Material Handling Experts


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

Conveyor Video: How to Tighten the Drive Chain Tension

August 28, 2013

Hytrol Conveyors has provided this handy video guide for maintaining chain driven conveyors.

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Industrial Automation and The Flexibility Problem

August 22, 2013


Earlier this year, Food Logistics published a provocative article, “Automate or Die”.  Do you have to automate? Of course not. But it brings to mind a good question: where is the point of acceptable ROI for automation projects? When does it make sense? What aspects are potential pitfalls?

We’re  inside warehouses, distribution centers, commercial operations, and manufacturing facilities every day. We don’t see full scale automation in all — or even most — of these operations. We’ve even seen some companies who have automated go back to picking with carts. We’ve seen others thrive due to their automated projects. The point is, you certainly won’t “die” if you don’t automate. But that doesn’t mean that you should not automate some or all aspects of your operation.

In some cases, we try to make the case that automation isn’t needed. In others, we try to help these companies understand when a capital investment in automation equipment and/or software will save money, increase productivity, reduce problems, and improve their business. It’s not  something that you can do from a distance.  It requires a command of the facts on the ground, in the servers, and throughout the supply chain.

So, the question is, why automate? 

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When is a Mezzanine not a Mezzanine?

August 4, 2013

mezzanine or work platform

What a difference a name can make.

People tend to call any elevated platform a “mezzanine” in this industry, but that may be a mistake. When you are installing or otherwise specifying a platform, you need to be aware that the word “mezzanine” can cost you money and headaches when applied incorrectly.

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A Guide To Pallet Rack Load Types

July 27, 2013

loaded pallet rack

Is this an unevenly distributed load? Concentrated load?
Line load? Point load? Load of something really heavy?

We have stressed this before: rack loads aren’t just simple weight vs. structure. The dimensions, shape, and size/density of the load as it sits on storage racks is absolutely critical to safe, effective warehouse storage. Our friends at Nashville Wire recently released an excellent piece that helps define the load types and how you can avoid incorrect or unsafe rack loading.

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End-of-Line Robotic Palletizing: A Matter of When

July 11, 2013

robotic palletizing white paper

We’ve posted a new white paper in our growing library of free material handling, logistics, safety, and manufacturing information resources.  This paper focuses on the proliferation of end of line robotic palletizing, its growing benefits, methods, and more. If you are palletizing at the end of a production line, this is a must-read.

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Excess Walking Makes “Zombies” of Order Pickers

July 10, 2013

zombie order picker

Studies indicate that order pickers spend too much time walking – according to many studies, distribution center employees routinely spend more than  half their day walking, not picking orders, packing orders, or replenishing stock. They’re going from point to point, burning man hours getting where they need to be, not working. And that’s the average — for really poorly designed operations, it’s worse.

As they tire, workers pick slower, pick less accurately, and work more dangerously — almost a zombie like situation! Every bad thing that can happen in a warehouse operation is amplified, the more time employees spend walking.  

Check out our most recent Info-graphic, “Walking is the Walking Death of Order Picking Productivity”  for more information on ways you can combat this issue. 

More information:

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Top 12 Distribution Center Metrics

June 29, 2013

Busy distribution operationAs it has every year for the last decade, DCVelocity Magazine has surveyed its readers and members of WERC to  find what industry professionals believe are the top metrics for a successful operation. This is instructive for most operations, and worth taking a look.  The full survey can be found here.

The top 12 metrics, and (category)

  1. On time shipments (to customers)
  2. Internal order cycle time (customer)
  3. Dock-to-stock cycle time, in hours (inbound operation)
  4. Total cycle time (customer)
  5. Order picking accuracy (quality)
  6. Lines picked and shipped per hour (outbound operations)
  7. Lines received and put away per hour (inbound operations)
  8. Percentage of supplier orders received damage free (inbound operations)
  9. Average warehouse capacity used (capacity)
  10. Order fill rate (outbound operations)
  11. Percentage of supplier orders received with correct documentation (inbound operations)
  12. Peak warehouse capacity used (Capacity)

Not everything on this list necessarily applies to every operation, but they are all worth some reflection. It’s worthwhile to have the questions posed, as we all fall victim to the “forest and trees” syndrome. 

Related: How to benchmark your warehouse operation

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Inventory Management, Material Handling, ROI, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Can Warehouse Safety be Automated?

June 28, 2013

warehouse corner

OSHA estimates 85 deaths, 35,000 serious injuries, and another 62,000 non-serious injuries. More than 11% of forklifts are involved in these accidents every year, meaning that the forklift in your warehouse is statistically destined to have an accident before it goes out of service.

The cherry on top of this awful pie? Almost 40% of those accidents, depending on whose numbers you follow, involve a pedestrian. And this doesn’t  take into account the accidents that damage property, but don’t hurt people. Forklift-to-forklift collisions, or forklift colliding with warehouse racks aren’t included in these numbers if people aren’t injured.

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Posted in AisleCop, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

A Rule of Thumb: Rack Height to Depth Ratio

June 21, 2013

 pallet rack system

When designing pallet racks, people tend to pay attention to the easy parts. Beam capacity is straight math; the capacity of a pair of beams, so long as the load is evenly distributed, the load properly positioned, and the safety clips are installed, is a reliable number. Frame capacities are a more complex, as they rely on vertical spacing between levels. Get these factors right, and typically it doesn’t take an engineer to design a safe and reliable rack system.

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Cisco-Eagle Publishes Steel Guard Rail Configurator

June 7, 2013

steel guard rail in a distribution center

We have published another exclusive Cisco-Eagle WebTool, a configuration tool that lets you create steel guard rail layouts, basic drawings, prices, and component lists. The Steel Guard Rail Configurator works instantly right in your browser. Like all of our other webtools, it doesn’t require registration. You can elect to send your results to Cisco-Eagle for assistance with your project. 

The configurator allows single sided, two, three, and four sided layouts. 

Steel King’s Steel Guard Heavy-duty guardrail creates a highly visible wall of steel that is perfect for surrounding machinery, protecting conveyor lines, modular buildings, or lining a pedestrian walkway. Specially designed ribs in the guardrail give the walls extra durability. 

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