Material Handling Experts


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

How Distribution Centers are Working to Reduce Costs

November 25, 2014

picking area at a distribution center

This year’s Logistics Management magazine distribution center operations survey has an excellent analysis of recent warehousing trends at a national level. One of the more intriguing (and perhaps helpful) questions, was on the actions DC operators are taking to lower operating costs.

When it comes to those costs, the pressure is always on. Particularly in those unfortunate companies where the distribution center is considered just a cost, not a chance to add value. Even if you are hitting cost targets, you are probably interested in reducing operational costs without reducing effectiveness.

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Upcoming Material Handling & Logistics Events

November 21, 2014

Trade Show Floor

We’ve compiled a list of upcoming materials handling, logistics, manufacturing, and other conferences you may want to attend in the coming months. Stay tuned – we’ll add more as they become available.

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5 Manufacturing Challenges (or are they Opportunities?)

May 1, 2014

Manufacturing at a pipe coating plant

U.S. manufacturing is at a crossroads. After decades of decline, there are signs of a renaissance, with the chance to re-shore more and more manufacturing capacity every year. Some of this is driven by the natural gas energy boom, and the cost of shipping product in vs. making it in America. You also see more companies returning capacity due to the fact that offshoring didn’t always live up to its cost cutting premise. Whatever the reason, American manufacturing now faces the reality of growth, with the challenges and opportunities that brings.

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Warehousing Key Performance Indicators

April 5, 2014

order picking cartons at a distribution center

Key performance indicators – KPI’s – are frequently used in general business to evaluate the success of everything from a specific department to an entire enterprise. They focus on strengths and weaknesses. Many warehousing KPI’s tend to be focused on external performance, such as on-time shipments that directly impact customers. This is a good measure, but the need to go deeper and measure the factors that drive those success rates is critical. What are some KPI’s for warehousing operations?

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Automated Shipping System at

March 12, 2014

How can, which prides itself on fast, often free delivery, keep up with ever-increasing customer demand and still operate profitably?

With a very in-depth product line with thousands of specialized SKUs, the company relies heavily on automation. It’s a rare example of an operation that transitioned from a full manual system to a fully automated one with very little ‘midstream’ semi-automation, utilizing conveyors, robotics, and other technologies to fulfill orders quickly and profitably. The video runs 1:48.



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Picking Methods and Average Productivity Rates

February 12, 2014

Order picking from rack

When you are working on an order picking strategy, knowing the metrics for picking rates may be helpful. Labor productivity is the key to any warehousing or order picking operation, since labor tends to be the largest single cost factor in these operations. It’s critical to understand production rates for processes that absorb labor hours, energy, money, and time.

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Tactics to Reduce Small Parts Picking Errors

December 3, 2013

small parts picking line with Unex carton flow racking

Small parts are more difficult to count, measure and handle. They tend to cause more errors than case picking or larger component orders. If you are having errors, you should try to define the causes — and the suspects abound. Can you find out what’s causing the errors? Once you do, what happens next? Here are some common causes and solutions to this issue.

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Industrial Automation and The Flexibility Problem

August 22, 2013


Earlier this year, Food Logistics published a provocative article, “Automate or Die”.  Do you have to automate? Of course not. But it brings to mind a good question: where is the point of acceptable ROI for automation projects? When does it make sense? What aspects are potential pitfalls?

We’re  inside warehouses, distribution centers, commercial operations, and manufacturing facilities every day. We don’t see full scale automation in all — or even most — of these operations. We’ve even seen some companies who have automated go back to picking with carts. We’ve seen others thrive due to their automated projects. The point is, you certainly won’t “die” if you don’t automate. But that doesn’t mean that you should not automate some or all aspects of your operation.

In some cases, we try to make the case that automation isn’t needed. In others, we try to help these companies understand when a capital investment in automation equipment and/or software will save money, increase productivity, reduce problems, and improve their business. It’s not  something that you can do from a distance.  It requires a command of the facts on the ground, in the servers, and throughout the supply chain.

So, the question is, why automate? 

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Top 12 Distribution Center Metrics

June 29, 2013

Busy distribution operationAs it has every year for the last decade, DCVelocity Magazine has surveyed its readers and members of WERC to  find what industry professionals believe are the top metrics for a successful operation. This is instructive for most operations, and worth taking a look.  The full survey can be found here.

The top 12 metrics, and (category)

  1. On time shipments (to customers)
  2. Internal order cycle time (customer)
  3. Dock-to-stock cycle time, in hours (inbound operation)
  4. Total cycle time (customer)
  5. Order picking accuracy (quality)
  6. Lines picked and shipped per hour (outbound operations)
  7. Lines received and put away per hour (inbound operations)
  8. Percentage of supplier orders received damage free (inbound operations)
  9. Average warehouse capacity used (capacity)
  10. Order fill rate (outbound operations)
  11. Percentage of supplier orders received with correct documentation (inbound operations)
  12. Peak warehouse capacity used (Capacity)

Not everything on this list necessarily applies to every operation, but they are all worth some reflection. It’s worthwhile to have the questions posed, as we all fall victim to the “forest and trees” syndrome. 

Related: How to benchmark your warehouse operation

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Merging Warehouse Operations: The Pitfalls

May 28, 2013

merging an industrial operation is difficult

Merging two formerly separate industrial operations can be more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than creating an entirely new plant. After all, even in the best of scenarios, it’s almost always easier to start with a blank slate. But in these days of consolidations and cost cutting, this can happen to almost any company.  Planning and open communications is the key in general, but there are specific issues you should be aware of.

What are some pitfalls, and how can you avoid them?

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