked the video below, which is worth a few moments of your time. How do initiatives to work greener, smarter, and better affect warehouses and distribution operations? Not surprisingly, these initiatives often save money, at least over the long term.
This note came to us regarding one of our Service & Maintenance clients, a major retailer distribution operation in Dallas, TX, and the experience it had with our technician. With a power conveyor out during the evening, the night before a holiday, he needed fast assistance.
“Tuesday night (July 3) we experienced a significant conveyor failure on night shift. The belt on a straight conveyor section leading into a critical area had broken and wrapped around the drive unit. Aa huge mess on the night before a holiday.”
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 essentially promise the same efficiency gain: 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. Read the rest of this entry »
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?
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?
President 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.
Sortation systems in distribution is application driven – typically we are talking about order fulfillment (retail, wave pre-sorting, inbound putaway sorts), shipping (end of line carrier sortation, ship to stores), and returns. Traditional sweep sorters, cross-belt, narrow slat & shoe, or belt sorters are often thought of as “for the big guys” in large operations. SpanTech’s new TranSorter is different, and it’s rolling out at Modex 2012. A sneak peek video below:
The TranSorter is built for hard to sort items, such as fragile items that require different handling. It’s good for ultra-lightweight items, poly bags, etc. It’s scalable, flexible, and affordable due to truly modular design, a world of layout possibilities, and competitive pricing. It can also deploy quickly, with 6-8 week delivery times and a couple days installation time. If you’re planning to attend Modex, check it out.
If you are in the warehousing or material handling industry, you’ll find yourself identifying warehouse and handling equipment in movies or television shows quite often. Many of us have seen, for instance, the NFL graphics of a large distribution system used on Fox network for years. I’ve pointed out Hytrol conveyors in movies to my wife for years, to the point where she says it first when she sees it.
For fun, we have put together a list of the more famous scenes in entertainment history involving material handling equipment, and how it could have been done better.