Rising Prices Steel Extended Lead Times

For several months now, the steel market has experienced unprecedented volatility. Prices have tripled, demand is sky-high, supply is relatively low, and the result is striking the warehousing industry by causing delays and sticker shock on new warehouse equipment and construction projects.

As a real-world example, companies placing new steel orders could traditionally expect prices around $35 per hundred pounds of steel, with a lead time around six to eight weeks. That same steel order may now cost over $80 per hundred pounds of steel with a 24-week lead time in today’s environment. Part of the lead time delays are caused by the economy booming, and most facilities are busy, but the steel market has limited capacity to supply additional material to be available. On some of the larger projects underway, the prices have jumped by the millions of dollars, putting decision-makers in an untenable situation.

In some respects, this condition can be easily understood in an “Economics 101” sense: Supply is low, demand is high, so prices rise. We have seen that all before as part of a normal business cycle. However, the unique element in today’s economic situation is how long the prices have been high and how high they have reached.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and, while this level of volatility could not entirely be anticipated, it does beg the question: what are you doing to protect yourself from being at the mercy of a volatile market? How can you protect your operations from having to react to rising prices and extended lead times?

What Can Be Done to Hedge Against Rising Prices and Extended Lead Times?

Find a Partner with the Right Partners. When sourcing new warehouse equipment, we strategically partner with multiple different pallet rack and shelving manufacturers and conduct a sizeable business with each. Because we are among the largest purchasers of new warehouse equipment in the United States, we have developed several relationships, sources, and options to leverage our ability to help customers find the best fit for their needs. This approach can help skirt those lead times, issues with higher prices, and – in some cases – both.

Find a Partner Who Can Leverage Unmatched Manufacturer Partnerships. Because we have built long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with some of the largest pallet rack, shelving & mezzanine manufacturers in the USA, we have established foundational relationships that give us a dedicated production capacity to help fill the volume of orders we place each month.

In the current environment, almost every rack supplier is looking at 12-to-14 weeks or longer on any new equipment order (when, in regular times, typical wait times are around 6-to-8 weeks). In the right situation, we can leverage our orders to fit as quickly as a 5-to-6-week lead time, expediting that timeline by nearly half.

Find a Partner That Stores New Warehouse Equipment On-Hand. Besides sourcing new material for our customers, we have a 330,000 square foot warehouse based out of central Indiana that houses a good amount of new warehouse equipment. We typically stock uprights, beams, wire decking, and plenty of other options that work great for our partners when lead times don’t match our customers’ project timelines.

Find a Partner That Sources Used Material as Well. Not only do we store new warehouse equipment at our facility, but we also store and actively source quality preowned warehouse equipment as well. We have a Used Package portion of our website dedicated to larger orders of compatible equipment that showcases a good array of the products we source and store, which typically includes many popular manufacturer styles. If you are looking to sell your used equipment, you should know that we’re always looking to buy! (link to Buy Back form).

Find a Partner That Can Develop Creative Warehouse Solutions. Because of the current state of the steel market, the Storage Solutions team has been especially creative in terms of solving our clients’ challenges. Customers are more interested in holding onto their current material and re-using what they already have, so we are routinely developing project plans to keep them operational while re-applying as much material as possible. Even with companies conducting multiple facility moves, we can figure out a program from a logistics or planning perspective.

What is the Next Step?

If you are experiencing a situation where your project is beset by overwhelmingly high prices or equally challenging lead times, give us a call. We can learn about the challenges that face your business and develop solutions that support your short-term needs during times like this.

If you deal with extended lead times and do not have the luxury to push out the completion date or make massive budget adjustments, we can step in as a potential project partner. We have experts on our staff that can provide more material sourcing options and create a more dynamic project plan or design project initiatives to keep your operations running while the installation occurs.

National Safety Month

Each year, June is designated as National Safety Month®, an observation of safety and injury prevention across all industries in the United States. Administered by the National Safety Council (NSC), the month is a reminder to examine processes and procedures within your organization.

This year, the NSC is focusing on four topics throughout the month, putting a spotlight on mental health, ergonomics, building a safety culture, and driving. Through their website and social media, they will also produce materials including educational articles, infographics, videos, and more, along with posting free collateral on their website.

Storage Solutions will also be participating with a focus on safety in warehouses and distribution centers. That increased awareness of safety products and procedures will include both for your workers, but for your equipment too.

We will also feature information on products and services offered through our partners that serve to increase safety by reducing opportunities for accidents and injuries within a warehouse setting. Some of the products and features will also help adjust to a post-COVID-19 working environment.

As you continue to read and interact with stories this month, we encourage you to adopt a “safety-first” mindset throughout the year. Whether you need safety supply or service, we are here to help you make your facility not only move product as quickly as possible, but as safely too.

For more information on our safety solutions, click here.

EASY Automation Appraisal Requirements

As e-commerce represents an ever-increasing percentage of orders within distribution and fulfillment centers, warehouse managers evaluate automation solutions to combat the increased operational costs associated with e-commerce orders. In a warehouse or fulfillment center designed for traditional pallet storage and picking, those orders being fulfilled through each or case picking can add up and get expensive.

Currently, many of the operations we have worked with have responded to the additional e-commerce orders by “throwing labor” at this issue. What happens during peak seasons? Do you throw even more labor at it? What about if there are changes in ordering patterns? Do you hire and train temporary workers? That is where automation can come in and deliver solutions for these challenges.

However, it can be challenging to decide the appropriate level of automation for your current operations. It can be even more challenging to determine the proper level for you in 3 to 5 years. Do you integrate more now and deal with the cost today or slowly build a system and integrate it into your operations?

We created our EASY Automation Appraisals, where our team can take a data-driven, engineered solutions approach to determine the best plan of action for your facility. After all, each operation is different, and we want to connect you with the appropriate set of solutions, never to oversell or stick you with a system that you cannot fully optimize.

So, if you are at that stage where costs are rising due to an increase in each or case picking compared to your rate of pallet picking, your operation may be an ideal candidate for an EASY Appraisal. But what all is needed to conduct one within your facility?

  • Order Line Data – The most critical data for us.
  • Inventory On Hand – Historical data showing what all are you storing & how much of each item?
  • AutoCAD Layout of the Facility – We want to know where everything is at, as it stands today.
  • SKU Item Master List – We want to know what size your products are, how big their cases are, and what size pallets or cases are currently being stored?
  • Labor Rates & Outlay – How much are you trying to process, and how much does it cost to do it?
  • Outbound Shipping Requirements – Do you need poly bags? Does your packaging require dunnage?

Not all that information is technically needed – we have enough experience to work around virtually any roadblock – but having all that information will give us a clear understanding of what to look for in your operations. From there, our engineering team can tour your facility and see your processes in action ourselves. You can learn more about our EASY Appraisals here.

Are You Ready for an EASY Automation Appraisal?

The changes associated with fulfilling e-commerce orders are going to affect the structure of your business. It is a question of “when,” not “if.” If you are unsure how to adapt to those changes or adopt best practices with these systems, that is where we come in. These appraisals are designed to fit your needs now with a growth plan. We also offer a business case for how these additions can deliver an ROI within a few months or years.

Give us a call today to share more about the specific challenges you see in your operations and allow our team to develop custom engineered solutions that can help you combat those rising labor costs while increasing throughput and order accuracy.

Contact us today to schedule your EASY Automation Appraisal!

Warehouse Design Consultant

At Storage Solutions, we consider ourselves way more than a traditional warehouse design consultant; we pride ourselves on learning about the challenges you see, then providing solutions that make a real difference to your bottom line.

For the most part, warehouse design firms recommend changes that theoretically will work in your facility because those changes are likely based on suggestions that worked in another facility. However, we understand the difference between theoretical versus practical changes. Practical solutions should result from in-depth discussions and data, not a cookie-cutter approach.

Plus, we take an agnostic approach to which solution partners we work with on each project. We are not picking a particular solution because we need to hit a quota. Our goal is to allow you to grow your business and ease some operational pains along the way.

In contrast with a warehouse design consultant, our team has authentic operational experience in actual warehouse environments. We have not been living behind the computer, so to speak. We’ve solved various challenges across manufacturing, e-commerce, food-and-beverage, third-party logistics (3PL), distribution, and more industries. Our team has been in the field and understands the operational side of things. And we offer the flexibility that comes with having our project management teams on our planning discussions, so we are all on the same page in delivering on a specific goal.

Furthermore, as a project partner, Storage Solutions delivers on implementation and installation, complete with project management support that comes with project execution. When a warehouse design consultant hands a project off to an installer, things can get lost in the shuffle. Design intent can be missed. After all, the installers may just be looking at what is black-and-white on paper and may miss genuinely relevant information about “why” something was designed a particular way. So, instead of starting the conversation over again, we can have clear communication with the manufacturers and installers to guide a project through implementation.

When design intent is missed, and the practicality of a solution is secondary to a solution’s availability, problems occur after implementation. Design failures are often not noticed until after turning on the system, causing further change orders or requiring more labor to make up for the design impracticalities. Either way, you are adding costs to your project. Execution can be the trickiest part of implementing a solution, and through our simple, smart, strategic approach, we make that transition easy for our customers.

If you are looking into a warehouse design consultant for a new facility or to retrofit your current configuration, give us a call first. With a quick, 30-minute call, we can begin the conversation to uncover challenges and do some quick “napkin math” on establishing a ballpark return-on-investment (ROI) you can see from solutions offered by a true project partner.

Many warehouses and fulfillment centers are seeing similar challenges. Labor costs are rising. Fulfilling orders to meet delivery expectations is becoming more complex. The need to store more products in less space is a reality.

We offer an expansive portfolio of solutions that can solve the challenges that are unique to your operation. We have practical experience in implementing all these solutions. We want to provide solutions that work for you – both theoretically on paper and operationally for the long haul. Let’s get started today!

Omnichannel Micro-fulfillment Blog

No matter what business line, when a segment of the industry doubles in scope, decision-makers need to take notice. According to research from eMarketer, e-commerce in the U.S. and Canada has seen a 129% year-over-year growth from April 2019 to April 2020. A study by Shopify expects e-commerce sales to reach $4.2 trillion by the end of the year.

Consumer behavior is changing, and each aspect of the retail supply chain needs to adapt. “Doing what always has been done” is not a sustainable strategy during a time of rapid change. In adapting to e-commerce, warehouses and distribution centers are combating SKU proliferation and shorter cycle times, combined with different pick processes required to meet increased consumer expectations. Without adapting, it can be challenging to get products out the door.

So, how can these businesses adapt?

Omnichannel Fulfillment Strategies

Before the rise of e-commerce, most distribution centers were set up for business-to-business (B2B) shipping strategies. Workers could build pallets with regularly-ordered products without a need for dynamism in order fulfillment. While some centers were beginning to adapt to the smaller orders with quicker lead times, their core business model has changed with the uncertainty in 2020.

Thus, omnichannel fulfillment became an answer. Omni-channel fulfillment happens when technology enables the fulfillment of B2C orders from multiple different locations inventory may be located throughout the supply chain. The B2C is growing at a rapid pace and supply chains need to be flexible or agile enough to fulfill the order at the lowest cost for the retailer, combined with the best service for the customer. They need to find that “sweet spot” in between profitability and rapid response.

What has changed most, though, is the necessity for these companies to know everywhere that product is in the supply chain – from the brick-and-mortar retail stores to even shipping directly from a manufacturer. Thanks to special software and technology, companies can know where a product is at all times – and the cost associated with delivering it — because they may need to use that specific item in fulfilling an order, no matter where it is in the supply chain.

For instance, in any place that inventory is housed, you need to determine the least costly fulfillment method to maximize profitability by finding a mix of the lowest cost to fulfill the order and the best chance to meet expectations. Today, companies need to know that answer, even if that solution does not come from their own warehouse.

Now, fulfillment centers need to know the costs associated with each element of the supply chain to minimize fulfillment costs – including even their suppliers’ warehouses. Currently, orders could come from a brick-and-mortar store, and they could come from a warehouse or come from a supplier directly. When adjusting to facilitate more e-commerce, the most successful companies will need to have visibility on all potential fulfillment opportunities supply-chain-wide. Ultimately, they need to know the lowest cost to meet the customer’s expectation level.

From a picking standpoint, the goal is all about being able to support these processes in portions of the supply chain not previously used for fulfillment activities. This may lead to new equipment or technology requirements to allow these portions of the supply chain to efficiently fulfill orders in addition to the other supply chain functions they handle. So, the optimized supply chain needs to be equally as flexible as the environments from which their orders arise are.

The ability to facilitate this operational flexibility in multiple different types of environments takes creativity and in-depth knowledge of equipment & technology options. You need to be able to come up with a cohesive strategy, which can be challenging. We encourage you to talk to a Storage Solution expert; we know retail strategies and “e-tail” strategies, and we know how to merge them in the name of efficiency.

Through any facility where inventory is stored, there are impacts on storage methods and workflows within the facility. When you are executing on omnichannel fulfillment, it takes a strategy specifically designed for your products and order patterns. We are here to help you execute on those strategies!

Micro-Fulfillment Strategies

A Micro-fulfillment center is a small fulfillment facility that is strategically placed near urban centers. Instead of a warehouse operating out of a massive facility spread out throughout the country, these businesses use multiple smaller hubs in each region. From there, the product is delivered directly to the end-user.

As with the shift in omnichannel fulfillment, this change in strategy helps to shorten delivery times to meet the same-day or next-day delivery offered by competitors. These centers hold the company’s most popular SKUs to provide higher service levels on the most popular products. The other, less-popular orders may be in the more extensive facilities for the two-or-three-day delivery. Sometimes, these facilities may even utilize their own delivery fleet to ensure the quickest distribution.

While micro-fulfillment may not be for every business, we see that larger retailers may be utilizing some of their shopping or storage space to act like a micro-fulfillment center. Others are being developed in former shopping centers that do not have large footprints or tons of inventory on hand in the facility.

If you are missing dates and not meeting customer expectations, you could get frozen out to the competition that delivers on those expectations. With both omnichannel and micro fulfillment centers, companies are developing sustainable and scalable workflows and processes.

The good news is that we can help you figure out the right level or mix of solutions to meet your business needs. You may not require a high degree of automation. If you do, we can help, but if you can get by with a more-manual and lower-cost investment, we could help develop that. Give us a call today and let us know the challenges you are seeing, and we can talk about how changing strategies could deliver a return on investment and scalability for your business to grow.

Material Flow Assessment

How often do you take a step back and examine everything happening in your facility? How often do you really think not only about what you are doing, but who is doing it, why they are doing it, where they are doing it, when they are doing it, and how? The answer is that you are probably not doing it frequently enough.

We work with companies across the country to examine these questions – specifically regarding how products travel in, through, and out of a facility – with our Material Flow Assessments. These assessments can offer insight into your throughput rates, labor challenges, and process optimization as we take our wealth of engineering and operations knowledge and apply it to custom-designed solutions built specifically to help you address your business challenges.

As a material handling integrator and a full-service warehouse equipment provider with design capabilities, we are uniquely positioned to examine how products can flow into a facility, get stored, then shipped out, and how to maximize all aspects of that process.

Any distribution center that does not utilize automation is an ideal candidate for a material flow assessment. However, even fulfillment centers that adopt the latest and most significant technological advances may not be operating to their fullest potential.

Ultimately, you may need a material flow assessment if…

…Your fulfillment center canot meet the required volume that customers are now demanding. With the rise of e-commerce, orders are coming in faster and smaller than ever, and fulfillment centers can struggle to make that shift from shipping pallets worth of products out to handling broken case picking and individual shipping. For some, that means an entire business model shift. For others, it may just mean taking a look at how your products come in and move throughout your facility.

…You cannot internally justify investments in new technology or material handling equipment. No fair assessment can be complete without offering advice for further action. With every evaluation we provide, we also include a business case to adopt any new storage medium or technology. We consider this a ‘roadmap to ROI,’ a document that can shed some light on when your investment will start paying off. It may be sooner than you think.

…You know your processes are not entirely efficient, and you don’t know where to start. This situation is a common challenge for warehouses and fulfillment centers at any stage. You know that you need to change, but you do not know which direction you should take. That hesitancy is usual, especially for taking on a new initiative like material flow optimization. That is why you contact Storage Solutions – we have the experience to help you take that first step toward examining your operations.

Now What?

Most fulfillment centers have some need for improvement in terms of material flow, even more so now that e-commerce is rising at the rate it is. We would love to have one of our expert team members tour your facility, learn about the challenges you are facing, and provide you with a roadmap to improve these inefficiencies.

Each day without an optimized material flow within your facility costs hard dollars associated with the additional labor costs you see, along with the soft costs that come with sub-optimal spacing, flow, and unnecessary touches. However, by agreeing to conduct a material flow assessment with Storage Solutions, you are putting the first foot forward to solving your operational challenges.

Storage Solutions for Third-Party Logistics Firms

One of the most common challenges we encounter with our third-party logistics (3PL) clients involves the ever-diminishing time expectation between when an end-user orders a product and when they think it should be at their door. To meet challenges associated with this trend, 3PL firms are consistently looking at ways to decrease pick time through storage and fulfillment processes.

For the uninitiated, the Material Handling Industry glossary defines a third-party logistics firm as “a business arrangement whereby logistics services, often including warehousing, are contracted to an independent business that specializes in such services and is not connected through direct ownership to the producer or factory requiring the service.”

Because a 3PL’s mission is to maintain profitable logistical operations of fulfillment within the facility – while not taking ownership of the products themselves – 3PL firms tend to prefer flexibility, scalability, and versatility. Typically, 3PLs are working on relatively short-term contracts with their clients (on average 1-5 years), so they want the ability to use the equipment for their current client on their next job.

3PLs are usually storing products for companies that fulfill small orders (for example, retail or e-commerce). This type of fulfillment is typically labor-intensive and costly, so finding the right mix of storage solutions is critical for optimizing operations. However, because their clients are frequently changing or renewing, 3PLs prefer standard solutions that can apply across various industries to allow these firms to be versatile in accommodating multiple pallets in multiple sizes if a client leaves or does not renew.

So, what are the standard storage solutions for 3PL? Let’s take a look:

Pallet Racking

Pallet rack is overwhelmingly the most common storage medium for 3PL firms. Traditionally, most of the industry will use a configuration of pallet rack at 54″ H x 40″ W x 48″ D with 2500-lb capacity beams, which covers most storage applications. That size is also ideal for shipping, as it allows shippers to be more efficient because they can optimally cube out a truck at that size with double-stacked pallets.

Small Parts Storage Solutions

To cover small parts storage, 3PLs rely on a massive amount of shelving and hand stack racks in their facilities. The products required to be most accessible will typically be at the floor-level, so sometimes those shelves are created by adding additional beam levels on the rack that currently exists (along with wire decking) to allow for optimal storage. If you do not have the racking above the shelving, you sacrifice valuable vertical storage space within the facility.

If more than one level of small parts storage is required, then we involve bin mezzanines. However, there are additional costs – both hard and soft — whenever other levels are constructed. Outside of the hard costs of the decking, lighting, sprinklers, etc., there is the soft cost of the additional travel time for the picker associated with the 2nd or 3rd level.

Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor (VRC)

When we introduce multiple levels within a 3PL facility, we typically enlist a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) to assist with moving single-load products vertically for storage or for picking. They can carry pallets, carts, cartons, or products to pickers or for storage on different levels, saving travel time associated with walking up and down stairs. VRCs can be assembled using single or double masts, single or double rails, and even some models can travel on an incline/decline grade versus solely traveling perpendicularly to the floor.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Because of the high cost and rigidity of traditional automation solutions, which are great for specialized, static retrieval and storage, most 3PLs avoid installing them. However, there are great on-demand automation solutions like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that can offer a great deal of support to 3PL facilities. AMR solutions are very portable, reconfigurable, and can be reprogrammed in a matter of hours versus the days or weeks it could take to disassemble and reconfigure some of the more extensive, static storage options. AMRs can improve pick speeds, lower labor costs, and provide other safety matters within most fulfillment operations. Plus, as needs change and the business grows over time, these solutions can scale and grow along with the organization.

Safety Solutions for Third-Party Logistics Firms

As with any installation, we recommend thinking through the safety of the employees, facility, and equipment within the design. After all, safety should be part of your operational philosophy, not just a mandate or requirement. When a project comes up, we provide warehouse safety solutions like mirrors, guard rails, signage, end-of-rack protectors, end-of-aisle protectors, and anything else that may be pertinent to operational safety. At the design and strategy stage, these can be afterthoughts, but we recommend getting everything you need when you begin designing storage solutions for 3PLs.

What’s Next?

While most 3PLs utilize some combination of the storage solutions listed above, we still see operations that require more robust set-ups like traditional conveyors, drive-in racking, and pushback rack. The size of the investment is typically determined by the client paying for the equipment.

Our team has decades of combined experience working with 3PLs across the country to deliver better storage options, quicker fulfillment processes, and greater order accuracy. We know that finding the right answer usually involves finding scalable, flexible, and portable solutions, all while being cost-effective.

We take that approach to every aspect of the fulfillment process, from storage and racking to the facility’s flow. If your third-party logistics operations could use a tune-up, give us a call today and let one of our experts learn about the challenges you face and provide solutions designed around your business’s unique needs.

Facility Safety Survey

Facility safety surveys can be an excellent avenue for warehouses, fulfillment centers, and distribution centers to lower long-term costs by keeping employees, equipment, and your facility in optimal conditions. In many ways, maintaining a facility can be quite like maintaining a car or a home. The longer you wait to perform that maintenance or conduct regular examinations, the more likely, the smaller problems will turn into extensive, costly repairs.

By scheduling a facility safety survey, you are not just looking at developing a checklist of tasks to ensure your people, equipment, and facility stay safe and operational, but you are creating a roadmap to improve your building’s long-term health for everything inside of it. Our experts will work with you to develop both short-and-long-term goals that align with common safety standards found within these facilities.

How Often Should You Conduct a Facility Safety Survey?

Per standards put forth by the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI), rack inspections should be performed on an annual basis, at the very least. However, more frequent inspections are recommended in facilities with racking in high traffic areas, narrow aisles, transfer aisles, cold environments, or that features equipment with prior damage – even as often as once per month.

That RMI-recommended cadence is generally a great starting point for any facility safety survey, but we can work with you to find the best rhythm for regular visits. For instance, if you are a facility that changes beam levels often, you may need additional safety check-ins because if those changes were not involved in the original design and permitting process, you could create a situation in which the rack becomes structurally unsound. Ultimately, the determination for how often you should conduct a facility safety survey will depend on your activity level and the products stored in your facility, two variables that are unique to your operations.

What Happens During a Facility Safety Survey?

In addition to a rack safety survey, we will also look at opportunities to add safety equipment like mirrors, end-of-aisle protectors, guard rails, and more. We will look at equipment, wires, and any damage caused by forklift drivers on uprights, beams, and columns. Typically, if we find many opportunities for new safety implementations, we schedule visits as frequently as monthly to ensure facilities are up to code as quickly as possible. Plus, if policies do not yet exist for employee safety within the warehouse, we can work with you to develop a plan that includes training to ensure best practices are in place.

After that, a Storage Solutions expert can work with you to ensure that any and all safety challenges are met with both short and long-term action plans that can combine with goals to lower operational costs and reduce labor challenges at the same time. We have decades of experience in implementing these measures across all industry types, so we have the knowledge to put theory into action.

So, Is It Time for a Facility Safety Survey?

If it has been some time since you last had a new pair of eyes looking at your facility’s safety profile, then it is time for you to call the experts. Our team can schedule a visit to your facility and share our expertise throughout our appraisal. That piece of ongoing education is crucial to our safety surveys because, by identifying and communicating potential solutions, you are more likely to have to make smaller changes in the next visit and even smaller changes in the third.

Safety is a critical aspect of any warehouse, fulfillment center, or distribution center’s operations. Taking too long before having a facility safety survey could result in higher costs with more considerable repairs, rather than maintaining your facility regularly.

The best way to create and maintain as safe an operation as possible is to have safety be a core tenet of your operational philosophy. Whether you are close to reaching that goal or need a place to start, give us a call, and we can help!

Storage-Type Analysis Blog

Finding a starting point to begin optimizing the storage capabilities within your facility can be a challenge. The most basic place to start is looking at the area between the top of your uprights and the ceiling. Why not start there? Or why not begin at the space between your product and the next beam level? Why not the distance between products?

For us, the best practice to begin this process is with a storage-type analysis. A storage-type analysis will not only offer an assessment of your current storage profile and a list of suggested changes, but it also provides a roadmap of potential projects that can lead to increased storage capacity, increased labor value, and increased efficiency that can result in profitability through additional throughput in your operations.

What Details Are Required for a Storage-Type Analysis?

For a storage-type analysis, we typically need to know the dimensions of the current storage configuration, the size of the pallets used, the size and weight of the products stored, and whether they are stored for full pallet case picking or each picking. We will also need to know the historical on-hand inventory and pick demand rate for each item, but we can help assist if that information is not readily available. Lastly, we will need to know whether certain products need to be grouped (for instance, do some products need temperature-controlled storage?).

Do not worry if all that information is not readily available. Our team can still get close to an ideal configuration with our experience and engineering teams, or we can do some detective work with a site visit.

From there, the analysis will help us determine the appropriate next steps.

Perhaps the introduction of dense storage media will allow you to minimize space between products and improve pick efficiency. Maybe a solution like a vertical lift machine would be a good fit for facilities that are storing smaller products like hardware. Perhaps introducing automation through an automated storage & retrieval (ASRS) system would benefit businesses adapting to changes in e-commerce. Maybe some of your pallet racking needs some adjustments to beam levels to go along with additional racking or shelving.

The proper solutions all depend on your unique challenges and your individual needs. We want to provide solutions that can address those challenges and conditions in the most cost-effective way possible.

What Happens at the End of a Storage-Type Analysis?

At the end of the analysis, we can help you put together a business case for potential changes with a return-on-investment attached. Once storage is optimized within a facility, it means more production space is created, which can lead to the return happening sooner than you may think.

The critical aspect to remember about a storage-type analysis is if you do not have a custom, built-only-for-your-business storage plan, you will leave money on the table as you are not fully optimized.

Whether you operate in a manufacturing environment and need to open space for additional production lines, or you are outgrowing your current space with an increased proliferation of SKUs, or your facility was outfitted with a “cookie-cutter” approach to pallet storage, there is an excellent opportunity to optimize your warehouse and improve your bottom line.

Give us a call today and speak with a Storage Solutions expert who can learn about your business and operational goals and develop balanced solutions toward achieving them.

Automated Packing Solutions Blog

As e-commerce continues to grow rapidly, fulfillment centers are exploring avenues to maintain or lower operational costs through process improvement, data-driven design, and technology solutions. For companies experiencing growth in their e-commerce fulfillment demands – or are new to e-commerce fulfillment altogether – it may be challenging to find a place to start.

The packing process is one of the more costly areas for most fulfillment centers in that stage. For the most part, freight, materials, and operational or labor costs all rise as order volume rises, and if there is no strategy in place to maintain or lower those costs, expenses can get out of hand quickly.

By investing in automated packing technology solutions, distribution centers, warehouses, and fulfillment centers can minimize these cost increases while boosting productivity, increasing fulfillment velocity, and improving your overall customer experience.

What Should I Look for with an Automated Packing Solution?

With any well-designed automated packing solution, it is essential to value the reduction of waste. Not only are you paying for material you may not be entirely using, but you are creating a messier working condition and requiring additional cleanup – two factors that can cause increases in labor costs over time.

To that end, some systems offer to automate tray forming, which allows enough material to ship the product with minimal scrap. Once the product is in the tray and any value-added services like coupons or marketing materials are included, the ideal packing solution can automatically measure and void fill an inflatable or paper cushioning to keep the product secure for shipment.
Another feature of an optimal end-of-the-line solution would include automatic lid placement and pack closure. After the lid is placed and the pack is closed, shipping information and any other required labels can be applied to the package, either by a packer or automatically by the packing solution.

Lastly, once the system is implemented, you will want to find a partner that offers ongoing customer service in the event of a disruption. The right solution partner should help you meet your customers’ needs and your operational needs long after installation. Some systems even offer remote repair and offsite monitoring, which can detect problems, perform routine maintenance, and conduct productivity analyses.

The result should showcase a product that looks similar to a product shipped from the most comprehensive e-commerce fulfillment centers, with tamper-evident, easy-to-open, and easy-to-return packaging. A right-sized package can also reduce freight costs, and customers are happy because the product is secure and delivered in line with their expectations.

Find a Custom Automated Packing Solution for Your Needs

Each business has its challenges, and the optimal solutions for those challenges genuinely depend on the organization’s distinctive needs. As part of an overall fulfillment strategy, the right automated packing solution should be uniquely designed to minimize freight, operational costs, and weight while improving productivity for a valid return on investment.

If you are interested in increasing your fulfillment velocity and meeting your customers’ demands for rapid delivery, give us a call. Our team of experts will learn about your business’s specific challenges and connect you with the right automated packing solution that best fits your operational needs.