Pick-to-Light Put-to-Light Spotlight

Order accuracy and fulfillment throughput are two measures of a successful warehouse that could vary by a wide margin, depending on your order volume, error allowance, and pick rate.

Two solutions that can allow companies to increase throughput & accuracy are put-to-light or pick-to-light technologies. Depending on their needs, these systems offer efficiencies such as reduced lead times, increased order accuracy, labor efficiency, and more. If these are challenges that you face, you may see a return on your investment in the technology faster than you think.

Both technologies use similar hardware and software and allow companies to reduce training time for employees, getting them up to speed – quite literally – faster.

Is Your Business Right for Pick-to-Light?

The profile of a distribution center that could benefit most from a pick-to-light system is housing a fixed set of SKUs with a high volume of orders. Here is how it works:

  1. Operators scan a bar code on a tote to start an order
  2. The lights on your pick locations illuminate, directing pickers to designated slots
  3. Pickers select product in appropriate quantities
  4. Operators confirm the picks using buttons on the lights
  5. Steps 1-4 are repeated until the order is fulfilled
  6. Order is sent to shipping

These systems do have two downsides with higher upfront costs for larger-scale facilities and limited flexibilities in terms of reconfiguration. However, that is often offset through a return on investment that comes with increased order accuracy and labor productivity. Particularly in zone picking operations, this system keeps your team active in an assembly-line process that builds orders actively.

Is Your Business Right for Put-to-Light?

The businesses that benefit the most from put-to-light systems fulfill a high volume of orders from a relatively small number of SKUs, particularly in e-commerce. How it works:

  1. SKUs are picked in large batches for multiple orders & sent to the put area
  2. The operator scans a bar code
  3. Lights illuminate on the put wall indicating which orders need the SKU
  4. Those items are put to the appropriate order totes, boxes or slots
  5. Once all items are put to an order, the put wall operator is notified that order is complete & it is sent to packing
  6. Another associate packs the goods at a packing station
  7. Order is sent to shipping

While there are more advanced fulfillment systems, put-to-light can offer increased efficiencies and accuracy in fulfillment. It provides a paperless strategy that links an employee to an order and can facilitate distribution centers that house a subset of SKUs that account for a large percentage of item movement. E-commerce, direct-to-consumer-and other situations with a large volume of small line count orders often see the best return.

Learn More, Get Started

By reducing errors, quicker picking and faster fulfillment, put-to-light, and pick-to-light systems are beneficial for a variety of industries. However, it may not be necessary if your order accuracies and workflows are at ideal levels. But are they at the appropriate levels of efficiency? How do you know?

Our team has years of expertise in the utilization of both put-to-light and pick-to-light technologies and would be happy to speak with you if you think your business can benefit from installing these systems. If you are interested, or even unsure if your warehouse is an ideal fit, contact us today to learn more!

Damaged Rack

There is no other way to say it: safety in a warehouse setting comes at a premium. Creating a safe working atmosphere in a warehouse requires awareness, diligence, and a knowledge of how your operations can lend themselves to accidents and wear and tear of equipment that can make your racking unsafe over time.

Luckily, National Safety Month serves as a helpful reminder to take a step back and evaluate your people, equipment, and facility to ensure that processes are in place that provides safety to the best of your ability. Looking at your layout and evaluating any damage in your warehouse can lead to a safer work environment for you and your team.

At Storage Solutions, we utilize the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) ‘Guideline for the Assessment and Repair of Damaged Pallet Rack’ & recommendations from our rack manufacturer partners to determine if the rack is damaged to the point where it needs to be repaired or replaced.

Damaged Uprights

Forklifts cause the majority of instances of damaged uprights. While there are plenty of safety solutions designed to prevent damage caused by forklift impact, accidents still occur. Warehouse layouts can be unfriendly to forklift operators in the sense that there are many tight corners, lots of activity, and – let’s face it – there is the danger that comes with transporting heavy objects.

In terms of looking for damage, the best place to start is at the bottom of the upright columns. We typically look at any dent larger than 1/8 of an inch on the front of an upright or ¼ of an inch on the side of an upright as damaged. There are times when you can continue to operate with some less severe dents, but if welds are broken or twisted, then the rack should be addressed through repair or replacement.

Damaged Beams

Forklifts can also damage horizontal beams – if a forklift accidentally impacts the beam with a fork or perhaps a pallet was not appropriately aligned and knocked on the beam. Overloaded beams can cause damage as well when items that are heavier than the beam’s capacity rating are placed in the pallet rack.

In evaluating beam damage, we usually first look at the beam when loaded with a product. Per RMI engineering standards, beams are only allowed to bend (or deflect) a certain amount. If beam deflection exceeds the allowable amount, the rack has likely been overloaded & those beams should be considered damaged & replaced. If the beam continues to bend when the product is removed, then we also consider that beam to be damaged and should be replaced.

What Should I Do About Damaged Rack?

There are other causes of damage to racking that should be evaluated as well. For instance, in temperature-controlled storage, racks may develop rust that can degrade the storage capacity on both the uprights and beams. There are several variables to consider, and damage frequency is dependent on factors from the layout of the facility to how well or often drivers are trained.
In another blog, we break down the decision of whether you should replace or repair your racking. There are many variables in that decision, including whether you can pause your operations for repair, the degree to which the rack has been damaged, and then evaluating your options in terms of cost between new and used uprights or beams.

To learn more about safety products, procedures, or if you are interested in learning more about how to handle your damaged pallet rack, contact us today. Our team is ready to learn more about your needs, and we can connect you with the best solution to keep your equipment and warehouse safe.

Repair or Replace Damaged Uprights

Whether it comes from wear-and-tear or as a result of an accident, the racking in your warehouse may eventually need to be repaired or removed. Picking volume, forklift activity, and the heft of the packages stored all play a role in the longevity of your warehouse equipment.

For the sake of safety, we recommend routinely checking your equipment for damage and general wear-and-tear. A proactive approach to examining your uprights and beams not only acts as a preemptive action against a potential breakdown, but it takes a reliance on your team to report if they have accidentally damaged a piece of equipment – no matter the degree of severity.

As a baseline rule, we recommend taking immediate action with any equipment damaged with a bend more significant than 1/8 to ¼ of an inch, depending on the location of the damage. If it is less than 1/8 of an inch, the upright is likely still structurally sound. However, take note and continue to monitor the equipment. While immediate action may not be needed, it will probably need to be addressed soon and should not go ignored.

When to Repair Your Equipment 

Repairing damaged equipment can be a relatively easy way to address safety in your warehouse. In its simplest terms, a team can essentially “cut out” the damaged portions and use a rack repair kit to reinforce it.

This option is less disruptive to your operations because only the storage areas surrounding the damaged area need to be emptied before the repair takes place. In a replacement scenario, more product needs to be removed from its storage location because it is a solution for more extensive needs.

When to Replace Your Equipment

Repairs work great as a relatively quick fix to keep your operations going. However, in the event of extensive damage, changes in regulations, or equipment reaching end-of-life status, replacement is the safest option.

The real difference between repairing and replacement depends on how much disruption you can accept in your operations. Because the replacement option requires removing products in all storage locations near the damaged upright or beam, it could take some time to unload, replace, and then reload the inventory instead of using a repair kit. That said, replacing the upright is usually a better long-term solution.

Don’t Wait – Make an Informed Decision

If you are evaluating whether to repair or replace your damaged racks, contact us and speak with a Storage Solutions expert. We have decades of experience in negotiating these scenarios, and we can provide you with the best solution based on your current situation. We’re here to help!

Upright Column Protectors Term

When one thinks of warehouse safety, one typically thinks of the processes and products available that keep employees safe. However, there are solutions available to you – upright column protectors, for example – that are designed to protect your equipment and maintain returns on the investments you’ve made in your storage infrastructure.

Upright column protectors are the solution to industrial lift truck damage and accidents. They are an inexpensive way to safeguard your workplace and reduce expensive damage to your upright columns.

Here are some of the benefits of upright column protectors:

  • Surrounds upright bases
  • Rugged Column Protectors are prefabricated, eliminating all on-site welding or cutting
  • Resists forklift, hand truck, and heavy cart impact
  • Two different styles include: Bolt to Floor and Bolt to Upright

SOURCE: Wildeck

If you are interested in adding these or learning more about what warehouse safety products may assist in your operations, give us a call. We can talk through some of the challenges you are seeing and find solutions to keep your warehouse running optimally.

Warehouse Safety Solutions

“That will not happen in my warehouse. Our operator training programs are too effective. I do not want the added costs in my bid.”

Look, accidents happen.

Warehouse workers are especially susceptible to injury because of the nature of their occupation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, warehouse workers are getting injured at a rate of 5.1 injuries per 100 workers annually, according to the most recently reported statistics.

While accidents involving forklifts garner much of the attention related to warehouse injuries, falling objects are much more likely to cause serious head and brain injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 93 people died in the U.S. alone in 2016 from being struck by objects in a warehouse workplace.

Because of this type of injury’s severe nature, it is essential to evaluate your current practices and determine if there is a product or solution designed for prevention that you can integrate into your racking system. In addition to preventing workplace injury, these tactics can also prevent inventory loss in an accident or seismic activity.

Whether you are looking to retrofit your current setup or design a new racking system that includes additional safety measures, there are plenty of safety solutions out there to help you and your employees keep peace of mind while at work.

Backstop Beams

Pallet load stop beams – also known as backstop beams—act as a robust physical barrier on the backside of your pallet rack that prevents the product from being placed too far back where it could potentially fall over the edge. Because of the traditional racking configuration, where there may be some pallet overhanging the back beam in the bay, it gives your racking increased security against a potential accident.

The downside of these backstop beams is the cost associated. If you are not including backstop beams as a component of your initial design, there may be some reconfiguration required in your rack installation. The beams often sit back a few inches from your uprights and may interfere with flue space required by fire safety regulators.

Rack Safety Straps

As a less expensive alternative to backstop beams, rack safety straps can easily be installed to support your safety efforts. Straps are mounted to the back of your uprights, preventing pallets and packages from pushing into the flue space or falling off your rack’s back. While these options are sturdy to a point, they are certainly less secure than installing steel backstop beams into your rack. However, because of the cost and adaptability to various configurations, rack safety straps are a popular option to keep workers safe from falling objects.

Netting

Similar to rack safety straps, netting offers a relatively inexpensive option to decrease the possibility of objects falling from your racking system. The mesh acts as a barrier to keeping your products within its designated space. This barrier is especially beneficial in situations where the warehouse worker will need to see through the racking and when there may be loose products or boxes within a bay. However, like backstop beams, netting is best applied during the installation of your racking system.

Wire Backs

Wire back panels are another option to prevent workers from being struck by falling packages and objects. Depending on the gauge of wire used, these wire panels are customizable to help contain the size and heft of the loads in your warehouse. Wire back panels are most similar to netting as a containment option, though wire backs are more durable & better at containing heavier loads. Wire back panels are the most effective method for rack back protection & thus have a higher cost associated with their use.

Find Warehouse Safety Solutions to Fit Your Business

While each of these options has its benefits and drawbacks, increasing safety within a warehouse is paramount for warehouse and safety managers. If you are looking to integrate additional safety products and solutions into your operations, give us a call. We can help you navigate the regional regulations you may be subject to and offer low-cost, high-reward solutions that may augment the level of safety in your workplace. So much of finding the right solution depends on the configuration and layout of your racking. Let us guide you to the right solution for your warehouse.

Going beyond the minimum regulations –whether they are put forth by your municipality or insurance provider – provides benefits beyond the numbers. After all, the prevention of workplace injury will pay for itself compared to the cost of potential injury – or worse – to an employee.

Semi-Automated Storage Solutions

As the supply chain industry continues to evolve, workers are challenged with finding new and innovative methods to implement technology to reduce disruptions and increase operational efficiency in each facility. Warehouse managers in need of a dynamic yet straightforward solution should evaluate implementing semi-automated pallet carts with deep lane storage systems.

Semi-automated storage solutions – sometimes referred to as pallet runners, pallet shuttles, or pallet moles – allow for efficient organization of a warehouse because they can store, load, and retrieve full pallets. They are fast, easy-to-use, and adaptable enough for more inventory systems (First-In, First Out; Last-In, First-Out, etc.).

Essentially, the system centers around a cart that travels along pre-determined lanes within deep storage structures within a warehouse. While there may be some level of fully automated programming available, the carts typically are controlled via remote. An operator can control up to four carts simultaneously.

How Do Semi-Automated Deep Lane Storage Systems Work?

The functionality of a semi-automated deep lane storage system is relatively easy to understand. Once a pallet is placed onto the load position in the pallet rack by a forklift, the cart transfers it based on the direction of an operator with a remote control. From there, there are three main functions of a pallet runner:

  • Loading/Storing: After the pallet is loaded onto the rack, a cart will position the pallet for storage in the first available storage position in that lane. Semi-automated deep lane storage systems allow for very dense storage, with systems typically being 12-40 pallets deep per lane.
  • Unloading: Like the loading function, an operator can use a pallet runner as an unloading mechanism. The cart travels the lane until the first available pallet is located. Once located, the cart picks up the pallet and moves it to the unload end position in the rack where a forklift driver picks it up & loads it for shipment.
  • Continuous Loading/Unloading: This is like the manual loading/unloading function; however, the runner can be programmed to return to retrieve the next available pallet automatically.

What Are Other Benefits of Semi-Automated Storage Systems?

Semi-automated deep lane storage systems help maximize space in a warehouse while creating optimal storage density by using technology to load, store, and unload full pallets. This system comes as a benefit to your forklifts by moving wear-and-tear from those more expensive-to-replace capital expenses and onto this more versatile option. They also help reduce damage to both product and racking structure by keeping products within a lane and minimally exposed to hazards within the warehouse.

You can further outfit these semi-automated carts with additional features that may suit your operational needs, including integration in cold environments (from 30 degrees to -22 degrees Fahrenheit), wi-fi enablement, remote control charging capabilities, and more.

Want to Learn More?

If you have an interest in implementing dynamic solutions like semi-automated deep lane storage, we should talk. Storage Solutions experts are ready to share their knowledge, experience, and guidance in the installation and maintenance of these semi-automated storage solutions. We are one of the few United States-based integrators who can offer support and service 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact us today to start developing your semi-automated deep lane storage project!

Dense Storage Solution

Warehouse managers are frequently challenged to find efficiencies in their processes, their workflows, and, most often, their storage capabilities. With dense storage solutions, warehouses managers get a solution for their problems in storage capacity by storing more product in less space.

However, finding the right storage solution may not always be as simple as asking, “Which mix of storage mediums gives me the best capacity?”.

There are several other factors to consider, including inventory style, pick process, product dimensions, and much more.

Whether warehouse managers are looking to assess and redesign their layout, or they are designing a new facility layout altogether, dense storage solutions are certainly a viable option for increasing capacity. While the three most popular options – drive-in, pushback, and pallet flow – are relatively simple to understand, which is the best for your operation? The answer may be easier to solve than you may think.

Pushback Racking

Pushback rack is a storage system that incorporates a sliding device to feed several pallets into the same pick location by “pushing back” the previous pallet. The pallets then gravity feed back to the pick location in the rack as they are removed. This type of dense storage lends itself well to a Last-In, First Out (LIFO) inventory style because, quite literally, the last pallet placed in the pushback rack is the first pallet available for picking. Typically, pushback racks are capable of storing up to six pallets at each pick location.

Drive-In and Drive-Thru Racking

Drive-in racking and drive-through racking are both similar in that they are designed for forklift operators to enter the racking system for picking purposes. However, the difference is that drive-thru racking allows the operator to pass through the rack. Drive-in/drive-thru racking is a popular storage medium because it is typically less expensive than other dense storage options. However, these styles of racking also typically accommodate less storage capacity due to ‘honeycombing’ or storage utilization challenges.

Pallet Flow

Another high-density storage system that works with storing multiple pallets in a rack is pallet flow. Pallets are loaded into the back of the rack and picked at the front. Sometimes referred to as gravity flow or dynamic flow, this system uses a slight decline plane to store pallets, allowing them to “gravity flow” toward the picking position as pallets are removed.

Which Dense Storage Solution is Best for You?

Ultimately, there are many factors to consider when determining the best mix of storage solutions for your operations. Our experts are here to guide you and walk you through the process to determine what is the optimal use of storage mediums for your facility. We have years of experience with hundreds of projects involving dense storage solutions and the expertise to match you with the equipment you need to meet today’s demands, while also factoring in growth potential.

Contact us today to get started at 800.474.2001 and let us talk about your current needs and how we can help you plan for integrating dense storage solutions.

Warehouse Safety Solutions

As states across the country begin to lift restrictions considering the COVID-19 crisis, managers are working on creating work environments with safety at the top of mind to prevent an expansion of the virus. This “new normal” will likely feature new processes and operations to which your team will need to adjust.

To make this transition smooth and void of disruption, managers need to take some time and evaluate tools, products, and processes that can help keep employees safe and productive.

Below, we have highlighted the warehouse safety solutions that warehouse managers are adopting to help keep their employees safe. If you are in this stage – or are about to be – let’s talk about your operations and see if there are any options that suit your needs. There are options out there that, for a relatively low cost, can keep your operations running smoothly while still maintaining an appropriate social distance.

Limit the Number of People in Your Warehouse with Building Access Cages

Building Access Cages are installed at the entry points of warehouses and are designed to control who can access your facility. By creating this additional level of security, you can help prevent unnecessary contact with the outside world and restrict the number of humans unnecessarily coming into contact with your staff. These cages are adaptable and offer the benefit of avoiding unwanted disruptions and keep people safe within your day-to-day warehouse operations.

Integrate Dynamic and Technology Solutions to Lessen Dependency on Human Interaction

Technological solutions, such as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), offer several benefits to a warehouse’s operations, including an increase of safety. In zone picking situations, for instance, the robot can take a package from one destination to another, limiting human-to-human contact and keeping employees within safe, designated zones. Not only does that reduce wear-and-tear on the body, but it also allows your staff to remain productive while maintaining social distancing within the operation.

Keep a Safe Social Distance with Employee Separation Panels

Employee Separation Panels are clear, portable panels that can protect your team from human-to-human contact by physically creating a barrier between groups or individuals. With no timetable for how long we can anticipate social distancing requirements, this is a low-cost, high-reward tool to implement into your warehouse while giving your employees peace of mind and may prevent workers from missing additional time due to an illness they may have contracted. Plus, with cold-or-flu season seemingly always around the corner, this is a tool that can keep your team productive year-round.

Install Additional Machine Guarding to Separate Operational Groups

From a COVID-19 safety standpoint, fencing such as machine guarding can help keep groups together – and in some cases, separate groups entirely. For instance, if you have a maintenance area that may have a tool that another group uses, you could create a machine guarding barrier to prevent individuals from going into an area they were not intended to be within. This is a low-cost solution that prevents groups from intermingling during this time but can be easily removed once restrictions on social distancing are removed.

Reduce Bacterial Concerns with Antimicrobials Mats

Ergonomic mats are ideal solutions to protect your employees from the wear-and-tear that comes with working in a warehouse setting. By introducing antimicrobial matting – commonly found in foodservice and medical settings – you can help eliminate cross-contamination hazards on your floor.  These mats are produced with an antimicrobial additive that reduces bacterial contamination concerns. Because these mats are also designed for healthcare settings, you can trust that they are effective in curbing the spread and multiplication of microbes.

Decrease the Number of Touchpoints with Key Fobs and Keycards

Typically, we recommend that warehouses work with key fobs and keycards anyway to help reduce unwanted visitors and to ensure that your facility is always safe. By reducing the number of touchpoints –locations upon which every employee touch – you will limit the exposure to any harmful bacteria that may be living on that surface.

Supply a Modular Location for Changing Clothes

During the COVID-19 crisis, medical professionals across the country took steps to limit their family’s exposure to the virus by changing their clothes in a safe, secure location between the inside of their home and their hospital. With the same thought in mind, consider installing a modular building or cleanroom within your facility to allow your employees that same courtesy. This step will assist in keeping any clothes that may be carrying a virus contained within a secure area without introducing them to the warehouse setting.

Any Questions? Let’s Get Started.

If any of these solutions sound like they will be of benefit to your business, let us connect. Click here to speak with one of our Storage Solutions experts who can work with you to find the right solution to fit your operational needs.

National Safety Month Blog

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.

Narrow Aisle or Very Narrow Aisle

In previous posts, we have discussed how warehouse design is the foundation upon which an optimal operation exists. Finding the right mix of picking efficiency, storage capacity, and equipment is the key to an optimal workflow. The best time to plan for these efficiencies is at the design stage, whether you are starting a new warehouse or reconfiguring your current layout.

One variable to consider is the width of the aisles in your facility. Conventional aisles tend to be between 12’ and 14’ wide. However, some designs are optimized with narrow aisles, ranging from 8’ to 10’-wide. Even more extreme designs feature very narrow aisles, which can be less than six feet wide. With each degree of narrowness, storage capacity increases. However, as the width of your aisle decreases, so does picking efficiency (unless other pick methodologies or technologies are applied).

Finding that perfect mix can be challenging. However, there are a few key variables that, once decided upon, can point you in the right direction to fit the best design to meet your needs.

Conventional or Narrow Aisles? 

How frequently are forklifts going up and down your aisles? The answer to that question is probably the most significant determinant in adopting narrow aisles for picking products. If you need two forklifts – which typically vary between 4’ to 7’ wide – then narrow aisles may not be ideal for your operation.

However, all it takes is a simple calculation to see how much additional storage space you gain by switching to a narrow aisle. By reducing the width of your corridor, you can now fit more storage in your facility, and the transition from conventional to narrow aisles can bring an increase in storage capacity between 20-25%. Keep in mind, though, that there may be an increase in equipment costs if you need to outfit your operation to adapt to a narrow aisle. Also, your pick process may become less efficient because it may take more time to get from the storage area to your delivery area. These are all variables that we can talk you through as you evaluate your options.

How Narrow are Very Narrow Aisles? 

To an even further degree, very narrow aisles are an option for warehouses looking to get the maximum storage capacity per square foot. Very narrow aisles are typically between 5’6” and 6’-wide and can increase your storage capacity by up to 40-50% when compared to conventional aisle widths. That sizeable increase – imagine 1,500 pick locations instead of 1,000 – can mean a lot for certain types of warehouse and picking needs.

Very narrow aisles also typically require an investment, both in terms of additional equipment but also in outfitting your warehouse. Most lifts designed for very narrow aisles operate based on the magnetic strip (or wire guidance) embedded directly into the floor of your facility. However, if your operation relies on case picking, broken case picking, or each picking, then this storage design may be the best way to maximize your space.

Safety First, Safety Last

Lastly, in evaluating your options, keep in mind the experience level of your warehouse associates. They may have years of experience in operating forklifts in various warehouses with various levels of traffic. However, what happens when you reduce aisle size and increase potential traffic stops? Did you give them the proper training? Can you rely on them to navigate your new warehouse layouts? Anything “new” brings with it a safety concern for your warehouse associates and equipment.

Let an Expert Guide You 

There are many options when it comes to finding the best design for your warehouse layouts. Don’t worry. We have a team of experts with decades of experience in design and installation who have seen best practices in action and know that each operation is unique. If you are looking for some guidance, we are here to help. Call us at 800.474.2001 or submit a callback request, and we can talk about your warehousing needs and which storage solution is best for your operation.