Old Manufacturing Hubs Find New Life in Warehousing

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

Which makes the redevelopment of old manufacturing sites more appealing than gobbling up rural real estate. And the government has sweetened the deal by offering incentives, such as tax abatements and credits. These incentives allow companies that redevelop steel mill land to save hundreds of thousands on their tax bills over 10 years.

And the location is often ideal. “All these old-line industrial sites are on great real estate,” said Michael Moore, a former shipping and port executive. “The same things that make them great for manufacturing—the land, the water, the rail—make them great for logistics.”

Giant Warehouses = Lots of Workers

As Americans have grown more comfortable with online purchasing, the size of their orders has increased. Even bulky items like canoes and refrigerators are being bought over the internet. Which means warehouses have become gargantuan, doubling in size since 2010.

And while robots are controlling more and more of the distribution processes, it still takes a lot of bodies to move hundreds of thousands of boxes in and out of these buildings every day. As a result, warehouses serving the largest e-tailers typically employ more than 2,000 people. (See related article, “Warehouse Automation: How Far Should You Go?”)


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.”


Sources:

New York Times

Wall Street Journal

Supply Chain Dive


Three Creepy Haunted Warehouse Stories

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.

Waitress Patti Chapa told a reporter in 2009 that her shoelaces frequently and mysteriously came untied while she was working. Even when she would double- and triple-knot them.

Once, while waitressing a private party, a co-worker pointed to Patti’s shoelace, “which was stretched out straight and floating parallel to the ground.” Patti said to the co-worker, “I hope I don’t step on anyone,” referring to a presumed spirit. Immediately, the shoelace dropped.

According to the restaurant manager, voices of children were often heard running around the building, especially upstairs near an antique “urn cabinet.” The urn cabinet was a piece of furniture traditionally used in orphanages to hold the ashes of deceased children. They were particularly common in facilities that lacked adequate space to bury their dead charges.

Although nothing bad ever happened to her while working, Chapa says she never entered the building by herself.

“I’ve seen the [ghost] in the front window,” she said. “It’s just like you’d see in a comic. It never hurts us, but it lets us know it’s here.”

New Life

The Houston Spaghetti Warehouse was all but destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and was forced to close after 44 years. Steve Tomlin, the new owner of the building, is fully restoring the historical structure, and plans to open it as a bar and restaurant that will be virtually flood proof.

He did note, however, that the first day he was on the property, he had the distinct feeling of being watched. “You know when you can tell someone is watching you? It’s something like that,” Tomlin said.


Sources:

Darkness Prevails

Houston Chronicle

Houston Business Journal

Houston Press


How to Create a “5S” Workplace

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.

This step helps minimize waste and loss of time by eliminating the need to search around for tools required to complete the job. Every loss of efficiency can gradually bleed a company’s profits.

How to Do It:

Map out the area where the tools and equipment will be placed, drawing on employees’ input to determine the most convenient and comfortable areas for placement. Obviously, the most frequently used tools should reside in easily accessible areas, closest to the station operator.

The key here is to minimize the need for workers to repeatedly reach over and between items. Items that are less frequently used should be placed in other areas.

Organizational Tools

There are a number of organizational tools that are extremely helpful when implementing this phase of 5S methodology. For instance:

Shadow boards and foam tool organizers feature outlines of tools behind or beneath the locations where they are placed when stored. They make it very easy for a worker to quickly see where to return a tool based on its silhouette or outline. They also allow employees to quickly identify which tools are missing.

Floor markings are a staple within warehouses and manufacturing facilities, as they can be used for a variety of different organizational purposes. They can designate a specific workspace, mark off pallet storage, or help navigate pedestrian traffic on the shop floor. Floor markings are available in a variety of different colors, sizes, strengths, thicknesses, and shapes.

Signage is essential to an efficient work environment for safety’s sake and for purposes of improving visual communication within the workplace. Signage is easily customizable and is available as floor signs, wall signs, or standing signs.

Labeling is key to an effective 5S system. Virtually anything can be labeled to help keep work areas organized, efficient, and visual to workers. When properly used, labels help employees understand where things belong and easily identify when something is missing. To this end, industrial printers make printing labels simple, convenient and cost-effective.

The Third “S” — Shine

The Shine phase is basically a thorough cleaning of the entire workstation or space. It involves cleaning, dusting, polishing, sweeping, vacuuming and everything necessary to attain perfect order. Workplace accidents can potentially destroy efficiency, and a good deep cleaning can help workers avoid them.

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.

Standardizing the approach to 5S ensures that organizational efforts are sustained in the long run. Failing to standardize procedures can lead to sloppy work and a loss of efficiency.

How to Do It:

You’ll want to implement a clear system that everyone understands. To this end, audit sheets and checklists are usually most effective, as they can be used by whoever is checking an area on a given day. Here are some sample questions you may wish to include on the checklist:

  • “Are all tools in their correct place on the shadow boards or other tool organizers?”
  • “Have power tools been unplugged and their cords properly stored?”
  • “Are the necessary supplies in place for the next worker who will begin a shift at that station?”

 

The Fifth “S” — Sustain

The Sustain step focuses on taking all of the previous steps of 5S and transforming them into ongoing habits to ensure continuous improvement. Bear in mind that habits do not develop right away. When workers are required to do something new in the workspace, it will take them some time for them to actually incorporate the new procedure into their routine.

How to Do It:

First, every new 5S process should be demonstrated correctly by a trained and knowledgeable professional. Supervisors should provide their staff with the individual attention needed for workers to understand what is expected.

Then, workers should be monitored to ensure that the daily 5S habits are being developed, and mistakes should be corrected.

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.

Another “S”?

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.

Video Recap

We’ve presented a lot of information. As a brief recap, the following video clip summarizes the 5S process:

 


Sources:

Creative Safety Supply LLC

EHS Today

Kaisen Institute


Conveyor System Safety 101

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.)

Overloading

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.

Keep Your Guard Up

A conveyor has many moving parts, such as gears, chains and belts. These can pose a serious hazard if exposed. Which is why a conveyor should never be operated without guards and covers in place to keep out clothing, extremities, and any foreign objects.

In addition, conveyors should never be loaded over guards or railings, as this increases the risk of clothing getting caught in the rollers.

Be aware that, even with guards in place, conveyors are capable of catching dangling extremities, clothing and hair. Long hair should always be tied back or kept under a cap whenever working near a conveyor. In addition, clothing should not be baggy, and ties and loose jewelry should be removed. Workers should only touch materials on the conveyor, not the conveyor itself.

 

Control Training

All workers should be properly trained in how to stop the conveyor in an emergency. Controls should be easily accessible and easy to use.

Conveyor manufacturers recommend that all employees read and understand the conveyor system’s user manual. According to the MK Technology Group, “Any machine’s manual is its bible, and a conveyor is no different. The best way to be sure about proper conveyor use is by knowing and abiding by the contents of the manual – during use and service alike.”

Warning!

Warning labels alert workers about particular hazards and safety practices. Accurate, up-to-date warning labels should be posted on all conveyors and components, where workers can easily see and read them. In particular, make sure that motors and rollers are well labeled with safety information; these are two of the most hazardous components of any conveyor system.

Leave It to the Pros

All maintenance and repair work should be carried out only by trained, fully qualified repair people. They’ll be sure to follow proper lockout/tagout procedures and block or disengage all power sources to the conveyor (electrical, hydraulic, air, gravity).

Even the best technicians are occasionally injured by a malfunctioning machine. Untrained staff should never attempt a conveyor system repair.

The folks at Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, a Canadian health and safety association, offer the following additional advice to employers:


Canadian Occupation Safety

MK North America

Cisco-Eagle


The Seven Biggest Factories on the Planet

It seems factories just keep getting bigger.

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.

Let’s take a look at the seven largest factories on the planet. (For some of the world’s largest warehouses, see related article, “Over-The-Top Mega Warehouses and Factories.”)

#7: Jean-Luc Lagardére Plant

It should come as no surprise that aircraft assembly plants are among some of the world’s largest factories. And this one is massive.


Located in Toulouse-Blagnac, France, the Jean-Luc Lagardére Plant assembles the pieces for the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger airliner. The plane’s various components are crafted at diverse locations across Europe. The French facility then assembles and tests the final build in its 1.3-million-square-foot factory.

The entire complex also includes 49 acres of runway outside the plant, as well as company restaurants, and fluid and energy production plants.

#6: Rivia Automotive

The former Mitsubishi North America production plant in Normal, Illinois, was finally purchased by Rivia Automotive in January 2017.

The plant’s floor area of 2.4 million square feet will be used in the production of autonomous electric vehicles, scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2019. Built in 1981, the mammoth facility includes manufacturing and office space, a paint shop, robotics, stamping machines and other production equipment. The 600-acre property also encompasses farmland, a test track, and several buildings located on individual plots.

The Michigan-based electric vehicle startup has been in business since 2009. Like its rival Tesla, Rivian’s CEO is a high-caliber engineer (he holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering) and visionary.

#5: Belvidere Assembly Plant

Also located in Illinois, this factory is owned by Fiat Chrysler (formerly known as Chrysler Corporation, then DaimlerChrysler, and then Chrysler Group LLC). The facility was constructed in 1965 and occupies a whopping 3.5 million square feet of space.

It sits on more than 280 acres of property, and employs more than 5,100 workers and 780 robots in the assembly of the Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot and Dodge Dart. In fact, it was the first Chrysler plant to implement a completely robotic body shop. These robots are capable of making necessary tool changes automatically, within a 47-second cycle time.

#4: Boeing Everett Factory

When you build airplanes, you need clearance — as in lots of space. So it’s not surprising that the world’s largest building by volume (472 million cubic feet!) is the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington. This is where the 747, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliners are built.


The 4.2 million-square-foot plant covers nearly 100 acres and includes a museum, theater, 19 restaurants and a store. Built in 1966, this ginormous facility also boasts 2.33 miles of pedestrian tunnels underneath the factory floor, its own railway sidetrack, more than 1,000 bicycles for getting around the plant, and one of the world’s largest murals.

The factory employs more than 30,000 people, and staffs its own fire department, security team, daycare center and fitness center. Tours are available through Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center.

#3: Tesla Factory

Coming in at #3 in our list of the world’s largest factories is Elon Musk’s bad boy, the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. (Not to be confused with the battery-producing Tesla Gigafactory, currently under construction in the Nevada desert. When complete, Tesla expects the Gigafactory to be the biggest building in the world.)

The Fremont factory is one of the most advanced automotive plants in the world, focusing solely on the production of electric cars and electric power train components. At just under 5.5 million square feet, the plant uses more than 160 specialist robots, including ten of the largest robots in the world.


Tesla didn’t build this factory from the ground up; they purchased it from General Motors in 2010, and the first Tesla Model S rolled off the production line in June of 2012.  The plant currently produces more than 100,000 vehicles a year, including the Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X and Roadster.

#2: Hyundai Motor Company Ulsan Factory

Getting down to the wire here in our countdown…

#2 is also one of the biggest automotive factories in the world. The Hyundai Motor Company factor in Ulsan, South Korea, occupies more than 54 million square feet. Needless to say, it’s the company’s primary production facility, rolling out one of its 14 different models every 12 seconds!

This five-building plant is spread over 1,225 acres of land. It’s so huge it has its own road network and infrastructure, including a hospital, fire services, shipping pier, and even a sewage treatment plant, for crying out loud! Some of the company’s 34,000 workers sleep in onsite dormitories.

Drum roll, please….
…And now… the Granddaddy of them all…the largest factory on the planet…

#1: Volkswagen Wolfsburg Plant

This manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, employs a staff of more than 70,000 and occupies an astounding 70 million square feet of space. Which is why each floor worker is issued a bicycle for getting around the plant.

Churning out about 4,000 vehicles per day (four different Golf lines, the Touran, and the Tiguan), this factory handles everything from toolmaking to plastic production.

The plant’s state-of-the-art paint shop (the world’s largest) was the first to use eco-friendly water-based paint. And the press shop alone produces 1,500 metric tons of sheet metal every day.

Adjoining the factory are two impressive silo-like glass towers designed specifically for vehicle storage. The bigger one is about 160 feet tall, and stores about 400 cars.

Even more amazing is the technology which enables the factory employees to work on more than five different cars simultaneously, without compromising efficiency or quality. See for yourself:


Sources:

Popular Mechanics

Visual Capitalist

Inside EVs

The Richest

The Clever


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