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

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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.

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!

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.

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.

Engineering-Permitting-Turnkey

The idea of climbing a mountain alone sounds daunting: Do you have the right supplies? Do you have enough endurance? What happens when the weather changes?

While managing a warehouse transition may not be as personally perilous as climbing a mountain, there are similarities in both requiring ample planning, preparation, and the ability to adapt as conditions change. They also have another thing in common: they become a heck of a lot easier if you have someone with experience there to guide you.

As part of our Turnkey Solutions, we offer our clients peace of mind by providing oversight for each component of a project. Our team of Project Managers and Project Coordinators consider project management, safety checkpoints, installation progress, permitting, and logistics with every partner across the country. We are in constant communication to ensure your entire project is delivered with the flexibility to change as things may change along the way.

Engineering a Solution with a Single Point of Contact

Our project managers’ relationship with your project begins before you even meet them. They are the team members who are running estimations on parts and equipment, finding the best solutions required to install each stage of the project. They are also working with our designers on preliminary engineering and design. In our world, engineering and design go hand-in-hand. Why not have a single person who knows the ins and outs of both?

Time and again, we hear from our clients how vital our turnkey solutions are to the success of a project. These project managers give our clients more command and control over projects because we know the status of all projects at any given time. Projects are delivered on time because our team has overseen hundreds of buildouts and understand how to anticipate the unexpected. Projects are delivered on budget because we are proactively managing potential hurdles along the way before they turn into costly change orders.

We know that coordinating vendors at your site is a challenging piece of the construction puzzle, but it is one piece that we know gets solved with anticipation, organization, and active communication with all stakeholders.

Navigating the Permitting Maze

Once a proposal becomes a project, our team has already begun creating a permit package, which acts as a roadmap of all the boxes that need to be checked along your project’s lifecycle. There we identify all the requirements, including fire codes, storage permits, structural permits, documents required for the Department of Homeland Security, and so much more.

Depending on the region, navigating the permitting portion of a project could be its own fulltime job. However, because we have worked with a wide variety of municipalities across the nation, our team learns, grows, and shares information on best practices on each project. For example, we understand how important each detail is in drawing submissions, which helps to eliminate unnecessary laps between the regulator and us. Because we spend so much time at the front of the process getting those details correct, the rest of the project can run as smoothly as possible.

Make the Best Use of Your Time

And what is the opportunity cost of doing all the permitting yourself? Do you call the building department or the city planner? What are the fire codes? Is the area under construction part of a seismic zone? When you are stuck on the phone trying to call around to find these answers – and figure out if these are the only questions you need to ask – you are spending valuable time that could be used on tasks more closely associated with your jobs. The Storage Solutions team already knows what questions to ask, whom to ask those questions to, and how to get the answers to the appropriate party. It is the Storage Solutions difference.

Let’s Get Started

Decisions typically come down to the value of your time. Because we are a trusted partner to our clients, we understand the intimate details of each proposal and have a head start on what is needed to get the project done. Our team is ready to get started and learn more about your upcoming project, whether it is a new building, a renovation project, or a relocation/removal situation. Call us today at 800.474.2001 or contact us here to speak with a Storage Solutions expert!