MHEDA dealers and suppliers adapt to the new wants and needs of customers
MHEDA members are known throughout the industry for taking on any challenge, big or small. But what differentiates a MHEDA member from other companies is the willingness and aptitude to tackle the unexpected obstacles. Unique challenges require unique solutions and our members have the experience to bring those solutions to life.
And that experience and expertise is backed up with the best products that the material handling industry has to offer and the unwavering support of the OEMs. With a MHEDA dealer and supplier in their corner, every vision can become a reality. These 2017 Sales Success Stories prove once again why MHEDA members are consistently recognized as the best of the best. If you have a story you’d like to share, please tweet us @MHEDA_Journal and @MHEDAOffice.
The Warehouse Lifeguards
In 2016, fall protection was the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) most cited safety violation. So when a safety-conscious Recreational Vehicle Service Center in Texas needed to protect its mechanics and service technicians as they worked on top of RVs, it made sense to contact WW Cannon’s Doug Hutchins. Hutchins is known throughout the industry as the “Warehouse Lifeguard” and has a reputation for outfitting companies with the best fall protection solution for their application.
“With every fall protection application, there is a hierarchy of protection questions that I go through,” says Hutchins. “The first thing I look at is, ‘Is there any way that they can avoid working on the roof?’ And of course, in this situation the answer was no. So the second question I ask is, ‘Is there any way to install a handrail on the roof?’ Because vehicles are constantly moving in and out of the service center, the answer to this question was also no. Then I ask, ‘Is there any room on the floor for us to build a system?’ Here too the answer was no. So we had to look to the ceiling.”
Once it was determined that the fall protection system would have to be installed on the ceiling of the service center, Hutchins educated the customer on the different fall protection projects available.
“There were really two types of system they could have used,” says Hutchins. “The first was a wire cable system and the second was a rigid rail system. And the customer needed to be educated on the differences. And once those were understood, it was a very easy decision to go with the rigid rail solution.”
The rigid rail solution provided numerous advantages over the wire cable system. “The rigid rail system is a permanent system,” Hutchins says. “It’s welded and bolted to the ceiling and it’s not coming down. And that differs from a wire cable system in that if somebody were to fall, much of the wire cable system would have to be replaced. Just from a cost standpoint, the rigid rail may cost a little bit more, but it is a permanent system. There’s no part of it that has to be replaced except for what is connected to the mechanic who is on top of the RV.”
He continues, “Another advantage is that the rigid rail system is safer. When somebody falls from a rigid rail system, they fall four to six inches before they’re caught. With a wire cable system, they could fall three feet or more before they get caught. And when somebody falls that far, they can get injured when their body is yanked by the system catching them.”
Finally, “The rigid rail allows for multiple people to be working simultaneously. They can move by each other without having to disconnect and reconnect their lanyard, which would be impossible with a wire rope system. We’ve done systems that have 20 people on those rails. And with a rigid rail system, they can start out from the floor connected to the system so that they are secured when climbing up the ladder. And it’s completely hands free, which allows the mechanics to focus all of their attention on the job at hand.”
Armed with all of that information, the customer opted to go with the rigid rail system. But there were some obstacles that needed to be overcome by WW Cannon and Gorbel.
“We needed to make sure that the building could hold the system,” Hutchins says. “A lot of buildings, especially for service centers, they’re not the most durable buildings. They’re not made for anything to be installed in the ceiling. We had to have a structural engineer come out and he had to just run his calculations and figure out how we could reinforce the ceiling and put the system in. And he figured that out. We added welds to the beams and columns to reinforce them.”
Another obstacle that needed to be overcome was that the building was very low-ceilinged. The system had to be engineered so that the mechanics could work on top of the RVs without hitting their head on the rail above.
“We took the header beam and welded it as high up on the webbing of the building as possible, and installed the track underneath. If the building was higher up, we could have gone higher, but we went as high as the ceiling would allow, which got us enough clearance.”
The system itself took about two weeks to install completely.
“WW Cannon was hired because of our complete turn-key services,” says Hutchins. “Not only did we design, layout, build and install the system, but we also went the extra mile to find the right solution to fit the unique needs of the customer.”
Once installation was complete, the WW Cannon team provided the customer with comprehensive safety training for their staff, including proper protocol during a fall.
“We helped the customer develop a rescue plan,” says Hutchins. “This is required by law. If somebody were to fall, they would be safe because of the lanyard, but there has to be a procedure in place to get them down as quickly as possible, so that they aren’t dangling and having their circulation cut off.”
With the system in place and the staff properly trained, the client is thrilled with the end result. Hutchins and WW Cannon had once again lived up to their reputation as the Warehouse Lifeguards by providing the best-practice safety solution.
Distributor: WW Cannon
Cervical Collar Manufacturer Eliminates Waste, Clutter in Assembly and Shipping Areas
Lean practices are a priority at the Ossur facility in New Jersey, where employees assemble and distribute approximately 800 packages of cervical collars a day. Cervical collars have become one of Ossur’s most successful product lines. To meet customer demands and remain cost-competitive, operations managers must continuously implement strategies that increase productivity and eliminate waste within the supply chain.
To establish a Lean environment, Advanced Equipment Co., Inc. recommended the replacement of traditional flat tables used in the distribution and assembly areas with Flow Cell workstations from UNEX. The old flat tables were bulky, cluttered and ergonomically challenging for workers. Flow Cells were configured with tilted pick shelves to fit the needs of the raw materials, assembler, handler and packer. Lights and an overhead toolbar were built in to provide additional support.
Since implementation of the customized Flow Cells, cycle time has improved significantly at the Ossur facility; productivity has doubled. “Down time is minimized because assemblers and packers are not interrupted by the need to go find materials or set up the next station. Work progresses smoothly from one workstation to the next,” says Axel Bjornson, Ossur Operations Manager. The increase in productivity has allowed Ossur to eliminate 5 assemblers, while completing the same amount of work.
The work environment is now clean and clutter free, allowing workers to focus on the job at hand. “With Flow Cell workstations, everything the employee needs is at arms reach. There are no distractions, no confusion about what needs to happen next. It’s a very professional environment,” says Bjornson.
In addition to the boost in productivity and cost-efficiency, Bjornson says quality is on the rise at Ossur, largely because of the Flow Cell workstations. When employees work within the Flow Cell workstations, they become experts in specific jobs. “The result is greater consistency, higher quality.”
And quality is king in the medical device business. “Having a high quality product on the shelf and ready to be shipped to distributors and hospitals is crucial to the company’s reputation as a major player in the orthopedic market,” says Bjornson.
Distributor: Advanced Equipment Company
A Designer Solution
A designer of high-end fashion accessories was understandably concerned about battery acid spilling in their facility and on inventory. For years, the manufacturer had worked with Lift Power (Jacksonville, FL) Sales Manager Matt Drury for their material handling needs.
“They use a lot of order pickers running sealed lead acid batteries,” Drury says. “Using sealed batteries comes with negatives. The run time isn’t as good and the life of the battery isn’t as long. It becomes a trade off with using the sealed lead acid battery.”
“Knowing what we had been selling, we thought that this was an ideal customer to use the sealed EnerSys® NexSys® battery in their pickers and rider pallet jacks,” Drury says. “So we approached them and asked if they wanted to be a pilot site and try it out.”
Says EnerSys Branch Manager Will Graves, “So we gave them a presentation about our NexSys battery, which is Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL). We brought in a NexSys stock picker battery that had data collection device. The device allowed us to monitor and present to them how this battery was performing compared to their conventional sealed batteries over the trial period.”
The NexSys battery was able to store more power and accept a higher current recharge than the batteries the customers had been using. It was able to charge faster. And once the customer saw the benefits to those, they decided to purchase 4 batteries for their order pickers. A year after that, the client purchased 9 more of the order picker NexSys TPPL batteries. Altogether, the client now has eleven order pickers and 6 pallet jacks running NexSys batteries and chargers with plans to round out the fleet.
Damon Hosmer, Director – Motive Power Systems Solutions at Lift Power. “The operators always went to what they perceived the ‘better battery.’ It had been an issue for management in the past and we even sold them a system that would dictate which battery the operator selected. Since the NexSys batteries have been in implemented into operation, it was 100 percent the preferred battery.”
“From the operator standpoint there isn’t much difference in their day-today operations. They still have to change batteries and swap them out,” Graves says. The operators like the long run times and management likes that NexSys batteries are low maintenance. It’s a very low maintenance battery with more power.”
“When a customer needs a low maintenance lead acid battery they often have to live with the disadvantages,” Drury says. “By going with the NexSys batteries and chargers, we took away those disadvantages. The customer gets the performance, no maintenance and the operators get more work done. We eliminated the negative of having sealed batteries.”
Distributor: Lift Power
Increasing Accuracy While Decreasing Breakage
Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) is the second largest distributor of wine and spirits in the U.S. The company outgrew their current distribution center and built a new 242,500 square foot warehouse in the town of Ashland, Virginia. RNDC distributes over 3 million cases per year of wine. This facility processes more bottles relative to the other 18 states where the company is located, nearly double the amount of full cases. They wanted to add more automation to the DC in order to meet the requirements of their growing customer and supplier base and accommodate long term growth.
The company chose to work with DMW&H as their material handling systems integrator because they had worked with the company previously in other RNDC warehouses. To meet their throughput rates, RNDC needed to deploy state-of-the-art conveyors and sortation equipment. W&H Systems deployed several types and lengths of conveyors from Intelligrated, including the Accuglide™ Zoneflex, a zero-pressure accumulation conveyor designed to control product flow and throughput while minimizing product damage. A sliding shoe sorter from Intelligrated features a “soft touch” divert, which provides high-speed, gentle carton control and divert accuracy. A spiral conveyor from AmbaFlex saves space. W&H Systems also optimized the forward pick areas to reduce outside picks and to pick faster-moving SKUs for a more ideal picking configuration.
DMW&H Systems Shiraz Warehouse Control System (WCS) directs realtime operations within the distribution center, ensuring everything runs smoothly. It integrates with the WMS from Manhattan to maximize system throughput and performance by determining the most efficient methods for case and bottle routing. The new facility also includes sustainable design features for renewable resources as well as reduced energy consumption for water, electricity and HVAC systems.
With the top quality material handling systems implemented, RNDC increased their production capacity by 33 percent, from 1800 cases per hour (CPH) to 2400 CPH. RNDC increased order completeness and accuracy while reducing breakage.
Supplier: Intelligrated, Ambaflex
Getting America its Fast Food Fast and Safe
A meat packaging company was moving its hamburger patty line to a new facility and needed a way to convey the patties in a freezer at a steep angle. The company contacted Conveyors & Drives Director of Sales Eric Ragan to determine if this was possible.
“The company had outgrown its current building and was installing a new line to convey its frozen hamburger patties,” says Ragan. “They had freezer spirals at their old facility and the patties went in at the top of the freezer not frozen and were coming out like bricks at the bottom of the freezer. Because of the 20 foot drop from the mezzanine where the freezer spirals were and the packing area, we had a small amount of space to put the conveyors in, which required the conveyors to be at a very steep angle.”
Ragan and Conveyors & Drives President Dan Helms discussed this challenge and because of the successful patty conveyor system at another facility, decided to recommend using a SpanTech Topper Lift to convey the patties. The Topper Lift utilizes two belts, one above the product, running at the same speed as the lower belt, to sandwich the product in between. This allows the Topper Lift to convey items at extreme angles and elevations that other conveyors aren’t able to safely handle. In the case of the frozen hamburger patties, it required a 45 degree decline angle.
“We had to minimize floor space and safely and efficiently move the product from up on the mezzanine down to floor level, where it would be hand packaged and sent on its way to the palletizers,” says Ragan.
Additionally, conveying raw meat introduced sanitary requirements that other applications don’t have to account for.
“It all had to be washed down design,” Ragan says. “They run 20 hours and clean for four every day. The whole conveyor had to meet their specs for sanitary design. The standard support design was not going to work. So the supports had to be custom made. Together with SpanTech, we custom engineered a stainless steel support that wouldn’t allow water to accumulate and was easily cleaned and meet their sanitary design requirements.”
Another challenge that required a custom engineered solution was the transition point from the spirals to the Topper Lifts.
“The customer wanted the patties to slide down and stay lined up instead of getting disorganized,” Ragan says. “We had to come up with a slide that could also be sitting next to an opening of a freezer that was well below zero. It couldn’t be metal, because that would cause transition issues. So SpanTech designed a UHMW transition piece that worked out very well.”
Finally, whereas other buildings the customer had allowed for straight, unimpeded conveyors, the new building that Conveyors & Drives was designing the application for had columns and mezzanines that required engineering to get around.
“What makes this project a success story is that there were only a few conveyor designs that can do what the customer wanted to do,” says Helms. “We couldn’t have done this economically with a spiral conveyor so the SpanTech option was the best solution to move forward with. The Topper Lift that SpanTech makes was a proven design at another facility with a similar raw meat application. They were not going to move the wall or tweak the design of the building. They gave us a certain amount of space and we had to make it fit.”
When construction on the building was complete and the customer was ready for the conveyors to be installed, a representative from SpanTech was on sight to help supervise the installation with the onsite install team. Because of the teamwork from Conveyors & Drives and SpanTech, America’s burgers are able to be conveyed safely and efficiently. And for a country that eats nearly 50 billion burgers per year, we appreciate it.
Distributor: Conveyors & Drives
Enhancing Storage to Accommodate New Product Launch
Hyundai Powertech sought to optimize storage at its Georgia manufacturing facility to make room for additional assembly parts required for an 8-speed transmission product launch. As a main auto parts manufacturer of Hyundai Motor Group, Hyundai Powertech specializes in automotive transmissions. The company manufactures a full line of transmission parts, from compact to full-size, that fulfill the needs of more than 600,000 transmissions annually.
However, with limited warehouse space, the double selective upright rack previously used in the area was insufficient to receive the additional parts, according to Yong Kim, the facility’s Material Department Assistant Manager.
Kim turned to Mathand, a turnkey material handling systems integrator out of Georgia, to resolve the issue. Mathand recommended pushback pallet rack from Steel King Industries, a storage system and pallet rack manufacturer. Pushback rack offers up to 90 percent more product storage than selective rack.
Unlike static, single-pallet deep selective racks, a dynamic pushback rack system allows storing pallets two to five deep while providing easy access to a variety of different SKUs. Pallets are stored behind each other in a series of nested carts and are loaded from the same side of the system, eliminating separate aisles for each function. Composed of a stable rack along with a series of inclined carts and rails, when one pallet is pulled, the one behind it rolls forward.
Since every pushback rack system is made to order, custom requirements such as for weak pallet support, nonstandard pallet sizes, and other special pallets can be accommodated.
After touring the factory and completing the initial drawings of the new system, an ongoing discussion among the three companies revealed a unique material handling issue that needed to be addressed.
“Our 8-speed transmission parts are heavy and very sensitive,” explains Kim. “Most parts are packed in small plastic boxes and stacked on plastic pallets. The pallets arrive strapped down, but our work process involves us unpacking a portion of the parts and then repacking and racking the rest. These partially packed pallets are more susceptible to tipping over, so it is important they are properly secured.”
As a solution, Mathand recommended a custom, level cart pushback rack configuration, designed to keep the carts and the unstrapped pallets flat and secure.
“We suggested a level pushback cart and a level first pallet position so when the carts are pushed back or ride down the inclined rail slope, the pallets will always remain level,” explains Matt Davis, a Mathand Product Specialist involved with the project.
According to Davis, achieving this custom configuration required numerous design iterations in cooperation with Steel King engineers, who provided CAD drawings as needed.
“Instead of the cart following the angle of the rail, the front of the cart is raised, so it is taller in front and shorter in the rear,” explains Davis. “On a flat surface, the cart and pallet would seem to be leaning back, but going downhill on the pushback rails they are completely level. This design allows the cart to roll down the rails by gravity without it sloping at an angle.”
Because Hyundai Powertech placed a priority on safety, Mathand also worked with Steel King to create custom stops on the cart to prevent double loading of pallets onto the cart.
“Now when a forklift operator loads the first pallet position, he cannot set it onto the cart incorrectly at an unsafe angle,” says Davis. “This helps to ensure proper loading and prevents the pallet from potentially tipping over.”
For added strength in phase I of the project, SK3000 pallet rack, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns, was chosen. Compared to typical racking, the pallet rack constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontaldiagonal bracing offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.
According to Davis, four double bays, four levels high, by two deep were constructed for 64 pallet positions of pushback rack in a space constricted area for phase I of the project. “The pushback rack provides double the storage capacity of selective rack, and four times that of floor storage in the same space,” says Davis.
Phase II of the project involves creating another 40 bays of pushback rack to provide enough assembly part storage for Hyundai Powertech’s 8-speed transmission product launch. For safety, this uses the same level pushback cart design, but has three levels, with a carton flow pick system on the bottom and two levels of pushback rack on top.
However, to save cost, the project customized Hyundai Powertech’s existing SK2000 selective rack, a boltless, closed tubular upright product. Compared to open back roll formed columns, the closed tubular uprights are 44 times more torsion/twist resistant, with 250% greater frontal impact resistance and 68% greater side impact resistance.
With Phase II of the project currently underway, Kim is projecting to see significant benefits.
“The 40 bays of pushback rack will provide about 31% more storage than double sided selective rack,” says Kim. “In terms of safety and efficiency, forklift operators will only need to load and unload from one side, instead of two, which minimizes forklift travel and potential collision or rack impact.”
“Any warehouse that requires greater storage density should consider pushback rack,” concludes Kim. “Customizing it can help with specialized warehouse applications, such as those handling small, sensitive or heavy products.”
Supplier: Steel King
Western Pacific Storage Solutions Teams with RMH Systems to Produce Custom Design for NAPA Auto Parts Distribution Center
The owners of several NAPA Auto Parts stores west of Chicago, Illinois, had purchased an old, empty WalMart in Princeton to serve as both a new store and a regional parts distribution center. Once satisfied with their preliminary sketch for storage shelving, they taped it out on the floors and then brought in John Haglund of Iowa-based RMH Systems, to refine the design and move the project forward.
RMH Systems, is an independent systems integrator dedicated to helping customers maximize productivity, efficiency and safety while improving profitability. The company has been focused on the ergonomics of workspaces for 75 years and John’s industrial systems experience stretches back over two decades.
The shelving footprint, overall size and desired features were impressive – 85 by 95 feet, two levels with two landing areas, four stairways, and there was a strong desire for 48-inch bays. According to Haglund, “That last feature was a major reason to specify the Deluxe system from Western Pacific Storage Solutions. We were seeing only 36-inch bays elsewhere, and that capacity was a difference-maker.”
WPSS’ Midwest regional sales manager, Joe Cascio, added, “We looked at the space and discussed the requirements. At first, John was considering RiveTier shelving, but because we’ve done hundreds of auto parts stores and distribution centers from one-level seven-foot high shelving to multi-level catwalk systems, the strength and flexibility of Deluxe shelving made it ideal.”
An engineer at RMH Systems turned the rough layout into a professional drawing and then used video conferencing to work interactively with WPSS engineers and the owners. “Being able to move things around while brainstorming and collectively fine-tuning it really helped build confidence that WPSS could deliver what we envisioned. That real-time collaboration was essential to getting what we wanted,” Haglund said.
WPSS project manager Alex Reibus put the plans through a give-and-take process (with several renderings) until the physics of the design were solid and the clients were satisfied.
Cascio continued, “The final design included a tunnel through the system to allow for fork truck access. A real plus in the end, in addition to the tunnel, was the customers’ desire for the shelving to be NAPA blue. WPSS had several blue choices and one was a match. We went with safety yellow on the stairs, railings and kick plates; the end-user was delighted. The owners were in a hurry to install the project and WPSS met all deadlines.
While price is an extremely important prerequisite; the ‘value added’ components of WPSS experienced sales team, the estimating engineers, and the project management group deliver a quality design.
“Through the entire process, any time we had a problem, the WPSS team was on it and came up with solutions very quickly. Everything was ASAP, and the whole team really delivered – from sales to design, through fabrication and shipping. They were very positive and great to work with.”
“This was my first experience with WPSS, and I plan on this becoming a long term relationship,” said Haglund.
Distributor: RMH Systems
Supplier: Western Pacific Storage Solutions
Optimizing Warehouse Cold Storage Capacity and Longevity
Freezer and cooler storage pallet rack must withstand some of the greatest forklift abuse in warehouse material handling. This can be attributed to a number of factors including confined space, slick surfaces, and the cold temperatures ranging from 31° down to –20°F that slow driver reflexes and make impact more frequent.
As a result, typical roll formed rack – which a less expensive, lower strength option ideal for most standard warehouse storage applications—is often not the best match for freezer and cold storage. Since it can be subjected to increased impact and damage it can cause unnecessary downtime and require premature repair or replacement.
To optimize safety and operations, however, a growing number of food companies are opting for more rugged structural channel pallet flow systems. These not only help to maximize storage density in cooler and freezer warehouse storage but can also better withstand rough forklift handling with minimal maintenance or downtime. While the initial costs of structural channel are higher than traditional rack, its sturdy construction dramatically lowers the total cost of ownership.
Optimizing Freezer Storage
Recently at a Midwest cold storage facility, one of the world’s largest food companies, with leading brands of chicken and prepared foods, conducted an internal review of its material handling system. The results indicated that its roll formed rack, after years of forklift impact, was in poor shape and would require a complete replacement.
In order to enhance safety and increase uptime, the company chose to upgrade to a more robust pallet flow system.
Pallet flow utilizes dynamic flow rails that sit at an angle within a static rack structure, allowing loads placed on one end to move by gravity on rollers to the unloading end, with speed controllers acting as gentle brakes. As a load is removed, the pallets behind it move forward automatically. Forklifts are required only for the initial loading and final unloading.
While pallet flow’s high-density, labor saving, first-in-first-out (FIFO) storage capacity can help to optimize storage and product rotation for food products, the confined freezer workspace takes its toll as forklifts inevitably impact the rack.
“The roll formed rack in their freezer was worn out, and needed to be replaced with rack that could withstand, prolonged high-volume use,” says David Scholtz, project manager at Cardinal Integrated Systems, the material handling systems integrator responsible for implementing new pallet flow systems. “We wanted rack that was structurally strong enough to withstand forklift impact,” says Scholtz.
On Cardinal Integrated Systems’ recommendation, the company turned to the SK3400 pallet flow system by Steel King Industries, a leading manufacturer of storage rack and material handling products.
For greater impact resistance and longevity in the freezer environment, SK3000 pallet rack from Steel King, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns, was also selected.
Compared to typical racking, structural channel rack, constructed of hotrolled structural channel columns with full horizontal-diagonal bracing, offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.
Such rugged structural channel rack construction can help provide greater reliability, longevity, and significantly lower total cost of operation to frozen and refrigerated food manufacturers.
Another benefit of structural rack for the food industry is that it can be designed as either an easy to clean, open channel rack or as an enclosed tubular rack.
The tubular rack is designed with column holes placed only where bolts will be inserted; therefore eliminating the possibility for the buildup of debris, further increasing sanitation.
Because the pallet entry side of a flow system takes the most impact, Scholtz also placed steel wheels on the first 4′ of the pallet entry, to better withstand the impact.
Since corrosion resistance was also important in the freezer environment, the rack was hot dipped galvanized. This is the process of dipping steel into a vat of molten zinc. During the process, the iron in the steel metallurgically reacts with the zinc to form an alloy coating with superior corrosion protection.
According to Scholtz, the pallet flow rack was installed in a couple of configurations, with 3″ structural channel system rack. Two groups consist of five singlewide bays, each nine pallets deep and four beam levels high. One group consists of seven singlewide bays, nine pallets deep and four beam levels high.
To ensure that the flow systems worked properly with all of the global food company’s pallets, sample pallets were shipped to Steel King’s test facility. The pallets were loaded with simulated test weights of the minimum and maximum loads required. The pallets were tested to ensure they would safely, reliably flow at the proper speed and rack pitch.
According to Scholtz, after successful installation of the pallet flow systems at the food company’s facility, the company has enhanced its process to reliably ship frozen product in high-volume to meet domestic and overseas demand.
Distributor: Cardinal Integrated Systems
Supplier: Steel King
Experience – The Author of Maximized Space
Founded in 1983, Fisher & Thompson is one of the largest milking equipment dealers on the East Coast. Carrying a variety of animal health and dairy supplies, the company’s Pennsylvania headquarters was at the breaking point in terms of having enough room to store its parts and products serving 13 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, West Virginia and New York.
Inventory Manager, Dave Wentzel, had been with the company for 7 years and his department was the primary parts’ distribution center that farmers in seven states had come to rely upon.
Dave said, “We needed more space— when we expanded our footprint into Virginia, we increased in size by 30% and we had to house parts to supply those locations. We knew we needed to utilize our space better.”
“There were four of us who defined the problem, so when our team approached the General Manager with a plan we had all agreed upon, he got behind it. We worked with Indoff storage professional Tim Stine who brought in Western Pacific Storage Solutions’ engineering staff. Initially, Fisher & Thompson thought about doing the project itself, but the outcome would have been very different and the time that it would have taken to do it ourselves was not acceptable to us. Based upon my online research, I knew that Tim was the guy to design and spec our final solution. Tim was able to refine our ideas—he designed what we were looking for.”
Tim Stine commented, “When I first arrived, I could see that Fisher & Thompson had a small-parts storage problem that was going to continue as their business expanded. We saw wasted space and opportunity about 8-10 feet off the ground.
The ceilings were not super high. Some were only 16’7″ at the lowest point of the tapered ceiling. They did not want to build another building and had no room to expand—they were essentially land-locked. I then spoke to Bruce Marks, Western’s East Coast sales representative who listened to what Fisher & Thompson hoped to accomplish and then suggested the shelf-supported work platform.”
“Western’s Bruce Marks then lined up a site visit close to Philadelphia. Dave and his team took pictures—they saw how well the space was utilized. By placing slowermoving product on the 2nd level, they began to see an economical 700 sq. ft. solution emerge.” said Tim Stine. “Western’s shelfsupported mezzanine (an Industrial Structures’ work platform) employing RiveTier boltless shelving allowed us to address the height constraints.”
Fisher & Thompson’s Dave Wentzel continued, “We wanted to leverage the vertical space as much as we could, but doors and beams were in the way and we were in danger of hitting our heads on the second floor. The engineers at Western Pacific Storage Solutions and Tim Stine did a great job of working with us to help us figure out how to get the most storage for the space we had. The job went pretty smoothly; we started in June and it fell together the way we wanted. Tim’s specing experience was a true asset.”
Indoff’s Tim Stine shared a detail: “After you get the approval drawings, you gotta go back to the job site and do your due diligence. It was a tight fit on the lower level; we had to lay one bay out so that people could come out of an office under the platform—and we had a second door that had an approach to the office. We had to keep all of those little things in mind to make this system fit their facility.”
Stine went on, “I wanted a shelving-supported system for Fisher & Thompson because of its cost effective nature. The value is there—you’re gaining a level without having i-beams and big costs. We could have done it with a freestanding mezzanine (work platform), but we probably wouldn’t have gotten the same amount of storage—you would have to support the deck.”
“Western Pacific has the engineering talent to figure it out. I like to email sketches, talk with them on the phone and engage in good dialogue. Western Pacific staff are very timely. I’ve been with Indoff for 20 years. A lot of my business is about one-on-one customer relations—it is application driven. I give them their options and lead them in a direction I know they will be satisfied because everything will fit inside their space and provide years of service-ability.”
Fisher & Thompson’s service department maintains a range of milking equipment. They are dedicated to working to reduce energy costs and improve the profitability of dairies. Inventory Manager Dave Wentzel concluded, “My advice for a business colleague who has a lot of parts is to make sure you look at all your options and utilize all the space you have to the fullest. We did look at high-bay shelving ideas, but utilizing the mezzanine (work platform) was smart.”
“Without Tim at Indoff and the Western Pacific engineering team, we would have had a very different outcome—it’s a good idea to involve storage professionals in your projects to save space.”
Distributor: Indoff Incorporated
Supplier: Western Pacific Storage Solutions
Relationships Built on Trust
For Memphis Material Handling (Memphis, TN) President/CEO Russell Caldwell trust is earned, not given. And when a 3PL Provider in Memphis required a single selective storage system utilizing reach trucks, Caldwell was in an ideal position to capitalize on the project because he had earned that trust over the course of a long and fruitful relationship.
“Repeat business is the most important thing to me in creating relationships, not only with my vendors but also my customers,” Caldwell says. “When you have a history of setting goals and then meeting and exceeding those customer expectations, you earn the customer’s trust. So when the next project comes up for bid, that customer knows that you can deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. We may not be the lowest price every time, but we will always be dependable, upfront and honest.”
Part of the reason that Memphis has earned that sterling reputation within the industry is that Caldwell partners with like-minded suppliers, who also value honesty and integrity in everything they do.
“We’re a premier dealer for RidgU-Rak, who provided the pallet rack for this project,” Caldwell says. “The relationship that I have with my vendors and especially Ridg-U-Rak is incredible. They provide the highest quality product, the fairest pricing and on-time shipments every time. And when a customer puts their faith in me to deliver when I say I’m going to deliver, I know that they will deliver too.”
The other supplier that Memphis used on this project was Worldwide Material Handling Products.
Says Caldwell, “The quality of work that they have provided and the product that they have shipped me since we began our relationship has been more than I could ask of any vendor. The deliveries are always on time and always proper. And with the different facilities that they have, they have convenient shipping as well.”
For the project, Ridg-U-Rak provided all of the pallet rack while Worldwide provided the wire mesh decking, end rack and guard rails. However, in addition to finding and sourcing the best materials for the job, Memphis had to contend with an issue that many people overlook when doing business in Tennessee.
“The seismic design required is a big deal to contend with,” Caldwell says. “People come here and don’t realize how heavy of a seismic area it is. They don’t understand the requirements from a design perspective for storing loads in a seismic zone and what that entails. It’s basically like doing business in California.”
Together with Ridg-U-Rak and Worldwide, Memphis designed a system that could withstand the seismic requirements of the area and also handle the storage needs of the 3PL. And in typical Memphis Material Handling fashion, the project was delivered and installed a week ahead of schedule.
Distributor: Memphis Material Handling
Supplier: Worldwide Material Handling Products, Ridg-U-Rak
Differentiating on Service
“The profitability of our business is very heavily dependent upon our service department,” says Liftech CFO Mike Vaughan. “It’s half of our employees. And with the way our industry has transitioned, a lot of the equipment is the same. The only way you can differentiate yourself with customers is through your service department. It’s a really critical department in our business and our industry.”
As Vaughan and the Liftech team surveyed the industry and surmised that the biggest differentiator going forward was its service department, they decided to make a large technological investment in the service department. And it was then that they partnered with ServiceMax.
“We felt that the business environment was going to be healthy enough that we could reasonably expect revenue growth in the coming years,” Vaughan says. “We realized that we had to find ways to become more efficient so that we weren’t growing expenses to keep up with the revenues. We needed to find tools that were out there, technology tools, that could enable us to grow without experiencing the same level of growth in our infrastructure and people.”
For Liftech, the efficiencies boiled down to giving technicians and customers access to information relevant to their relationship without requiring the manual intervention of additional Liftech personnel. The field service and branch support personnel had to communicate more seamlessly, enabling the technician to complete the repair more quickly. This would not only improve the company’s service to its customer, it would enable the technicians to get to the next customer more quickly.
He continues, “Our legacy ERP system had a lot of great information, it was just difficult to pull it out and use it in any qualitative manner,” Vaughan says. “To a large degree our technicians were disconnected. They didn’t have the information they needed in a timely manner to be able to do their job in the most efficient way possible.”
“One of the visions I have is that our customers are going to be riding shotgun with us,” says Vaughan. “Before, our customers were sitting in the back seat, asking us, ‘Where are we going?’ So there was a disconnect with the information that we had and I think that by using ServiceMax, that information is easily attainable and can be pulled together in a qualitative manner and we can partner using that information so that we’re going down the same path together.”
One of the primary objectives of this technological transition was to transition the company’s service managers away from the nuts and bolts of the repair and have them focus more on the nuts and bolts of the customer relationship.
Since Liftech has partnered with ServiceMax, it has made the service department more efficient, more self-sufficient and less reliant on the support of the branch to get critical information. And with cloud based storage, technicians don’t have to worry about the program taking up too much precious storage space or slowing their iPads down.
It’s a partnership that Vaughan enthusiastically endorses to all fellow MHEDA members.