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.

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 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.

Last-Mile Logistics

Did you know that e-commerce return rates comprise 20% of total orders? Did you know that 84% of shoppers are unlikely to purchase again after a bad experience with an e-commerce company? Did you know that the final stage of delivery of a product makes up 53% of total shipping costs?

As changes in consumer demand continue to accelerate, warehouses and distribution centers are looking at how they can handle quicker order processing and faster delivery, especially in the area of last-mile logistics.

For the uninitiated, last-mile logistics – also known as last-mile delivery – is a supply chain industry term that examines how a product travels from a distribution center to its final destination, typically a consumer. To meet the changing demands of consumers, the goal of last-mile logistics is to transport an item in the quickest way possible. However, this stage is often the costliest in the fulfillment process.

What Challenges are Seen in Last Mile Logistics?

The challenges that need to be overcome in last-mile logistics are typically associated with cost, timeliness, and customer satisfaction. Deliveries that feature more stops lead to more time spent before the product gets to the end-user. Urban areas do not offer the speed and fuel efficiency that interstates do, so costs add up. Also, product returns lead to higher operating costs and lower profit margins – whether those are built into a product’s prices or not generally depends on the type of industry from which the product is ordered.

What is the Typical Response to Improving Last Mile Logistics?

In response, warehouses and distribution centers turn to micro-fulfillment centers, typically closer to urban areas, to cut down on the time and cost of delivery. We break down how micro-fulfillment centers help companies meet these new expectations here in greater detail. However, the general idea is to supply these centers will a high volume of similar, regularly ordered products.

Typically, these products are small, relatively inexpensive items such as headphones, apparel, and other goods you may see at lower prices from e-commerce retailers. Because they have such a high volume of orders, these items are stored closer to the consumer. Without micro-fulfillment facilities, these items are stored in large warehouses that were previously designed to fulfill larger orders.

Changing the Way Facilities Support Staging

To facilitate a quicker delivery, more and more we are seeing independent delivery drivers with a lesser dependence on the big shipping organizations like FedEx, UPS, or the USPS. This shift in staging necessitates a change in outbound flow systems. Because companies are using these contracted drivers, the equipment and fulfillment processes within facilities require different methods to get the packages to the independent, often-smaller delivery vehicles, which then gets the product to the end-user quicker. Companies using this newer model allows more organizations to keep up with the e-commerce giants of the world and facilitates a modern delivery method.

Why Use Micro-Fulfillment Centers?

When those smaller, single item orders are placed in a more massive warehouse, the fulfillment process takes longer and is more expensive. The products are further away from masses of population in these transportation hubs, but they also become burdensome to pick because the opportunity cost of picking these items becomes too high. For instance, an employee could pick a single pair of headphones in a similar amount of time that the warehouse could fulfill an order for an entire pallet of products. The value proposition becomes clear: micro-fulfillment centers are smaller, more cost-effective, and offer quicker turnarounds than their big-box warehouse counterparts.

How Can We Help?

To cut down on the cost and time spent on fulfilling orders, companies are setting up these micro-fulfillment centers at an increasing rate. Some companies are even converting abandoned retail stores to serve in this capacity. As they are being built or adapted, they are developed with a high level of technology & automation. While that is certainly a viable option, it can be more expensive than what the new facility truly needs. Through a combination of dynamic, technological, and storage solutions, these centers can be built at a fraction of the cost that one may see, compared to a fully automated facility.

We have years of experience working with our clients in finding the right mix of storage, dynamic & technology solutions to suit their needs now, with the capacity and flexibility to grow in the future. Storage Solutions can work with you to turn these complex logistical conundrums into profitable decisions that can help your company save resources and stay focused as you transition into these micro-fulfillment centers.

Consumer demand is not slowing, and neither is the competition. To meet needs, it is essential to stay up to date with the latest trends and solutions being developed to support changes in the supply chain. With Storage Solutions, you have a helping hand to guide you to ensure your decisions are simple, smart, and strategic for your organization.

Inventory Strategy Supply Chain Strategy

If 2020 has offered us one lesson, it would have to be that the only certainty we can count on is uncertainty. This lesson is especially true in the supply chain industry. Between the COVID-19 crisis, changing attitudes toward China, wildfires, and the meteoric rise of e-commerce, the organizations within the supply chain have been tasked with reacting to many changes.

These disruptions caused a shortage of supply in product availability, leading to warehouses being emptier than usual. Other companies – mainly retailers – shut down altogether. However, they already had inventory on the way, which caused a spike in stock within distribution centers.

2020 was a wake-up call for the supply chain industry.

Indeed, there were changes happening already, including the rise of e-commerce. Many companies were heading down the e-commerce path; however, there seemingly was time for companies to adapt to new products, practices, and processes that could allow themselves to continue operating in suboptimal methods. However, the pandemic threw gas on the fire, so to speak, and caused everyone to react quickly to another new challenge.

The companies who survived and thrived during this tumultuous year had previously adopted solutions geared around being flexible and adaptable to changes. There was less of a learning curve because they were already positioned to make nimble changes in their operations.

Near-Shoring

One major step companies are taking to adapt to the “new normal” of the supply chain is near-shoring or sourcing goods closer to the sale point. According to The Innovation Enterprise, 32% of North American and European manufacturing and distribution companies either have or are about to near-shore, with 48% of companies saying they plan to within the next three years.

They cite the reduced shipping time and cost, along with an increased response time as the primary reason to take this step – two direct benefits associated with adjusting operations to meet consumers’ changing expectations.

Adding Safety Stock Inventory

In response to not having enough of particular products with a surge in demand, companies are changing their inventory strategies on safety stock. This change is especially real for necessary products – think of how toilet paper was in high demand during the pandemic outset.

If the supply chain is disrupted, companies need to be able to continue operating in response.

Each company and each industry will have its own calculations of what that safety stock needs to be according to its own order volume and replenishment frequency. However, we are hearing those calculations are changing rapidly to accommodate potential future disruptions.

Increasing Storage Density

To go hand in hand with the increase in safety stock goes an increase in storage density. With these recent changes in supply chain strategies, how much you store, and what you are storing may look different. Products with high order volumes or products that need to get to customers quickly are being stored at higher reserve storage levels. Warehouses are being tasked with increasing storage without increasing their footprint, and high-density storage options like pushback racking or pallet flow racks are ideal solutions in many settings.

Optimization of Pick Processes

In alignment with the acceleration of e-commerce, companies are looking at how they are handling pick processes. More than ever, the entire process is being evaluated, from the design and layout of a facility to the level of automation throughout the facility. Ultimately, warehouses will be holding more SKUs in inventory as SKU proliferation continues in many organizations. This development requires that a facility is optimized for storage and material flow.

We are also seeing more facilities adopt forward pick strategies – such as pick modules – to improve fulfillment speeds. More now than before, there will be some type of automation involved at this point as well, including autonomous mobile robots picking on the ground level, with storage above.

What’s Next?

The companies who need help the most are doing everything from storing products in trailers on their property to using the space designed for forklifts for storage – some are even storing products on their docks. They are struggling to pick and ship efficiently, causing customer service disruptions. These challenges cause labor costs – including overtime – to rise as a percentage of their sales.

One of the things we have learned over the last six months is that there will always be disruptions. Whether those disruptions come in the form of global pandemics, fires, or natural disasters, we know the best action an organization can take is to get ahead and be prepared. We can help. Give us a call – we would love to learn about the challenges your business is seeing and pair them with solutions that help them be nimble, flexible, and ready to adapt as the next new challenge arises.

Brandan Alford Turnkey Solutions Video

Our integrated supply and service approach to Turnkey Solutions means your Storage Solutions team has tighter control over all facets of your project, ensuring you meet your timeline and budget. Oversight for each component and executing entire projects as one team means efficiencies that generate better results with fewer surprises along the way.

We specialize in:

  • Project Management
  • Safety
  • Installation
  • Permitting
  • Logistics

Click here to learn more!

Picking Strategies

The time has come; it is time to evaluate your warehouse’s picking strategy. In most situations, picking strategies do not change that often. However, all aspects of your operation should undergo evaluations from time to time to make sure that there is no process or product out there that could support your activities to a higher degree. Why would the evaluation of your picking strategies be any different?

For warehouse managers, any successful picking operation’s priority is to minimize the order selection time and distance your employees are walking. Manually moving products from one place to another is among the least efficient tasks in warehouse operations. Some of the inherent inefficiency caused by travel distance should be accounted for at the design-level, meaning your facility layout and storage configurations should already be optimized to this to some degree. (If it is not, let us know! We can help.) However, there is still work to do to ensure your fulfillment strategy is in sync with your warehouse’s design.

One easy comparison to a warehouse picking strategy is grocery shopping. So, let us examine some of the most common picking strategies, using grocery shopping as an analogy:

Discrete/Order Picking

Single order picking, also known as discrete picking, involves a picker traveling around all of your aisles and picking a complete order. In the “grocery shopper” scenario, the selector has a full grocery list and then picks items accordingly. It is the most common, most natural, and intuitive. This strategy does not require any technology and is ideal if the warehouse is on the smaller size where order picking is a manual process. The downside to discrete order picking is that it is not typically efficient due to the travel time (unless technology is introduced). The inefficiency becomes more pronounced as order volume or facility size increases.

Multi-Order Picking

Multi-order picking is typically an enhanced version of discrete picking. It involves a picker traveling around your all of your aisles and picking multiple complete orders on a single trip. In the “grocery shopper” scenario, the selector has several full grocery lists and then picks items for each list on a single trip through the store. This strategy typically requires a small amount of technology or systems support, but may still be pretty manual. Multi-order picking is more efficient than single discrete order picking, but typically still less efficient than other methods that utilize technology to drive faster throughput & more labor efficiency.

Batch Picking

Batch picking occurs when SKUs to fulfill multiple orders are picked simultaneously. This works best when a relatively small #of SKUs account for a large percentage of the picking. The picker takes the order and travels to SKU locations picking items for several (“a batch”) orders, then brings back all items to be sorted to specific orders later. In the grocery shopping example, this would be like one-person shopping for many orders (many of which have oranges on the list). The picker would select all the oranges to fulfill all orders, then also pick the next most popular item on the orders until all of the items needed for that batch of orders have been selected. This style of picking is less-than-ideal if you have a lot of SKUs & the demand for them is fairly evenly spread over a large # of orders. In many situations, this style of picking is matched with zone picking to create a hybrid strategy.

Zone Picking

In zone picking operations, you will have a worker assigned to a specific zone and pick all items associated with an order within their area. In the grocery shopping analogy, this would be akin to someone only assigned to pick items when a request comes in for produce, for example. Warehouses employ zone picking strategies because workers don’t have to walk a lot and are very familiar with their assigned area, and it works well for warehouses of any size. However, order accuracy may go down if good systems support is not used because multiple people are touching the order.

Cluster Picking

Cluster picking allows workers to pick multiple orders at a time, with totes or bins separating each order or batch, depending on which strategy they employ. Essentially, this is a pick-to-cart strategy that allows pickers to make one pass through the pick path, fulfilling multiple orders as they travel through the facility, reducing travel distance per order by grouping orders systematically with like SKUs on them. In the grocery store scenario, this would be like having several baskets within a cart, and the shopper selecting orders for multiple people at the same time& putting each order in its basket.

Combination Picking

There are strategies out there that combine various picking styles like Zone/Batch Picking, Zone/Wave Picking, and even Zone/Batch/Wave Picking. Each variation adds a layer of complexity to the methodology, but these options should mostly be considered based on your layout, operations, quantity of SKUs, order profile and volume. However, before evaluating combination strategies, you should speak with an expert in fulfillment to find the right mix based on your specific picking requirements and how quickly they need to be fulfilled.

Which to Choose?

Ultimately, it is up to you and what works best for your business. There may not be just one strategy that best suits your operations. Perhaps the ideal process is a combination of approaches. However, these evaluations are part of a healthy routine to ensure your facility operates at peak efficiency, especially with the industry is changing as rapidly as it is.

If you need help getting started, or even help with evaluating what works for you, give us a call. Our team of experts is ready to talk through any challenges you see and provide solutions through processes or products that we know will work. Let’s get started!

Rack Safety Surveys Blog

Let’s paint a familiar picture found in warehouse operations. A dutiful warehouse manager relies on his operators to report any damage to racking caused by a forklift. The driver forgets – or omits – to tell his manager that an upright was damaged while retrieving a pallet. A few weeks and months pass, and the damage worsens. The manager discovers the damaged rack just a week before peak season hits. Because of the damaged upright’s position, he knows that several pallet positions will not be operational for a few weeks to repair the upright.

This real-world scenario is entirely preventable. Of course, proper training and communication could prevent damage from happening or worsening, respectively. However, facility and maintenance managers that utilize regular rack safety surveys will tell you that this preventative measure can go a long way to maintaining normal operations – especially during your busiest times.

According to the Rack Manufacturers Institute’s (RMI) guidelines, rack inspections should be performed on an annual basis, at the very least. However, racks in high traffic areas, with narrow aisles, in transfer aisles, cold environments, or equipment with prior damage, should be inspected more frequently – even as often as once per month.

Warehouse maintenance staff are often busy, spending their time ensuring operations are running smoothly, like making sure conveyors, dock doors, and critical day-to-day tasks are all functioning appropriately. They often cannot dedicate the proper resources (mostly, time) to ensure racking is safe. Third-party safety audits – regularly scheduled – could go a long way to ensure that your operations are always running smoothly.

Third-party pallet rack safety experts will also have more expertise in guidelines, specifications, and tolerances. They can answer questions like, “Does that upright need to be repaired or replaced?”, which maintenance associates may not have the expertise to answer. Third-party providers also help by taking some responsibility off warehouse and maintenance managers, who won’t need to worry about scheduling surveys and following any action plans.

Similarly, full-on safety audits can be scheduled to also look at fall hazards, pedestrian traffic areas, and identifying areas for additional products like guardrail and column protectors. They can also ensure that your facility is up-to-code from an OSHA standpoint, relieving your operations of fines or penalties down the road.

If you have not participated in a rack safety survey recently or think your facility is due for a fresh set of eyes to improve the safety environment, give us a call. One of our warehouse specialists will help ensure you are aware of your facility’s pain points, and also deliver an action plan to tackle the highest priority items to provide focus for your team going forward.

SSI Unmatched Partnerships

With over 40 years as a distributor of new and used warehouse equipment, we have worked with an untold number of manufacturing partnerships. Our integrated service and supply approach allows us to work with businesses at all supply chain stages. Many of these partners have been around for a long time, working with us on hundreds of projects worldwide. Together, we have built a relationship based on trust, loyalty, and mutual success.

The result of that trust and loyalty gives us one of our signature “difference makers”: A dedicated production capacity program. There will usually be hurdles to overcome in any project, but this program is designed to help our clients hedge against fluctuating lead times when an order is needed ASAP.

About Dedicated Production Capacity Partnerships

Because we are the largest purchaser of pallet racking for resale in North America, we have established foundational relationships with various manufacturers for all types of warehouse equipment. Essentially, we have partners in which manufacturers guarantee us a certain percentage of their monthly production capacity to help fulfill the volume of orders we place with them.

With the dedicated production capacity from our manufacturer partners, we can take advantage of better-than-market lead times. Our project managers are often in contact with these manufacturers and can get a good sense of their timelines quickly.

For example, when some manufacturers are working on a timeline that may be 8-to-10 weeks out, we can often leverage our orders to fit a 5-to-6-week schedule using our dedicated production capacity. That difference cuts your wait time almost in half, helping keep your project on track or getting it started sooner. For us, it is all about finding ways to maintain command and control over your project timeline, even as unforeseen variables appear.

We can also use these expedited timelines to balance multiple manufacturing partners to help us strategically source material closer to your job site, reducing freight costs and overall project costs.

This “difference maker” is an example of how we see ourselves as a trusted partner for you from start to finish of your project.

Simple. Smart Strategic.

If your team has an upcoming distribution facility to design, relocate, or reconfigure, give us a call. Our experts have years of experience in these build-outs and have the expertise to navigate the ups and downs of major construction projects. If things go awry during the process, we have partnerships at the ready to assist in keeping your project on time and budget.