Material Handling Experts


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

A Quick Guide to Reducing Warehouse Costs

September 29, 2010

warehouse distribution center

Over at the Operations & Fulfillment site, Curt Barry has written a brief, informative piece on reducing warehouse costs. In particular during a difficult economic climate, cost reduction is at the top of mind for distribution operations.

Here are some of the quick tips from that piece…

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Conveyor systems: Total Cost of Ownership

September 28, 2010

conveyor system

Conveyors, like any capital investment have multiple costs. The amount on your invoice is hardly the last time you’ll pay for that conveyor. If a conveyor is correctly specified and designed for future use, significant cost savings can be realized.

The three costs a conveyor system carries:

  • Initial costs – the easiest to understand and quantify. This is the cost of equipment, installation, and controls.
  • Operational costs – electrical usage  & pneumatics usage
  • Maintenance costs – Spare parts, replacement parts, & labor costs

All of these costs are spread over the conveyor’s useful life, so a formula that might best express what your conveyor will cost is: TCO (total cost of ownership) = IC (initial cost) + OC (operational costs) + MC (maintenance costs)/ useful life of the system.

Higher initial costs may be recouped in lower maintenance and operational costs over time if the right decisions are made when the equipment is specified and ordered. The initial cost savings can be eaten up by higher operating and maintenance costs, but neither of those is as expensive as a system that cannot do the job it was deployed to do. Long term costs can easily outstrip the initial costs. What are the real, long term costs and what can you do to control them?

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Pickers, Packers, and Conveyor Reliability

August 13, 2010

Do your line employees help extend the life of your conveyors? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s probably “no.”

conveyor belt systems

Employees are the first line of defense when it comes to minimizing maintenance problems, according to Cliff Holste at Supply Chain Digest. Are you adequately preparing them to fulfill that role? Are they trained, equipped, and encouraged to help you prevent issues with conveyors and other equipment? Past the jump, a couple of ways to help your line workers become more aware of ways to keep your systems running…

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Cool your warehouse with solar powered “big” ceiling fans

June 24, 2010

solar powered HVLS fan

It’s that season – facilities across the country are facing mounting utility bills, workers drenched in sweat, and ferocious heat. Typically, an HVLS fan is one of the best solutions to these issues, but MacroAir has gone one better by producing these massive air movement ceiling fans in a solar configuration. This innovation does a couple of things. First, it cools your facility during the day, using the same method other HVLS fans use. But beyond that, it’s a very green product, one that reduces your energy costs and carbon footprint. Currently, these fans come in solar-only configurations. They won’t run when the sun is down, and they do not have battery backup systems. However, there is an option being designed to allow you to tie them to building power for night time or non-seasonal applications.

More information here…

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Sustainability, Warehousing| No Comments »

Forklift Safety: Don’t Blame the Driver

June 24, 2010

hurtling forklift in a warehouse

Environmental factors are often ignored

One percent of factory accidents involve forklift trucks, but the forklift accidents produce ten percent of the physical injuries. That’s an astonishing ratio, but not all that surprising given the nature of forklifts and the way they are utilized. Forklifts are dense, heavy-mass vehicles. When they collide with something – or someone – the results are devastating, even at low speeds.

Some leading types of lift truck accidents are:

  • Workers struck by forklifts
  • Loads are dropped onto employees
  • Driver catches his body between the forklift and other objects
  • The forklift is driven off the loading dock

Kind of a terrifying list, don’t you think?

Most forklift accidents are blamed on operator error, but that is just partially true – and something of a cop-out. Rough estimates say that a quarter of forklift accidents could be avoided by addressing environmental concerns. When you eliminate those, it helps you understand better when a driver is truly ineffective, or just hamstrung by the way your warehouse is set up. In other words, before you point the finger at the driver, take a look at your operation…

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Lean Logistics Summit Kicks Off in June

June 2, 2010

The Lean Logistics Summit kicks of on June 22 in Cincinnati. The Summit will gather the world’s leading authorities on the subject of lean logistics. Authors, researchers, and company representatives actually on their own lean logistics journey will share their insights. Learn from them and learn from your peers as you network with like-minded professionals. Sessions of interest to warehousing and distribution professionals might include “A Case Study in Lean Distribution,” by Sarah Giffin, Sr. Operations Improvement Manager of CEVA Logistics on 6/22. Also, check out “Implementing Lean Inside the Logistics Facility” later that day. The summit costs $995, but use the code “leannation” for a 25% discount.

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Button Control Vertical Carousels Application Guide & Videos

May 17, 2010

button controlled vertical carousels

(Videos after the jump)

Vertical Carousels have always been one of the most efficient ways to improve order picking productivity while saving floor space, but they have always been an expensive proposition. Automated carousel systems have their place, and can provide a high return on investment in the right application, but there are lower-volume applications, or specialized operations where a manually controlled vertical carousel may offer the productivity enhancing & space-saving advantages without the higher cost of automation. These carousels are good for operations where it is desirable to minimize forklifts &  ladders usage for a more ergonomic functionality.

So, when is the right time to use a manually controlled system?

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Carts vs. Conveyors in Product Transport Operations

May 10, 2010

conveyors vs. carts for transport

When you are moving items such as cartons, bins, or components through a facility, several methods are available. Most of the time the choice is between non-powered carts & trucks or conveyors, whether power or gravity. (If you’re moving pallets, there are other methods and issues). Generally, conveyors deliver a less manual, safer operation with added efficiency across the board. Products are moved faster and fewer employees are required to accomplish the same tasks. Conveyors minimize fatigue and reduce potential manual lifting injuries. This improved handling has the potential to reduce worker compensation claims and expenses

But when do you make the leap from a manual, cart-driven system to a conveyor transport system?

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Extenda conveyor belt pusher is an excellent choice where space is minimal, but the load requires 90-degree sortation

April 21, 2010
90-degree sortation pusher

Hytrol PIB Extenda Pusher

The construction of the Extenda Pusher lends itself to both speed and strength. The robust cylinders – stabilized by tandem aluminum guides – provide the power, while the lightweight aluminum pusher face enhances the speed. With throughput rates of up to 50 cartons per minute, it is easy to see why Hytrol’s Extenda Pusher is the smartest choice for your system. Available in 4 stroke lengths, it mounts to units with overall conveyor widths of 18″, 24″, 30″, and 36″. Unique to this style pusher are proximity sensors for both extend and return signals, which allow you to adjust the stroke length. Its black composite guards are secure yet lightweight and simple to remove. Another standard feature is the emergency stop that when activated immediately empties air pressure stored within the pusher, ensuring safe operation. This space-saving design makes it a great choice for systems where mounting space is minimal, yet products require 90 degree sortation.

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How Much Difference do Fully-Enclosed Pallet Rack Frames Make?

April 5, 2010

How much difference can a fully enclosed pallet rack upright make? When it comes to the kind of significant injuries, product damage, and overall safety of a warehouse or commercial facility, the minor cost differences are insignificant compared to the potential savings if you prevent just one accident over the next decade. Imagine suffering an accident like this one.

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