Everything interesting, new and useful about the logistics and 3PL Industry

Archive for November, 2014

Is Your Warehouse Ready For Winter?

This is a guest post by Dale Allen, National Service Manager of Rankin, a leading temporary heating and cooling company in the U.S.


winter

If winter is hard on a house, just imagine the strain it can put on a building nearly 10 times the size of the average American home. You’ve got more exposure to wind, a massive ceiling taking on the elements, and paved property that must withstand the forces of an angry Old Man Winter. With harsh precipitation and wildly fluctuating outdoor temperatures, it is crucial to your warehouse and everything in it that you are properly winterized. Now is the time to do it, as you have a brief lull between summer and winter.

Below are four tips for making sure your warehouse is ready for a brutal winter.

  1. Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready to Go

Climate control may seem like a luxury, but it’s a necessity. Cold is a damaging force. Of course, the reality is that many warehouses just aren’t equipped with heating and cooling systems capable of taking on the brute force of a harsh winter. And even if a warehouse is equipped with a permanent system, it’s not always cost-effective to blast it throughout your entire facility year-round — or even for the darkest months of winter. For that reason, it can help to have a temporary heating system at the ready. Portable climate control systems are very useful for protecting the most vulnerable areas of your warehouse, such as those with sensitive assets being stored, or even production lines where employees are working. They can also prevent localized structural damage from warping caused by fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

  1. Make Repairs Now, Before the Cold Sets In

You have a brief window of opportunity to repair the exterior of your facility, so use it wisely. From year to year, note where the drafts are so that you can reinforce those areas. Check windows, loading docks and doors to be sure they all close properly and are free of leaks.

  1. Stock up on Ammo Against the Snow

You’re going to need some salt, so get it now. Anticipate the worst. As the past few years have shown, a brutal winter can come without warning, and will stay as long as it wants. If that means a fresh coating of snow each day, you’ll be glad you got salt when you did. For that matter, be sure you have plenty of shovels handy for smaller jobs. And if your facility uses a plow, make sure it’s in working order. Further, if you’ve got potholes on your property, now is the time to fix them, as an icy winter will only make them worse.

  1. Prepare to Operate Like a Well-Oiled Machine

It may seem trivial now, but a strict, enforceable winter schedule can save you on energy costs. You don’t want a dock that is open for extended hours, for example, and you’ll want to schedule as best you can so that you can limit in-and-out traffic. Additionally, you’ll want snow plows at the ready so that vehicles can come and go as quickly as possible.

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Order Fulfillment From Start To Finish

Managing Fulfillment Orders Efficiently

Many components go into the physical process of order fulfillment.  It is essential that the process is a regimented program that has all of the working parts functioning as a whole.  Each element is an entity unto itself but must mesh with the others to create balance and flow throughout the fulfillment procedure.  An adjustment within any single component will have a ripple effect on the others.

From the time that the shipments arrive at the warehouse, the recording of quantities, staging and location of goods is performed and is visible to the warehouse and the customer.  Once that is achieved, the order fulfillment process begins and entails:

  • Managing the release of orders to the warehouse floor.
  • Ensuring accurate and expedient pick and pack functions.
  • Scheduling orders for delivery.

While the above may seem routine, there are many issues to consider to carrying them out with efficiency.  Issues such as:

  • Grouping orders by product assortment.
  • Arranging the mode of transportation with appropriate service levels that meet customer expectations.
  • Method of floor processing which could be pick and pack, pick to packing station and shipping schedules.

All of these functions can be performed manually or with software automation as long as the procedures are in place and leave room for flexibility and adjustment.  Once these are established, the fulfillment process will benefit from balance and flow.

Fulfillment Order Processing

The goal is to execute the specific requirements that the customer has set out.  This enhances the customer service experience and having an efficient processing system will save money or avoid unnecessary costs in other areas such as inventory control and transportation.

Managing and Controlling Inventory

As an integral part of the fulfillment process, inventory control systems are implemented to accommodate different product requirements.  For instance, products that do not have a shelf-life are easily monitored with the quantity available.  Conversely, products that require rotation to preserve their integrity may call for a FIFO (First in-First out) inventory control strategy.

Shipping Schedules

While the fulfillment function is in process, shipment schedules need to be arranged in accordance with the customer’s preference.  Different service levels that affect shipping costs, transit times and the nature of the packaged cargo are determined in order to meet the customer’s desired delivery date.  Modes of transportation could include airfreight, courier, local cartage, highway or parcel post.

Overview

Failure to efficiently execute the fulfillment process can be costly both from an economical and customer perception point of view.  Statistics show that the cost of distribution including order fulfillment is nearly half of the marketing budget of the product.  With this reality in mind, the distribution process is front and centre with supply chain managers and business owners.  Cost saving opportunities and constant operational improvement are at the forefront of many companies in order to maintain the flow and balance of the order processing that meets the customer’s demands.

Order Fulfillment

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3 Reasons It Makes Sense To Replace Old Lift Trucks

This is a guest post by Cheryl Bikowski, Marketing Communications Supervisor at Gamber-Johnson, the premier provider of computer mounts for equipment in the material handling industry.

 Lift Truck

The lift trucks and other equipment you use in your distribution warehouse are designed to last. When maintained properly, you should get a long service life out of them. However, there comes a time when you really need to replace the equipment you are using. New lift trucks can offer you benefits in your material handling operations. Here are three good questions you should consider when evaluating your equipment.

Does it meet safety standards?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines under Standards – 29 CFR 1910.178. Standards include labeling or identification of approval from a testing facility. Depending on the nature of your warehouse, some types of lift trucks may not be appropriate. For example, in areas that contain flammable vapors, lift trucks labeled as EE, ES or E are not acceptable. The lift must have an EX designation.

Lift trucks are considered unsafe if welds are broken or bolts are missing. While these are repairable issues, problems must be corrected immediately. If any portion of the overhead guard has been damaged, the vehicle must be taken out of service for repair. The repairs must meet safety standards.

You should also consider the ease of operation. If the forks are becoming bent or are difficult to adjust, you are sacrificing safety and efficiency. If the hydraulic system fails frequently, you face more than just a repair issue — you face a safety issue. Newer lift trucks are also available that offer more efficiency and meet or exceed EPA Tier 4 requirements.

Is it past reasonable repair?

Standard maintenance and repairs are expected for all warehouse equipment, including lift trucks. A well-maintained forklift should last 10 years or longer. After this point, you should expect more frequent and more expensive repairs. The older your lift is, the more difficult it can be to obtain quality parts. However, you must also consider the environment your equipment operates in. Harsh environments will reduce the expected lifespan of any equipment.

Add up the costs of repairing your lift truck and look at what you are spending on a yearly basis. You will reach a point when these costs exceed the cost of a new lift. If you have a lift truck that is frequently out for service, you must take the time lost into your considerations. You are either losing a piece of equipment you need for maximum efficiency or you may be renting a lift. This becomes an additional cost factor in repairs.

Your business should also look at other factors involved in your current lift truck and a replacement. Does your business use depreciation on your equipment for tax purposes? If the lift is past the point of providing a depreciation value, it may well be time for replacement. This is an issue that is normally considered by accounting departments, but it should be kept in mind.

Does your lift truck have mounting solutions?

Technology is everywhere and your material handling procedures can benefit from technology improvements. You need to get work done quickly while still maintaining safety standards. Warehouse management software programs will make your order picking and processing easier. Your operators will also need access to smartphones, laptops or tablets to access information.

Using the right software programs will greatly increase your efficiency. Operators can be guided to the exact areas where materials need to be stored or pulled. If required materials are missing from inventory, your operator can send an immediate message to alert your order department.

If materials need to be moved from one location to another, your operator can enter the quantity, date and new location, right from the lift truck. With immediate data input, you are much less likely to face forgotten information that could seriously affect your inventory procedures.

Lift truck operators need both hands to operate the equipment safely. They cannot juggle Wi-Fi devices while navigating loads. You also do not want expensive equipment bouncing around on the floor next to the driver. With the right mounting equipment, expensive devices are protected from falls and even vibration. Your operator can simply stop quickly to input the data and then continue with the job at hand. Mounting equipment can be added to older lifts, and many newer vehicles will come with solutions already in place.

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Top 7 Things You Need To Know When Working With Pallets

This is a guest post by Jerry Matos, a Product Specialist for Cherry’s Material Handling, an e-commerce store serving to the industrial warehouse and material handling industry.


Pallets make material moving and handling quick and efficient in industrial and distribution warehouses. Pallets can also present problems when they are not used correctly. Here are seven things you and your employees should know in order to handle pallets safely and get the most efficiency from them.

  1. Use Gloves to Protect Hands

The majority of pallets found in industrial or distribution facilities are manufactured from wood. This wood is rough-cut and not designed to have smooth edges. Any type of pallet handling should be performed with heavy-duty work gloves. Even the slightest slip can embed splinters in your employees’ hands. Depending on the type of pallet, these splinters could contain unwanted chemicals. Long sleeves and pants should be used to prevent scratches on arms and legs.

  1. Be Alert for Drops and Caught-Betweens

When pallets are being moved, employees need to be aware of where their hands and feet are during the process. This applies to manual movement or the use of a jack Palletsor lift truck. Workers should be wearing appropriate footwear to protect their feet in the event a pallet does fall. Caution is also required to prevent hands or fingers from becoming caught in between pallets, or between pallets and the floor or a shelf when the pallet is lowered.

  1. Stacking Correctly

Correct stacking, including how items are placed on pallets, how pallets are stacked on top of each other and how they are stored on shelving is critical.  When employees are placing materials on a pallet for moving, storing or shipping, they must make sure that the weight is distributed correctly. If the weight ends up all on one side, the pallet is likely to tip over.

This applies to stacking pallets as well. Keep weights centered and evenly distributed. If the stack begins to tilt, it must be immediately corrected before an accident occurs. Remember that if pallets are stored on shelving, there must be enough room to navigate a forklift or jack to remove the pallet when needed.

  1. Replace Defective Pallets

Wood pallets do not last forever. In fact, some manufacturers make one-time-use pallets. Pallets should have the IPPC logo to identify heat-treating or fumigation treatment. This is an indication of a more durable pallet. Once the wood begins to split or boards become loose, remove the pallet from service. It will no longer hold up to material handling needs.

Do not just throw your pallets away — they can be recycled. There is a large market for used pallets by individuals that enjoy woodworking and crafting. If you do not have a supplier that will pick them up for free, simply advertise that you have some available.

  1. Pallets are Not Ladders

Just as five-gallon buckets are not designed to work as ladders on a construction site, a stack of pallets should not be used as a ladder in your facility. They are not designed for climbing and standing. Pallets should never be used to create a personnel lift. Do not allow employees to change ceiling lights while standing on a pallet elevated by a forklift. The results are not good.

  1. Make Use of Material Handling Equipment

There is a large amount of equipment available that will make pallet handling easier for your employees. These items can increase productivity and safety in material handling. Lift tables are an excellent choice for raising pallets to the best level for loading and unloading materials. Workers will not need to perform as much bending and lifting, which will reduce back strain. Unloading or loading can be accomplished faster without sacrificing safety.

  1. Use Jacks and Lifts Correctly

Hand jacks or forklifts must be used correctly to ensure that pallets are moved safely. The tines of the lift should be in the center of the weight. Raise the forks slowly until the pallet is off the ground to make sure that the pallet does not slip and the wood does not break.

When pulling the forks out of the pallet, move slowly. Forks can become caught and drag the pallet or break away the wood. Never drive a lift with the load raised to a height that blocks the operator’s vision.

Optimizing Warehouse Space

Author/Editor Bio:

Jerry Matos is the Product Specialist at Cherry’s Material Handling. Cherry’s Material Handling is an e-commerce store serving to the industrial warehouse and material handling industry.

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