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Maersk shipping containers

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (In the public domain)

The amount of cargo moving through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was down slightly in July as retailers braced for a possible strike by dockworkers this fall.

The ports were bustling in May and June as retailers rushed to shore up their inventories in preparation for back-to-school shopping. But by July, the amount of cargo moving through the two ports leveled off due to uncertainty about contract negotiations between West Coast port operators and the International Longshoreman’s and Warehouse Union.

The Port of Los Angeles posted a year-over-year increase of 0.25% in total containerized imports and exports in July. Imports declined by 1.98% and exports increased by 3.62%.

At the Port of Long Beach, total container volume increased 3.7%, with imports up 0.9% and exports down 6.2% compared to July 2013, according to statistics released by the ports.

Contract Already Expired

The deadline for a new contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents port owners, expired June 30. But both sides have publicly declared that they are committed to avoiding the type of cargo disruptions that occurred in 2002, when a strike shut down West Coast ports for 10 days, creating a backlog that took several months to be cleared. That disruption cost the US economy an estimated $15 billion in reported losses.

In June, the two sides issued a joint statement after the old contract expired: “While there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at all ports until an agreement can be reached between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and ILWU.”

Ben Hackett — founder of Hackett Associates and author of Port Tracker, which is published in conjunction with the National Retail Federation – said that even though imports are higher due to the labor uncertainty, trade volumes remain solid due to a strengthening US economy.

“The impact of this is that the Peak Season will be muted, suggesting that the monthly growth rates will be les than the seasonal norm,” Hackett wrote. “Due to the jump in July imports, our West Coast projections were well up but not strong enough as we had anticipated more of a shift to the all-water route. Clearly, economic fundamentals are no match for cautionary measures to safeguard against labor relations.”

Important Route for Imports, Exports

West Coast ports handle more than two-thirds of all US retail container cargo and most of the cargo arriving from Asia. While an expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to open up East Coast ports to the Panamax super-freighter cargo ships that commonly are used for Asian imports, the deepening and widening of the canal won’t be finished until later this year.

The ILWU, which represents 14,000 port workers at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle, has threatened to go on strike if a new agreement can’t be reached. The last work stoppage, which occurred in 2002, lasted 10 days and caused an estimated $15 billion in reported losses and created a backlog of cargo that took several months to be cleared.



Starting next week, the company known as Frommelt Safety Products will be known officially as Rite-Hite Machine Guarding. Company officials said the name change is part of an overall initiative to further strengthen and focus the Rite-Hite brand, which owns the Frommelt Safety Products line.

While the name will change, the product line will remain the same. Rite-Hite Machine Guarding will continue to focus on manufacturing machine guarding products such as automated barrier doors, industrial fencing and retractable curtains for robotic and automated welding processes in metal manufacturing, automotive, material handling, paper/packagin, and plastics, among other industries.

The brand names also will remain the same. These include Defender, Flashfold, Vertiguard, SlideAir, Rollshield, Rollshield Side-to-Side, X-Ten and Roboguard Fence.

Eric Esson, Rite-Hite’s Machine Guard’s national sales and marketing manager, said that while the name may be different, the quality will be the same.

“This name change clarifies who we are, what we offer, and emphasizes Rite-Hite’s commitment to improving industrial safety though quality and innovation,” Esson said in a company news release. “We want our customers to know that the machine guarding products are and always have been a part of the Rite-Hite family of innovative, high-quality products.”

Rite Hite makes, sells and services loading dock equipment, industrial doors, safety barriers, HVLS fans, industrial curtain walls and other products designed to improve safety, security, productivity, energy consumption and environmental control. It is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


The North American robotics industry showed its largest growth ever during the first half of this year, according to statistics released recently by the Robotic Industries Association.

A record 14,135 robots, worth $788 million, were ordered from North American robotics firms from January until June. That’s an increase of 30% in units and 16% in revenues compared to the same period the previous year.

Since 2010, the North American robotics market has shown an average annual growth rate of 26%. This has happened at the same time that the US unemployment rate has been dropping.

Jeff Burnstein, the group’s president, said the two simultaneous occurrences are not coincidental.

“In 2010, after one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, unemployment in the US was nearing 10%,” Burnstein said in a news release. “Since then, amidst record years for robot sales, unemployment has steadily fallen toward pre-recessionary levels. The unemployment rate reached 6.1% in June of this year, the lowest it has been since September of 2008.”

Burnstein said manufacturing jobs are returning to the US precisely because of the investment industries are making in automation like robots.

“While we often hear that robots are job killers, just the opposite is true,” he said. “Robots save and create jobs.”

The automotive industry had the biggest impact on robot sales. During Q2 2014, orders for robots in this sector were up 97% compared to the same period in 2013. Non-automotive industries such as semiconductors, life sciences and food & consumer goods also showed 22%  growth in robotics while automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and component industries grew by 36% in the first half of this year.


Enterprise Resource Planning

Courtesy David Herrera via Wikimedia Commons

The conveyor belts and rollers that make production lines and manufacturing facilities run efficiently also present a potential to hazard to workers.

Even slow-moving conveyors or rollers can catch clothing, fingers and even limbs inside their moving parts, often resulting in crushing or mangling injuries.

But a UK engineering firm has designed a new roller guard system that helps protect workers from injury by creating a barrier between moving machinery and facility personnel.

It’s called the Martin Return Roller Guard and it can be installed on practically any piece of equipment that features potentially dangerous conveyors or rollers. The assembly — which was developed by Martin Engineering, of Nottingham, England –keeps workers from being drawn into a moving return roller, according to a company news release.

Separates Workers from Moving Parts

It has a solid upper section that delivers pinch point protection, while a slotted lower area allows workers to visually inspect the equipment while still preventing contact with the roller.

Brackets mount the guard to either the side or bottom of a stringer. The device features quick-release pins that facilitate easy access for maintenance or servicing and its side and bottom panels swing open as well. It also has removable end plates to provide access to roller bearings.

The guard is designed to fit all major roll manufacturer sizes, including CEMA C, D & E. It is ideal for any return roller that is less than seven feet off the ground or is in a location where the roller is within easy reach of workers.

The Martin Return Roller Basket is another product that increases workers’ safety. It is designed to prevent a return roller from falling to the ground in the event of mechanical failure. It includes a combination of guards and baskets to provide a systematic approach for protecting workers from falling conveyors.

Like the return roller guard, the basket also has slotted panels to allow for easy inspection. It also has brackets that are designed to fit all major roll manufacturers’ sizes so that the basket can be mounted directly to either the bottom or side of the stringer. Both the roller basket and guard are available in painted steel and two grades of stainless steel.

Provides Easy Access for Maintenance and  Service

Another product — the Martin Conveyor Guard — feature a heavy mesh that protects workers from moving components of conveyor belts. Its rugged modular design is supported by a supplied angle iron structure so that that the device does not need to be attached to the conveyor at all. The conveyor guard is attached using wide clamps that allow panels to be removed and re-installed quickly and simply.

In addition to safety materials for conveyors, belts and other industrial equipment, Martin Engineering also offers safety training programs for workers. Training is available to suit individuals with varied levels of experience and responsibility, covering everybody from the first-day employee to the plant’s senior engineer.

“Attendees attain a better understanding of conveyor safety and performance, helping to justify upgrade investments and increase profitability,” the news release stated.



We all think accidents will be something that happens to someone else. We all know that doesn’t have to be the case. Any new driver can have an accident. So can a veteran driver who is careless, who doesn’t pay attention to obstacles or is simply going too fast. Common sense forklift operation ought to keep any operator out of trouble, but it takes proper training to demonstrate how to do things right.

How easy is it to dump your load by accident?

All it takes is hitting the brakes a bit too soon-and especially while going too fast. This can happen even if your load is built right on the pallet. Dumping a load forward off the pallet is quite easy to do. It is much harder to explain yourself to your superiors, and it takes a lot of work to clean it up. A short YouTube video shows how easily it can happen.

How likely is it for a forklift to end up on two wheels?

Going up on two wheels should be scary enough to keep you from making the same mistake again, but if the truck topples, you may not get a second chance. A video shows a lift on two wheels and how easily it can happen. The lift truck doesn’t have to leave the ground to hurt you.

Your employer should want to take the time to train you

A forklift operator explains in a You Tube video how he crashed his truck and broke his back. The worker was just 16 years old and was hired on the spot to run a forklift. He followed the examples of other operators and imitated their practices-obviously these operators who were his indirect mentors hadn’t been trained properly. Guess what happened? The operator is lucky he didn’t die.

Some consider videos of near-misses-accidents where no one got hurt-to be funny. Yet, in every one of these scenarios, someone could have been hurt or killed, and there are documented cases where the worst has happened.

Watch these videos to learn how not to operate a forklift

If you are a material handler, don’t ever assume that these things can’t happen to you.

If you are the owner or operator of a warehouse where forklifts are operated, don’t assume that your employees won’t engage in these hi-jinks. Even if employees aren’t engaged in horseplay, they can still have massive accidents. All it takes is driving too fast turning to quickly or not checking a mirror just one time.

Watch the videos now and share them with your material handlers-and keep these scenarios on the video screen-and off of your warehouse floor. Tell operators to take their time when handling your material. Give them enough time to do it, and take the time to train them.


You Tube: Top Ten Forklift Accidents


Safety trainers may differ on how to effectively engage the operators and keep their attention during classroom training. Comic relief in safety training can not only lighten the mood, but also give the operators some useful perspective.

Some video clips from various movies show some great examples of how not to use equipment such as forklifts and other items in the warehouse. The videos do show some plausible examples of what can happen when equipment is misused. They also remind material handlers of the risks that can come when equipment is not properly secured in warehouses where customers are present.

The lighter side of warehouse and forklift hijinks

On the lighter side, the different warehouse equipment gets a chance to have the light of glory shine on it. Take for example, the un-glamorous pallet-a platform for dancing-though we won’t recommend it in real life, the video is one to be enjoyed. Shakespeare said that “all the world’s a stage”; and the warehouse is a big part of everyone’s world in one way or another.

Furthermore, everyone would love to see a video that shows kids swiping a forklift from the unsuspecting operator at the local price club warehouse-and see them raise a little Cain when they drive it down the aisles against the unrelenting pleading of their parents to stop-we just hope we never see it in real life.


Premier Handling Solutions



The number of truck drivers in the US is rapidly diminishing, which is causing some trucking companies to consider something they have long avoided: Paying higher wages.

Some of the nation’s biggest trucking firms — including Swift Transportation, Con-way Truckload and US Xpress — are offering higher wages in an effort to secure more new drivers and to reduce driver turnover.

Recruiting and retaining truck drivers has become a real problem due to the industry’s traditional low wage rate, as well as social issues such as the time drivers must spend away from their families, health problems caused by sitting sedentary behind the wheel for hours or even days at a time.

Bob Costello, chief economist at the American Trucking Association, said the situation is becoming dire.

“Today, the industry has in the range of 30,000 to 35,000 unfilled truck driver jobs,” Costello told Logistics Management. “As the industry starts to haul more because demand goes up, we’ll need to add more drivers — nearly 100,000 annually over the next decade — in order to keep pace.”

Earlier this month, US Xpress announced that it was instituting an average 13% increase in base mileage pay for over-the-road solo truck drivers, effective August 25. The company’s chief operating officer, Eric Fuller, said that the move was a direct result of the company’s need to recruit and retain qualified drivers.

“Listening to feedback over the years, we know driver pay is a very important aspect for our drivers and drivers in the industry,” Fuller said.




If you are shipping less than a truckload of materials, traditionally you will be charged based on a formula based on the weight of your load and the distance it will travel.

But some of the world’s biggest shippers — including FedEx Freight, YRC Worldwide, Old Dominion, Saia and others — currently are developing a more advanced rate calculation method that takes into account the actual dimensions of a shipment.

Known as “dim” machines, these dimension calculators already are being tested and may soon be introduced into the freight market.  When they are, it could revolutionize the less-than-truckload (LTL) sector, according to Joel Clum, president of Carrier Direct a trucking consulting firm.

The current weight-based and freight classification system that has been in use since the 1930s is outdated and needs to be replaced by the “dim” approach because it is easier to understand and easier to automate, Clum told Logistics Management.

The LTL sector may be ready for change. Unlike the full-truckload industry, which has many different carriers to choose from, there are relatively few LTL carriers in the marketplace. The top six carriers handle more than 50% of all freight.

With LTL as with trucking, the problem is with capacity. LTL shipments that are lightweight yet bulky tend to “cube out” before they “weigh out” in a traditional 53-foot trailer graded to carry 80,000 lbs. Under the current fare structure, there is little penalty for shippers who ship packages that have lots of air space and take up lots of room, but only pay for their overall weight. For example, 20 lbs. of toilet paper costs the same to ship in a 10′x10′x10′ box as it does in a 25×25′x25′ container.

But if shippers adopt dim pricing, that could all change. That, in turn, probably would force companies shipping materials to reconsider their packaging materials so that they were cheaper and more efficient to ship.


Anatomy of a top safety training program

26 Aug 2014

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Hyster offers comprehensive, award-winning safety training guides

Hyster is one of the reputable brands of material-handling equipment sold by Barhns. Hyster equipment can be purchased with a comprehensive safety training program for equipment operators. Hyster’s safety program earned the Aurora award last fall and is considered a comprehensive safety training program that meets OSHA and CCOSH requirements for safety training.

If you can find a training program for your material handlers that is based on the actual equipment your material handlers use, you will certainly have an easier time with training. It’s been said time and time again that well-trained operators make fewer mistakes and have far fewer accidents. Lack of proper training tops the Canadian Center for Occupational Safety and Health’s reasons for forklift accidents.

Forklifts for your Materials Handling needs.

Forklifts for your Materials Handling needs.

Hyster is not the only material-handling equipment manufacturer that offers full-fledged safety programs, and its program is not the only one that works well. There are some key features of Hyster’s program that characterize a good program as created by any equipment manufacturer whose products may be right for your operation.

Some key features that make any safety training program strong include:

Programs that cover all classes of an equipment category. For example, there are five classes of lift trucks, so a comprehensive program will offer training and advice on safe operation of all five class types.

Convenient media modules and access. A user-friendly program will allow for easy downloads of course material, videos and exam materials. Hyster’s program includes classroom materials and supporting links, as well as printable wallet cards and materials to document the completed training of material handlers who have been certified to operate equipment.


Canadian Center for Occupational Safety and Health


Underwater hoists

Diver uses underwater hoist to make repairs (Photo courtesy JD Neuhaus)

As industry turns to the world’s oceans for new sources of oil and gas — as well as “green energy” sources such as wind and wave farms — a new market has been created for specialized tools and equipment designed to make repairs and maintenance below the water’s surface.

JD Neuhaus — a manufacturer of air hoists, winches and cranes based in Witten, Germany — has begun develoing specialized equipment for working at deep depths in one of the world’s most demanding environments.

Divers Working in Poor Conditions

Divers who make repair to offshore rigs and other oceanic equipment are often faced with difficult conditions, including working alone, maneuvering in fast-moving ocean currents, working various depths with immense pressure and frigid water temperatures, as well as low visibility. So the equipment they use has to be rugged, reliable, easy to operate and comply with the highest performance standards.

That’s why JD Neuhaus has developed hoists that fit capacities from 500 lbs to 100 tons. Sub-sea hoists can be used both underwater and on the surface of a vessel. They have a wide range of operational, maintenance and repair functions for jack-up rigs, semi-submersible platforms, drilling ships and other vessels. Another use is for underwater pipeline and wellhead operations at distances of 200 feet below the water’s surface.

These type of specialized tools are becoming more and more in demand, according to the website Handy Shipping Guide.

“The proliferation of offshore wind farms and wave power generation systems has also increased the potential requirements for suitable power tools that can be safely utilized underwater,” the website stated. “Harbor locations often require underwater work, albeit not at great depths, while lakes, rivers, dams, reservoirs and bridge building operations can also have need for similar inspection, recovery or repair operations.”

Replacing a 50-Ton Rudder While at Sea

Among the biggest challenges for JD Neuhaus engineers was developing an air operated hoist that was used to remove and replace a 50-ton rudder on a fully-loaded cargo carrier vessel that had broken down while traveling between Brazil and China.

The ship was first towed to a safe mooring point off the coast of Venezuela, where divers removed the rudder and used a JD Neuhuas Profi 25-ton hoist to replace it with a new one. The entire operation was completed entirely at sea and none of the ship’s substantial amount of cargo had to be removed from the vessel.

During some underwater operations, divers use specially designed hoists that can be operated independently while working at depths of up to 70 meters. They are supplied with either compressed air or hydraulic equipment that they can control while beneath the water’s surface.

“This controller is connected by standard length 2-meter hoses to the hoist which ensures the aquanaut, hoist and load are all located within a close working environment,” according to the website. “The system is designed to ensure instantaneous and sensitive regulation of the hoist movements, providing infinitely variable speed of the load hook during both the raise and lower hoist operations.”

Because the diver can operate the equipment on his or her own, the need for voice instructions from the surface is not necessary, so delays or errors created through poor communication are eliminated.