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Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • Major petroleum leaks typically require a call to 911. But small, minor spills of gasoline and other potentially hazardous materials can often be cleaned up in-house. We’ll show you how to control and clean up small petroleum spills safely …
  • Wal-Mart recently submitted a patent application for a unique device that could change the way you shop forever: Robotic shopping carts. We’ll show you what they look like and tell you how they work …

All this and much, much more can be found coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

Wal-Mart's drone. (Courtesy: Wal-Mart)

Wal-Mart’s drone.
(Courtesy: Wal-Mart)

In one of the most unlikely business pairings in recent memory, Google’s parent company Alphabet is teaming up with the Chipotle restaurant chain to delivery burritos and other items to college students at Virgina Tech University via pilotless drone.

Many businesses, including Google, Wal-Mart, Amazon, and others are experimenting with robotic drones as a way to speed up “last mile” delivery to online customers. In this experimental program — which already has received the blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration — VTU students will be able to order Chipotle food items via their portable devices, then pick them up at one of the company’s food trucks parked on the school’s Blacksburg, Virginia, campus.

Hovering Hybrid Drones

Beginning this month, food made at a Chipotle restaurant close to the VTU campus will be flown via drone to the food truck for pickup by the customer while it is still piping hot.

The trial program, which has been nicknamed “Project Wing”, will use specially-designed self-guided drones that can fly quickly in a straight line like an airplane as well as hover in midair like a helicopter, kind of like a smaller version of the Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft currently used by the military. Burritos and other packaged food items will then be lowered to the food truck using a winch.

Besides Google and Chipotle, many other people will be closely watching the experimental program. The FAA currently is developing rules regulating the use of commercial drones and recently asked big companies like Google and Wal-Mart to add their recommendations.

Part of the reason VTU was chosen for the experimental program was because of its distance from densely populated areas. So far, drones are not supposed to be flown over people and aren’t allowed to interfere with commercial airline traffic.

While the robotic drones will be operated automatically, there will be humans standing by to take over control of the devices if necessary.

Low-Level Air Traffic Control

If this first step is successful, the next thing to happen will be expanding the use of drones to other companies. But before that can happen the FAA and other agencies will have to develop a low-level air-traffic system that maintains order among the hundreds or even thousands of unmanned drones that will be delivering products to customers.

The system will need to be similar to the air traffic control systems the FAA uses to control commercial and freight air traffic between the nation’s airports but on a much larger scale. NASA will be working with the “Project Wing” organizers as well as the FAA to help develop such a system.



OSHA LogoImproved severe injury reporting requirements among US businesses has revealed a disturbing trend: On an average workday in the US, seven employees suffer amputations of their fingers, toes, hands or other body parts.

In 2015, new regulations enacted by the US Department of Labor required US companies to report any serious workplace injury, such as those involving amputations or a worker hospitalization. Prior to then, businesses were only obligated to report accidents involving an employee’s death.

Now that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has had time to analyze a full year of data, the agency reported that last year there were 2,644 workplace accidents involving amputations. And through July 31 of this year, there have been 1,500 amputation reports — an average of seven amputations per day for both years.

Targeting Amputations in the Workplace

The new reporting requirement and the trends it reveals allows OSHA to identify problems in order to improve awareness among US businesses and their workers, according to David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for Labor for Occupational Safety. It also has allowed OSHA to go after repeat offenders.

“In case after case, the prompt reporting of work injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers we wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise,” Michaels said in an OSHA news release revealing the agency’s findings. “The result is safer workplaces for thousands of workers.”

Three Accidents in as Many Months

In February, OSHA issued a $172,000 fine against Schwan’s Global Supply Chain Inc., a leading supplier of frozen specialty foods, after two women working at the company’s facility in Salina, Kansas, suffered amputations in separate accidents and a third suffered lacerations and burns.

On Aug. 11, 2015, a 55-year-old worker was picking pizza crumbs and crust that had collected around an oven when her work glove became caught in an unguarded conveyor chain and sprocket assembly. Her right hand was later amputated by surgeons.

A little more than two months later, a 49-year-old woman working at the same facility was walking beneath a conveyor when she reached up to get her balance. As she attempted to stand, her hand apparently came into contact with an unguarded chain and sprocket assembly on the conveyor’s underside resulting in the amputation of the middle finger on her left hand.

On Sept. 30, 2015, a 49-year-old worker reached into an an area of a conveyor to clear a jam of pizza pans. She suffered a laceration, broken bones, and burns to the palm of her left hand. OSHA investigators later determined that safety guards had not been installed on operating parts between the top and bottom conveyors.







Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • New reporting requirements have revealed that serious workplace injuries, such as amputations, are more common than previously believed. On average, there are seven amputations per day in the US.  What’s causing these terrible, life-changing injuries? We’ll take a look …
  • Students at Virginia Tech will soon be getting their favorite fast foods delivered via pilotless drones. We’ll tell you why this experimental flying burrito program could have long-range implications on the materials handling industry …

All this and much, much more can be found coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!



NHTSAA growing US economy means more trucks on the nation’s highways and roads. Unfortunately, it also means more traffic fatalities involving trucks, according to a new report.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that truck-involved crashes resulting in fatalities increased by 4.4 percent in 2015. And at least part of that increase was attributed to more truck drivers driving more miles to make more deliveries.

Biggest Increase Since 2008

The number of fatal accidents involving trucks during 2015, 4,067, was the highest amount since 2008. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also the beginning of the worldwide global economic slowdown dubbed “The Great Recession”.

By last year, the US economy was generally back on track, resulting in an increase in the amount of truck traffic and the corresponding increase in fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA.

“When the economy has a downturn, fatalities generally decrease,” the report states. “And during times of economic recovery, fatalities tend to increase.”

Inverse Relationship between Unemployment and Traffic Deaths 

One of the factors analysts looked at was the relationship between the US unemployment rate and the number of fatal truck accidents.

“The unemployment rate is an overall measure of US economic picture, which could affect the number of fatalities by getting more people on the road as unemployment goes down, both for work-related travel and increased recreational travel,” the report said.

Another likely contributor was the 3.5 increase in vehicle miles traveled by truck drivers. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled rose 3.7 percent — to 1.12 — during 2015, according to the NHTSA.

Other Contributing Factors

Fatal truck crashes related to drivers distracted by texting, surfing the Web, or using their smartphones and other portable devices increased 8.8 percent between 2014 and 2015. Alcohol-impaired fatalities increased 3.2 percent, speeding-related crashes jumped 3 percent, and accidents involving drowsy drivers rose 3.2 percent. Nearly half of all passenger vehicles occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.

The nation as a whole needs to do more to bring these numbers down, according to Dr. Mark Rosekind, administrator for the NHTSA.

“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” Rosekind said in an NHTSA news release announcing the data. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”

Truck drivers were least likely to be killed in fatal accidents involving big rigs. Of the 4,047 fatalities in crashes involving trucks, only 16.4 percent were occupants of large trucks, 10.1 percent were nonoccupants, and 73.5 percent were drivers of other vehicles.

Accidents involving trucks weren’t the only class to see an increase in deaths. Pedestrian and pedal cyclist fatalities increased to a level not seen in 20 years and motorcycle deaths rose more than 8 percent, according to the report.


Dock Equipment Is Evolving

14 Sep 2016

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Dock seals are now being constructed using new materials that resist abrasions 10 times greater than the current product. (Courtesy:

Dock seals are now being constructed using new materials that resist abrasions 10 times greater than the current product.
(Courtesy: Christian Rine at

In recent years we have seen most aspects of warehouse operations evolve into the use of new equipment and technologies, but it seems that the dock has been immune to the changes, at least until now.

Dock equipment manufacturers and warehouse managers are starting to turn to newer dock equipment to enhance efficiency and safety. (Courtesy:

Dock equipment manufacturers and warehouse managers are starting to turn to newer dock equipment to enhance efficiency and safety.
(Courtesy: Ken Brown at

Focus on making warehouse operations more efficient and safer has finally been turned toward the dock.

For example, new technologies including loading and unloading robotics are starting to appear to help human workers transport products from warehouse to trucks or vice versa. There has also been a move to replace the conventional steel guard rails with improved, new types of barriers and many warehouses are replacing old dock seals with new ones.

To promote safety, warehouse managers are acquiring more vehicle restraints and roller conveyors.

Some warehouses are beginning to use industrial robots on mobile platforms that are attached to extendable conveyors to unload trucks. These robots include 3-D vision and autonomously move to trailers and then locate, grip and move products to the conveyor. These robots use the 3-D vision and algorithms to identify and separate products and put them into individual units. Although use of this type of equipment is scattered, industry experts foresee a time not to long from now when the use of these robots will be much more common.

If robots that unload trucks are being developed, then, no doubt, there are robots that load trucks being made too. Robots using the same type of technology to unload are starting to be used to load. The big difference is, it works in reverse. These robots are using software to measure the dimensions of products and ascertain the best space to put them in trailers. The products are loaded directly to the floor of the trailers or they are put on pallets so that a larger volume amount of products can be accommodated.

Warehouse managers are also starting to replace traditional barriers that can resist an impact of 10,000 pounds at 4-mph with new barriers that can withstand greater impact weight at faster speeds. These new barriers are more flexible so they can take the hit and are detachable so that they can be placed in other areas. Research and development has resulted in barriers made of fabric, plastics, and new materials. Managers that are transitioning to these new barriers are also realizing that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. This permits managers to make more sophisticated analysis of the needs, traffic patterns and other concerns and select the right size product rather than settling on the traditional.

Conventional dock seals certainly do not possess the longevity they once did. These products are suffering cuts caused by trailers as they back into the dock for unloading or loading. Now there is the capability to make seals that can resist abrasions 10 times greater than the current product. The new seals can also include capability to reduce wear and better close gaps.

There are also new surface mount lifts that can be used instead of permanent dock lifts and levelers. The use of permanent lifts and levelers are losing favor because companies have committed to short-term leasing agreements and are reluctant to make permanent enhancements to their properties. The surface mount lifts are a perfect alternative because they can be removed and transported to another location. Manufacturers of these surface mount lifts are quick to point out that some feature hydraulic systems that are pre-plumbed and pre-wired electrically that can be quickly installed for a fraction of the cost of a pit-mount lift.

Rite-Hite now has a vehicle restraint that includes technology that secures trailers with an intermodal container chassis as well as standard over-the-road trailers. (Courtesy:

Rite-Hite now has a vehicle restraint that includes technology that secures trailers with an intermodal container chassis as well as standard over-the-road trailers.
(Courtesy: Bill Bedell at

Dockworkers are discovering that some trailers now in use feature an intermodal container chassis that has a rear impact guard obstruction that makes it difficult to restrain with standard vehicle restraints.  Rite-Hite now has a vehicle restraint that includes technology that secures these types of trucks as well as the standard over-the-road trailers.

For the managers and the employees that work the docks and are concerned that the focus on improving efficiency and safety has been ignored, help is coming.

Graphic courtesy of DHL

Graphic courtesy of DHL

For years now, high-tech companies like Google, Vuzix, Ubimax, and others have promised that  wearable technology will make our lives better and easier. But how will it actually work?

Look no further than a pilot program from global package delivery service DHL to understand the answer.

DHL Supply Chain, a subsidiary of the German company package delivery company, handles picking and warehousing operations for client companies. It recently began using “smart” glasses that tells workers what, where and when to pick packages in the blink of an eye … literally.

Glasses Show Workers What to Do

The trial Vision Picking Program at the Ricoh facility in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, has been highly successful. Workers wearing the advanced smart glasses could view a virtual display that told them where each picked item should be placed on a portable trolley.

Pickers wearing the glasses worked faster, made fewer mistakes, and were able to pick every order hands free. Plus, employee satisfaction levels rose significantly after the technology was introduced.

Now DHL will expand the program to use the high-tech glasses at facilities worldwide, including some retail distribution centers in the United States, according to John Gilbert, CEO of DHL Supply Chain.

“We are excited to further test and develop vision picking as a solution that can be readily available to our customers,” Gilbert said in a DHL news release announcing the program’s expansion. “More importantly, this technology is not just one step towards digitalizing manual processes on the shop floor, it also takes us one step closer towards Industry 4.0. Testing technology like augmented reality, robotics, and Internet of things will continue to be a big part of our DNA.”

Expansion of Wearable Technology

Vision picking and other types of augmented reality are just the first steps in using technology to make supply chain operations faster, more efficient, and more accurate. And many companies in a wide variety of industries are beginning to recognize its benefits.

By 2025, the business of augmented reality via wearable technologies is expected to top $80 billion, according to an estimate from Goldman Sachs. In the past two years alone, an estimated $3.5 billion was spent on 225 venture capitalist investments related to the technology.

Augmented reality — which provides users with the critical information they can incorporate mid-task via such wearable devices as glasses, watches, earphones, and more — is predicted by some futurists to be the next big thing.

Wearable technology could change workplaces during the next decade in the same way smartphones changed the  way people are entertained, shop, and communicate with each other during the last 10 years.



Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • Warehouse workers in the US could soon be using wearable technology that can help them do their jobs faster, more efficiently, and with fewer mistakes. We’ll tell you how it works …
  • We always hear of the material handling industry evolving with new forklift technology and ways of efficiency, but dock equipment is evolving as well. We’ll let you know how …
  • What does an improving US economy have to do with a significant jump in the number of fatal traffic accidents involving trucks? We’ll tell you what the experts have to say …

All this and much, much more is coming up on Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

Dock Plate (Photo by Hans Dieterlitz via Wikimedia Commons)

Dock Plate (Photo by Hans Dieterlitz via Wikimedia Commons)

Anyone who has worked around docks or delivery vans, at some point or another has probably seen some pretty sketchy materials used as dock boards: Cracked and splintery pieces of old plywood, wooden 2X4 beams, and even old metal advertising signs have been used to span the gap between where the dock ends and the truck bed begins.

But using unauthorized materials as a shortcut to safety simply increases the risk of accident and injury at docks, warehouses, and other work areas.

Only dock plates, boards, ramps, and levelers that were specifically engineered to support loads being transported into and out of truck beds should be used in your operation. Materials that weren’t designed to support the weight of forklifts, power jacks, or even people pushing hand trucks loaded with full cases can easily collapse.

Dock Boards vs Dock Plates

So what’s the difference between dock boards and dock plates, anyway?

Dock boards are typically made of steel, reinforced aluminum, or other sturdy materials that are designed and tested to support heavy-duty loads. They are placed between the dock’s edge and the back of a delivery van or truck to provide a temporary bridge so people and vehicles can pass between the two areas safely and efficiently.

Dock boards can handle capacities of up to 20,000 pounds. They also have a unique design feature — sides or curbs — that prevent run off and slippage.

Dock plates serve essentially the same purpose as dock boards, but they lack the curbs on the sides that help prevent loads from slipping off. They essentially are flat pieces of metal that feature a slight bend for a simpler transition between the two surfaces. Dock plates typically have a capacity of up to 17,000 pounds.

When to Use Each Tool

Because they have a lower weight capacity, dock plates tend to cost a little less than dock boards. But if the loads you typically unload are under the maximum weight the dock plates can support, they are often a more economical choice.

For docks dealing with bigger, heavier, and more frequent loads, dock boards are often a better solution. The additional expense is justified by the increase in safety and efficiency.

Many of today’s docks have built-in, hydraulic dock boards that self-assemble whenever a delivery truck backs into the loading bay. These provide maximum safety combined with convenience and durability.

Whichever option you choose is going to be better than that sketchy plank of plywood or other unsafe shortcuts.



GreenRoad Technologies is offering an app that helps improve driver behavior and fleet management monitoring for use on a smartphone.

GreenRoad Technologies is offering an app for smartphones that assist in improving driver safety and better monitor fleet vehicles. (Courtesy: GreenRoad Technologies)

GreenRoad Technologies is offering an app for smartphones that assist in improving driver safety and better monitor fleet vehicles.
(Courtesy: GreenRoad Technologies)

The app uses technology within the smartphone including GPS and built-in accelerometers that eliminate the need for a professionally installed telematics device in the vehicle.

The technology features patented algorithms to detect how well the driver is driving. Whenever a risky or fuel-inefficient maneuver occurs the app gives the driver an immediate audio and visual feedback from his smartphone.

Features of the app include:

·      Integration with other smartphone-based fleet applications such as inventor management, navigation and fleet management.
·      The use of algorithms to automatically detect the beginning and end of a trip.
·      The ability to measure risky or inefficient driving events across five parameters including acceleration, braking, cornering, speeding and lane handling.
·      Real-time feedback to the driver.
·      Dashboard customization for different positions or types of fleets.
·      The ability to create driver rankings, so that each driver can see where they stand in relation to other drivers in the fleet.
·      A safety score calculated based on the number of driving events for every 10 hours.
·      The ability to distinguish vehicle type when analyzing events.
·      Offers tips to drivers while the app is in use.

The app also permits a fleet manager to monitor and analyze driver behavior. Algorithm analyzes and corrects more than 150 maneuvers and events across five categories:

·      Acceleration
·      Braking
·      Lane Handling
·      Cornering
·      Speeding

The app has various features that allow a fleet manager to monitor drivers. For example, an in-vehicle video system captures footage of events that trigger safety warnings to give a visual of the cause of a risky driving event. This permits fleet managers to identify the causes of safety issues quickly.

The video feature is ideal for assisting drivers and fleet managers to identify recurring safety issues. The feature:

·      Helps drivers and fleet managers uncover the causes of unsafe driving events.
·      Allows the fleet manager to see the critical seconds directly before, during and after an event.
·      Helps connect actual external road factors with driving behavior to understand what is driver-correctable.
·      Help identify and help train drivers on skills that make the greatest impact.
·      Has always-on recording that permits managers to retrieve any portion of a driver’s trip.

The app also captures data that assists in better managing a fleet. For example, captured data can help pinpoint hazardous locations of a route that can lead to risky driving. A feature called Hotspot lets managers and drivers identify specific geographic regions where the fleet frequently encounters risky driving maneuvers so that drivers can be warned or the area can be avoided.

The monitoring ability of the app not only assists in safer driving habits. It can also help in making the fleet more cost effective. For example, a fleet manager can obtain fuel consumption data and specific trip data on time delays or customer complaints.

The app can also generate reports on such issues as:

·      Fleet Safety
·      Fleet Fuel and Fleet Idling
·      Fleet Operations
·      Fleet Tracking

In short, the app can assist in managing fleet drivers, vehicles, and help set policies easily.

The app can be easily downloaded into a smartphone. Once equipped with the app, the smartphone can be placed in a vehicle mount in easy visual and personal access to the driver.