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warehouse portable lightingThe most common workplace danger cited by investigators from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year was the failure to provide adequate protection against worker falls.

It was the seventh consecutive year that fall protection led the federal safety agency’s list of most common citations, which was presented last month at the 2017 National Safety Council’s Congress & Expo, which was held in Indianapolis.

The Most Common Citation by Far

With 6,072 citations for failure to prevent workers falls during 2016, the violation was the most commonly cited problem by OSHA by far. The next most common violation — failure to properly issue hazard communications — resulted in only 4,176 violations.

While fall protection/general requirements topped the list, failure to provide proper training to prevent falls came in ninth on the Top 10 list.

The top five violations on this year’s list were exactly the same as last year’s. In fact, 9 out of 10 violations on this year’s list were the same as the previous year. The only newcomer to make the list was fall protection/training requirements, which was a newcomer to the list of top violations.

Using the List to Protect Workplaces

The purpose of the annual list is to inform businesses of the most common violations so that they can take steps to prevent them in their workplaces. The list should serve as a guide to businesses seeking to improve workplace safety, according to Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

“The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list,” Hersman said in a news release. “It’s a blueprint for keeping workers safe. When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.

The Full Top 10 List of OSHA Violations

Here is the full list of the top 10 violations cited by OSHA last year:

1. Fall protection, general requirements (6,072 citations issued)

2. Hazard communications (4,176 citations issued)

3. Scaffolding (3,288 citations issued)

4. Respiratory protection (3,097 citations issued)

5. Lockout/Tagout (2,877 citations issued)

6. Ladders (2,241 citations issued)

7. Powered industrial trucks (2,162 citations issued)

8. Machine guarding (1,933 citations issued)

9. Fall protection, training requirements (1,523 citations issued)

10. Electrical, wiring methods (1,405 citations issued)

The preliminary version of the list was released by Patrick Kapust, deputy director of enforcement programs for OSHA, at the NSC’s annual congress and expo, which was held September 23 through 29th at the Indianapolis convention center.

The final version of OSHA’s Top 10 violations will be published in December, according to the agency.

 

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holiday rewards and recogitionMany, if not most, businesses are seasonal. And the busiest season of the year is usually the holidays.

Whether you own a retail business, a warehouse, manufacturing facility, or another type of enterprise, odds are the velocity of your business will increase during the next couple of months.

The time to prepare for the busy holiday season is well before it begins. Here are some suggestions to help you anticipate the coming holiday rush with the fewest possible problems.

1. Anticipate Labor Shortages

When business ramps up, more labor is usually required. The problem is that finding extra help during the holidays isn’t usually as simple as posting a help wanted ad.

Today, there is more competition than ever for temporary holiday help. Businesses like Amazon and UPS are more aggressive than ever at swooping in and hiring all the available temporary workers in the markets where they operate. So you may have to be more creative than ever in luring part-time or temporary workers to your business.

It’s also a good idea to put your permanent workforce on notice that things are about to get very busy and that they should be prepared for increased workloads, overtime, and other necessary measures to get the job done.

2. Roll Out New Processes with Care

Generally, the busiest time of the year is not the best time to roll out new procedures, install new equipment, or change things up within your business.

A better plan might be to get through the holiday season with the resources and processes you already have and then focus on making big changes once things settle down in the new year.

If you absolutely must implement new processes or procedures, it’s a good idea to do it as early as possible before the busy holiday season is in full swing. This will give you more time to deal with the inevitable problems and complications that will arise as a result of the new way of doing things.

3. Learn from Last Year’s Mistakes

If your business didn’t run as efficiently as it could have last holiday season, don’t repeat your mistakes. Learn from them and make the necessary changes to improve and streamline operations.

Similarly, it’s important to schedule some post-holiday season analysis time at the end of operations this year so you can improve next year’s holiday operations. Running a business is a continual learning curve. Identifying your shortcomings is just as important as celebrating your successes.

 

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bookshelvesThe digital revolution has caused a lot of changes within our lifetime. Most people no longer have landline telephones in their houses. A majority of shoppers buy at least some of their products using their phones, tablets or other wireless devices. And physical paper and cardboard books are becoming a relic of the past.

So will there still be a need for bookshelves in the future?

Practical Uses for Bookcases

In the home, probably not. Many people no longer read physical books, preferring instead the convenience and affordability of digital readers such as Kindles, iPads, or even their smartphones. Audiobooks — which can be listened to while on the go, working out, or during your morning commute — are also becoming more popular.

But in a business or industrial setting, there is a need for some types of books, especially repair manuals, owner’s manuals, and reference materials such as dictionaries or technical volumes sitting on bookshelves.

The kind of hands-on people who work in warehouses, docks, manufacturing facilities, and other industrial settings often prefer the “old school” approach of opening up a repair manual or dragging a heavy volume out to the job site for easy reference. While these heavy volumes may eventually disappear, they probably will last longer than other kinds of books.

Psychological Uses for Bookcases

But books have always been more about simply reading. The walls of attorney’s offices, for example, are frequently filled with legal volumes that rarely, if ever, get opened.

Executives, journalists, university professors, and other people whose job is to appear smart will often fill their workspace with bookcases filled with books on a wide variety of subjects.

Having a lot of books can project an image of intelligence and curiosity, which are essential qualities in many different professions.

For the Love of Books

Then there are the people who simply love the look, the feel, and even the smell of physical, printed books. Reading a book on the commuter train or subway, carrying a book in your backpack, or keeping a book on your bedstand to help you relax at the end of a long day are simple pleasures that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

While books themselves may eventually go the way of vinyl LP records — of interest mostly for collectors and curiosity seekers — the transition to digital will likely take longer than other technological innovations. Too many people just aren’t willing to give up their books, at least not yet.

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(Courtesy: Kokonutpacific at flickr.com)

(Courtesy: Kokonutpacific at flickr.com)

Investing in heavy equipment usually requires a substantial capital investment. So it’s not something most businesses want to rush into.

Obviously, getting the best price is important. But there is more to capital equipment expenditures than just getting a great bargain. You also want to ensure that the equipment you are buying is durable, that your purchase is protected by a comprehensive warranty, and that you are going to get the most for your money.

The last thing you want when spending big bucks on heavy duty industrial equipment is to experience buyer’s remorse. To help you ensure you are making the best possible decision, here are some essential questions you should ask before signing that big check.

Before You Buy, Talk to Current Users

When you were growing up, there probably was always that one person on your block who was the first to buy the latest gizmo. While this may have made them cool while you were in school, in business it pays to be more cautious.

Before you buy any major piece of industrial equipment, ask the dealer for the names and phone numbers of other people who have recently purchased and are using that same vehicle or tool. Then give them a call to see how they like it, what problems if any they are experiencing with it, and whether or not they would recommend that you buy it.

This gives you the benefit of learning from other people’s mistakes or benefitting from their positive experiences with that particular piece of equipment.

Look at Longevity

From an accounting perspective, the value of your new equipment likely will be accrued over a long depreciation, possibly as long as 10 or 20 years. Consider whether or not it actually is designed to last that long and if your business will be configured in such a way that you will still be using that same vehicle or tool in 2027 or 2037.

Think about what changes you anticipate in your production and operations process over the course of the life of the equipment that could affect its use or performance.

Ask for Technical Specifications

The more you know about your purchase, the better informed you will be. Ask the dealer to provide you with the technical specifications or owner’s manual before you buy. If they can’t provide it for you, ask to be connected with the manufacturer.

Give these technical specifications to your facilities and maintenance people so that they can assess the complexity and durability of the equipment. After all, they are going to be the ones who will have to maintain and repair it should you decide to buy.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of CTF 70 via at flickr.com.

Photo courtesy of CTF 70 via at flickr.com.

Whether you are a homeowner or a small contractor, occasionally projects are going to come up that require bigger and more powerful tools than you currently own.

An example might be unloading a palletized delivery of topsoil for your home’s backyard. Or, if you are a contractor, moving a truckload of supplies from a flatbed to your storage shed. In both instances, a forklift or other materials handling equipment would come in handy. But it’s unlikely that you already own one.

When these once in a while projects occur, you have two options: Try to get the job done by hand or with the tools you have or somehow get your hands on the proper equipment for the job.

Beg, Borrow or Steal

In some cases, it makes sense to simply borrow a forklift, get the job done, then return it to its original owner. This is often the case with charitable organizations that already have relationships with local materials handling equipment companies.

Or maybe you have a brother in law or a close friend whose business owns a forklift. In that case, they may be willing to lend it to you for an afternoon. But even then, there are the expenses of transporting the equipment to your property, refueling it when you are done, and insurance liabilities if something were to go wrong to consider.

But if you are a for-profit enterprise, it can become more complicated. You may not have the legal protections that charities have against liability, for one. Plus, you may be hard-pressed to convince another for-profit business to lend you their products for free just so you can cut costs.

The Rental Solution

If you only occasionally have a need for a forklift or other industrial materials handling equipment, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy one. You have to pay the mortgage on the equipment 365 days per year, even if you only use it a handful of days. So from a profit perspective, that may not make a lot of sense.

A better solution is to simply rent the equipment you need for the time that you need it. At Bahrns Material Handling, we have a wide selection of equipment for rent, including forklifts of various sizes.

You can rent forklifts by the hour, by the day, or by the week, depending on what your specific needs are. And our prices are competitive, making rental a cost-effective solution for those occasional jobs where you need specialized equipment.

 

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

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

Just a few years ago, drones were mostly a plaything. During the 2015 Christmas season, the futuristic flying machines were hailed as one the hottest toys.

But today, everybody from online retailers to movie producers to search and rescue operations are discovering innovative and creative ways to incorporate these high-tech airborne devices into their everyday operations.

A Technological Breakthrough

Drones could become one of the most popular workplace tools. In as little as 12 months they have moved from a marginal curiosity to a vital part of many industrial, commercial, and governmental operations.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, drones were used by rescue workers to search for survivors, assess property damage, and survey remote areas. And they are quickly breaking through traditional barriers in industries that have resisted other technological innovations.

Package delivery companies that up until recently still relied on 19th Century technology such as bicycles or even human legs for their operations are now developing plans to airdrop packages to customer’s front stoops within minutes of submitting their orders.

And it’s not just a pie in the sky science fiction fantasy. The FAA already has approved limited use of drones on an experimental basis. And in Iceland, the UK, and other countries, the flying machines are already being used to deliver medicine and other supplies to remote areas.

Drones in Entertainment

For another visible sign of the growing popularity of drones, all you need to do is to turn on your TV … or more accurately today, your tablet, smartphone or another streaming device.

Drones are now widely used in television and film production to take aerial shots that were previously too expensive to create. Rather than taking on the cost of renting a helicopter or airplane and hiring a camera crew, producers can now simply equip a lightweight drone with a high-definition camera and get as many shots as they want for a fraction of the production cost.

Today, these types of aerial pan outs are so popular that it’s rare to find a program that doesn’t use them.

TV news programs are also using drones with increasing frequency.

Other Uses for Drones

Commercial businesses, industries, and governmental bodies have come to realize that drones are cheap, fast, and effective for a whole array of uses, including:

  • Express shipping and delivery
  • Gathering information for disaster management
  • Geographic mapping of inaccessible areas
  • Building safety inspections
  • Warehouse inventory
  • Building safety inspections
  • Border patrol
  • Storm tracking

And that’s just the beginning. While still developing plans to use drones for 30-minute or less package delivery, Amazon is now looking into ways to incorporate its Alexa voice app so customers could talk to drones delivering their purchases.

 

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Label MakerLabel makers have been around for some time now. They allow people and businesses to create and print their own professional looking labels that can be affixed to shelves, boxes, and other storage spaces.

Labelling everything allows you to quickly and efficiently organize any space, knowing immediately what is supposed to go in every spot and simplifying the task of putting away products and other materials.

But label making also can go too far. Imagine labeling your home refrigerator, for example, or the items in your medicine cabinet. In fact, label makers are often joked about as a very “dad” thing to own.

Zoning Your Workspace

All kidding aside, label makers are actually an affordable and effective way to improve the flow of practically any workspace.

Labeling shelves with what items go where and specific quantities that belong there not only aids in the putting away of items, but also in establishing inventory pars for reordering.

The labels created by most label makers can be printed in a variety of fonts, sizes, and colors, allowing you to zone your workspace according to any distinctions you want. For example, tools can be printed in one color, office supplies in another, and parts or equipment in a third, and so on.

Convertible Cartridges

Label Maker IIMost label makers use interchangeable tape cartridges, which allow you to use tapes of different sizes and color backgrounds. This can make zoning spaces and labeling shelves even more efficient and productive.

Plus, many of the label makers on the market today are made of durable, high-impact materials that allow you to take them into the field without having to worry as much about breaking by dropping or other accidental damage.

Plus, once you run out of tape, all you need to do is pop out the old cartridge, put in a new one and you are all ready to go. Keeping a supply of blank cartridges on hand means you never need to stop labeling!

Label Makers Are Addictive

A word of warning, however: Once you start labeling areas of your workspace, it can be hard to stop. Most people love the way their offices, warehouses, docks, and other work areas look with neat, professionally printed labels marking every square inch.

You may soon find yourself labeling areas that don’t necessarily need printed labels yet you may find it impossible to stop labeling everything in sight. No wonder label makers take such a great amount of kidding as the ultimate “dad” device.

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Photo by Keith Allison (via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Keith Allison (via Wikimedia Commons)

People are competitive by nature.

Businesses that can harness this natural instinct can use it to achieve specific objectives including meeting production quotas, beating a rival’s sales goals, or enhancing the reputation and/or market share of your organization.

Pitting people against each other is a time-honored tradition. Sports entertainment, for example, has always profited from feeding people’s need for competition.

You probably wouldn’t care if 11 anonymous men you never met faced off on a field of grass against a different group of 11 strangers. Yet every Sunday, millions of people tune in to watch their favorite NFL team because they nominally represent their city. And advertisers rank in millions from sales of beer, cars, and other products to football fans.

Competition and Human Nature

Science supports the theory that people are naturally competitive. And it goes far beyond athletics. It is even apparent in economics.

One study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that nearly half the participants said they would prefer to live in a world with the average salary was $25,000 and they earned $50,000 per year than one in which they earned $100,000 per year but the average salary was $200,000.

Another study found that people making just above the minimum wage were among the least likely to support a hike in the minimum wage.

Using Competition to Your Advantage

Healthy competition is one of the best motivational tools business owners can use. Goal setting is a part of any business plan. But setting goals in which teams compete against each other is a highly effective way of inspiring people on both teams to work harder.

One of the most obvious examples of this is in fundraising. Every year, thousands of companies team with charitable organizations like the Red Cross or United Way, setting a fundraising target then challenging their employees to meet or exceed it.

Identify a Rival Business

Another way to harness healthy competition is to pit your workforce against your competitors. If your rival has a bigger market share than your business, challenge your employees to beat them within a specific time frame, be it a quarter, a year, or longer. When you create a common rival, people will almost always rise to the challenge.

Business owners have a lot to learn from the NFL. Creating rivalries, pitting teams against each other, and creating a culture in which people have the opportunity to work towards a common objective can reap enormous rewards for everybody.

 

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weldingAt some point or another in their careers, just about everybody has worked at a place where most of their co-workers just didn’t seem to care much about what happens.

Inaccurate or damaged orders may have been shipped without being double checked. Safety standards may have been ignored or glossed over. And “looking the other way” may have been more common than actually caring about what was going on.

Odds are you didn’t stick around very long at that company.

Most people genuinely want to care about what they do. So when conscientious employees they find themselves in an organization where people don’t care — especially about something as important as safety — the first thing they usually look for is the door.

Creating a Company Culture

So what differentiates a business that is committed to safety and one that could care less? Typically, it has to do with the company’s culture.

Some companies define their culture by means of a written “Mission Statement”. For others, it’s more about the attitude people bring to their jobs every day. Both are defined by the business’s leadership.

When ownership doesn’t care, it’s nearly impossible for its employees to care. But when the company’s leaders are passionate about safety and continually reinforce their values to employees, it’s much easier for rank-and-file workers to get on board.

As it turns out, attitude is infectious.

Leading by Example

Employees naturally look to their leaders for attitude cues. If supervisors, managers, and executives don’t care about safety, then those working beneath them won’t either.

Creating a happy and safe work environment starts from the top down. Ownership needs to prioritize safety in every aspect of the organization. Only then will others follow suit.

But it goes beyond simply saying that you care about safety. Everybody on the management team — from the C-suite to line-level supervisors — needs to take a hands-on approach to workplace safety, walking the floors, spotting problems and correcting them immediately, and actively reinforcing to employees that they genuinely care about creating a safe workplace.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Actions, not just words or mission statements, are what create a corporate culture. Front line workers won’t be fooled by lip service when it comes to workplace safety. They need to see that the people in charge prioritize safe practices and genuinely care about their well-being.

Otherwise, they are going to take the path of least resistance and you will have a “toxic workplace” where workers simply don’t care.

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Photo by Stan Zemanek (via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Stan Zemanek (via Wikimedia Commons)

“That was easy!”

Now office supply retailing giant Staples is applying its signature catch phrase to its distribution centers throughout the US with an innovative new automated pick-and-pack system.

Traditionally, DCs and warehouses have used a “person to goods” system that uses human workers to pick and pack orders so they can be delivered to retail stores. But Staples’ new robotic system uses two “goods to person” automated guided vehicle (AGV) robotic systems to pick items with both high cubic velocity and low cubic velocity.

Reducing Robotic Tasks and Travel

The system — which was developed by Great Star Industrial USA — already is being used in one of Staples’ key fulfillment centers and will be rolled out to its entire nationwide network during the next 24 months, according to a company news release.

Unlike other systems used in warehouses and DCs, Staples automated robotic storage and retrieval system integrates two types of AGVs into an integrated system that requires less upfront capital investment than traditional materials handling systems while simultaneously boosting productivity and accuracy.

How It Works

The first robotic vehicle is engineered to pick from existing industry wide storage mediums and can retrieve up to five unique items per trip. That’s a lot more than traditional picking systems, resulting in fewer robot tasks and less travel across the warehouse floor.

A second type of AGV essentially replaces manual pick carts. These high cubic velocity AGVs pick cells to be fed by multiple AGVs simultaneously, eliminating the kind of downtime human order pickers typically experience. These vehicles can place products directly into the pick cell and then leave immediately to perform other tasks so they are constantly in motion.

Future Applications

The new robotic system should be in use throughout the Staples distribution network by 2019, but there already are plans to expand it even more, according to Mike Bhaskaran, the company’s chief supply chain officer.

“With Staples and Great Star each leveraging their strengths in design, engineering, and supply chain operations, we’ve rapidly gone from concept to production with a robotic solution that is truly ground breaking,” Bhaskaran said. “It incorporates concepts that have never been used before. In addition to rolling it out across Staples’ network of fulfillment centers, we’re excited for its potential applications beyond these facilities.”

The results will shatter industry norms, according to Great Star Executive VP Lily Chi.

“It offers a high degree of flexibility and capability that will provide a cost-effective solution for almost any order fulfillment and warehousing operation,” Chi said.

 

 

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