As we enter the fourth fiscal quarter of the year, we are often talking with clients about quick, simple additions, products, and new initiatives to try with the remainder of their annual budget. As operations managers look toward 2022, there are typically several options that can increase productivity, keep employees safe, or offer new benefits to your operations.
Whether you are sitting on $3,000 or $300,000, closing out the year on a productive note is a pivotal way to build momentum to start next year on a positive note. After a tumultuous year like 2020 – one that offered (and still offers) a high degree of uncertainty, this may be an excellent time to see a return on a relatively minor investment.
Below are four of the most common suggestions we offer our clients when they talk to us about the challenges they see in today’s environment with an eye on utilizing the remainder of their allocated budgetary funds.
Rack Additions to Support Facility Volume
Among the most common challenges we see from our clients is finding new and creative ways to increase storage volume and quicken the fulfillment process without expanding the facility’s footprint. Adding rack additions that can support a more efficient pick process is an easy way to see a return on investment without breaking the bank. One example of this would be adding carton flow systems or replacing full-width roller tracks with polycarbonate skate wheel tracks. Why? The beds formed with the latter option creates a full flow bed, adding flexibility without needing to reconfigure your racking. You can learn more about the pros and cons of different carton flow systems here.
Safety Products Focused on Employee Protection
We have recently highlighted a group of warehouse safety products that assist facilities in adjusting to “the new normal” we are all experiencing. From building access cages to automated smart disinfection solutions, there are various products available to keep your employees safe. In a world where operations managers are looking to reduce labor costs and labor uncertainty, these products can offer a quick return by keeping your associates active and productive.
Safety Products Focused on Rack Protection
The old phrase, “prevention is better than the cure,” certainly pertains to warehouse management. By installing warehouse safety products like building protector columns, end-of-aisle protectors, safety guard rails, or upright protection, you can prevent damage to your equipment that may arise from forklift accidents or improper storage methods. Our design consultants have decades of experience in seeing what products are ideal for any distribution center, and we’ve worked with businesses across North America as a trusted ally in their safety efforts.
Damaged Rack Repairs and Replacements
By following the Rack Manufacturers Institute’s guidelines, rack safety surveys should be conducted annually at the very minimum. However, in warehouses with high traffic areas, narrow aisles, transfer aisles, or cold environments, the RMI suggests performing these surveys as frequently as once per month. If you have damaged equipment, we can recommend both pre-owned or new equipment, based on your needs. The preowned equipment we store in our 330,000 square-foot warehouse is protected from the elements and has all passed our Certified Pre-Owned standards, offering additional savings to the distribution centers looking to save on their replacement costs.
Wherever you are in your project planning stage, we are here to offer advice and solutions to suit your needs. We are always looking for new ways to support our partners and clients, and whether you are planning that major project in 2021 or just looking to end 2020 on a positive note, we are ready to get started. Give us a call today!
Facility safety surveys can be an excellent avenue for warehouses, fulfillment centers, and distribution centers to lower long-term costs by keeping employees, equipment, and your facility in optimal conditions. In many ways, maintaining a facility can be quite like maintaining a car or a home. The longer you wait to perform that maintenance or conduct regular examinations, the more likely, the smaller problems will turn into extensive, costly repairs.
By scheduling a facility safety survey, you are not just looking at developing a checklist of tasks to ensure your people, equipment, and facility stay safe and operational, but you are creating a roadmap to improve your building’s long-term health for everything inside of it. Our experts will work with you to develop both short-and-long-term goals that align with common safety standards found within these facilities.
How Often Should You Conduct a Facility Safety Survey?
Per standards put forth by the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI), rack inspections should be performed on an annual basis, at the very least. However, more frequent inspections are recommended in facilities with racking in high traffic areas, narrow aisles, transfer aisles, cold environments, or that features equipment with prior damage – even as often as once per month.
That RMI-recommended cadence is generally a great starting point for any facility safety survey, but we can work with you to find the best rhythm for regular visits. For instance, if you are a facility that changes beam levels often, you may need additional safety check-ins because if those changes were not involved in the original design and permitting process, you could create a situation in which the rack becomes structurally unsound. Ultimately, the determination for how often you should conduct a facility safety survey will depend on your activity level and the products stored in your facility, two variables that are unique to your operations.
What Happens During a Facility Safety Survey?
In addition to a rack safety survey, we will also look at opportunities to add safety equipment like mirrors, end-of-aisle protectors, guard rails, and more. We will look at equipment, wires, and any damage caused by forklift drivers on uprights, beams, and columns. Typically, if we find many opportunities for new safety implementations, we schedule visits as frequently as monthly to ensure facilities are up to code as quickly as possible. Plus, if policies do not yet exist for employee safety within the warehouse, we can work with you to develop a plan that includes training to ensure best practices are in place.
After that, a Storage Solutions expert can work with you to ensure that any and all safety challenges are met with both short and long-term action plans that can combine with goals to lower operational costs and reduce labor challenges at the same time. We have decades of experience in implementing these measures across all industry types, so we have the knowledge to put theory into action.
So, Is It Time for a Facility Safety Survey?
If it has been some time since you last had a new pair of eyes looking at your facility’s safety profile, then it is time for you to call the experts. Our team can schedule a visit to your facility and share our expertise throughout our appraisal. That piece of ongoing education is crucial to our safety surveys because, by identifying and communicating potential solutions, you are more likely to have to make smaller changes in the next visit and even smaller changes in the third.
Safety is a critical aspect of any warehouse, fulfillment center, or distribution center’s operations. Taking too long before having a facility safety survey could result in higher costs with more considerable repairs, rather than maintaining your facility regularly.
The best way to create and maintain as safe an operation as possible is to have safety be a core tenet of your operational philosophy. Whether you are close to reaching that goal or need a place to start, give us a call, and we can help!
Wire cages and wire partitions are common solutions for warehouses and distribution centers in which something needs to be protected, or access needs to be restricted. They are great for several uses within a facility and can essentially be constructed to fit any need you may have to keep individuals away from an area or keep something within a space.
These are simple, cost-effective solutions that offer operations managers additional controls over valuable products or infrastructure and keep employees safe by restricting access to areas of your facility to only the individuals who need to be in that area.
Common Uses for Wire Cages & Wire Partitions:
- Tool/Storage Cages: Keep your expensive or specialty tools away from those who do not need to use them with restricted access.
- Driver/Building Access Cages: Keep unnecessary people from traveling the floor of your facility by limiting access at public-facing doors.
- DEA Cages: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has specific requirements that need to be met to physically secure Schedule III – V controlled substances. These cages are ideal for pharmaceutical and medical companies, legal drug warehouses, and more.
- Server Cages: Protect your information technology equipment like servers, routers, and more away from potential damage or accidents.
These products are incredibly popular because of the ease of installation – cages can typically be installed at a lower cost and quicker than other area restriction methods. Additionally, these products can be adapted to fit whatever need you may see. For example, custom colors are often available, custom locks can be added to your cages, and adjustable panels or doors can also be constructed if there is a need within your business.
Need to Know More About Wire Cages & Wire Partitions?
Our team of experts has decades of experience in outfitting warehouses and distribution centers of all sizes with wire cages. We know how these products can be customized to fit the needs of your operations. Give us a call today, and we would be happy to connect you with the appropriate solutions for your facility for today’s needs and beyond.
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
Click here to learn more!
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 guardrails 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 a focus for your team going forward.
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 provide 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.
What Classifies as 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.
What Classifies as 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 damaged 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.
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!
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.