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Ergonomics, Heavy Lifting and Material Handling

August 1, 2014

Men Lifting Heavy Load

The historical issue of ergonomics and heavy lifting

Heavy lifting and the associated pain and injury that frequently happens has been around for a long time. Centuries ago, the pulley was invented to reduce the work required to move a load, leading to the block and tackle that exponentially reduced the labor in lifting an object.
Simply Pulley
Block and Tackle

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The Wonder of Robotic Palletizing

June 6, 2014

Robotic Palletizing

I recently attended an ESOP event at a specialty paints and stains company. During the tour of their plant, I got to see a robotic palletizing system in operation. I was impressed. Standing about 6 to 8 feet away from the action, I watched as it placed 5-gallon cans of paint in rows of 3 stacked 3 high. Each row was offset from the previous one, so that optimum pallet space was used. As the robot picked up cans off the conveyor belt using a vacuum end effector, it placed them precisely on the pallet. Then, it slightly dropped down and “bumped” them to make sure they seated onto the row below. That action made me chuckle as I considered what a profoundly human act that was – a little hip action to make sure the cans seated correctly.

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Safety in the Workplace: Key Insights from Modex 2014

April 17, 2014

Forklift in a warehouse

Supply chain expo Modex, held every other year in Atlanta, GA, offers attendees access to the latest manufacturing and supply chain technologies.  More than 800 exhibitors from industry, commerce, and government displayed their supply chain solutions on the 180,000 square foot show floor.

During the show, Cisco-Eagle demonstrated our automated forklift safety system, AisleCop®, a Best New Innovation Finalist for the MHI Innovation Award.  When possible, we snuck away from our booth to tour the floor and connect with some of the industry’s leading innovators.

One of the key trends we’re seeing organizations emphasize this year is safety.  To get a sense of how manufacturers are handling safety, we posed the following question:

“What are some of the key trends/ways you are seeing organizations shape safety in the workplace this year?”

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Excess Walking Makes “Zombies” of Order Pickers

July 10, 2013

zombie order picker

Studies indicate that order pickers spend too much time walking – according to many studies, distribution center employees routinely spend more than  half their day walking, not picking orders, packing orders, or replenishing stock. They’re going from point to point, burning man hours getting where they need to be, not working. And that’s the average — for really poorly designed operations, it’s worse.

As they tire, workers pick slower, pick less accurately, and work more dangerously — almost a zombie like situation! Every bad thing that can happen in a warehouse operation is amplified, the more time employees spend walking.  

Check out our most recent Info-graphic, “Walking is the Walking Death of Order Picking Productivity”  for more information on ways you can combat this issue. 

More information:

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Safety and ROI for Industrial Operations

January 30, 2013

Kevin Gue

In a recent blog post, Auburn professor Dr. Kevin Gue, one of the bright minds in the country when it comes to the business of industrial distribution and plant operations, reflected on the reaction to his ProMat 2013 talk on “Designing a Worker-Centric Facility”.  Many salient points emerged:

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Ten Reasons to Automate your Operation

June 10, 2011

automated robotic palletizer

In the not-too-distant past, most companies that weren’t running immense distribution operations, who didn’t have multiple facilities, who didn’t run 24-hour shifts, didn’t even consider automation. Too expensive, they’d say. Too much risk. Too little upside if things go wrong.  All valid in context, if we were in 1998. But the reality is this: While most costs—personnel, land, energy— have increased, automation costs have remained steady or declined across the board. The reality today is that the four guys stacking pallets at the end of a line, even for a single shift, even at low wages, are more expensive than a well configured palletizing system.

Those costs aren’t going to do anything but escalate, either. Listed are ten ways automation has become more relevant, even to mid-size operations:

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Smart Labor Management Helps Cut Warehouse Costs

May 22, 2011

packing operations

Especially as the economic recovery continues, it’s important to control costs in your operation. What are some warehousing cost-cutting methods you can employ that don’t require extensive investment or re-tooling? Most of the costs of warehousing operations fall into the following categories:

  • People
  • Real Estate, Utilities & other Fixed Costs
  • Inventory
  • Technology

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Why Warehouse Employees Ignore Safe Lifting Advice – and How to Help Them

December 5, 2010

lifting boxes and cartons correctly

The most common advice that ergonomics experts, OSHA, and other researchers provide to people in warehousing or other jobs that require manual lifting is that you should always bend your knees and lift that way, rather than bend at the waist to pick something up. Repetitive stress on the lower back is staggering: 20% of workplace injuries are related to lower back issues. Lifting right is essential to employee safety, and also to preventing Worker Compensation claims.

Even when you train employees to lift right – and we know that not everyone does – they frequently ignore the advice. Why?

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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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Designing workbenches for assembly, testing, packaging, or packing

September 24, 2009

technical workstation

It ought to be fairly simple, but specifying the right workbench for your application is something that deserves thought and pre-planning. Minor differences in the type of bench can provide critical benefits that add up to major productivity gains over time. Benches aren’t the simple, static equipment many believe. Here are some traits to consider

Application: A clear, flat surface is the basis for most workstations. The bigger question is this: how will it be used? Will you be packing orders? Repairing or assembling? Will it integrate with conveyors or assembly lines? Will you need access to certain supplies? Ergonomic considerations will play heavily into this part of the decision making process.

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