Delivering warehouse productivity
Optimizing a warehouse depends on finding the right solution tailored to a company's individual material handling needs.
There are various solutions that contribute to efficient and productive warehouses. Often, optimizing a warehouse depends on finding the right solution tailored to a company’s individual material handling needs. The following are examples of warehouses that optimized their businesses in a variety of ways through enhancing material handling applications.
Upgrading equipment translates to efficiency
The new director of operations at a mattress and furniture retailer wanted to reduce maintenance costs on his fleet of lift trucks. At the time, his fleet was composed of 10 24-V, rail-guided orderpickers. In search of replacements for his aging, inefficient fleet, the retailer asked to demo a highly productive, 36-V ac-powered orderpicker. In a head-to-head time trial, the retailer tested the more expensive 36-V ac-powered lift truck against a new, lower cost, 24-V dc-powered truck. The test involved traveling down an aisle, raising and picking a king-sized mattress, then returning.
In the test, the 24-V dc truck completed the task in 1 min 45 sec, whereas the 36-V ac-powered truck completed the task in less than 1 min.
Based on this data, the retailer was able to justify the higher capital investment in the 36-V ac-powered orderpicker and purchased three rail-guided units to replace seven of its oldest dc pickers. The retailer then went on to focus on optimizing labor and maintenance costs.
Three years later, the retailer estimates that by focusing on reducing labor and maintenance costs—rather than trying to reduce the initial upfront capital investment—his company has saved more than $300,000 each year.
Alternative solutions generate cost savings
A large 3PL reevaluated its practice of using propane-powered sit-down lift trucks to load trailers on the dock. With the rising costs of fuel and labor, the company sought to find cost-saving ideas for loading its pallets and considered electric lift trucks.
By using triple-length electric pallet trucks to load three pallets at a time, the company discovered it could load a trailer in one-third of the time it normally would take when using a sit-down lift truck. The company quickly discovered other benefits, such as:
- Lower capital investment for the material handling equipment
- Lower energy costs by using electricity instead of propane (roughly 90% savings)
- Lower labor costs by loading a trailer in less time
- Faster turnaround time for pick-ups at the dock: one-third less time loading translated into three times more shipping appointments.
Fast-charging solutions provide space savings
A large snack manufacturer landed a sizable commitment from a mega-retailer that anticipated a 40% sales growth each year. To accommodate the increase in production, the snack manufacturer quickly realized it needed to improve its warehouse on various levels.
The company knew it wanted to upgrade its current lift truck fleet to electric stand-up counterbalanced trucks. It also wanted to reduce repair costs and downtime that it experienced with its original fleet. The operations manager created a plan to implement a fleet of 13 electric lift trucks, including stand-up counterbalanced trucks, reach trucks and orderpickers, plus two batteries per lift truck, one charger and a battery changing system.
The company did not have the means to invest in a large battery area, so it found a comparable solution. By monitoring the battery usage through electronic monitors, the operations manager and his team were able to create an alternative charging strategy that involved high-frequency fast chargers, remote monitoring of when lift trucks were being charged, and an intensive battery watering program.
Four years later, the program is a success and the snack company continues to grow without having to give up valuable manufacturing space for a battery room.
Efficient lighting illuminates narrow aisles
A leading international supplier of active wear for the apparel industry was looking for ways to increase orderpicking productivity and accuracy within its very-narrow-aisle warehouse. At the same time, a renewed focus was placed on reducing its operating costs. By working closely with its material handling representative, the supplier quickly became aware of various new technologies in warehouse lighting.
Operating in aisles as narrow as 54 in. with storage racks standing as tall as 30 ft, light distribution within the aisles often created a challenging operating environment, impacting order-picking accuracy. In addition, the old 450-W metal halide light fixtures were costing the company thousands of dollars per month in unnecessary electrical costs.
Today, with a lighting plan that complements its storage rack layout and the replacement of its old fixtures with new high-efficiency fixtures, equipped with occupancy sensors, this industry leader is operating much more efficiently than before and cutting energy costs by about 45%.
Fleet management software optimizes warehouses
A major international provider of pharmaceuticals and healthcare products found itself searching for ways to control operating costs and reduce equipment-related damage. Recognizing it might benefit from lift truck fleet management software, the company decided to incorporate a system into its facility. The following key benefits had a dramatic impact on the company’s operations:
- Secure access to material handling equipment only by authorized personnel
- Regulatory and safety compliance through electronic OSHA preshift safety inspections
- Best practices implemented by monitoring equipment impacts, utilization, and productivity
- Cost control through reduction in damage and proactive, on-time maintenance
- Since incorporating a fleet management system, the company has noted a reduction in lift truck impacts, reducing costs related to subsequent damage.
Walker is director of sales for Raymond Handling Solutions.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.