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The European forklift manufacturer Kion recently announced plans to move more aggressively to capture a larger share of the North American forklift market.

To mark the company’s effort, executives held a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Kion’s existing North American headquarters in Summerville, South Carolina. While the act have been symbolic, executives are dead serious about the plans to sell more forklifts in the US, Canada and Mexico.

“As part of our bid to make inroads in the North American market, we are making changes here at the Summerville site in the way we present ourselves to the outside world and in production and sales,” said Bert-Jan Knoef, CEO of Still Group and a member of Kion’s board of directors. ”We want to move away from a niche provider and become a significant player in North America under the Kion name.”

Kion currently produces forklifts under the brand names Kion, Linde and Still. It is composed of six branded companies and currently is the world’s second-largest maker of forklifts and warehouse technology.

Brian Butler, president of the company’s North American operations, said the strategy is designed to align with the company’s European operations, which will allow Kion to increase product offerings on this side of the Atlantic.




Wax coatings are being used less frequently in corrugated packaging, according to a new study released recently. Waxed corrugated packaging accounted for just 3% of all volume last year.

Since wax usage as first tracked in 2002, wax coated corrugated packaging has dropped 39%.

This dramatic decrease is attributed to a wider availability of recyclable alternatives, according to Dennis Colley, executive director of the Corrugated Packaging Alliance.

“Corrugated is the most reliable, cost-effective and sustainable package available for transporting most products, including those requiring moisture protection such as fresh produce,” Colley said. “Even those boxes can be made with recyclable materials. The continuous decrease in wax coatings to below 3% of total industry volume means that renewable, recyclable corrugated can be used for even the most demanding applications.

The report also found that:

  • Since October, 47 recyclable wax alternative have passed certification testing for repulpability and recylcability and have been registered with the Fibre Box Association.
  • Progress has been made in replacing all types of waxed corrugated packaging, including cascaded, impregnated and curtain-coated.
  • Last year, the corrugated industry shipped more than 9.9 billion square feet of boxes using recyclable wax alternative coatings, a 653% increase over 2002.
  • Certified registrations have been completed by 7 commercial coating suppliers and 12 converting companies offering proprietary products.



How to Select the Right Corrugated Box for Your Shipping NeedsBeginning at the end of next month, both UPS and FedEx will change the way they charge for most packaging. Rather than using the traditional weight-plus-distance formula that has been in use since the 1930s, both carriers will use dimensional pricing — or “dim pricing” — to calculate how much it will cost to ship most packages.

Dim pricing is based on a package’s measurements, rather than just its weight, and is expected to make shipping more efficient for carriers because there will be fewer less-than-full trucks. This new model favors smaller, dense packages over the type of larger, lighter packages that are commonly used by online retailers and others.

Anticipate Higher Shipping Costs

Businesses that depend on FedEx and UPS for shipping their products to customers may see much higher costs, especially those that deal in apparel, consumer packaged goods and other lightweight products. According to one estimate compiled by the Wall Street Journal, the cost of shipping an 8 lb., 32-pack of toilet paper between 601 and 1,000 miles will increase by 37%.

While the new pricing won’t go into effect until Dec. 29 — after the holiday shipping rush — to reduce your shipping costs for 2015 and beyond, it’s important that you start planning a new shipping strategy now. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Use Different Packaging — Smaller packages will cost less to ship, regardless of their weight, so many businesses are experimenting with new ways of reducing the size of their packaging while still protecting the contents, maintaining product quality, and enhancing the customer experience, such as air-filled plastic balloons and vacuum-sealed bags that reduce volume while maintaining protection.
  • Find Savings Elsewhere — If there is little opportunity to reduce the size of the packages you ship — for example, if you specialize in bulky mechanical equipment or tools that must be shipped pre-assembled — you more easily absorb the higher shipping costs if you find cost-saving opportunities elsewhere, such as increasing automation and forecasting capabilities.
  • Consider Using Third-Party Logistics — This dramatic change in how shipping costs are calculated may be a great opportunity for you to explore outsourcing your delivery altogether through the use of a third-party logistics partner, or 3PL. Companies that specialize in shipping often have the experience and insight to minimize your shipping costs that can more than compensate for the expense of bringing them on-board to handle your product deliveries.
  • Switch to the US Postal Service — In an attempt to capture a larger market share, the US Postal Service recently announced lower rates for some types of packaging. Beginning last September, the USPS reduced rates by as much as 58% on two of its “Priority Mail” one- to -three day delivery products for high-volume customers, such as online retailers.  Plus, the postal service won’t use dim pricing on its parcel shipments.

If you depend on FedEx or UPS to deliver your products to your customers, creating a comprehensive strategy to counteract the increased shipping costs associated with dim pricing now can save you money in the long term.


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.”