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

Conveyor Down in the 2nd Shift, On a Holiday Eve

July 13, 2012

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. A huge mess on the night before a holiday.”

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Posted in Conveyor, News, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Warehousing| No Comments »

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 »

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 »

To-Do List for Moving a 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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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Manufacturing, News, Robotics, Supply Chain| No Comments »

A Different Sort of Sorter

December 2, 2011

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.

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Cross Docking, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, News, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pallet Rack, Warehousing| No Comments »

How the Movies Get Material Handling Wrong

November 15, 2011

Mateial handling movies

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.

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Industrial Shelving, Lifts, News, Pallet Rack, Warehousing| No Comments »

Pack Expo 2011 Still Going Strong

September 28, 2011

Pack Expo 2011 - Cisco-Eagle

If you’re in Las Vegas for the show, please come by and visit us. We’re displaying the AisleCop Warehouse Pedestrian Safety Gate System, Fanuc Robotics, and talking Seegrid Robotic Trucks, Conveyor Systems, Steel King, and more.

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Picking to Cartons vs. Picking to Totes

July 14, 2011

Order picking on a conveyor with carousels

In a pick-to-tote operation, you have the advantage of a dedicated packing function. Since totes can be “one size (or a range of them) fits all”, your pickers can easily pick and organize totes as they navigate the system, either on conveyor or in carts. They aren’t thinking of anything but getting the pick right. Trained packers at the end of the line cartonize the orders, often using state of the art packing stations and consolidated equipment & materials. This means that you’ll have at least two employees (the picker(s) and the packer) touching each order, and that the packing group will need more square footage.  What if you decided to pick directly to cartons, eliminating the totes and reducing or eliminating the packing group?

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pack Expo, Space Saving, Warehousing| No Comments »

Ten Reasons to Automate your Operation

June 10, 2011

automated robotic palletizer

In the not-too-distant past, most companies that weren’t running immense distribution operations, who didn’t have multiple facilities, who didn’t run 24-hour shifts, didn’t even consider automation. Too expensive, they’d say. Too much risk. Too little upside if things go wrong.  All valid in context, if we were in 1998. But the reality is this: While most costs—personnel, land, energy— have increased, automation costs have remained steady or declined across the board. The reality today is that the four guys stacking pallets at the end of a line, even for a single shift, even at low wages, are more expensive than a well configured palletizing system.

Those costs aren’t going to do anything but escalate, either. Listed are ten ways automation has become more relevant, even to mid-size operations:

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Robotics, ROI, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »