Material Handling Experts


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

Sheet Metal Storage Alternatives: What Works Best

September 18, 2012

sheet metal in a production facility

Above: how difficult is it access these sheets?

Sheet metal is one of the most difficult handling challenges out there. It’s simultaneously bulky, heavy, somewhat flexible, and prone to damage if handled incorrectly. It often has sharp edges and corners, making it dangerous to manually move and turn. At higher gauges or in bundles, it requires forklifts, cranes or scissor lifts for safe and effective handling. Even a thin sheet, if it’s 4 x 8, can be too much for a single worker to handle.

Yet, sheet metal is commonly used in manufacturing and fabrication, so finding better storage and handling methods is key. What can you do to handle it better?

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Posted in Manufacturing, Material Handling, Safety & Ergonomics, Space Saving| 1 Comment »

Tips to Prevent and Reduce Pallet Rack Damage

September 14, 2012

damaged rack post

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.

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Posted in Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pallet Rack, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

The Importance of Conveyor Emergency Stops

September 11, 2012

conveyor emergency stop

Take a look at your conveyor – do you think it’s safe? Are there sufficient guardrails? Are operators wearing loose clothing? Are visitors allowed near running lines? Because conveyor seems safe at a glance, it’s an often-overlooked hazard. Used correctly, of course, it is a safe way to increase productivity.

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Seeing Around Corners: The Danger Spots in Warehouses & Factories

August 28, 2012

pallet rack row end and forklift traffic

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?

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Posted in AisleCop, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

Video: Danger in the Rack Aisles

August 21, 2012

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.


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Posted in Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pallet Rack, Safety & Ergonomics, Warehousing| No Comments »

How to Avoid Loading Dock Injuries

August 3, 2012

loading dock from the outside

Since 25% of all warehouse injuries occur at the loading dock, warehousing and manufacturing operations need to pay close attention to this area. Shipping and receiving docks both suffer similar problems in that they are bustling places. At peak times they can get very busy, and when people are pressed for time, they become careless. So, what are the common injury types, and what can you do to avoid them?

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Safety & Ergonomics| No Comments »

Destratifying Air Layers: Cooler, Energy Saving Facilities

July 3, 2012

warehouse temperature stratification

Why air temperature gradients matter

Temperature gradients occur when air is not moving sufficiently to keep rising hot air mixed with descending cool air, creating warmer temperatures at the ceiling and cooler temperatures at the floor, with temperature variations equal to about .75 degrees per foot of rise. This means there could be six degrees difference from the floor to an 8′ ceiling. In a 40 ft ceiling room, temperatures can vary 30 degrees or more. At a glance this seems to be a good thing. The floor of your facility, where people have to operate is cooler than the air pressed against the ceiling.

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Posted in Manufacturing, Safety & Ergonomics, Sustainability, Warehousing| No Comments »

Empty Pallet Storage: What Not to Do

May 4, 2012

Most distribution and many manufacturing operations must deal with empty pallets – sometimes it’s a lot of pallets. They take space you could use for something else. They clutter your receiving areas. Sometimes they’re splintery, with nails protruding from the sides ready to bite a passerby. People re-use their pallets of course, holding onto them for a period of time until you can ship them back out. But while they’re in your facility, they can at space, potentially injure people, and generally cause trouble.

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Posted in Docks & Shipping, Pack Expo, Safety & Ergonomics, Space Saving, Warehousing| 16 Comments »

Vertical Lift Modules vs. Horizontal Carousels

May 2, 2012

Horizontal Carousels vs. Verticla Lift Modules

When you are considering an automated picking solution, you have lots of choices. One of the more frequent comparisons is between horizontal carousels and VLM’s – vertical lift modules. Both promise similar efficiency gains: they bring products to pickers rather forcing pickers to move to picking stations in shelving or racks. But which is best? That depends on what set of criteria you use, and what’s important to you.
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Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pack Expo, Safety & Ergonomics| No Comments »

OSHA, Whistleblowers, and Safety Bonuses

April 9, 2012

carrying cartons in a warehouse, wearing safety vest

OSHA has recently released a guide to safety incentives, disincentives, and reporting issues. It’s worth a quick read if you manage a manufacturing, warehousing, or industrial facility.

This document focuses on reporting/non-reporting workplace injury issues. OSHA says that “Reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right, and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11(c).”  Of course, smart companies want to know if there are unsafe conditions or practices. But what if your safety rewards program is discouraging employees from reporting incidents, or even near-misses?

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