Whether you’re operating a dedicated distribution center or the order fulfillment or stock warehouse of a manufacturing operation, most industrial facilities deal with storage and warehousing to some degree. In the not-so-distant past, warehousing was treated mostly as a cost center – a necessary evil that had to exist so that the more profitable parts of an enterprise could operate. Thankfully, more enlightened thought has prevailed recently.
Order fulfillment and storage are not just places you can save money – they can earn money. If the gremlins don’t get you.
In a recent blog post, Auburn professor Dr. Kevin Gue, one of the bright minds in the country when it comes to the business of industrial distribution and plant operations, reflected on the reaction to his ProMat 2013 talk on “Designing a Worker-Centric Facility”. Many salient points emerged:
Pallet rack is typically safe and easily-maintained storage equipment, whether you are dealing with selective, pushback, drive-in, or other types of rack. But if you load it wrong, if you don’t inspect and repair/replace damaged components, if you don’t understand your capacities, and if you don’t take steps to ensure your rack isn’t impacted by loading equipment, that safe rack can become dangerous and expensive.
We have created an infographic to help you navigate the most common mistakes people make dealing with pallet racks. Feel free to share this graphic to any site or other media. It is the first of many infographic posters we’ll be offering to help people operate and maintain material handling equipment.
Increase customer satisfaction. Moris explains that right-sizing your packages can reduce carton size and ensure customers receive the right package at the right time.
Reduce packaging costs. By using cartonization strategies, you can reduce parcel sizes – and by extension, shipping and packaging costs.
Decrease labor and increase throughput. By optimizing its sortation systems, one retailer cut 62 cents off every package shipped.
Reduce freight, sortation, and shipping costs. Reducing carton dimensions does all of these things in a world where just a single sheet of paper is capable of changing a carton’s shipping class.
We live in a world where weight and dimensional measurement of packages is becoming faster and easier to gauge. Shippers can and will be able to charge more for smaller and smaller differences, so every bit of the process you can automate and optimize, the better. There are more tips (and plenty more detail) at the article – check it out.
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?
According to OSHA, training is the key to forklift safety, and there is fundamental agreement on that. Training can and does make a serious dent in the high injury rates suffered due to industrial traffic. Training must happen, and it must be repeated. But that begs this question: Why has training failed to move the needle when it comes to serious forklift related injuries? The numbers seem to have stabilized at an average of 100 deaths per year, and have stayed consistently at that level for years.
If you’re paying someone to store a pallet for you, what’s reasonable? Are you overpaying for convenience or location? It’s not easy to compare 3PL vs. 3PL, or even your own warehouse so you know for sure if you are getting value for your money. But there are some basic assumptions you can make to help you understand what you’re dealing with, the costs the 3PL may experience, and reasonable costs for your storage projects.
Pallet racks are frequently subject to abuse, and even the toughest rack will need some cautious handling, processes, guarding equipment, and other help to remain in service. Racks can be overloaded, hit by heavy forklifts, misloaded, and otherwise impacted. These are some tips to help you avoid the frustration, expense, and danger of rack damage.
In an industrial environment, intersections can be dangerous. With fast-moving workers who are busy and probably distracted, and fast-moving forklifts that may have loads elevated that can obstruct the driver’s view, corners, ends of rack rows, and intersections can be the cause of many accidents. Whether it’s a worker walking and carrying a load, or a forklift on its way to the next pick, the chances of collisions, injuries, and damages are greater at intersections than most anywhere else. What are your options when it comes to making your intersections safer?
Although this incident took place in a big-box warehouse store, it could have happened in any number of industrial warehouses across the country. The presence of order pickers, shoppers, or others in a rack aisle is a top safety concern, in particular if the aisle on the other side of the rack row is being restocked. Most likely this accident was caused by a push from the opposite side of the racks.
In any case, a tragic accident was narrowly avoided by sheer luck.
If possible, these kinds of accidents should be guarded against with items such as rack safety nets or wire mesh safety panels. This isn’t always possible, since lifts may need access to both sides of a rack aisle.
Another thing you can do is try to remove pickers from aisles where trucks are working the other side. If they are executing each-pick or carton-pick from lower bays, is it possible to move those to their own area of the warehouse, away from lift truck traffic?
In the case of poorly constructed storage, it’s a matter of process. Inspect pallets before they go into the rack. Are they stacked for stability? Shrinkwrap or band them to shore them up. Don’t allow carton picks from those pallets if possible, as that can destabilize the load. If you must pick from them, bring them down, pick, re-balance, and restock them. That’s time consuming compared to a quick carton pick, but given what almost happened here, and what could happen any day in any warehouse, it’s a small price to pay.
You can also clear both sides of a bay when either side is being loaded or unloaded by forklift. This helps you keep people safe even if there is a spill. Of course training lift drivers to avoid these types of “push” accidents is mandatory, but you can’t count on training alone when there is this kind of danger to people in the next aisle.