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The Great Material Handling Road Trip

Admire your country, appreciate your industry.

All across this country, from the Redwood Forest to the New York Island, there are sights to be seen. From the natural beauty of our national parks to the man-made wonders that define our great cities, there is no shortage of breathtaking beauty to behold. What’s more is that, at many of these destinations, the material handling industry is working behind the scenes. In this article, we’re taking a look at three of the country’s most desirable destinations and pulling back the curtain on how our industry makes them work.

Napa Valley

We begin our journey on the country’s West coast, where nestled in the heart of California lies the country’s most prolific wine producing region—Napa Valley. The Napa Valley AVA, or American Viticulture Area, encompasses more than 200,000 acres of vineyards in northwestern California. The region’s 400 wineries generate over 100 million bottles of wine each year.

Of course, making so much wine means that millions of pounds of grapes must be harvested, stored and processed. That’s where the material handling industry comes in. In the late summer and early fall in Napa, it’s a common sight to see a forklift patrolling the vineyards. The annual wine grape harvest begins in August and runs into November. During this period, more than 300 million pounds of grapes are picked and processed. After being picked, the grapes are gathered into 1,000-pound capacity “grape boxes,” which are then transported via forklift with attachment to a crusher-stemmer or a hopper where they are unloaded.

After the harvest, the material handling industry’s work isn’t done. Once the grapes become wine, many winemakers store the barrels in caves, which are carved out of stone beneath the hills of Napa Valley. The caves are naturally cool and damp, the perfect combination for storing wine. Obviously, something has to move and stack the barrels and, once again, lift trucks are the norm. This time, though, it’s strictly electric because of their zero-exhaust capability. Drifting diesel fumes make the site less palatable to tourists and some folks believe the fumes can even affect the wine’s taste.

A barrel-moving attachment can swivel and move laterally to pick up barrels on either side of wine caves that have little or no room to turn around.

A barrel-moving attachment can swivel and move laterally to pick up barrels on either side of wine caves that have little or no room to turn around.

These caves present a unique challenge to a lift truck. If barrels run along both sides of a cave, there likely won’t be room for a right-angle stack. To remedy this situation, Cascade Corporation worked with a distributor to invent a barrel lifting device for wine caves that goes out perpendicular to the forklift, like a sideloader. The attachment can swivel left to right, allowing the forklift to pick up barrels on either side of the cave, and features a specially designed cradle to hold the barrels securely. It’s just one more way that your industry makes production possible. So next time you’re enjoying a glass of Napa Valley vino, take a minute to appreciate the complexity of the flavors and take comfort knowing that your industry helped make it happen.

Major League Baseball

Located in the Bronx, New York, Yankee Stadium is home to the most prolific franchise in the history of pro sports. The 27-time world champion New York Yankees moved into their new home at the start of the 2009 season, which ended with the Yanks defeating the Philadelphia Phillies to bring home the team’s first championship since 2000. However, before the first pitch could be thrown, a big assist from the material handling industry was needed.

Storage & handling equipment plays an integral role in Minnesota’s new home, Target Field.

Storage & handling equipment plays an integral role in Minnesota’s new home, Target Field.

It only takes a glance at the stadium’s exterior, formed from over 11,000 pieces of Indiana limestone, to understand the scale of this project. The other thing that’s easy to notice is the amount of material handling equipment that went into building and operating this massive attraction. Whether mezzanines, telehandlers, boom lifts, lift trucks or scissor lifts, there is no way that a structure this massive gets put together without a big assist from the material handling equipment industry. Across the street, where the old Yankee Stadium was torn apart piece by piece, there’s just as much material handling going on. The Yankees ordered the removal of every seat, sign and souvenir from the old park. That meant more than 50,000 seats, and an entire stadium worth of memorabilia needed to be uprooted, packed and moved to a warehouse. Lift trucks were responsible for much of that work, from loading trailers full of seats to moving fully loaded trailers around the stadium.

It isn’t only Yankee Stadium where material handling plays an important role. Earlier this year, the Minnesota Twins opened up their new home, 39,504-seat Target Field, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Such a stadium is filled with everything from souvenir baseballs to the pens the purchasing department uses to fill out forms. Such massive inventory requires equally massive storage requirements.

Among the most challenging projects was in the souvenir storage room, which is situated directly below the stadium and presented serious strategic issues. For instance, the room has curved walls, a sloped roof and several massive stadium support pillars on the interior. Despite the constraints, the room fits 50 bays of pallet rack used for storage. More than 30 rooms in the stadium have some storage rack or shelving in them.

The Freedom of the Seas

First christened in July 2006, Freedom of the Seas is the crown jewel of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship fleet. At the time of construction, it was the largest cruise ship in the world, weighing in at 160,000 tons and measuring 1,112 feet long. The massive vessel carries and houses about 4,379 guests and 1,360 crew members per trip and came with a price tag of $900 million.

Floor to ceiling, Freedom of the Seas’ warehouse measures eight feet. In such a confined space, storage must be precise.

Floor to ceiling, Freedom of the Seas’ warehouse measures eight feet. In such a confined space, storage must be precise.

Taking into account the staggering size of the ship and the substantial number of travelers, the logistics of feeding and supplying the passengers and staff with everything they could possibly want or need during a week at sea presents a great challenge. The backbone of the operation is two storage warehouses: one a logistics center located in Miami, Florida, the other a 26,350-sq.-ft. “provision storeroom” that floats. The provision storeroom holds 3,500 bottles of wine, 1,000 pounds of lobster, 9,500 cans of soda, 15,000 pounds of beef, 200 cases of pizza and enough sheets and towels to supply an army—and that’s just the beginning.

Everything that is used during a cruise comes in through a 12-foot by 12-foot shell door in five to six hours. All items are maintained on stainless steel pallets and logged and organized by the ship’s onboard logistics manager. The provision warehouse itself is an engineering marvel. It features a lift that rises between the two eight-foot-tall levels. The lift holds two pallet positions, and pallet jacks remove the items and take them to their destinations. They might not realize it, but every guest on the ship owes a tip of the hat to the material handling industry. All the relaxation on deck is possible because of the high-level logistics being displayed down below.

No matter where you go across this great nation, there are numerous sights to behold and it takes the combined efforts of American Industry to make them possible. While it might not be the foundation that these destinations were built on, the material handling industry is certainly the force behind the scenes that’s keeping them moving.

Amusement Parks — At Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, a conveyor system is capable of moving 19 tons more than 30 stories high at an angle of 45 degrees in less than 30 seconds. The Millennium Force roller coaster features engineered systems on a massive scale. Plus, the sea lion show at Sea World in San Diego, California, features custom-built 6,000-pound capacity lifts.

Seneca Niagara Casino — This Niagara Falls, New York, landmark uses at least 25 class I, III, IV and V lift trucks, plus a host of storage & handling equipment, not the least of which are two food loading docks and a 30,000-pound dock leveler.

Walt Disney World — From eight warehouses, everything from retail merchandise, general supplies and food is distributed throughout the park via a nine-acre underground tunnel called the “utilador.”

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