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

6 Ideas to Keep Your Warehouse Clean

January 3, 2012

One easy way to gauge a warehouse or manufacturing plant ‘s effectiveness is to check how clean it is. Cleaner facilities are more productive, tend to be safer, and tend to be more organized.

Whether your facility features gleaming floors or just keeps debris from packaging materials, pallets, and accumulated junk under control, being cleaner is well worth the time investment. People who work in a disorganized facility where things just feel sloppy won’t work as well. They may make more errors. They won’t have pride in the operation.  An inch of dust on rack beams or beneath conveyor legs sends a message to workers. You don’t need a sparkling facility with floors so clean you could have lunch on them, but a well-lit, organized, pleasant place to work can be helpful in employee attitudes and retention.

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Industrial Shelving, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pallet Rack, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| 5 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 »

Improving (and proving) warehouse productivity

October 11, 2011

warehouse worker

In the last two decades, smart companies have identified the warehouse operation as a profit center, not a cost center. This is far from universal, but it inches toward that every day. No longer are warehouse managers considered box-hustlers – at least not in smart companies. Many are utilizing varying levels of automation. WMS is standard for larger operations and is making its way even to single-building, midsize and smaller ones.

Very few operations of any size rely completely on muscle, clipboards, carts, and spreadsheets these days; automation, at least in areas, has come into its own. But do you need to radically change your operation (and spend the capital that comes with that change) to boost warehouse productivity?

Some no-nonsense steps:

  • Evaluate warehouse processes. Is each part of the process logical? Process mapping can be done without expensive consultants, either by hand or with relatively inexpensive software. The discussions you’ll have with various department heads and people on the floor are often worthwhile by themselves. Look for gaps in the process you can plug. If packers point to picking issues that cause them problems, you have a place to start.
  • Create a plan – and stick to it. Identifying issues isn’t enough by a long shot, of course. Companies who identify issues and then fail to plan and execute based on them are only talking improvement. Execution is the key.
  • Be determined; bullheaded. Once you’ve identified, planned, and executed a process improvement, you should be able to understand its effect on the operation. If the result of our hypothetical issue between packers and pickers is that packers are better off, but order picking bogs down (or becomes less accurate), we haven’t achieved anything.

Spending money

But you can’t always attain significant increases without capital expense. You may need to implement robotic palletizing, enhanced WMS, etc. “Productivity gains” mean little to CFO’s or other upper level managers, though. They’re interested in dollars – how many were spent, how many were saved, and how fast the investment returns its value to the operation.

ROI isn’t simple math

Do you know your company’s definition for ROI? If you don’t know what it is, find out. It varies throughout companies and industries. A simple line item of my cost of $X saved $Y may not be good enough. In many firms (including Cisco-Eagle) the standard is to also compare that expenditure to what else could have been done with the money, including letting it drop to the bottom line. Prove your idea will pay off better than alternatives.

Can you show that a new conveyor system or picking system costing $600,000 will reduce labor costs enough to pay for itself within a reasonable time? Sometimes this is easier than others. If the system helps you reduce headcount by 10, and each person earned $30,000 per year, you get a rough idea of what you are faced with. But if the system simply allows you to keep up with growth, your justification scenario is easier. Can you also prove that your new idea is going to pay off better than, say, letting that money drop or better than an IT overhaul or other alternatives?

Posted in Automation, Robotics, ROI, Warehousing| No Comments »

Come see Cisco-Eagle at Pack Expo 2011

September 22, 2011

AisleCop warehouse pedestrian safety system

If you’re planning on attending Pack Expo 2011 next week (September 26-28),  come see us at booth #S6522. We’ll be demonstrating the AisleCop™ warehouse pedestrian safety system and a full range of automation and material handling solutions. Come by and meet us!

We’ll also be exhibiting at the North Texas WERC Council 10th Annual Warehousing Resource Convention at the Grapevine, TX Convention Center on October 12.

Posted in News, Pack Expo, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

Preventing Energy Leaks at the Dock Door

September 20, 2011

Loading dock door
Any operation with dock doors faces an uphill challenge when it comes to preserving the climate inside. In particular, air-conditioned and heated facilities must face the reality of losing large volumes of treated air when trailers must be loaded or unloaded. Managers will be asked to scrutinize every expense, and the loss of climate controlled air can be a significant expense.

So how can you minimize air and energy loss?

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Posted in Cross Docking, Docks & Shipping, Safety & Ergonomics, Sustainability, Warehousing| No Comments »

Hand Carts vs. Pallets for Retail Distribution

September 19, 2011

Pallet and order picking carts for retail distribution
Retail distribution facilities have multiple options for shipping product to store locations. They can send full pallets which must be unwrapped, unloaded, and stocked at the store location. They can send packed carts that can easily be rolled onto store floors and stocked at the point of sale. What method works best?
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Posted in Cross Docking, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Material Handling Consultants, Integrators, Manufacturers

August 1, 2011

Designing a material handling system

We are often asked who should “run point” when a client determines it is time to either upgrade an existing facility, or consider a new location to meet their supply chain requirements.  How might they move forward with professionals who will provide a solution without a product bias, or a pre-determined template.
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Posted in Automation, Manufacturing, Material Handling, News, Warehousing| No Comments »

Warehouse & Order Fulfillment: Hiring Good People

July 19, 2011

Warehouse manager

Finding qualified candidates for warehouse production work isn’t easy. This is particularly true with supervisors who understand how kitting, ticketing, and storage operations. You want people who know the work, and who can supervise and motivate your employees. Qualified candidates are often the kind of people who aren’t online perusing jobs. They aren’t going to temp agencies. It’s a unique and difficult situation for warehousing operations. Quite often, they must be bilingual to supervise an increasingly Spanish-speaking workforce.

Posted in Automation, Docks & Shipping, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Warehousing| No Comments »

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 »