Benefits of a rack safety flywheel in warehouse, manufacturing facilities
Rack safety in warehouse and manufacturing facilities can have major consequences if not properly maintained. Developing a consistent safety and education program can help.
Maintenance and safety insights
- Rack safety might not be top of mind in manufacturing or warehouse maintenance, but a failure can have catastrophic effects on a company and its workers.
- Using a flywheel program that starts with worker education and awareness and builds on third-party and in-house expertise can help companies develop a consistent plan that becomes part of the company’s safety culture.
Racks in warehouses and manufacturing facilities are highly-efficient structures that need to be free from damage to fully bear the loads placed on them. While conceptually simple, everything falls apart if they aren’t properly built or take too much damage said, Marc Rousseau, VP, national accounts at Damotech in his presentation “The 6 Principles of a Best-in-Class Rack Safety Program” at ProMat 2023, March 20-23 in Chicago, organized by MHI.
Damage isn’t limited to a careless forklift driver, Rousseau said. Like anything else that requires maintenance, the brace or the column wears over time or too much weight is placed and it degrades the structure.
“What’s unfortunate with racking is they’re all tied together so damage causes problems to all,” he said.
Benefits of a rack safety flywheel
The idea of a flywheel in business is where companies gain small wins on a project or philosophy over time and building off those wins to the point where momentum is happening by itself. The parts of the flywheel work with one another and become a part of the culture. With rack safety, which is a part of maintenance culture in warehouses and manufacturing facilities, Rousseau said investing in portions of the flywheel and building over time will help companies achieve safety.
The flywheel starts with employee well-being, operational efficiency and compliance. Rousseau said its important companies keep their workers happy and educated on best practices.
“Fill the gaps with thought leaders and use third-party expertise,” he said. “Let the experts train your folks on how to do this and don’t be complacent.”
In-house knowledge is also valuable because the people in the facility know the ins and outs better—or should know better—and can point out flaws or characteristics in a facility. The benefit of an outsider is the detached viewpoint and not having an agenda. The two perspectives, when done correctly, can catch many potential issues.
Four rack safety steps to better performance
What are they looking for and hoping to achieve? The next layer of the flywheel is broken down into four sections:
- Inspection. Find the issues in the warehouse through a third party or in-house or some combination. Is a collapse imminent or is it something that can be set aside? While no one can say exactly when something will collapse or break, Rousseau said it’s a good idea to have at least a yearly inspection from a third party with on-site checks monthly or even more frequently, depending on the intensity.
- Insight. Regardless of who is performing the inspection, Rousseau said the report needs to have actionable items. “There should be an executive summary and make sure they can summarize so you can act on the critical items right away.”
- Maintenance. A plan should be in place to fix high-priority issues as soon as possible, Rousseau said. The kind of maintenance required depends on the situation. Some situations call for a total replacement if the damage is severe. Other situations, though, may require an expert who can fix the problem and put in built-in protection. Rousseau said repair work is often a better choice if possible because it’s cheaper and has less downtime.
- Prevention. Rousseau said companies should always be looking to protect their assets. This is especially true after something has been repaired or replaced. This can come in the form of mesh cages or protection to keep workers safe. Prevention also means better worker education. Rousseau said safety education provides benefits such as fewer injuries and reduced maintenance costs. It also reduces potential liability issues, extends the life of the racks and increases productivity.
The key to long-term success, Rousseau said, is finding a reliable partner. “They can help you plan for the long term and you should look for someone who has your best interests at heart.”
The partner, he said, should be able to provide a wide range of products and services, has engineers on their staff who can leverage software to manage inspections and track potential issues.
Rousseau said, “If you work at it and stay consistent and work with a partner and keep working at the flywheel, you’ll get yourself in a better place.”
Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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