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Pack Expo Heralded as Huge Success

25 Nov 2014

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This year’s Pack Expo — the international packaging and processing trade show held earlier this month at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center — shattered all-time attendance records and is being hailed by show organizers as the most successful ever.

More than 48,000 people attended the trade show, a whopping 6.5% increase over 2012, according to Jim Pittas, senior vice president for the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the group that produced the show.

“Pack Expo International 2014 was definitely a success,” Pittas said. “Exhibitors sold machines right off the show floor and collected high quality  leads from the steady flow of attendees.”

Pack Expo ran from Nov. 2 to 5 and was held in conjunction with and simultaneous to Pharma Expo 2014. This year, there were 2,352 exhibitors, an increase of more than 19% over 2012.

Upcoming Pack Expo trade shows include Pack Expo East, to be held February 16 to 18 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, in Philadelphia, and Pharma Expo and Pack Expo West to be held in Las Vegas in 2015. Many companies are already getting ready for those trade shows.

“Exhibitors begin planning their strategy for the next Pack Expo almost immediately after the close of the previous year’s show, and they need to know they’ll get a strong return on investment,” Pittas said.




Martin Engineering — a bulk material handling company based in Neponset, Illinois, is celebrating its 70th anniversary in business this month.

The company was launched in 1944 when founder Edwin F. Peterson introduced the “Vibrolator”, the first industrial vibrator that used compressed air to propel a steel ball around a raceway. Since then, the company has developed a wide variety of products in the coal, cement, aggregate and biomass industries.

Martin Engineering continues to be family owned and currently is led by chairman Edwin H. Peterson, son of its founder.

“Our close family structure offers the advantage of maintaining a streamlined company that involves and empowers employees at every level,” Peterson said. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that a fourth generation of the family will soon grow into an ownership role within the company.”

While the company started with industrial vibrators, in the 1960s it branched out to other bulk material handling products, including high-performance conveyors. The company now makes everything from air cannons to sonic horns to conveyor belt cleaners and has applied for more than 700 patents, about 350 which currently are active. These include such things as pneumatic valves, conveyor components, dust suppression devices, acoustic cleaners and measurement tools.

The company currently has 27 offices in 16 countries.


Photo courtesy Davidmace13 via Wikimedia Commons

Smart phones, tablets, laptops and Bluetooth devices and other electronics are becoming a more commonplace sight in the workplace. But how can you determine which devices should be provided by employers and which private devices should be allowed in working environments?

It’s a conversation that is being held in workplaces nationwide. There’s even a name for it: “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Devices”. As workers become more enamored with their smart phones and other devices, many management teams are struggling to create rules of when, where and how it’s appropriate to use them on the job.

Intelligent Media You Can Wear?

The debate over the use of personal high tech devices in the workplace is expected to become even more complex with the introduction of  ”Bring Your Own Wearable” — or BYOW — devices such as Google Glass, Apple watches and other wearable media.

Perhaps a compromise can be reached, with workers being allowed to use some devices at work as long as they use them productively. That’s the viewpoint of Jesse Robbins, owner and CEO of OnBeep, a San Francisco-based startup.

Robbins’ company is developing a device known as Onyx. It’s a lightweight wearbable communications device that allows workers to constantly communicate with co-workers, sort of like a high-tech walkie-talkie — or group texting using your voice and in real time.

Onyx has many applications both within and outside of the workplace, according to Robbins. For example, it can allow event planners, construction workers, restaurant employees and others to keep in constant communication with each other to improve service and delivery more efficiently. But it also can be used by family members planning a surprise birthday party or a group of friends on a cross-country road trip.

Personal and Professional Lives Intersect

Onyx was always meant to be owned by the private individual, but used both the workplace and in their personal life.

“BYOD was part of a conscious design strategy,” Robbins told Wired.  ”What we are doing is only possible because people already have their own smart phones which they are using for work and play.”

Research indicates that OnBeep may be on to something. A recent study from the consulting group IDG fond that 82% of organizations have had to make changes due to the widespread use of personal devices in the workplace.

Use of BYODs Expected to Increase

The workplace may be the perfect use for BYOD and BYOW gadgets, said Shane Walker, an analyst for the research firm IHS. For example, a cable installer could wear live-streaming, mounted camera on his headgear that helps him consult with other technicians and figure out what’s wrong with your connection. And nurses could wear Google Glass to see veins beneath your skin.

Plus, they could use this same media to check their Fantasy Football standings, exchange text messages with friends, and keep up with their favorite news streams such as BuzzFeed.

“At the simplest level, basing anyone’s business model on the installed based for smartphones is viable,” Walker said, referring to research that predicts the number of smart phones will triple to 5.6 billion by 2019.

Still, Walker and others acknowledge that it’s natural for companies to push back against devices like the Onyx, especially if they don’t aren’t issuing them to employees themselves.


Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find this week on the Bahrn’s blog:

  • Are you ready for “dim pricing”? Do you even know what it is? We’ll tell you, plus explain how it may change the way you handle your shipping and deliveries.
  • Friday is Black Friday and some observers are predicting it will mark the start of a strong holiday shopping season.
  • What are “Bring Your Own Devices” and how will they change the face of the US workplace? We’ll take a look …

Plus, a big anniversary for the maker of industrial vibrators, the decline of wax coating for corrugated packaging, and why a European forklift manufacturer is taking aim at the North American marketplace. All this and much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!



An Industrial Robot Working in the Australian Mint (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

The use of robots in distribution centers is expected to ramp up substantially in the coming decade, but a leading industry analyst said recently that the first wave will probably look more like driverless forklifts than R2D2 or The Terminator.

Tom Bonkenburg — a partner with St. Onge Co., a leading consultancy firm that works with robotic systems in distribution — said some types of robots are already in wide use in many warehouses, including automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), shuttle systems, transfer cars, palletizers and others. But these types of machines typically perform only a single task, or have very limited applications.

No “Transformers” … Yet

The type of robot warehouse worker that resemble the cyborgs found in science fiction are still a long way off, according to Bonkenburg.

“Our research shows that 15 percent of warehouses are mechanized, and only 5 percent have true automation,” Bonkenburg told DC Velocity. “Robotic systems would typically fall somewhere within these operations. The key point to note is that 80 percent of DCs are currently manual, creating a large opportunity for the future deployment of robotic systems if they could be made capable and affordable.”

Two-Armed, Humanoid Robots Already Exist

The first generation of futuristic robot workers already are being developed by industrial robotics firms. These include two-arm “human-like” robots for use in assembly operations, but they are still bolted down with an automated work cell like typical manufacturing robots, according to Bonkenburg.

“So far, few have been installed,” he said.”But the interest in these new robots is very high. I believe this technology will first take hold in the manufacturing environment and then possibly move to the distribution side of the supply chain. This transition will likely take several years and will require a few more software, sensor and cost-point breakthroughs. The good news is that several companies are investing serious money into advancing this technology.”

Before walking, talking androids become common in the DC, a more practical and realistic robotic solution will be smart, driverless forklifts, Bonkenburg predicted.

“A truly functional fully robotic forklift could find immediate application in almost any warehouse,” he said. “If you look at the recent breakthroughs in self-driving cars by companies such as Google, GM, BMW, Audi, etc., it is not hard to picture this happening in the coming years.”

Investment in R&D

The biggest obstacle to the widespread use of robots in distribution centers and other industrial applications is the cost of research and development, said Bonkenburg.

“The truth is that both cost and technology are currently barriers to bringing robots into the warehouse,” Bonkenburg said. “A few fundamental breakthroughs are necessary to both improve capability and reduce cost. The good news is that mini robotic breakthroughs are happening every year, and their frequency is increasing rapidly.

“The future path to commonplace robotics will depend on low-cost sensors and inexpensive but massive computing power,” he added. “Anyone who used to have a rotary phone and now has an iPhone knows that those two key ingredients improve rapidly. I believe that all supply chain professionals should watch the robotics space because we will all be amazed at how fast it will change.”




In celebration of the 70th anniversary of MHI, impressionist and comedian Frank Caliendo has been scheduled to appear during ProMat 2015, to be held March 23 through 26 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.

Caliendo has been featured on FOX’s “Mad TV” and “NFL Today”. He is known for his impressions of former NFL coach and sports commentator John Madden, billionaire Donald Trump, former NBA star Charles Barkley and others.

His appearance caps a slate of keynote address by some of the biggest names in technology and industry during the trade show, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, and others. The show will feature more than 800 exhibits and offer more than 100 breakout sessions focusing on the future of the manufacturing and supply chain operations, according to MHI CEO George Prest.

“MHI has expanded the educational and networking offerings at ProMat 2015 to provide attendees with a better overall show experience and to connect them with the information and tools they need to tackle the challenges in today’s marketplace,” Prest said. “The goal is to bring the industry together to collaborate and develop into a community that shares knowledge and addresses current and future manufacturing and supply chain issues.”



Atlas Copco has unveiled a new line of compaction rammers featuring a slimmer design so that can be used in tight spaces, such as close to walls, posts or in narrow trenches.

The rammers — which come in 50kg and 60kg weight classes and are powered by Honda engines — also include new vibration-deadening features that help reduce stress and injuries to users, according to John Fitzpatrick, Atlas Copco’s business line manager.

“The new design and lower weight improves handling whilst keeping compaction efficiency high,” Fitzpatrick said in a company news release. “The new vibration absorbing handle keeps hand/arm vibration low.”

The newly designed rammers have a steering bow that is equipped with rollers and a single lifting point for easy and safe handling. Plus, they have an integral lock that is activated during lifting and transport to prevent unnecessary wear to the shock absorbers.

They also have a large air filter that can be changed by hand, along with an optional indicator that shows when it’s time to change the filter.

“The use of  reliable four stroke engines for easy start-ups and low emissions is a given,” Fitzpatrick said. “The same goes for the throttle control with three fixed positions that prevents excessive wear to the clutch and saves fuel by eliminating the risk of leaving the throttle half open. The air breather is now an automatic function to facilitate operation.”



Workspace Personalization

20 Nov 2014

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Personalized work space, courtesy flickr user Debs

Depending on your work environment, you may or may not already allow personalization of workspace. For the longest time, particularly in open offices where everything can be seen, facilities managers have discouraged personalization. There is the idea that a neat, orderly environment with identical workspaces promotes efficiency – even though studies over the years have demonstrated that this is not true.

The Advantages of Personalized Workspace

There’s been quite a bit written about allowing each worker to add some individual touches to their workspace. One such study, “Office Clutter or Meaningful Personal Displays: The Role of Office Personalization in Employee and Organizational Well-Being” conducted by Meredith M. Wells in 2000, provides plenty of insight into the idea. Adding some pictures, mementos, and other trinkets is demonstrated to have positive effects on the workforce.

  • Personalization is a form of marking territory, and it can help to foster a connection with the new environment for new workers
  • Personalization can make the work place feel like more of a home, and co-workers feel more like family members, as they can learn more about each other and will have more connections.
  • Adding some humor or whimsy to an otherwise monotonous environment that is lacking in stimulus can help to elevate the moods of the worker and other workers around them.
  • Having personal displays can provide motivation to the worker during the day. For instance, the writer of this article keeps pictures of places he has been and places he wants to go on his computer desktop and around his workspace to remind him of why he works hard.
  • There are also advantages for the employer – Wells’ study indicated that the companies that allowed personalization had better employee morale, better social climates, and lower turnover rates than those that did not.

Clutter, or Meaningful Displays?

There is a fine line between an organized display that has meaning, and general clutter. Clutter can create hazards, and just looks bad, especially if customers come in to the office. Make sure your employees understand that their personal displays are to be orderly, kept to their particular workspace, and otherwise not intrusive on the office as a whole. A small plant is fine – a tall palm tree is not. Anything that may intrude into the workspace of others, or may be a cause for office-wide distraction, shouldn’t be acceptable.

Dealing with Perception

Of course, sometimes personalized work spaces might be a bit off the mark. Allowing employees to post cartoons, religious symbols or political matter can touch off disagreements. Set forth some rules at the beginning so as to avoid any possible HR issues down the road. Personalization should not lead to co-workers being offended, or feeling uncomfortable. Encourage employees to use displays that they feel the entire office can appreciate.

Shared Workspaces

The personalization of shared workspace can be a bit touchy. This includes cubicles that workers rotate in and out of, movable workspaces like trucks and forklifts, and public areas.

  • In trucks and forklifts, displays should be limited, for safety sake. Photographs should be allowed, as long as they don’t impede views. They should be removed at the end of a shift if the vehicle is used by a different worker on the next shift.
  • In cubicles or desks where workers rotate through, the personalization should be sparse, and easy to set up and remove. Company time shouldn’t be wasted every day putting up or taking down the displays.
  • In areas like the water cooler or coffee desk, the only personalization should be things that the entire workforce can appreciate. Relevant comics that will not offend anyone, company photographs or calendars, and similar displays are fine.

If you don’t allow the personalization of workspace, you should consider it. It may be surprising, but even minor personalization can make a major difference to your employees, and can help your bottom line along with employee morale.

delivery man

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

In anticipation of a record number of packages this holiday season, the US Postal Service announced earlier this month that — for the first time ever — it will be making deliveries to homes and businesses in major cities and high volume areas seven days per week until Christmas.

Every day mail delivery began Monday and will continue until Christmas  Day. The move comes in response to a growing demand for home package delivery due to the rise of online retail shopping.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the decision to provide seven day delivery to many customers reflects the Postal Service’s commitment to responding to changes in demand.

“The Postal Service will be out making deliveries every single day during the holiday season, including Christmas Day,” Donahoe said in a USPS news release. “During the holidays, no carrier makes more deliveries to more places than the Postal Service. And this year, we’re raising the bar with enhanced tracking and Sunday delivery.”

Anticipating Record Volume

The enormous surge in web-based retailing is expected to result in double-digit growth in the Postal Service’s package deliveries this holiday season, jumping to an anticipated 450 million to 470 million packages, a 12% increase over 2013.

“Every household in America relies on us to get their packages in time for the holidays,” Donahoe said. “And we take great pride in taking on that responsibility. We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to deliver for our customers.”

The Postal Services two main competitors — FedEx and UPS — have not announced plans to offer Sunday delivery, although both expect increased volume this holiday season.

FedEx, UPS Also Preparing 

Last month, FedEx predicted it would deliver more than 290 million packages between Friday, November 28 — also known as Black Friday, the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving –and Christmas Eve. That would be an 8.8% increase over the previous year.

And UPS officials have said the package delivery service expects an 11% annual increase in volume over last year. Last holiday season, UPS was widely criticized for its inability to keep up with holiday demand. But the company recently invested an additional $175 million to upgrade its operations and another $500 billion on new capital expenditures.

Rob Martinez — president and CEO of Shipware Systems Corp, a San Diego-based consulting firm that specializes in the parcel industry — said the Postal Service’s move to delivery seven days per week was essentially its only hope of survival.

USPS Seeks to Remain Competitive

“While seven day a week delivery between Thanksgiving and Christmas certainly is an advantage over the private carriers offer five day a week delivery, the Postal Service really has no choice,” Martinez told Logistics Management.  ”Without the additional delivery days, it would almost certainly fall behind. Once you do, it’s very difficult to catch back up. Saturday and Sunday deliveries were a very important part of their package delivery strategy last December.”

While its competitors recently announced price increases, the Postal Service lowered its prices for businesses and frequent shippers, a move that is expected to drive even more volume.

“I just hope that it is prepared to handle those volumes in order to avoid a public relations fiasco,” Martinez said.



Officials in Connecticut are using a custom-built Volvo excavator to help restore ancient swamps that have been destroyed over the years to create landfills and other causes.

The Volvo ECR88 D-Series excavator has been fitted with unique swamp pads and grapples so that it can spread its weight over the delicate marshlands located in Silver Sands State Park, in Milford, Connecticut. The “anti-gravity” marsh excavator is being used to remove harmful plant life from the marshes as part of the Fletcher Creek Tidal Wetlands Project, which is being funded by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

With each bucketful of debris that the excavator removes, natural plant species are given the opportunity to grow and flourish to create a more productive wildlife habitat. The excavator has a bucket capacity of more than 23 cubic feet and a digging reach of more than 20 feet.

It is ideal for use in swampy conditions because it has a ground pressure of about 1.15 psi, making it extremely lightweight and less prone to sinking into soft marsh land, according to Paul Capotosto, manager of DEEP’s Wetlands Habitat and Mosquito Management Program.

“The excavator is an absolute necessity here,” Capotosto said. “It’s one of the few pieces of equipment that can come in an dig a channel, and also restore the ponds.”