Material Handling Experts


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

Along with the cost of a gallon of gas, your transportation costs are rising (but fuel isn’t the only reason)

November 14, 2007

It’s more immediate of course, when the cost at the pump jumps, but rising fuel costs are a reality in your shipping operations whether you are pushing product to customers or bringing it into your facility. We’ve all seen the fuel surcharges and continually-rising freight rates.

According to Operations & Fulfillment, labor developments may have just as much impact over the next few years. Over the next 5 years, the latest UPS contract amounts to a $9 per hour labor cost increase, which will certainly make its way downstream to shipping charges. Developments in other companies such as FedEx and labor negotiations across the shipping and freight world mean that even if fuel prices stabilize, it’ll cost you more to ship and receive products.

Curt Barry’s article at Operations & Fulfillment recommends some of the steps you can take:

  1. Look at transportation in the context of the total supply chain efficiency. (see Curt’s article for tips).
  2. Institute vendor compliance policies, include routing guides for inbound carriers. Do not permit vendor-controlled freight.
  3. For high returns businesses, use return services.
  4. Join an inbound freight consortium with contracted carriers and negotiated best rates.
  5. Do your homework. You have to understand your volume and shipping characteristics, etc.
  6. Consider a freight consultant, which can reduce costs 15% to 25%.

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Benchmarking Warehouse Performance…What do You Measure, and How?

November 8, 2007

For about $110 (or half that if you’re a WERC member) you can buy the Warehousing Education and Research Council Manager’s Guide For Benchmarking. The book details different kinds of benchmarking, why you should benchmark, how to pick appropriate metrics & measurements, and analyze your company’s performance. It’s also got techniques for communicating to get the results you need. The group’s website describes it like this:

“As competition grows for dollars, time and resources, the demand to improve performance takes on greater importance. WERC developed this Guide to Benchmarking to help you unleash the power of benchmarking for your organization. You’ll read about the different kinds of benchmarking, why it’s important to benchmark, how to choose the right metrics, how to analyze your company’s performance, and techniques for communicating to get the results you need. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn how to develop a benchmarking strategy specifically for your operation.”

It’s a relatively short, 44-page read. It’s appealing to me because we stress performance measurement at Cisco-Eagle, and the metrics are perhaps the most difficult aspect of that. Get them defined correctly and everything else should fall into place.

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Is the midwest the best location for your distribution center?

October 31, 2007

That’s what Todd Yadzi of the 3PL TAGG Logistics thinks, and writes in this Operations & Fulfillment article, “DC Operations Why Midwest is Best”. His basic premise is that operations on either coast slow an entire supply chain down and increase its costs. Part of this comes from the proximity issue (I suppose he’s thinking that you would spend more on a coastal DC’s for each coast than you would for one larger operation in the middle of the country). It makes sense in that land, labor and utilities are less expensive down the center than they are near the larger urban centers. He believes that if you’re shipping from coastal ports to your facility, it still makes economic sense to move product inland due to the higher carrying and transportation costs.

Take that a step (and a few years) further: as the NAFTA corridor matures, you will see areas that align with it receiving larger and larger amounts of cargo, not only from Central America, but from other areas as the Port of Houston capacity grows. This is already happening, and all that growth will travel north from Texas and into the heartland.

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What is Dynamic Zone Allocation, and why do You Need it?

October 25, 2007

conveyor line dynamic zone allocation

A recent development in conveyor technology is dynamic zone allocation.

Zero and minimum pressure accumulation systems have been around for years, but suffered from variable loads. If you have zones of, say, 24″ and some cartons that are 15″, the smaller cartons have to take up space as if they were the longest load on the system. An animation depicting DZA can be found here.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Are You Loading Pallet Rack Beams Near to Rated Capacity?

October 23, 2007

pallet rack loading diagram

It’s easy to understand the idea of pallet rack beam capacities. They’re listed, mostly, in a per-pair style and common in the 5,000 pound range so that you can rack a couple of 2,500-lb. pallets on a 96″ span. That’s probably the most common pallet storage setup in the world. But if you’re not loading pallets correctly, you aren’t getting your full capacity rating. This article on beam loading methods explains it in detail, but the basic story is that if your load does not fully overhang or rest on the tallest part of the beam, you aren’t getting the full capacity because you’re not using all the steel and your load isn’t setting flush in the horizontal space.

Loads that rest on decking or pallet support put more pressure on the thinnest vertical section of the beam, in the ‘step’. This can diminish beam capacities. I’m not saying you can’t load racks this way (people do it all the time) but that you need to check out the capacity of the beams when they’re loaded on the step, not the full beam.

Read the article. It tells the story better.

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