Forklift Accidents: They’re Really the PITs

Every year, 85 U.S. operators of Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs) — more commonly known as forklifts — leave for work in the morning and never return home.

The most tragically ironic situation occurred in the late 90’s in Perth, Australia. During the filming of a forklift safety video, the 52-year-old owner of a machinery training school was thrown from the forklift cabin and crushed to death.

The subsequent investigation revealed the fatality was due to driver error, high speed over rough terrain, and an unused seat belt. Needless to say, this gentleman’s final safety demonstration was his most convincing.

A Few More Sobering Statistics

Here’s a little more food for thought:

  • Aside from the 85 annual forklift fatalities, OSHA statistics indicate that roughly 34,900 serious injuries occur each year, many from careless operation of the equipment.
  • The total number of all forklift-related injuries per year is a whopping 96,785. That’s right — nearly 100,000 American workers are injured each and every year due to improper training or sheer carelessness on the job.
  • In 42 percent of all forklift fatalities, the operator was crushed by a tipping vehicle.

Quick Quiz

What should you do if you’re driving a forklift under normal working conditions and it begins to tip over? Should you stay in the vehicle or jump out?
If you said, “Jump,” you’d be dead wrong.
Safety experts agree that the safest way to survive a tip-over is to stay in the vehicle, seat belt always fastened, with a tight grip on the steering wheel and feet braced against the floor, leaning forward and away from the direction of the tip-over.
(Source: Daily Journal of Commerce)

What Makes Forklifts So Dangerous?

There are a number of reasons why forklifts present such a hazard in the workplace.

First of all, they’re extremely heavy. Even unloaded, the most popular forklift models weigh between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds, which is about double the weight of most cars. And although operators are cautioned to keep their speed around 8 mph, a forklift can travel up to 18 mph. That’s a lot of weight behind the speed in an enclosed space. Also, unlike a car, forklifts only have brakes in the front, making them harder to stop once they get going.

A forklift carries its loads in the front, which can obstruct the view of the driver. In order to compensate for heavy loads carried in the front, forklifts are designed to be heavier in the rear. The uneven weight distribution can make a forklift difficult to handle. This is one reason why it is illegal for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift.

Also, in a car or truck, the front wheels steer the vehicle. But a forklift is turned by the rear wheels, causing the rear end to swing outward. This increases the chance of tipping over during tight turns. Additional instability is created when forklifts are used to raise hefty loads to considerable heights.

Protect Yourself!

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” was never more appropriate than when applied to forklift safety. Which is why daily, pre-shift inspection of all powered industrial trucks is required by OSHA standards.


Any defects in the equipment can lead to a serious accident, so early detection is paramount. While OSHA does not require a documentation of a daily inspection, a written checklist is always a good idea. Checklists  vary depending on the type of forklift or other PIT being used, but most include the following:

  1. Are there any hydraulic leaks in the mast or elsewhere?
  2. Are fuel connections tight and battery terminals covered?
  3. Is there any lint, grease, oil or other flammable material on the forklift?
  4. Are there any deformities in the forks, mast, overhead guard or backrest?
  5. Are tires at proper pressure and free of damage?
  6. Are seat belts working and accessible?
  7. Is the load capacity plate readable?
  8. Do all controls (such as lift, lower and tilt) work smoothly?
  9. Is the horn working?
  10. Are the lights operational?
  11. Is steering responsive?
  12. Do brakes stop smoothly and reliably?
  13. Does the parking break hold the forklift on an incline?
  14. Are there any sparks or flames coming from the exhaust system?
  15. Does the engine show signs of overheating?

If you detect anything wrong with the forklift, do not operate it until the necessary repairs have been made.

Remember: Your employer, your co-workers and your family are counting on you to safely complete every work shift. So be smart and be safe!


Sources:

OSHA

Occupational Health & Safety

Optimum Safety Management

McCue Corporation


Helping Hand: The Logistics of Disaster Relief

Last year’s hurricane season dealt a devastating blow to Texas, Florida and, most notably, Puerto Rico. Recovery efforts are still continuing, and will be for a long time.

But in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, ensuring that critical supplies reach affected populations is paramount. Food, water, medicine and other life-sustaining materials must be quickly transported, stored and distributed so as to do the most good. But how?

The Logistics Hurdle

In disaster relief operations, logistics is often the biggest hurdle. In fact, as much as 80 percent of disaster relief costs go toward transporting, warehousing, and distributing goods and services to affected communities.

It takes a coordinated effort between government agencies (such as FEMA), charitable organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), disaster recovery companies and 3PLs. All these entities must mobilize behind the scenes to provide the necessary materials and help jump-start rescue and recovery operations.

And a clear organizational structure is critical for making decisions under extreme conditions. Without it, chaos quickly ensues.

For instance, right after Hurricane Katrina, there was simply no system in place to handle a relief effort of that magnitude, according to relief providers.  Shopping center parking lots were crowded with unneeded donated clothing, while essential shipping and handling services were scarce. As a result, many donated items never reached those most in need.

In an effort to prevent future logistical disasters such as those following Katrina, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) was created. ALAN uses a web portal to match supply-chain businesses with relief agencies per their specifically stated needs. The businesses can simply browse the agency needs list and determine where they can help.

ALAN’s disaster relief work is built on strong relationships among supply-chain businesses, relief organizations, and governments.

That Challenging Last Mile

When managing a supply chain under desperate conditions, the greatest logistics challenge is the notorious “last mile.”

Flooded roadways… devastated distribution centers… disabled communications.. Often all of these converge in the last mile of a relief effort. Critical medicine can be shipped thousands of miles only to spoil in the sun as relief workers tend to victims.

 

Frank Clary is a project director at global logistics provider Agility. He knows just how challenging that last mile can be. In his view, 3PLs are just one resource in the disaster relief tool kit – and not even the most important one. Clary has seen NGOs and voluntary organizations active in disaster (known as “VOADs”) perform feats that hardly seem possible. Under the worst possible conditions these organizations not only establish logistics, but also create medical and food relief infrastructure — within days.

“We couldn’t do it, but humanitarian aid groups do it all the time,” Clary said. “We learn a lot from them.”

Increasingly, Agility, ALAN, UPS and other logistics providers are utilizing new technologies to transform a once-grueling, labor-intensive process into something resembling a modern-day global supply chain.

Technological Advances

Here are just a few of the technological advances that are being utilized for disaster relief:

Demand Analysis.  Big Data is being used to model the demand for food, water, medicine and other necessities following a natural disaster. Using historical data from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management System (WMS) and other supply chain management systems relief providers can incorporate the most likely scenarios.

Inventory control and management.  During the uncertainty of natural disasters, providers are relying on warehouse management software to maintain adequate inventory levels.  In many cases, inventory can be pre-positioned in locations close to potentially affected areas.  A comprehensive WMS provides enterprise-wide visibility for full inventory management across all facilities where goods are stored.

Continual communication.  Industrial-grade rugged mobile computers are used to empower relief agencies to share vital information in real time.  As a result, goods and assets arrive at the required location much faster.  Mobile computers also are used to document damage and human safety issues through photographs and video.  Most of these also include GPS tracking, another great safety feature for pinpointing and communicating information about affected areas in times of crises.

In addition, relief providers often use barcodes and scanners to streamline the data collection process, saving time and improving the accuracy of information needed by all parties. When communication systems fail, coordination and collaboration also often fail, as explained in the following video clip:

 


Sources:

Journal of Commerce

American Logistics Aid Network

Datex Corp

McKinsey & Company


Wow! 95% of Wood Pallets Now Being Recycled

Companies that rely on wood pallets to transport their wares now can feel even better about their choice.

The latest research from Virginia Tech indicates that a whopping 95% of all wood pallets are now being recycled. According to trade publication Environmental Leader, the two-year study showed that “wood pallets are increasingly being reused as long as possible, and then are being converted to mulch, animal bedding, or biofuel.”

Avoiding the Landfill

Both municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition (C&D) landfill facilities were surveyed. The study found that, over the last 20 years, the number of pallets entering landfills has dropped by 86%.

And  pallets that do end up there are often recycled by the waste facilities themselves. Several factors have contributed to this recyling trend at landfills, such as:

  • Environmental awareness,
  • Limited space, and
  • Desire to be more waste efficient

So now many waste facilities also sort and recover several different types of debris.

“Of those wooden pallets that arrive at landfills, both MSW and C&D facilities recycle even further. The results show that landfill facilities have increased their wood and wood pallet recovery areas over the past two decades. For MSW facilities, this number increased from 33% to 62% of facilities, while for C&D facilities, the number increased from 27% to 45%.” — Laszlo Horvath, assistant professor, Virginia Tech

Financial Incentives

Pallet recycling has become a rapidly growing segment of the pallet industry in recent decades. As perceptions have changed, pallet users have gravitated toward more sustainable solutions.

But they also have financial incentives for recycling. Savvy business owners know that reconditioned pallets are just as sturdy and dependable as the originals, and they’re typically offered at a substantially lower price than new pallets of similar quality.

 

According to the Virginia Tech researchers, U.S. businesses are particularly inclined to recycle their pallets when they are located within close proximity to a pallet recycler or a company that grinds pallets into mulch.

Proof Is in the Data

Members of the Virginia-based National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) were delighted (but not surprised) by the preliminary results of this most recent study.

“Data of this kind had not been collected since 1998,” according to Brad Gething, NWPCA director of science and technology integration. “The wood packaging sector has long been touting their recyclable efforts for decades, and now the data proves it.”

Larry Howell, NWPCA chair, echoed that sentiment. “Our industry is thrilled that the data proves the wood packaging sector, more than any other, is closing in on zero-waste,” Howell said. “Wood pallets are 100 percent recyclable, and the newest research from Virginia Tech shows that our industry has the highest recovery rate, at 95%, compared to other prevalent materials.”

The Virginia Tech research project was funded in part by the US Forest Service and The Pallet Foundation.


Sources:

Environmental Leader

Construction & Demolition Recycling

Packaging Revolution


3PL’s Continue to Adapt, Evolve

Remember when “Amazon” was a rain forest or a river, and a “tweet” was the sound a bird made? Just as the digital world has changed beyond recognition in the last 20 years, so too has third-party logistics (3PL).

Over the past several years, the 3PL industry has greatly expanded its global footprint. That trend is expected to grow. Why? More than 80% of all Fortune 500 companies currently use warehousing, distribution, software services, and domestic and international transportation management. And these services form the crux of the 3PL landscape.

A research report from Global Markets Insight indicates that third-party logistics will be well over a $1 billion industry by 2022. That’s an annual increase of 4.4%.

These kinds of increases require continual evolution and adaptation. Let’s take a look at some of the major trends in 3PL’s:

In the Clouds

3PL providers are increasingly utilizing extensive cloud-based technologies. These systems enable businesses to store a massive influx of data. But they also allow clients to easily access their systems, and they improve the overall effectiveness of a company’s logistics.

In addition, the emergence of “big data” analytics, smart technology, and data sharing continues to help 3PL’s evolve. For example, increased data sharing is expected to help improve tracking services across the supply chain. And experts predict that the amount of big data will grow from 3.2 to 40 zettabytes by the year 2020. (See sidebar, “How Much Is a Zettabyte?”)

Also, with the increased use of mobile apps, customers will be able to track the details of their shipments and process freight shipments from anywhere. This will further fuel the industry trends.

Globalization

The business landscape of 3PL industry will grow increasingly complex as supply chain operations expand massively worldwide. So 3PL market players will need to stay on top of the game. They’ll have to understand international legal implications and regulatory compliance if they want to maintain their position.

The emergence of new markets, currency exchange, and international trade will serve as growth indicators for the 3PL’s of the future.

Automation

Experts expect that heavy deployment of automation will push 3PL industry size over the next few years. For one thing, automated warehouses use up about 40% less floor space than traditional warehouses. Increasingly, warehouse 3PL’s are relying on automated lifts and robotics to reduce the amount of space needed for storage. (See related article, “Warehouse Automation: How Far Should You Go?“)

On-road automation is another area where expansion is expected. Self-driving trucks are already undergoing extensive testing on U.S. roads. For instance, one San Francisco-based company (Otto) has been developing these trucks and testing them on California roadways since January 2016. Uber acquired the company in August 2016 for $680 million, and testing continues today:

Keeping It Green

Green logistics is increasing being adopted by prominent 3PL providers to address growing environmental concerns. High-impact partners like 3PL’s have found that they can make their clients feel good by doing good.

For instance, new innovations are making it more possible to limit the carbon impact of the carrier route. Amazon’s Prime Air is a case in point. The service’s drones could provide an energy-efficient alternative for those nooks and crannies that electric vehicles can’t reach. (See related article, “Delivery Drones: Coming Soon to a Warehouse Near You.”)

Route and load optimization and efficient packaging are some other measures undertaken as a part of the green logistics initiative.

Online Retail

The global growth of online retail is expected to generate lucrative avenue for 3PL’s. Did you know that Amazon has increased its distribution space by an astounding 1000% in the last 10 years?

In fact, retail giants such as Amazon are likely to transform into full-fledged 3PL providers. By the same token, companies operating in the core transportation sector are also expected to penetrate the global 3PL market. Which means current 3PL key players will need to brace themselves for additional challenges and continue to develop technologically advanced and upgraded services in order to sustain their business position.


Sources:

Global Markets Insight

3PL News

Third Party Logistics Study

Huffington Post

Transport Topics


Delivery Drones: Coming Soon to a Warehouse Near You

You click the “Submit Order” button on your favorite e-tailer’s website and wait. Thirty minutes later, a delivery drone deposits the parcel on your front porch.

If major players like Amazon, Google and Walmart have their way, this scenario will soon play out all across the country. In fact, what began as little more than a pipe dream a few years ago continues to inch closer to certainty as regulatory hurdles are overcome.

It’s easy to see the appeal of such a Jetsonion delivery system. But is it cost-effective? And how long will it really be before delivery drones become mainstream?

Driven by Two Factors

The economics of delivery is generally driven by two factors:  Route density and drop size. Route density is the number of drops that can be made on any given delivery route. Drop size is the number of parcels per stop on any given route.

If you make lots of deliveries over a short distance or period of time, or if you deliver lots of parcels to the same location, your cost per parcel will be low.

Right now, drones perform poorly in both of these areas. Current  prototypes usually carry only one package, with a maximum weight of five pounds. After the drone makes its delivery, it must fly all the way back to its home base to recharge its batteries and pick up the next package.

Compare that to the average UPS truck, which makes about of 120 stops a day to deliver hundreds (or even thousands) of packages. Drones launching from faraway warehouses currently can’t compete with this kind of efficiency.

Mobile Warehouses

Which is why Amazon and, presumably, other retailers are investigating plans to use delivery trucks as “mobile warehouses” from which a swarm of drones can be launched.

Releasing these drones in rapid succession would allow a single truck to deliver dozens of parcels simultaneously. Such a system could easily outpace the production of a single truck driver who delivers to one house at a time.

Amazon is even taking this concept a step further:  Imagine, self-driving trucks, roaming around neighborhoods. The trucks would be  stocked with items which Amazon’s systems had predetermined to be wanted or needed in specific areas.

Even More Fantastic

But wait…there’s more.

Both Walmart and Amazon have applied for patents on “gas-filled carrier aircrafts” that would serve as airborne bases for their delivery drones. That’s right….blimps. These blimps would allow the drones access to homes they couldn’t reach if they flew from a fixed location.

Flying at altitudes up to 1,000 feet, the airships would communicate with a remote scheduling system, telling the drones when to fetch packages from inside the blimp and head to their destinations.

Best Feature

But perhaps the drones’ best feature is also its most obvious one: They can go where there are no roads. And considering that about one billion people on the planet do not have access to all-season roads, that’s significant.

Take Rwanda, for instance, where drone deliveries have already taken flight. That country relies increasingly on drone technology in order to receive critical supplies.

Far removed from the American PR circus surrounding retail and e-tail deliveries, U.S.-based tech company Zipline uses its drones as “sky ambulances.” Their drones deliver lifesaving blood supplies by parachute to remote hospitals and clinics located hours outside the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

By focusing on critical medical supplies, Zipline has successfully convinced regulators to tolerate the potential safety risks of delivery drones. As it turns out, that’s a lot easier to do when the deliveries are saving lives and not just bringing the latest cosmetic or a new pair of shoes.

Smaller Players, Too

But don’t discount minor players in the drone delivery game, either. For instance, a small startup company called Flirtey recently partnered with convenience store chain 7-Eleven.

Together, they’re experimenting with using drones to deliver over-the-counter medications (and perhaps, Slurpees and chili dogs). Take a look:

 


Sources:

Flexport

The New York Times

Engadget

Wired.com


Resolve to Make Your Workplace Greener in 2018

Did you know that any “green” changes you make in your workplace not only help the planet, but can improve your company’s efficiency?

The New Year is always a time for evaluating the past and looking towards the future. So this year, why not consider these five ways to make your workplace more eco-friendly in 2018:

Improve Waste Diversion

Pretty much every business could do more to reduce and divert its waste output. But you won’t know until you take a good look at what you’re currently discarding.

 

One way is to engage your staff in an interactive waste audit. This gets everyone involved in identifying what’s in the trash and what can be diverted away from landfills. (New York City and other communities actually impose fines on companies that fail to properly recycle.)

A waste audit helps you to measure the different types of waste generated at your business. The results will help you to figure out how much waste your creating and how effective your current recycling (or composting) programs are. It will also help identify opportunities for reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill, and potentially save the company some money.

For a free downloadable guide on how to conduct a waste audit, Click Here.

Reduce Operational Costs

This is a highly underrated goal. Reducing your operating costs is like free money. Even if some changes cost a few dollars to implement, the payback can be substantial.

For instance, utility costs are typically thousands of dollars a month for large businesses. You can cut these costs significantly by changing out light fixtures to energy-efficient rated fixtures with LED light bulbs. LED bulbs can last around 20 years, use less energy to work, and provide a purer source of light.

Also, try making demand-driven decisions at your facility. Many companies are now choosing to run more slowly, in order to save energy without sacrificing customer service or output. Using real-time data provides the accurate visibility you need to accomplish this.

Time for a (Tax) Break

There are plenty of tax credits that businesses can take whenever they make efforts to improve their local environment. For instance, credits can be taken for:

  • Using solar energy,  fuel cells, wind turbines or geothermal systems
  • Reducing emissions
  • Utilizing high-efficiency interior lighting, HVAC or hot water systems
  • Investing in green building standards (if you’re building new or leasing a new space)

Here’s how a California frozen food warehouse is using 100,000 square feet of solar panels:


A quick search of “tax breaks for businesses going green” will provide a myriad of ideas on how to get a break on your business tax bill by going green.

It’s All in the Packaging

There are a variety of ways you can reduce order packaging waste. Work with your vendors to eliminate inbound freight packaging by sending their items as shelf-ready as possible. Also, set guidelines at the packing stations to limit the amount of waste sent with each order. For breakable items that require some extra packaging, use biodegradable (or edible) packing peanuts in lieu of plastic or Styrofoam products.

 

Switch to Electric

If you haven’t done it already, now’s the time to switch to electric forklifts. Not only do they eliminate the harmful tailpipe emissions produced by gas forklifts, but they’ll save you money in the long run.

In fact, by electrically powering a 5,000-pound-capacity forklift, used six hours a day, five days a week, you’d save about $26,000 in propane over a five-year period.

In addition, electric forklifts typically have tighter turning radius, which can increase storage capacity and reduce product damage. And electric trucks produce less noise during operation. Which amounts to a better, safer work environment for your workers.


Sources:

Green Tourism

Manufacturing Transformation

NYC Department of Sanitation

Factory Direct Promos

 


Tesla Unveils New Electric Semi

Elon Musk has done it again. Or has he?

On November 16, the quirky billionaire and Tesla Inc. CEO and co-founder unveiled a sleek prototype electric semi-truck (dubbed “Semi”), which he claims will travel 500 miles on a single charge. According to Musk, the average truck trip is less than 250 miles, so Semi could handle a standard round trip without recharging.

The truck’s battery pack is built into the floorboard, and can be charged to 80% of capacity within 30 minutes. Musk’s long-range plan includes the worldwide installation of solar-powered “mega-charging” stations.

Semi utilizes four independent motors and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds when fully loaded. And, Musk has said, the truck “feels like a sports car.”

Equipped with the most advanced safety mechanisms, Musk indicated that the vehicle will also be able to operate semi-autonomously in convoy. This would be the company’s first attempt at self-driving trucks.

The cab itself has been completely redesigned. It’s spacious, with a ceiling high enough to allow the occupants to stand upright. The captain’s chair is centrally located and flanked by two display screens — the same screens used in Tesla’s luxury Model 3 sedan. These screens provide navigation and scheduling data, as well as images depicting blind spots and other areas around the truck.

With no engine, transmission, and other traditional diesel truck components to get in the way, the seating area is pushed forward in the cab, not unlike a VW bus. To see highlights of the Tesla Semi unveiling, click here.

New Market for Tesla

Well-known for its all-electric luxury cars, this is Tesla’s first foray into the commercial freight market. Musk says he intends to begin mass production of the Tesla Semi by 2019. If that happens, it would open up a potentially lucrative new market for his company.

“A lot of people don’t think you can do a heavy-duty, long-range truck that’s electric, but we are confident that this can be done,” he said.

 

For years transportation firms seeking ways to reduce their emissions and operating costs have expressed keen interest in electric trucks. In addition to being emission-free, Tesla claims that its Semi will be much cheaper to maintain than standard diesel trucks and will cost just $1.26 a mile to run, versus $1.51 for a diesel.

“We’re guaranteeing that this truck will not break down for a million miles,” Musk said at the unveiling.

How Much Does It Really Cost?

Musk has not yet revealed the actual cost for the Tesla Semi though, except to admit that “Tesla stuff is expensive.”

However, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, a vehicle capable of covering 600 miles would need a battery pack that costs as much as $400,000. (This is for the battery alone, without considering the cost of the rest of the truck.) That compares with an average total cost of $120,000 for a standard diesel truck.

Still, Musk maintains that a diesel truck would be 20% more expensive overall, and that his Semi would beat a diesel truck economically, “from Day 1.”

Although Musk has not yet named a price for the Semi, a $5,000 deposit is required to reserve each truck. So far, Meijer Inc. has ordered four, and Walmart has secured 15.

Changes Likely

Because the Tesla Semi is still a testing prototype, it will likely go through a series of changes as the company prepares for production. (Of course, it’s also possible that production will be delayed, or fail altogether.)

The Tesla Semi boasts specifications that are unprecedented in the logistics industry…Tesla has to get many more pieces of the puzzle right to make this machine a market reality.” — Forbes, 11/20/17

And the Tesla truck is not the only kid on the block. Several other companies are actively working to develop electric semis and smaller delivery vehicles. Musk’s potential rivals include Daimler, Cummins and Bosch, as well as a host of startup companies.


Sources:

Axios

Fortune

Forbes

Reuters

MIT Technology Review


Warehouse Automation: How Far Should You Go?

Warehouse automation is everywhere these days. At Amazon and other online retailers, for instance, “pickers” work side-by-side with robots. (See related article “Warehouse Automation New Frontiers.”)

And with good reason. In many instances, warehouse automation has been shown to improve efficiency, speed, reliability, accuracy and (eventually) cost savings.

Is It Right for You?

But just because automation is so prevalent doesn’t mean it will solve every material-handling issue or be the right fit for your facility. Humans are still better at a lot of things. Indeed, even at Amazon — the mother of all robotic warehouses — machines are not quite ready to take over completely.

Take a look inside an Amazon fulfillment center:

15,000 amazon kiva robots drives eighth generation fulfillment center from designboom on Vimeo.

As you can see, the science of warehouse automation encompasses all kinds of methods to bring inventory directly to the worker, in order to minimize his or her movements within the facility. Some of the most popular systems are carousels, vertical lifts, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), mini-loads, and automated guided vehicles (AVGs). A separate category of automation includes conveyors that move and direct inventory to the next appropriate operation.

Let’s look at the some of  the most useful applications for the new technology.

Where It’s Useful…

First of all, successful deployment of automation requires close integration with a warehouse management system (WMS) to help direct, simplify and track all of the facilities transactions. (See sidebar for an explanation of WMS.)

Your particular WMS may employ either barcodes or radio frequency identification (RFID) for inventory management, but some type of WMS must be in place before a more advanced warehouse automation system can be implemented.

Secondly, in order for automation to be successful, there must be a sufficient volume of activity to justify the high up-front costs and the ongoing need for maintenance. It’s also important to remember that human labor is still more flexible when it comes to changing business conditions.

For example:  An automated carousel pod will limit the picking rate to whatever a single operator can accomplish. Late in the day, that rate may be insufficient to support the rush of orders. Fixed shelving or a flow rack, on the other hand, can be accessed by multiple workers during busy periods.

So the type of automation employed must always be weighed against the flexibility (and availability) of workers. Even Amazon, with its 45,000 robots across the globe, still relies on human hands in its 20 cavernous fulfillment centers.

…And Where It Isn’t Useful

Clearly, automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution to every facility’s needs. Individual companies must do their due diligence to determine if automation makes economic sense.

Case in point: A mid-sized industrial distributor made a $3 million investment in carousels linked with an active conveyor. Alas, the system’s performance and reliability were so poor that it was abandoned, at a significant loss to the company. But in hindsight, the owner realized that, even if the system had worked perfectly, it still would have been a really bad investment.

Why? Because even though the automation enabled him to cut his workforce in half (for a savings of $300,000 per year), the five-year return on his $3 million investment would still have been minus 19%.

Like all business decisions, the choice of whether to invest in automation boils down to a reasonable expectation of adequate ROI.

Before You Climb Aboard

You’ve decided to climb aboard the automation bandwagon. Great! Where do you start?

WMS expert David Allais suggests the following steps:

  1. Assign a specific person or team that will be responsible for selecting the functionality and handling the implementation. This team should then be involved in all aspects of the planning and creation process.
  2. Ensure that the team factors in all costs for the proposed automation, including long-term maintenance and repair costs, and the cost of potentially adjusting the floor layout to accommodate the new technology. Also, if the company plans to eventually expand, the team should choose a system that will accommodate these expansion needs.
  3. Put together a viable support plan that will provide adequate training and technical support to all staff. This will greatly facilitate the implementation process.
  4. Be sure that your chosen automation vendor works with the assigned team to thoroughly explain and map out the data migration to the new technology.

The decision to employ warehouse automation is not one that should be entered into lightly. But with sufficient due diligence, your facility can be well on its way to becoming a more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective enterprise.


Sources:

Industry Week

NPR.org

TechTarget Network

Wired.com

Wired.com


Help Us Help the Victims of Hurricane Maria!

We are going to have to cancel the drive.

There is no outlet to send any goods.

We will stick with our plan to help our team out internally as much as we can.

Our intentions were good, and we will continue to do what we can to help our team and their families.

From NBC News ~ “Food and clothes donations create ‘a second disaster,’ experts say—so just send cash.

A number of long-running organizations, including Unicef, the American Red Cross and Save the Children are taking donations.

Center for Disaster Philanthropy began four funds in response to recent disasters including the earthquake in Mexico and the three Caribbean hurricanes.”

Click Here to Read the NBC News Report


Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, power is still out in most places, and communications are virtually nonexistent for the island’s 3.4 million residents.
Many of our Power Recycling team members have families in Puerto Rico that need our help!

What You Can Do

On Saturday, October 14, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Power Recycling will host a relief drive for these victims of Hurricane Maria.

Come on down to our headquarters at 4715 State Highway 30, in Amsterdam, New York, and bring the following:

  • New and gently used clothing
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Canned food and dry food
  • Toiletries
  • Diapers and baby wipes
  • Baby food
  • First aid supplies
We’ll be filling up a trailer with all of these necessities and shipping them directly to the people in need.

Humanitarian Crisis

The New York Times reported that “Puerto Rico is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, economies across the Caribbean are on life support, and dozens of people are dead.” In fact, it may be weeks before we get an accurate death count.

For the living, most Puerto Ricans now spend much of their day waiting in line. Particularly excruciating are the long gas lines, where many choose to spend the night in their cars rather than risk losing their place in line. In most places, food and water are also being rationed.

Help Us Help Them!

Join us on October 14!
Bring what you can…even a little will mean so much in the lives of these precious family members.


Sources:

The New York Times

Vox.com


10 Most Common Workplace Injuries

Did you know that every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home?

That’s right. In 2015 (the most recent statistical year) 4,836 workers were killed on the job.

Another 3.3 million people per year suffer a workplace injury from which they may never recover. No one wants to get hurt on the job. But best safety practices are often neglected because they take a little extra time and effort.

As a result, serious workplace injuries are far too common.

Here is a list of the top 10 reported worker’s compensation injuries, according to leading insurance companies:

#10 – Violent Acts

Serious physical injuries can ensue when office politics and other arguments erupt into physical confrontations. Many of these situations can be prevented by:

  • Defining and communicating a clear code of conduct, such as “zero tolerance with respect to moral harassment and other types of workplace violence.
  • Providing workplace violence training to all staff.
  • Diligently monitoring any suspicious activities.
  • Exercising dissuasion and enforcing sanctions for conduct violations.

#9 – Repetitive Stress Injuries

Repetitive Stress Injury, or RSI, is often less obvious than other types of injury, but it can be very harmful in the long run. Repetitive motions, such as a factory worker performing the same task over and over again, can strain muscles and tendons. The repeated activity doesn’t need to be strenuous to cause a problem.

The result is often back pain, joint problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. To avoid RSI, workers should be sure to take adequate work breaks, perform stretching exercises, and vary their work tasks, whenever possible. For instance, workers can be cross trained and a job rotation schedule implemented.

#8 – Machine Entanglement

The modern factory relies heavily on automated systems and a nonstop production line. Sometimes a worker will get too close to a machine that slices, welds, compresses or crushes.  The machine is unable to differentiate between an inanimate object and a human body.

Extra precautions must be taken to ensure that clothing, shoes, fingers and hair are kept far away from moving parts. Use protective barriers.

According to OSHA, the best rule to remember is this: “Any machine part, function, or process which may cause injury must be safeguarded.”

Safeguards must prevent hands, arms, and any other part of a worker’s body from making contact with dangerous moving parts. A good safeguarding system eliminates the possibility of the operator or another worker placing parts of their bodies near hazardous moving parts.

#7 – Vehicle Accidents

Employees who drive for business purposes are often injured in vehicle accidents, some of which can be fatal.  Those vehicles include forklifts.

In fact, OSHA statistics indicate about 85 forklift fatalities and 34,900 serious forklift injuries occur each year. In 42% of those fatalities, the operator was crushed by a tipping vehicle.

The safest place for a forklift operator is strapped into the seat with a seat belt. Which is why employers are obligated to require operators to use seat belts or other restraining devices. In addition, operators must receive site-specific forklift training, including the use of any attachments.

The following video clip provides some excellent safety tips for forklift operators:

 
Refresher training for forklift operators should also be available whenever necessary.

#6 – “Walking Into” Injuries

This happens when a person accidentally walks into a hard-surface object such as a wall, door, machinery, etc. Head, knee, neck, and foot injuries are the common result of these accidents.

The best way to prevent “walking into” injuries is to maintain a neat and tidy workplace. Clearly mark any potential obstacles/hazards. And train employees to be diligent in their surroundings.

#5 – Falling Object Injuries

Objects that fall from shelves or are dropped by another person can cause very serious injuries. Head injuries are a common result of this type of accident.

Materials should be stored or stacked in a safe and secure manner, and signage should be used to indicate any areas where debris may fall. Of course, proper personal protection gear (such as a hard hat) is also key to worker safety.

#4 – Reaction Injuries

Reaction injuries occur when a person slips or trips but “catches himself” to keep from falling.  These incidents can cause muscle injuries, body trauma, and a variety of other medical issues.

Preventing this type of injury is difficult because of our bodies’ natural reflexive actions. The best prevention guideline is for employees to be aware of their surrounding environment at all times.

#3 – Falling from Heights

Falling from an elevated area (such as a roof, ladder or stairway) can be caused by a slip-and-fall or by faulty equipment.

To prevent these injuries, make sure employees use proper personal protection gear. Install guardrails and other engineered protection devices, and encourage and reward employee diligence.

#2 – Slipping/Tripping

Falls on slippery floors or trips over objects lying on the floor are the second most common type of workplace injury.

Train employees on the hazards of slips, trips, and falls, as well as the proper management of spills and clean up. Use non-slip rugs and signage to indicate potentially hazardous areas.

#1 – Overexertion Injuries

The most common type of workplace injury is overexertion. It’s also the most expensive.

This category includes injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing. It represents $12.75 billion in direct costs, more than 25% of the overall national burden.

According to industry experts, overexertion continues to be a problem because workers do not understand the risk.

Because everybody engages in lifting, pulling, pushing and carrying from the time they start walking to the time they join the work force, they naturally believe they can do it properly.

To address this issue, employers should provide hands-on training by observing workers performing the tasks, and offering guidance when they are doing it incorrectly. They should also incorporate a psychosocial process into the program in order to understand how stress can affect worker safety. Even properly trained employees can become distracted and modify their work practices when they feel undue stress.

The Bottom Line

Education, training, diligence and proper safety equipment are all necessary components of a complete workplace safety program. For a list of OSHA training and educational programs to help broaden worker and employer knowledge of safety hazards in the workplace, click here.

And be careful out there!


Sources:

Arbill Safety Blog

Occupational Health & Safety

The Seltzer Group