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Ways to Improve Efficiency in your Material Handling Facility


There are many factors to consider when attempting to make your material handling facility run more efficiently. Chances are, your facility’s processes, from shipping and receiving to production and fabrication, aren’t perfect, and could be improved in one way or another. If you agree, consider some of the ways to improve material handling efficiency below:


Take a benchmark of the current state of the processes utilized in your facility: To make any changes, it is important to first take a benchmark of the performance of the current processes. How will you determine whether or not you made a positive change if you don’t know how well you are doing now? Taking careful notes on the efficiency of your current processes will allow you to measure the effects of your improvements. The specific areas you might want to consider looking into are:


  • Labor expenses, including overtime
  • Number of forklifts or other lift equipment being operated
  • Total utility costs of the facility
  • Cost per square foot of operating space
  • How many times an inventory item is touched from order to shipment


Consider moving up: When running out of storage space, a lot of facilities take advantage of their high ceilings and store items on mezzanines or tall racking systems. This is a great way to increase SKUs and utilize already existing space. If you are close to outgrowing your current facility, this is a cost efficient way to stretch the remaining life of that facility before needing to move to a larger one.


Choose the right picking method for your company: There are many different ways to pick products, the most basic being to pick each item from a single order until the order is fulfilled. This is not very cost effective when compared to the following types of picking procedures:


  • Batch picking: Pick multiple orders at once until all orders are complete
  • Zone picking: Pick areas are broken up into individual pick zones like an assembly line
  • Wave picking: All zones are picked simultaneously instead of having product from zone to zone


Consider task interweaving: This is the process of combining picking and storing into one trip. For example, if a forklift operator is asked to store a certain item, he/she will also assigned a relevant order to be picked close by, saving a forklift trip. This saves a lot of money when utilizing a propane forklift in a large facility, because each tank costs about $30 to fill and only lasts 8 hours. By combining stocking and picking, you can reduce the number of forklift trips by almost half, making each tank last almost twice as long.


Minimize equipment downtime: It is important to keep all equipment properly maintained, such as lift equipment, conveyors, pallet rack, etc. Proper maintenance records need to be kept, and equipment needs to be inspected often. To minimize this process, make sure to have replacement parts on hand. It can take several days, or even weeks, to receive small parts from the factory to fix your equipment, so having it on hand significantly reduces your down time. Also consider surge protectors to protect your equipment from costly damage from power spikes. This could damage and ruin the equipment, shutting it down until it is fixed or replaced.


These are just a few of the many methods to improve efficiency within your material handling facility. Feel free to contact American Surplus, we will gladly work with you to improve the efficiency of your facility. We provide solutions to your material handling problems, and we work with your before, during, and after the process.

How to Choose the Right Used Yard Ramp


One of the major benefits of a used yard ramp is they don’t require a permanent docking bay. Construction of a docking bay can be quite costly, so it is only realistic in a more permanent facility that you will utilize for a longer period of time. For temporary situations or acquisitions at locations that don’t have proper dock equipment, used yard ramps are a valid solution.


Typically yard ramps are constructed with aluminum or steel. In more rugged environments where the temperature drops below freezing, aluminum is required. Welded steel yard ramps are much less costly, but are also much heavier. Usually diamond plated decking is used to provide traction to prevent lift equipment and workers from slipping while transporting products.


Capacities greatly vary between ramps, but the industry standard capacity is 10 tons (22,000 lbs.), and there are also light duty (15,000 lb. capacity) and heavy-duty (33,000 lb. capacity). To determine which capacity is right for you, you will need to know the weight of your lift equipment and the weight of the maximum load to be carried on that equipment. For example, if a forklift weighs 5,000 lbs. and it can carry up to 4,500 lbs, a yard ramp with at least a 9,500 lbs. capacity should be used. This is definitely a “better safe than sorry” way of determining what capacity is right for you, but it will also ensure you never over load your equipment and stress the metal.


Some additional safety features that you should consider are safety rails and hand rails to protect forklift operators and workers from falling off. The ramp should also float or “bob” up and down with the truck’s suspension while products are being unloaded. This ensures that the weight is being transferred properly to the used yard ramp. Some yard ramps are considered mobile because they have an attachment so it can be towed, allowing them to be transported by a truck without using up your trailer bed’s storage space.


The difference between buying used and new? Besides saving almost 50% of your money and reducing lead time, the only difference between a brand new ramp and a used one is surface wear. You will notice superficial wear on the surface of the diamond plated decking, but this will not affect the overall capacity, so you can buy in confidence when dealing with the right people.


But is it okay to buy used equipment from just anyone? This is a hard question to answer. When dealing with ASI (American Surplus Inc.), we can guarantee some of our used products for 30 days to ensure your satisfaction. This is unlike anyone else in the industry. We also clean and inspect all used equipment prior to shipment. Other companies selling used equipment may do the same, but this is something you should make sure of as a buyer before making an investment.


Make Your Warehouse More Efficient With a Used Pick Module


Typically palletized loads are automatically transported via gravity through the pick module system. They can be directed into storage onto flow racks, or they can be broken down into individual products in preparation for shipment. They are extremely common in large distribution centers that are constantly shipping a large variety of orders.


The layout of your facility is the primary factor when designing a pick module system. You need to determine what your specific picking requirements are, so you’ll need to consider the following questions:


    • What types of units are being picked? (full pallets, cartons, single items, etc.)
    • How much inventory is being handled, and how many different types of units need to be sorted and picked?
    • What are your lead time requirements?
    • How heavy is your inventory?
    • What is your ceiling height and overall square footage?


These are just a few factors that need to be considered before designing a system for your warehouse or storage facility.


Typically a “slotting analysis” is performed to determine the most cost efficient and effective place to store each different inventory item. In this process the factors that are considered are the weight and size of the product, the packaging (pallet, cartons, etc.), labor and space costs, and how often and in what quantities that item is being picked or replenished.


Safety and Permits


Pick modules require permits from local city or state municipalities to ensure that the pick modules were assembled in a way that follows building standards. These standards vary by municipality, so it is recommended that the design is reviewed before getting too far along with the project. The three items that are considered most heavily are:


      • Structural analysis
      • Fire safety
      • Proper emergency lighting


Fire safety standards are the most specific and will require the most design attention. CAD drawings and engineer calculations are typically required to design such a system, as it can be very complex.


After the design is agreed upon and approved, and all permits are acquired, the construction of your pick module can begin. This can take anywhere from 2-8 months, depending on the complexity and size of the system being installed. We recommend designing your pick module in a way that allows for future expansion. It might seem too early to be considering the changes that might need to occur to your design in the future, but by allowing for these types of changes you are prepared for such expansion.