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Racks, Shelving and Automation: Options for Effective Storage

November 1, 2022

Shelving and rack structure warehouse mezzanine with picking bins

Warehouse racks and industrial shelving are sort of like alligators and crocodiles: they look alike, they do similar things, and they are often mixed up. Both are vertical structures that have horizontal shelves for industrial storage. But they aren’t the same thing–they have distinctive missions and functions. Most warehouses use both types of storage for various types of loads, and there are gray areas where either can be used, depending on the storage strategy. Knowing the differences can help you store your inventory more efficiently and effectively.

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Posted in Automation, Labor & Efficiency|

How Material Handling and Automation Increases Labor Flexibility

September 13, 2022

heavy pipe handling at a manufacturing facility.

Manufacturing plants, warehouses and other industrial operations are all facing one central challenge today: labor shortages. There are other challenges in supply chains, material inputs and environmental situations, but everyone in every industry across the board is dealing with labor—or the lack of it. 

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Shoptalk: Will a Carousel Work for You?

September 6, 2022

workers in a carousel access aisle

In our most recent Shoptalk video, employee-owner Joel of our Systems Integration Group discusses vertical carousels—the advantages they offer and how you can evaluate them for your operation.

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Vacuum Grippers and Lightweight Palletizers

August 18, 2022

Vacuum palletizer for a cobot system

One of the most exciting things about today’s automation is that it’s becoming increasingly specialized; like eating from a buffet, you can choose what you want. That’s the idea behind cobot palletizers that zero in on a specific target: lighter weight, end-of-line carton palletizing that used to take high six figures and months of implementation time. The critical part of any palletizing project, of course, is the end effector.

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Automated Palletizing Options: Finding a Happy Medium

July 7, 2022

cobot system with pallet
Robotics in distribution operations aren’t exactly the stuff of the Jetsons; you see them every day. Because end-of-line palletizing involves so much repetitive motion, it’s a prime target for automation. It fits the profile of easily-profiled, repeatable and low-value labor tasks. It’s also back-breaking and un-ergonomic. How do you know if a robotic palletizing option makes sense? And what type of automation fits you?

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AGVs Implementation And Pathway Considerations

June 28, 2022

agv navigating a pathway

Automated Guided Vehicles are no longer an anomaly when it comes to adding productivity and efficiency to operations. As robotics of many varieties infiltrate facilities and work alongside human counterparts, adoption is becoming commonplace.

With this new embrace of automation, and specifically AGVs, comes new considerations within your warehouse. Daily interactions lead to new precautions to protect workers and your new equipment from damage. One area that must be addressed is your floors and aisles, for they will see a new age of comings and goings.

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The Ergonomics of Automation

June 2, 2022

Worker at a distribution center reaching over a conveyor to retrieve a package.

Above: distribution center worker stretches over a conveyor line to access a package. Automation can reduce or eliminate this type of stressful, repetitive motion. 

Companies tend to focus on the hard-dollar ROI when they evaluate automation—labor reduction, throughput improvements, error reduction and efficiency—but should also consider “soft” benefits like ergonomics, safety and flexibility. Ergonomics in particular should be considered a primary factor in an era of aging labor and tight supply.

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The Anatomy of a Pick Module

April 12, 2022

Pick module with carton flow on two levels in an apparel distribution center.

Pick modules support a range of warehouse activities, but their primary role is to increase the speed and space efficiency of order fulfillment operations. Configured with racks (which are usually the support structure), conveyors, flow storage, shelves and modular storage, they let you design the storage, fulfillment and picking strategy that fits your needs. Some pick modules are simple — really, just a shelf-supported mezzanine. Others combine automation and WMS systems for full systems integration.

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Posted in Automation, Labor & Efficiency|

Are AGVs Right for You?

March 17, 2022

driverless forklift AGV loading empty pallets.

AGVs–automated guided vehicles–are mainstream. You see them in increasingly diverse applications and functioning in areas of the supply chain that may have seemed impossible a few years ago. Especially as e-commerce continues to accelerate and consumers demand more and faster shipments, companies must innovate to meet demand. AGV technology is ready for real-world use and can provide the answer, but is it a good fit for you?

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Posted in Automation, Labor & Efficiency|

New Rules for Industrial Automation ROI

January 4, 2022

Automated guided vehicles can run independently to deliver picking and storage options to warehouse employees.
In October 2019, I wrote this article on ROI factors for automation projects. That was just over two years ago, but the world is–to understate the case–a different place now. We endured a relentless Covid-19 pandemic that still persists. The “great resignation” has accelerated. Ecommerce demand was already ascendant, but is on an even faster track. The labor pool got shallower and continues to contract. What should we consider when we look at these projects in 2022 and beyond?

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Posted in Automation, Labor & Efficiency|

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