American Surplus Blog
Contact us: 800-876-3736

Lessons for the Holiday Season


Although improvements to your material handling processes are usually done during the slow season, you can actually learn a lot from the busy holiday months. If you can stay focused during these chaotic months, you will discover a lot of advice hidden within the disorder. Here are just a few things that the holiday season can help determine about the efficiency of your material handling facility.


What are your pick rates and pick accuracy? Determining pick rates is typically done to decide on whether or not an automated system would increase efficiency. Pick rates are subject to how busy it is, because efficiency may decrease as it gets busier, so the best time to test this is during the busiest time of the year. This way, you are able to capture the pick rate at maximum capacity, and you are able to benchmark it against the same period the following year.


Pick accuracy is also very important, and testing this during a slow season might not yield accurate results. This is because employees that are not pressed for time and working at full capacity are less likely to make mistakes than employees that are. Determining pick accuracy during the busy season will essentially give you a worst case scenario to compare to the next busy season.


What is your required storage capacity? The busy holiday season is also a great time to see what you can handle for inventory in house. When inventory exceeds the storage space, inefficient processes occur, such as storing pallets where they don’t belong. This means that they will end up taking up valuable floor space that will negatively effect the product flow efficiency throughout the warehouse.


One way to prevent this would be taking advantage of your vertical storage area. A factor that most warehouse facilities have in common are high ceilings, and in many cases all of the vertical space isn’t being utilized. Mezzanines, pallet racking, and shelving are all solutions to expanding your storage options.


What are the weak or slow points of your material handling process? The slowest part of a process will represent the overall efficiency of the entire process, so it important to pay close attention to these inefficient portions. Think of it as sand going through a series of different sized funnels. The sand fastest speed will be the rate at which it passes through the smallest funnel. Increasing the size of this funnel alone will increase the overall speed of the sand.


Most importantly, What do your customers think? Most importantly, because the customer is always right, you have to take their feedback seriously, especially in the busy season. Your performance in your busiest season is when customer’s demand is at its highest, so make sure you collect feedback from them. This can be done in several ways, including online surveys, or a simple call or email after the sale is complete to determine if you met their needs in a professional and timely fashion.


Answering these questions will require a little more analysis and work on your part, but will payoff big if done correctly. Every year an analysis like this will require less and less work, and your facility will be running that much more efficiently. Don’t be overwhelmed by all of these currently unanswered questions. American Surplus will gladly talk you through the process, and we will recommend any changes we find appropriate. We also have unbeatable prices on used material handling equipment, a lot of which comes with a 30 day ASI guarantee, so you can buy from us with confidence.


Methods of Palletization


Palletization is the process of taking cases of products and packing them together in one unit on a pallet for storage or transportation. There are three categories for palletizing products, manual, semi-automatic, and automatic. Each has a fitting application, and it all depends on how many pallets of what type of equipment are you transporting.


Manual palletization is the most widely used, and just involves workers manually taking cases and stacking them onto pallets. The products can be stacked in to vertical columns, or staggered like bricks for added stability. The pallet is then manually stretch wrapped, meaning someone with a roll of film must walk around the pallet until it is completely wrapped. This is very time consuming, but is probably the most viable option for smaller operations or tight budget situations.


Semi-automatic palletizing typically involves multiple pieces of material handling equipment, including a conveyor, lift table, and stretch wrapper. The conveyor is used to move cases to the lift table, where the operator stacks the cases onto a pallet. Once the palletized load is assembled, the lift table is raised and lowered for wrapping. The stretch wrap is then applied without requiring the operator to move, but only if a rotating turn table is used in combination with the lift table.


Typically semi-automatic systems are utilized when manual palletization can’t keep up with operations, or when cases are two heavy to be moving large distances by hand. The most efficient method for high traffic operations is automatic palletization. The two ways to achieve fully automatic palletization are conventional and robotic, and these systems are very costly but also cost effective.


Conventional palletizing systems transport product along a conveyor to a layer building table, where the cases are automatically positioned into palletized loads layer by layer. Each assembled layer is placed on a stripper plate, which positions it right over the layer under it. The stripper plate then rapidly moves out from the under the layer horizontally, without shifting or disturbing it. This could be compared to pulling a table cloth out from under a set table without disturbing the place settings.


The other common way of automated palletization is the robotic method, which utilizes a robotic arm to pick cases and place them on pallets. Robotic arms have clamps or vacuums fixed to the end, allowing them to lift and rotate products. Cases are usually fed to the robotic system via conveyors. Fully automatic palletization is great for products that are too heavy for manual handling, or for cold or harsh environments, like a walk in freezer.


Whatever option you decide on depends on your specific palletizing requirements. Don’t be overwhelmed by all of your options, just give ASI a call. Our sales team knows what needs to be considered and they will help narrow down your options. Working with American Surplus means getting professional material handling solutions, and we are committed to working with you before, during, and after the process.

The Benefits of Buying Used Shelving


Many people are obviously hesitant when considering purchasing used shelving for their warehouse facility. This is very reasonable, because not all used industrial warehouse equipment is treated the same. Some used equipment dealers store their inventory outdoors, leaving it exposed to the elements to develop rust and other wear. This can compromise the overall structural integrity of the used shelving or any used industrial supplies.


American Surplus Inc. is located in East Providence, RI, and our entire inventory is stored inside of our 530,000 square foot facility. This ensures that our inventory isn’t compromised by the elements, which ensures you receive top quality material handling equipment. We have thousands of bays of used shelving in stock to accommodate your specific facility.


Buying used shelving is also cost effective when compared to buying new. This is usually the obvious for most people, and with ASI you can be assured that you aren’t jeopardizing your merchandise when buying used. A used shelving failure is extremely hazardous and costly, so it is very important to know and trust the people you are purchasing used equipment from.


The major and usually only difference between used and new shelving is surface wear. Does industrial shelving that is in your warehouse facility need to look brand new, or can you afford to look at a few scratches? These superficial wear marks are from normal use, and they don’t compromise structural integrity or safety.

There are certain instances where new shelving is required over used, like if you are using it in the front end of a retail store. Don’t hesitate to call ASI, we have new shelving as well at very competitive prices. If you do require new, make sure you plan ahead. New shelving or any new industrial equipment requires longer lead times. While in many cases used shelving is ready to go once it is packaged and shipped, new shelving can require production lead times as well. Large material handling supply companies don’t usually have everything you are looking for in stock and ready to ship, or at least the exact quantities and specifications you require.


Because we have such a large inventory of used shelving, we usually have exactly what you are looking for in stock already, and little work is required to prepare it for shipment. If we don’t, we will try to work with you to find out if we have anything else in stock that would accommodate your needs. We will also put you on a waiting list, and will notify you if that size or style of shelving comes in.


Remember, don’t buy used from just anyone! Just like some used car salesmen, used material handling dealers aren’t always completely honest about the quality of their product. American Surplus cleans and inspects all of their used shelving prior to packaging and shipment, so you can be sure you receive product you are fully satisfied with. You will receive pictures of the exact product you are looking to purchase. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call, our sales team will help you with any portion of your project from start to finish, and even after the job is done.


Which Type of Racking is Right for Me?


When deciding the storage device to be utilized for a new warehouse facility or an existing one, you must first consider what kind of material you are handling. There are many factors that will further narrow down the process, like how heavy the product is, whether it is on pallets or not, and whether these products require specific flow requirements. This might seem overwhelming, but ASI is here to help answer these questions.


Are you storing like or miscellaneous products in each bay of racking? If each bay of racking is storing identical pallets of the same item, you can utilize much more dense storage methods. This is due to the fact that you don’t require access to all of the pallets because they all have the same product on them. With this method of storage, you can store product many pallets deep, which cuts down on the number of aisles required in your facility. This is ideal for a warehouse facility that is tight on space or a company that manufacturers or stores only a few different products.


If miscellaneous items are being stored within each bay of racking, depth of storage cannot be utilized because it requires access to each individual bay. More aisles are required, which negatively effects storage density, but positively effects the ability to access different products. This style of racking is known as selective rack, because it is only a single bay deep. This is the most common style of racking, especially in a facility with many different inventory items that isn’t concerned about running out of storage space.


Do you require specific flow requirements? Certain products, especially in the food and beverage industry, require a first in first out inventory method. This is because products with expiration dates need to be sold before they expire, so products that have been there longer need to be sold first to avoid this. For storing these types of products, pallet flow rack could be utilized. This racking is a FIFO style of inventory, so time sensitive products are properly rotated.


If you do not require a FIFO style of inventory for your products, you could consider push back rack. Like pallet flow rack, pushback rack allows for storage density, but it is a last in, first out style of inventory instead. Other styles of racking that utilize storage density are drive in and drive thru rack. Both of these types of racking require the forklift to drive in to the actual racking, which can put it at risk of getting damaged. Pushback and pallet flow rack do not allow for a forklift to enter the structure, putting it at less risk of getting damaged.


Whatever you are storing, ASI is here to guide you through the process. We want to save you money while providing top quality material handling equipment, and top quality service. This is how we have done business for the past 22 years, so if you have any questions, just give us a call. We would be more than happy to help.