Material Handling Experts


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

Warehousing: Hidden Productivity Gremlins

January 31, 2013

box gremilin in a warehouse

Whether you’re operating a dedicated distribution center or the order fulfillment or stock warehouse of a manufacturing operation, most industrial facilities deal with storage and warehousing to some degree. In the not-so-distant past, warehousing was treated mostly as a cost center – a necessary evil that had to exist so that the more profitable parts of an enterprise could operate. Thankfully, more enlightened thought has prevailed recently.

Order fulfillment and storage are not just places you can save money – they can earn money. If the gremlins don’t get you.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Ideas for Cost Savings in E-Commerce Warehouses

December 6, 2012

Jay Moris has an excellent article in this month’s Inbound Logistics on ways you can cut expenses in your e-commerce operation. Some quick pointers:

  • Increase customer satisfaction. Moris explains that right-sizing your packages can reduce carton size and ensure customers receive the right package at the right time.
  • Reduce packaging costs. By using cartonization strategies, you can reduce parcel sizes – and by extension, shipping and packaging costs.
  • Decrease labor and increase throughput. By optimizing its sortation systems, one retailer cut 62 cents off every package shipped.
  • Reduce freight, sortation, and shipping costs. Reducing carton dimensions does all of these things in a world where just a single sheet of paper is capable of changing a carton’s shipping class.

We live in a world where weight and dimensional measurement of packages is becoming faster and easier to gauge. Shippers can and will be able to charge more for smaller and smaller differences, so every bit of the process you can automate and optimize, the better. There are more tips (and plenty more detail) at the article – check it out.

Posted in Automation, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Factors for Distribution Center Sustainability

July 18, 2012

distribution center conveyor system

At Modex 2012, Hytrol Conveyor’s Boyce Bonham sat down with DCVelocity to discuss distribution center sustainability. We’ve linked the video below, which is worth a few moments of your time. How do initiatives to work greener, smarter, and better affect warehouses and distribution operations? Not surprisingly, these initiatives often save money, at least over the long term.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Material Handling, Supply Chain, Sustainability, Warehousing| No Comments »

Reducing Inventory Errors Due to Order Picking

June 25, 2012

checking inventory at a warehouse

“We keep making mistakes”

Mistakes happen, but in order picking operations, reducing the number of errors is critically important. Order picking is the last touch point between you and your customers. When it comes to customer relations, it’s more important than any public relations, press releases, or websites your company can create. No matter if you’re shipping direct to consumers or to another processing operation, customers are directly impacted. Not only is the customer with the incorrect order harmed, so are potential future customers who suffer because of inventory errors delaying orders.

What are some ways you can increase inventory accuracy related to order picking?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Automation, Industrial Shelving, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Protecting Order Pickers in Rack Aisles

June 22, 2012

Picking orders in a pallet rack aisle

“We need help before someone gets hurt”

The situation is familiar: in a busy warehouse or distribution center, you can have dozens or hundreds of order pickers that walk the floor with carts and clipboards or scan guns to pick orders for shipping. These are usually focused people who have the job in mind. After all, you’ve probably told them how speed is of the essence – which it is. The problem is that in many or most operations, there are also powered industrial trucks (forklifts, walkies, electric powered jacks) operating in the same space, often in cramped pallet rack aisles. And guess what? They’re busy and focused on the job, too.

And these two groups are working the same space, at the same time. It’s almost assured that if you have this situation, you’ve had accidents, or near-accidents — which you may never hear of, until the near-miss isn’t a miss at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Pallet Rack, Security, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

DCVelocity: The Top 12 Distribution Center Metrics

May 22, 2012

a picking operation with conveyors and carousels

This month’s DCVelocity magazine featured its annual report on DC Metrics – a great tool for benchmarking your warehouse operations. The survey was issued to the magazine’s readers and members of WERC, by researchers from Georgia Southern University and a consulting firm partner.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Material Handling, News, Order Picking & Fulfillment, ROI, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Does Labor Cost you $2.24 an Hour?

May 2, 2012

Costs of warehouse labor

We all get it: labor is expensive. In distribution & warehousing  it’s one of the most expensive line items.

Automation and utilization of certain technologies (conveyors, as/rs, robotics) has helped alleviate these expenses and made companies more competitive, but there is no end in sight to cost pressures coming both from foreign competition and customer demand. Seegrid has created this graph, comparing the hourly costs of its driverless automated forklifts and that of a human operator.  The Seegrid trucks require no overtime, no dental insurance, and don’t take breaks. The unique thing about the Seegrid line is that it can deliver day-one ROI.

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

Automation More Important Than Ever

February 3, 2012

Manufacturing - motors at an automotive plantPresident Obama’s State of the Union address focused on manufacturing in the United States – which everyone, no matter their political persuasion, can agree is a vital part of our economy. Countries that don’t make things aren’t world powers, period.

And the numbers, on the surface, can look dire. According to Forbes Magazine,  22 million manufacturing jobs were lost globally between 1995 and 2002. The U.S. lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in that timeframe.

The common belief is that these jobs were palletized and shipped east to China or south to Mexico. While that has happened – we’ve seen it in our client base more than once – it’s only part of the story. The reality is more complicated, and may help us to understand why manufacturing output has increased in the U.S. while jobs have been reduced. Manufacturing output didn’t just grow; it rocketed 30% since 1995. China – the supposed vampire of manufacturing employment – has lost a whopping 16 million manufacturing jobs.

In a word, the “culprit” (if you want to call it that) is automation. Robotics is less expensive and significantly more capable – and continues to improve. The same goes for other automation of other kinds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,
Posted in Automation, Conveyor, Manufacturing, News, Robotics, Supply Chain| No Comments »

The 5S Approach to Workcells & Workstations

January 4, 2012

workstation with 5S implementation

Based on 5 Japanese words that begin with ‘S’, the 5S Philosophy hones in on effective work place organization and standardized work procedures. When correctly implemented, it reduces waste, increases efficiency, and overall work quality. You’ll also have a safer, more effective operation and employees who are more checked in than they were before. It simplifies work flow and helps you find inefficiency.  You may see things like empty flow racks, needless processes, over stocking, redundant operations,  looming maintenance problems, and more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Docks & Shipping, Industrial Shelving, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Safety & Ergonomics, Space Saving, Supply Chain, Sustainability, Warehousing, Workbenches & Stations| No Comments »

Robotics and End of the Line Packaging

November 18, 2011

End of line case packing robot with conveyor

The end of a manufacturing or distribution line is where the rubber meets the road for many operations. It’s potentially the last place where you have direct control of your product before it ships to retailers or direct customers. It’s where you can add a lot of value…or spoil a lot of value. The end of the line in many ways is more important to your company’s image as all its public relations, its websites, its brochures. It is often where your reputation can be made.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Automation, Docks & Shipping, Manufacturing, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Palletizers, Robotics, Safety & Ergonomics, Supply Chain| No Comments »