Struggling to make it through another snowy New York winter? Be grateful you’re not experiencing the Great Blizzard of 1888!
Also known as the Great White Hurricane, this epic snowstorm paralyzed transportation, disrupted communication, and isolated millions of people for up to a week. It was also the deadliest winter storm in U.S. history: More than 400 people perished in the blizzard, 200 of them in New York City alone.
Caught by Surprise
In the early hours of March 11, 1888, as northeasterners slept, a steady rain turned to sleet and then heavy snow. Although temperatures the day before had hovered in the mid-fifties over much of the area, residents awoke to a startling scene: Enormous snowdrifts blocked the streets; horse-drawn wagons were immobilized.
To make matters worse, telegraph wires snapped. Which means that all the major East Coast cities — which had been connected by telegraph for four decades — were suddenly cut off from each other.
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The Capital Region of New York began to see heavy snowfall in the early hours of Monday, March 12. Within 24 hours, more than two feet of snow had fallen. Two days later, Saratoga Springs was buried in a whopping 58 inches of snow. Troy received 55 inches, and Albany got 45. Drifting was a serious problem, as 50-mph winds buffeted the area.
In fact, snowfall records were set all over the Northeast that day. Throughout New England 20 to 40 inches piled up, and New Haven, Conn., got 45 inches.
In the Big Apple
New York City ground to a virtual halt in the face of massive snowdrifts and hurricane-strength winds. (At the time, approximately one in every four Americans lived in the area between Washington D.C. and Maine.)
By Tuesday, March 13, snow drifts in the city had reached the second story of some buildings. Nevertheless, many residents trudged out to New York’s popular elevated trains in an attempt to get to work. They didn’t make it very far, as many of the trains were blocked by snow and unable to move. That left about 15,000 New Yorkers stranded on the trains for hours on end. (Stories were told of enterprising individuals with ladders offering to rescue passengers for a small fee.)
Intense winds and ice on the tracks resulted in numerous accidents for those trains that were able to move at all. Railroad passengers across the Northeast faced similar problems. Trains derailed, crashed, or simply became immobile for days, some with hundreds of suddenly stranded passengers. From Pennsylvania northward, railroads ceased operations.
The forklift operator adjusts his smart glasses to properly fit his head and presses the power button. The glasses immediately send him visual and auditory instructions. He’s directed to pick a product in a specific aisle and row.
As he nears the pick location, a green rectangle appears on his glasses to highlight his destination.
Once he picks the item, the glasses’ built-in scanner verifies that he has the right package, then directs him to the appropriate loading dock.
All the while, sensors strategically placed throughout the warehouse are collecting and enabling the free flow of real-time data.
This scenario is just one part of today’s “connected warehouse.” Enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) technology, these modern distribution centers are becoming increasingly common, as companies try to cope with pressures from e-commerce.
In fact, according to one recent survey, the global IoT market in warehouse management is expected to reach $19.06 billion by 2025.
Vision or Reality?
But is this concept more vision than reality?
The fact of the matter is, right now, it’s mostly vision. In reality, the majority of distribution centers are not currently using IoT-connected sensors or equipment. And while many warehouse automation systems generate data in real time, they’re usually wired into a warehouse control system (WCS) or warehouse execution system (WES).
However, the IoT-connected warehouse is gradually materializing. That’s because DC automation and materials handling vendors, who already provide WCS and WES software, are increasingly developing warehouse IoT solutions.
What’s It All About?
According to Jack Allen, Cisco’s senior director for global logistics, IoT may not change warehousing overnight, but it’ll certainly speed up processes. “Information is going to be so much more available and increasingly real time, enabling warehouses to be much faster and more agile,” he says.
“Much of the value in logistics isn’t just in moving the goods, but in understanding the information. That means quick answers to questions like, ‘Where is my shipment?’ or ‘When will I get my goods?’ or ‘Can this production line keep up with the demand requirement?’”
It does indeed appear that the future of warehousing is in IoT.
According to the most recent census from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 786 truck drivers were killed on the job in 2016. Not surprisingly, 80% of those deaths involved transportation incidents.
The BLS data underscores the recent findings of other federal agencies which also indicate an increase in truck-related crashes and deaths. For example, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 722 truckers were killed in traffic crashes in 2016. That’s up 8.6% from the prior year.
Altogether, the number of truckers who died in 2016 was 47% higher than in 2009 (the year with the lowest number of fatalities since federal agencies began collecting fatal crash data in 1975).
And that’s not all. According to the BLS, truck drivers are also more likely than the average U.S. worker to get injured or sick on the job. As a result, work-related injuries and illnesses led long-haul truckers to be absent from work a cumulative 47,560 days in 2016.
Why Is Trucking So Deadly?
Opinions differ on what makes trucking so dangerous.
Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), believes that fatigue and distracted driving are the primary culprits.
But Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), points the finger at lack of training and crash-worthiness testing. The problem is that regulators are focusing on rules that aren’t safety related, Taylor said.
Another factor is the current booming economy, which has resulted in increased highway miles for vehicles of all types. In addition, surging demand for e-commerce translates into a steady rise in freight volumes.
Feeling Less Safe
Whatever the cause, truck drivers are feeling slightly less safe on the job than they did six years ago. That’s according to StayMetrics, a driver-retention technology company that polls truckers on issues such as job safety.
In 2017, the Indiana-based firm surveyed almost 10,000 truck drivers, and asked them to respond to the statement “I feel safe on the job.” On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree”), the average rating was 3.88 in 2017, compared with 4.12 five years earlier in 2012.
“There is erosion on how safe drivers feel about the profession,” said StayMetrics Chief Executive Tim Hindes. He surmised that increased traffic congestion and lack of access to safe, predictable parking were the leading causes.
So what are the most common causes of truck-related accidents? Here are the top five:
#1 Driver Error
There are many reasons for driver error: fatigue, the influence of alcohol or drugs, distractions or recklessness. However, studies show the majority of trucking accidents caused by driver error are due to the passenger vehicle driver (81%), not the truck driver (22%). Trucker can improve their defensive driving by keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, being patient with slower or reckless drivers, and using turn signals.
#2 Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Equipment failure, such as worn brake pads or a cracked windshield, can cause a major traffic accident. It’s a driver’s responsibility to check his/her rig at the beginning of every shift and submit a vehicle maintenance report. Failure to do so can be fatal.
#3 Equipment Failure
Poor fleet maintenance isn’t the only thing that can cause a truck’s equipment to fail at a dangerous moment. Equipment manufacturers may be guilty of negligence during a part’s production, leading to defective or dangerous components.
#4 Inclement Weather
Rain, snow and ice can be especially tricky for truckers to drive on, due to the vehicle’s heavy weight and slower stopping speeds. It’s important to slow down whenever road conditions are not ideal. Seasoned drivers know when to pull over safely and wait it out, or park for the night.
#5 Improper Cargo Loading
Mistakes or negligence during loading procedures can make a load fall off onto the road, causing catastrophic accidents. Truckers and cargo loading teams must always abide by industry-specific rules when it comes to loading the bed of a commercial truck.
Over the past decade, millions of manufacturing jobs have disappeared from U.S. cities, while employment in warehousing and transportation has surged.
Internet retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Zulily are competing to deliver goods to the buyer’s doorstep as quickly as possible. The result has been a constellation of vast warehouses employing workers without college degrees. And it’s breathed new life into pockets of the country that had fallen economically behind.
In recent years, steel mills in Texas and Pennsylvania, shipyards in Louisiana and former military sites in Joliet, Ill., and Oakland, Calif., have all been reinvented as logistics hubs. In fact, redevelopment firms are finding that such endeavors are often more appealing to the local populations than breaking ground on new developments.
Resistance to Development
Take, for instance, the situation in Lehigh Valley, Penn., where developers are encountering significant residential backlash as warehouses gobble up real estate. Residents of several once-rural communities are not all thrilled about the area’s urbanization.
According to Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh residents have suffered “severe culture shock.” Big companies have rapidly moved in and started building over the past 10 years.
“Where there was once a wheat or corn field is now a warehouse, and people aren’t happy about that, so politically it’s a very sensitive issue,” Bradley said. “It was residential for 50-60 years, and now it’s different.”
About 62 municipalities span the two counties that make up Lehigh Valley (Lehigh and Northampton counties), and not all of them are in agreement about how much warehouse building should continue in the area.
Reinventing Old Factory Sites
In fact, since 2010, warehouses have been adding workers at four times the rate of overall job growth. According to Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, this growth illustrates “a rather large transformation, and the humble warehouse is the leading edge of this.”
Goetz Wolff, a UCLA professor of urban planning, agrees. “The distribution system and warehouses offer employment, and so logistics is viewed as a kind of savior,” he said.
According to Mandel, “These fulfillment center jobs are not being created in the tech hubs that were growing before. We’ve broadened the winner’s circle.”
The New Winners
So who are “the winners”? They’re people like Ellen Gaugler of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She remembers driving her father to the now-closed Bethlehem Steel mill. These days she drives herself to the same location, only now it’s a Zulily warehouse.
The 54-year-old earns $13.50 an hour putting together shipments at the warehouse. (According to the U.S. Labor Department, the average warehouse worker earns $15.47 an hour, compared with $22.36 in the metals manufacturing industry.)
Gaugler says some folks in town are nostalgic for the time when the steel mill filled the sky with black smoke and the furnaces churned all day. But not her. “These are secure jobs,” she said. “With the steel, you didn’t know if you would have a job the next day.”
Think spirits and ghosts only haunt houses? Think again.
Just in time for Halloween, we offer three haunted warehouse stories for your reading pleasure…
Beware of the Dark Room
A 22-year-old Philadelphia resident, who goes by the name of “King K,” relayed the following harrowing tale:
As a Walmart employee, King sometimes must travel to the company’s warehouse, about an hour’s drive from the store. It’s a massive structure, full of pallets and merchandise. In the back of the warehouse is the Dark Room, so named because no one could ever get the lights to work in the room. And several of King’s co-workers (including his manager) said they felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread whenever they worked around the room.
King had also heard stories about flickering lights throughout the warehouse and a dark creature with glowing red eyes that inhabited the Dark Room. He had always laughed off these tales.
One day while working at the warehouse, King took a break to visit the men’s room, a place he later described as “beyond creepy.” Although most of the room was lighted, the back two stalls were intensely dark. “Impossibly dark,” he said. Then King suddenly felt a cold chill flow through his body. His hair stood on end.
Later that day, King’s curiosity led him to investigate the Dark Room. His co-worker, Ray, reluctantly agreed to go along. At first, all they could barely make out in the darkness were some old tables and debris scattered around the room. “No demons or ghosts in here,” King said.
As he started to leave and was just yards away from the door, something huge squawked loudly and flew past him. “What was that?!” King screamed. As he and Ray looked up towards the ceiling, they could discern the outline of something birdlike, “like a raven, only impossibly huge.” He went on to describe it:
“It was like a shadow that had arisen from the ground and had become a shape itself. It’s eyes though—that’s what gave it away. They were red. But not so much glowing, just a glossy red. I could feel a pressure or a presence coming from the thing.”
Then Ray placed his hand on King’s shoulder and yanked on his shirt. King finally “snapped out of it,” and they both ran out of the room.
The Woman in White
Our next haunted warehouse story is told by a California girl named Stephanie, whose father works at a car dealership in Vallejo, California. The dealership keeps a warehouse for overflow inventory on nearby Mare Island—a naval shipyard which is considered one of the most haunted places in the San Francisco Bay area.
Stephanie’s dad is quite friendly with the night-shift security guards at the warehouse, who would often relay stories to him of strange phenomena, such as flickering lights and mysterious loud, banging noises.
One day, after the warehouse had upgraded its security cameras, one of the security guards was testing the new cameras. He moved camera angles around and played back recorded footage to see how it looked.
Then, while viewing the different monitors, the guard suddenly froze.
There on the footage, staring back at him, was the figure of a woman dressed in white standing by one of the warehouse posts. The guard captured the image on his phone:
Is it a ghost? You be the judge.
An Old Houston Haunt
Our last haunted warehouse story involves a place that is not actually a warehouse anymore. But it did start out as one.
Spaghetti Warehouse in Houston was part of an Italian restaurant chain, headquartered in Dallas. (There’s also one in Syracuse.)
Built around 1912, the structure was originally the site of a fruit and vegetable warehouse. It later housed a pharmaceutical company. According to Preservation Houston, the building’s location was among a very busy row of warehouses that would line the street leading to the port.
After the building became the Spaghetti Warehouse in 1973, many signs of haunting were told over the years. Customers and staff alike relay stories of floating wine glasses, strange flickers of light, cold spots (even during heat waves), mysterious sounds, mysterious sightings, and voices in the night (sometimes calling people’s names).
Although some long-time staff refused to speak about their ghostly encounters, the restaurant managers willingly recounted the haunting tales and their history.
Apparently, it all began when the building served as a pharmacy in the early 1900’s. One day, one of the pharmacists was tragically killed by a freak accident after falling down the elevator shaft. Devastated by his death, the pharmacist’s wife died of a broken heart exactly one year later.
The pair of ghosts then began to roam the building—the wife primarily on the second floor, while the husband shuffled around in the men’s restroom. The ghost of the wife was said to rearrange furniture, leave the dishes and silverware in disarray, tap guests on their shoulders and pull their hair.
In the past few decades, various forms of “lean” strategy have taken the business world by storm. (Think lean manufacturing, lean management or lean construction.) See related article, “6 Key Lean Manufacturing Principles.”
One of the most popular workplace organization methods to develop from the “lean” movement is called “5S” methodology. 5S has been found to be particularly useful in manufacturing and warehouse environments.
What Is 5S?
In its simplest terms, 5S helps accomplish one of the basic objectives of lean strategy: making problems visible.
5S uses visual signals to communicate important information. These visuals can include diagrams, pictograms, color-coding, floor markings and photographs. They allow everyone to quickly understand the information being conveyed.
The 5S methodology originated in Japan. Hence, the five S’s stand for five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. These words are typically translated as “sort,” “set in order” (or “straighten”), “shine,” “standardize” and “sustain.”
But 5S is much more than just organizing your factory or warehouse to make everything look great. It’s about having more efficient operations, excelling at training and communications and, in the end, saving time and money. A facility that has implemented 5S is able to identify issues quickly, address the root causes, and solve the problems in the short term to prevent recurrence.
Let’s explore each step within the 5S process and its application within a manufacturing or warehouse environment:
The First “S” — Sort
The goal of the sorting phase is to remove unnecessary items from the space being organized, and provide a clean slate on which to implement the other four steps.
How to Do It:
Begin by removing virtually everything from the designated workspace. While it may seem as though placing everything into one large pile is just making a mess, it’s an important step in the sorting process, as it allows you to truly decide which items are no longer necessary to your operation.
Arrange four industrial bins and label them as “Keep,” “Remove,” “Decide,” and “Relocate.”
Keep: These are the essential, frequently used items. They are the tools that should be returned to the work area after sorting is complete.
Remove: These are unneeded items that are simply taking up valuable space, such as broken or outdated tools, or components that have passed their expiration date. Many companies use 5S Tags (or “red tags”) when sorting out unneeded items. The tag is easy to see and workers can quickly determine which items are to be removed.
Decide: These are items that need to be evaluated for use. Set a specific amount of time for determining if the items should be kept; after that time has passed, the items are either discarded or organized back into the workspace.
Relocate: These items are not frequently needed but must still be accessible when they are required. They will eventually be relocated to areas that make the most sense.
The Second “S” — Set in Order
This is the phase where all the items in the “Keep” bin are returned to the workspace in a specific, well-organized manner. This phase is truly about finding the most efficient and sensible places for tools and other items within a specific area.
How to Do It:
Clear expectations are essential in this phase of 5S methodology. Workers are more likely to comply when they know what is expected with regard to cleanliness of their workspace. Posting imagery nearby that shows the fully cleaned state of a workspace can be a guide, as can an information board indicating step-by-step cleaning instructions.
Cleaning should always be carried out routinely, on a schedule, not in response to a workspace that has grown too cluttered to navigate efficiently.
The Fourth “S” — Standardize
The Standardize step of 5S methodology is all about auditing and regularly checking in on 5S efforts. It’s the bridge between the Shine step and the final step of Sustain.
Finally, the audits and checklists should be used to ensure the processes are running smoothly and as expected. Tracking measures should be put into place so that any undesired results can be addressed immediately.
Some in the manufacturing community have contended that there should be a sixth “S” for Safety. They believe that safety is important enough to warrant its own category in this organizational methodology.
But many others believe that safety is a key component in all of the other 5 S’s and, therefore, to create a separate category would be redundant.
Safety is an integral part of the Sort, Set in Order and Shine phases of any 5S project. The other two steps, Standardize and Sustain, focus on the methods used to ensure that safety is maintained.
We’ve presented a lot of information. As a brief recap, the following video clip summarizes the 5S process:
In 2014, 21-year-old Candace Carnahan was working her summer job at a paper mill near her Canadian hometown. One day she took a shortcut that she had seen many others take before: She stepped over a conveyor belt.
Carnahan’s foot got caught in a pinch point and was pulled into the machine. The conveyor kept running for a few seconds, until a co-worker heard her screams and pushed the manual stop button.
But not before Carnahan’s toes had been severed by the conveyor. Her left leg later had to be amputated.
As with all machinery, conveyors are only as safe as the people using them. Let’s review some common sense safety rules and standards:
Don’t Tread on Me
Workers should never sit on, stand on, climb on, walk on, or otherwise misuse a conveyor — ever. This includes reaching into, climbing over or crawling under the conveyor when it’s in motion.
While this rule may seem fairly obvious, disregarding it is one of the most common causes of injuries involving conveyors.
(Note: The only possible exception to this rule is during maintenance or repair, and then only by qualified technicians.)
Conveyors that are loaded beyond capacity can overheat and malfunction, leading to damage and the potential for accidents due to falling goods. Make sure all workers are aware of the safe operating capacity of every conveyor. Managers must enforce this safety standard — for the good of the workers and the equipment.
With thousands of worker bees deftly manipulating expensive machinery in round-the-clock shifts. Creating planes, cars, batteries. Efficient little cities of industry within four walls. All vast, sprawling production complexes.
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 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:
Are there any hydraulic leaks in the mast or elsewhere?
Are fuel connections tight and battery terminals covered?
Is there any lint, grease, oil or other flammable material on the forklift?
Are there any deformities in the forks, mast, overhead guard or backrest?
Are tires at proper pressure and free of damage?
Are seat belts working and accessible?
Is the load capacity plate readable?
Do all controls (such as lift, lower and tilt) work smoothly?
Is the horn working?
Are the lights operational?
Is steering responsive?
Do brakes stop smoothly and reliably?
Does the parking break hold the forklift on an incline?
Are there any sparks or flames coming from the exhaust system?
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!
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.
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.”