Material Handling Experts


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

Use Propane in your Forklift? Tax Credits are Running Out

June 9, 2011

Forklift propane bottleA federal tax credit that could allow forklift users to recoup 50 cents of every gallon of propane purchased runs out August 1, 2011. If you run forklifts on propane, it’s nearly a no-brainer that your company should apply for this credit. To get in, you must have submitted your paperwork by the first of August. The credit is part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Authorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.  Propane is part of the alternative fuels classification, which also includes natural gas, bio-diesel, and ethanol.

After the deadline, the tax credit reverts to 30%. As always, see your tax professionals before undertaking any decisions based on this information.

Posted in Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, News, ROI, Sustainability, Warehousing| No Comments »

Smart Labor Management Helps Cut Warehouse Costs

May 22, 2011

packing operations

Especially as the economic recovery continues, it’s important to control costs in your operation. What are some warehousing cost-cutting methods you can employ that don’t require extensive investment or re-tooling? Most of the costs of warehousing operations fall into the following categories:

  • People
  • Real Estate, Utilities & other Fixed Costs
  • Inventory
  • Technology

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Posted in Lifts, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Mixed-Load Robotic Palletizing Application Video

May 10, 2011

In this video, a Fanuc robot is executing mixed-load palletizing of beer cases at a distribution center.

In this operation, differently-sized beer cases are conveyed to the robot to fulfill a specific order. Since the cases vary by width, length, and height, their dimensional information is sent to the robot by the WMS (warehouse management system). The robot utilizes mixed-load palletizing software to determine the best pattern to build a pallet with the available products, achieving high density and stack stability with rapid speed.

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Palletizers, Robotics, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Picking Bar Stock, Steel, or Pipe: Rack Storage Options

March 24, 2011

storing bar stock

Especially in heavy manufacturing, machine shops, petroleum, or chemical operations, large bundles of pipe, tubing, bar stock, or other long, heavy loads must be stored and picked during the day. Multiple ways are available to store these loads.  They can be picked by forklifts, by hand, by hoist or crane. The choices you make will determine how you access the product (and how easily), how much space it takes, and its safety. Here are the options:

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Posted in Manufacturing, Material Handling, Safety & Ergonomics, Space Saving, Warehousing| No Comments »

Best Practices for Warehousing – 13 Tips for Productivity

March 17, 2011

Improving a warehousing operation is a complex endeavor that can be approached from any number of angles.  Here are 13 common actions you can consider in any warehouse improvement effort…

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Posted in Automation, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, ROI, Supply Chain, Warehousing| 10 Comments »

Moving Material Vertically – VRC’s, Conveyors, and Other Options

February 2, 2011

mezzanine and conveyor picking area

The easiest space to recoup in most every operation is overhead space – the vertical cube. Expanding out costs more than expanding up. Over time, that means utilizing mezzanines, suspended overhead conveyors, pick modules, taller rack systems, the space over dock doors, etc. That space is available in most every warehouse or manufacturing facility, but utilizing it means that you have to be able to move material between levels without creating bottlenecks.

What are your options?

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Posted in Conveyor, Lifts, Mezzanines, Warehousing| No Comments »

What’s it Cost to Run a Warehouse in Your City?

January 19, 2011

warehousing operationsThe Boyd Company has released a useful document on the comparative costs of operating a warehouse or distribution center around the United States, “Comparative Distribution Warehousing Industry Operating Costs”. It takes multiple factors into account and provides an annual operating cost for many cities and regions. The report bases these costs on a hypothetical 175,000 square foot facility with 75 nonexempt workers. This warehouse would ship over-the-road to a national U.S. market.

The factors taken into consideration include:

  • Total annual labor costs
  • Electric power costs
  • Natural gas power costs
  • Amortization costs
  • Property and sales taxes
  • Shipping costs

Some markets of interest and their annual operating costs:

  • San Jose, CA (most expensive): $12,064,961
  • Sioux Falls, SD (least expensive): $7,417,487
  • Chicago, IL $10,351,816
  • St. Louis, MO: $8,808,609
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX $8,430,605
  • Oklahoma City, OK $8,119,512
  • Tulsa, OK $8,089,925

Obviously these numbers won’t be an exact fit for every operation, but they can give you a good idea of costs in a given city or state.

Posted in News, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Cisco-Eagle Expands Robotics and Automation Offerings

January 10, 2011

Robot intengrated with conveyorsCisco-Eagle has always provided integrated material handling systems, but we’re entering a new phase by partnering with companies like SSI Schaefer, HighJump WMS, Orion Packaging, Fanuc Robotics, ABB Robotics, von Gal, and more. We recently invited Dr. Sam Chen to join us as Senior Robotics and Software Engineer. Dr. Chen will complement our existing controls and implementation services, allowing us to integrate robotics, palletizers, packaging machinery, and other equipment with conveyors and other material handling solutions.

We have engineered and implemented hundreds of systems in distribution, manufacturing, order fulfillment, and other applications. We can now help clients to a greater degree by providing advanced control systems, robotics, and more.

More details on these partnerships are coming soon.

Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Manufacturing, Material Handling, News, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Palletizers, Warehousing| No Comments »

“Undercover Boss” Underlines the Difficulties of Large Scale Distribution

December 26, 2010

Tonight’s Undercover Boss on CBS features GSI Commerce CEO Michael G. Rubin, and as my wife and I were watching it, the loading, order picking and packing segment brought home the difficulties of these operations. It’s a somewhat rare mainstream glimpse into large scale distribution operations.

The order picking segment from GSI’s Lexington, Kentucky distribution center in particular stressed the disadvantages associated with walking in order picking operations. Armed with RF guns, the pickers tow order picking shelf carts between picking aisles. They leave the carts in a center aisle and move down rack aisles where inventory is stored in bins.

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

5 Ways to Avoid Costly Conveyor Breakdowns

December 17, 2010

:Power roller conveyor

Conveyors are exceptional in their productivity enhancement for manufacturing and distribution operations, but they need attention – and not just from your maintenance group. Everyone involved with them should be aware of the safety and performance issues involved. Here are five practices for happy conveying…

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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Manufacturing, Material Handling, ROI, Warehousing| No Comments »