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lockers and padlocksYou can always tell mechanics who are new to the job because they frequently repeat the same phrase: “Where did I put my (insert name of the missing tool here)?!”

Experienced mechanics understand the importance of keeping their shop well-organized, especially their tools. When they need a particular tool, the last thing they want is to have to stop everything and go look for it.

That’s why the best mechanics have the most organized shops. They not only have the best tools and equipment, but everything is exactly where it is supposed to be.

Organizing Your Tools and Equipment

The key to properly organizing your shop is having the right storage equipment. From the smallest toolbox to the biggest portable maintenance cart and utility cabinets, great mechanics have the storage to keep their tools organized and ready.

Top-quality tool storage cabinets have multiple storage spaces for tools, parts, supplies, and equipment. Even many of the biggest tool carts are fully mobile, able to be pushed or pulled to wherever they are needed without delay or interruption.

Built-in storage cabinets typically offer more space for materials and supplies that don’t need to be wheeled to the job site. They can sit on the floor or be bolted high on the wall for easy cleaning and to save valuable floor space.

Cleaning Supplies and Equipment

Keeping your tools organized is important. But it’s also critical to keep your shop clean.

Cleaning tool organizers let you store brooms, mops, dustpans, and other everyday cleaning equipment up and out of the way while making sure they are ready and where they need to be when you are ready to tidy up your shop.

Chemical storage closets let you store potentially harmful cleaning products and other chemicals out of the way while providing ventilation to improve workplace safety even further.

Heavy duty utility cabinets let you lock up valuable tools and materials to protect them from damage or theft while not in use. They can be either wheeled or stationary, depending on your specific needs.

Clean, Organized, and Efficient

When your customers and clients walk into your tidy, organized shop and see that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, they will instantly have more confidence in your business.

Keep your shop organized and efficient with tool carts, storage lockers, and other shop equipment that helps improve productivity while boosting the bottom line.

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Locus Robotics' order picking robot. (Courtesy: Locus Robotics)

Locus Robotics’ order picking robot.
(Courtesy: Locus Robotics)

Most businesses today use a lot of different types of technology. Whether it’s electronic tablets to help keep inventory or automated guided machines to carry materials and supplies robotically, just about every operation is knee-deep in high tech devices.

Staying cutting edge is the name of the game. It helps keep your business competitive. And it can help reduce costs, boost productivity, and — most importantly — build the bottom line.

But there comes a point where new-fangled technology fails to match up with old school ways of doing things. One of these is using checklists to ensure workplace safety.

Tech and Safety

Checklists remain an important part of any business’s safety program. They require employees to go through a series of steps to ensure that what they are doing is safe and won’t cause damage or injury. While it’s time-consuming, requiring the use of checklists is also highly effective.

The best way to use checklists is often one of the oldest ways of doing things: With a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a clipboard. When workers fill out paper checklists according to a regular schedule — such as daily, before every shift, or in some instances before every potentially dangerous task — it creates a permanent, tangible record that can be checked at any time.

Transferring checklists and other safety actions to computers, tablets, or smartphones increases the chances that these essential actions can be fudged or juiced. Plus, people sometimes tend to take digital inspection checklists less seriously than paper and pencil checklists because they seem less real or permanent than having to sign their name to a paper document that will be turned in to their boss.

Tech and Distraction

Then there is the practical consideration of using high tech devices like smartphones and tablets in the workplace. When workers have to go online to fill out a safety checklist, won’t they be tempted to check their email while they are the web? Or text their friends or family? Or finish that Netflix video they were watching?

And do you really want your workers looking down at their phones rather than watching where they are going?

Another consideration is the safety of the equipment itself. When iPads, smartphones, and other costly devices are lying around the workplace, there’s a much higher chance of their being damaged or destroyed than a clipboard, which you can run over with a steamroller and it will basically come out intact.

Old school may be old-fashioned, but it’s often still the best way to go, especially with simple but necessary tasks like filling out safety checklists.

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Rent or Buy: The Big Business Decision

19 Mar 2018

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain

Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain

Whatever type of business you are in — whether you own a construction company, a warehouse, or a trucking company — you need to make a big decision regarding the equipment you use: Should you rent it or buy it?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But making the right choice for your specific circumstances could make the difference between success and failure.

Why Rent?

The biggest benefit to leasing equipment for a longer term or renting it in the short term is cost. When you don’t have to make a large capital outlay to buy equipment, you can use those funds to support other areas of your business, such as for payroll, boosting inventory, or marketing your business to attract new clients.

Long-term leases are typically used for equipment that your business will use every day and all the time. These can include things like forklifts, front-end loaders, and other types of vehicles. But it also can include construction equipment like generators, jackhammers, and other heavy equipment.

Short term rentals are most commonly used for tools like saws, nail guns, sanders, and other light equipment.

Besides cost considerations, storage is another motivation for renting over owning. When you don’t have the space to store equipment safely or your business is just starting out and you are operating out of your home or vehicle, it’s helpful to be able to return your equipment at the end of the workday.

Why Buy?

Purchasing equipment is often worth it for established businesses. If you know you are going to need a forklift three shifts per day, seven days per week, it may make more sense to simply buy it than rent or lease the vehicle.

When you own equipment, you don’t have to worry about returning it in one piece. On the flipside, you are responsible for repairs and maintenance, as opposed to leased equipment which can sometimes be simply returned when it breaks down (depending on the lease terms).

There also are tax advantages to buying equipment, tools, and other capital outright rather than leasing or owning it. Major purchases like forklifts or manufacturing equipment can be amortized over time, allowing companies to depreciate them for tax purposes.

The Right Choice

Unfortunately, lease or buy decisions are not usually black and white. Each choice must be made on a case by case basis.

Whichever choice you make, however, you can find all the vehicles, tools, and other equipment you need for either purchase or rent at Bahrns Materials Handling & Equipment.

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Pallet Truck (Courtesy: Steven Dowle at flickr.com)

Power Jack
(Courtesy: Steven Dowle at flickr.com)

When it comes to lifting and moving palletized materials, businesses have a lot of different options. The most popular are manual jacks, power jacks, and forklifts.

So which one does your business need? It depends on a number of different factors, including the number of pallets you move on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, the size and layout of your business, and the size of your materials handling equipment budget.

Benefits of Manual Jacks

As the name implies, manual jacks are hand-operated materials handling devices that can easily lift and move palletized loads, as well as other types of materials. While there are a lot of different models, the standard manual jack features a pair of forks that resemble those on a forklift.

These forks typically are attached to a hydraulic lifting handle which can be manually pumped to easily lift pallets weighing hundreds of pounds. Wheels located on both the bottom of the forks and beneath the hydraulic handle assembly allow users to roll the load by either pushing or pulling.

The biggest benefit of manual jacks is their cost. They are the least expensive option for moving palletized loads. They also are quite versatile and maneuverable with the ability to lift and move loads in narrow aisles and other tight spaces.

The downside is the physical effort they require. Workers need to physically push and pull manual jacks in order to move loads. And if the pallets need to be moved up or down ramps, they are not always a practical solution.

Why Power Jacks?

Power jacks are essentially the same thing as manual jacks, only with a motor attached that can do all the heavy lifting and locomotion. Typically, they are powered by batteries that need to be recharged periodically.

Power jacks are ideal for businesses that do a good amount of lifting of pallets but don’t usually have to move them very far. They also don’t lift palletized loads very high, generally only a few inches or a foot off the ground at most, making power jacks not very practical for warehouses or storage areas that feature shelves.

While some pallet jacks are walk-behind, there also are ride-on pallet jacks that can save time and effort.

The Forklift Solution

Forklifts offer the most versatility and maneuverability, allowing operators to lift palletized loads high into the air so that they can be gently and safely placed on upper shelves.

While forklifts are the best solution for larger operations, they also are the most expensive of the three options. However, businesses can often lease a forklift. Or forklift purchase costs can be accrued over several years that the vehicle essentially pays for itself in increased productivity and efficiency.

 

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Oftentimes, purchasing decisions are based on efficiency. On one level that makes sense. Most businesses are highly competitive, so anything you can do to reduce costs while improving efficiency can boost both the bottom line and your competitive edge.

Yet sometimes it makes sense to spend money on things that can indirectly enhance your advantage.

Planters Improve Appearance

This spring, consider creating a line item in your business budget for environmental improvements to your business’s physical plant, including outdoor planters.

Planters let you create beautiful floral displays, shrubs, or other plants that can enhance the appearance of your business. If you own a retail business, they can attract more customers by making your business more attractive. They come in every possible size and are mobile so they can be placed wherever they best serve your needs.

But even industrial, manufacturing, or warehouse/storage businesses can benefit from planters.

Planters Enhance Productivity

Businesses that use planters to improve the appearance of their workplace often find that productivity increases. Nobody wants to work in a drab, depressing environment that is designed solely for maximum productivity.

It’s human nature to desire a little color, light, and decoration in your environment. Planters can provide these things and more at an affordable cost. Plus, they can be changed out with different plantings depending on the season.

Planters Reduce Turnover

While improving the look and feel of your business offers indirect benefits to the bottom line, planters also can have a direct effect on profits.

Creating a comfortable, familiar workplace for your employers by situating planters throughout your business can make people feel better about working there. And when workers feel happy at your business, they are more likely to stick around longer, work harder, and be satisfied in their work.

Happy workers are more productive workers. Plus, the more you can reduce turnover, the lower your hiring and training costs will be. And it’s all thanks to the placement of decorative planters within your workplace.

Getting Workers Involved

Another way to improve morale is to give employees a voice in what gets planted in your planters. Form a committee, ask for volunteers, or even host a decorating contest. A simple distraction like planting flowers or shrubs in your planter can go a long way toward creating loyalty bonds between your employees and your business.

So outdoor planters are much more just a decorative expense. They can actually improve your business’s efficiency, employee morale, and your bottom line.

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garbage cansWhat’s in your trash can? The answer to that question can affect not only your business’s profitability but also its reputation.

Today, most communities have some type of residential recycling program. Many towns and cities also work with businesses to recycle production waste, used packaging materials, and other environmentally friendly post-production materials.

In the US, an estimated 1.51 lbs of materials are recycled per person per day, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center. In addition, people and businesses are doing a better job of producing less trash in the first place. The same study found that per capita waste generation fell from 4.7 lbs per day per person to 4.4 pounds per day, resulting in a total annual reduction in municipal solid waste (the stuff that goes to the dump) by about 3 million tons.

Recycling and Business

Consumers create a lot of trash. But so do businesses. Things like byproducts, leftover packaging materials, and other post-production materials can quickly add up.

But an increasing number of businesses are discovering that participating with local recycling programs or launching their own recycling initiatives can not only reduce the amount of waste the enterprise generates, but also improve employee morale, enhance the company’s reputation in the community, and even help boost their brand.

Something as simple as providing separate containers for garbage and recyclables in employee break rooms and other areas throughout your facility can help minimize your business’s carbon footprint. And every effort you make to make the community (and the world) a cleaner, safer place is an opportunity publicize your business’s environmentally friendly approach toward recycling.

Recycling Containers

Many towns and cities that have recycling programs will provide containers for residents. But businesses are often left on their own to collect and separate their cans, bottles, paper, and other recyclables.

Purchasing separate receptacles for waste and recyclable materials is a fast and easy way to show your employees, and your community, that you care about your business’s impact on the community in which you live and work. In just a single afternoon, you can take a huge step toward enhancing your business’s reputation and standing within the community.

People are getting more conscious about the effect they have on the world at large. By thinking globally and acting locally, your business can help reduce pollution while at the same time being a better neighbor and a more environmentally conscious member of your local community.

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Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Every year between in the fall and winter, millions of people become sick in the US due to the flu.

This year, the flu is particularly bad. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently announced every part of the continental US had “widespread” flu activity.

Colds and the flu not only take their toll physically, but they also can affect businesses financially. Absenteeism, loss of productivity, and medical treatment of employees can be significant in years when the flu is bad, like this year. In fact, the CDC estimates the direct cost of the flu on US businesses to be approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults.

Preparing for the Flu’s Arrival

It’s not a matter of if the flu will arrive in your area, but when.

When the flu starts to appear in a city, a town, or even a single business it can start to spread exponentially. In a period of just a few weeks or even a couple of days, it can jump from person to person, taking its toll on people of every age.

The flu can even be fatal, especially for the elderly, young children, and people with compromised immune systems.

For businesses, taking steps to prepare for the flu and to prevent its spread once it arrives is of critical importance. The CDC recommends that businesses encourage its workers to get vaccinated against the flu, or even sponsor on-site vaccinations.

Prevention and Control

The flu virus is spread a number of ways: It can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, it can become airborne when a person infected with the flu sneezes or coughs, and it can even sit dormant on surfaces like counters or light switches.

Once somebody who is not infected comes into contact with the virus, they can introduce it into their system by touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth. Within just a couple of hours, they can begin to feel the devastating symptoms of the flu, including diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches, headaches, fever, and sore throat.

Prevention begins with creating a culture within the organization.

In addition to encouraging people to get vaccinated, businesses also should ask workers to stay home if they feel sick, avoid unnecessary contact with people who may be infected, and prevent exposure risks by cleaning desks, counters, light switches, and other surfaces frequently with anti-bacterial wipes.

Dealing with the flu is something businesses have to contend with every fall and winter. The good news is every year flu season also comes to an end in the spring.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean outdoor operations stop. In fact, many operations are busier during the year’s coldest months than they are in the spring and summer.

There are still orders to fill, supplies to be stored, inventory to be counted, and all the other responsibilities that are necessary for a successful business — including occasionally climbing up on a ladder.

Yet using a ladder in winter weather is much more hazardous than climbing one in warm, sunny weather. Rungs can be covered in ice and snow. Freezing temperatures mean workers are likely to be bundled in more clothing. And fast-moving winter winds can easily push a ladder over or cause a climber to tumble.

Employer Responsibilities

During the winter, ladder use should be limited to only those tasks that are absolutely essential. If there are other alternatives — such as using a cherry picker, scissor lift, or forklift equipped with a work platform attachment — these may be both safer and more efficient.

If you do require workers to climb up on a ladder outdoors in wintry weather, you may be held responsible if something goes wrong. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration,  employers are required to protect workers from falls at any height higher than 4 feet for normal work, and higher than 6 feet for construction work.

Removing Snow Safely

One of the most common outdoor tasks requiring ladders in the winter is removing snow from products, supplies, shelving, roofs, and other areas. Snow can cause damage to property, especially if it is wet and heavy. Getting snow off materials provides more access. But it also lets customers and clients see products, supplies, and materials, which can help boost sales.

Before ordering any worker to climb up a ladder during winter, it’s important that they know what they are doing and are aware of the dangers. If necessary, you should supply the proper fall protection equipment. Depending on the height, this may include safety harnesses, guard rails, slip-resistant boots and ladder steps, or other gear.

Getting Up and Down Safely

Workers should be assigned to teams of at least two people so that one person is never climbing a ladder alone and unsupervised. If a fall should occur and the worker is caught by his or her fall protection system, the other worker can alert others for help and assist in getting their partner down safely.

Using ladders in the winter poses multiple hazards. Following best safety practices can help reduce accidents and injuries, as well as employer liability.

 

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Snow-Laden Roofs Offer Numerous Hazards

26 Dec 2017

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Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

So far, most places in the US have been spared from the heaviest snowfalls. But it’s just a matter of time before a whopper of a storm dumps many inches, or even feet, of snow on roads, sidewalks, and buildings.

Heavy buildups of snow add additional weight to roofs and support beams. Too much can cause a collapse. But removing snow from buildings’ roofs also has its risks.

Significant Hazards

Workers climbing onto icy, snow-covered roofs put their health at risk in more ways than just falling. For one thing, it’s bound to be cold up there. Frost and hypothermia from cold temperatures and high winds can cause injury very quickly.

Roofs that laden with snow already have a higher risk of collapse. Adding the weight of workers only increases it.

Working in extreme conditions lifting heavy snow can easily cause overexertion. After every winter snow, hospital emergency rooms are jammed with older, overweight adults suffering from heart attacks and other maladies related to trying to shovel too much snow too quickly.

Then there’s the risk of shock or electrocution from buried wires, hanging power lines, or damaged extension cords.

Removing Roof Snow Safely

Whenever possible, the best plan is often to do nothing at all. Don’t put workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto snowy, icy roofs in severe weather conditions — especially if it’s not necessary.

Rather than getting on the roof, use ladders to apply de-icing materials or use rakes or draglines that can be operated from ground level.

Get an engineering assessment about how much weight your roof can actually hold. Most communities have building codes that require structures to withstand the weight of even the heaviest snow.

When There’s No Other Choice

If your roof is at risk of imminent collapse, the best approach is to hire professionals to clear the snow for you. Provide workers with the proper safety equipment to minimize the risk of injury or death, such as fall protection equipment, ladders, or aerial lifts.

Workers climbing onto roofs should be alert of unexpected sounds or movement, which could indicate an imminent collapse or snowslide.

Use rakes or brooms to remove snow uniformly across the roof. Unbalanced loading can increase the risk of roof collapse or snowslides. Don’t push snow into piles on the roof. Instead, push or throw it off the roof as you go.

Provide intense supervision whenever putting workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto a snowy roof. Have a plan for rescuing workers in case something goes wrong.

Most importantly, if there’s no real risk of damage to your building, don’t put workers at risk. Eventually, the snow will melt on its own.

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holiday rewards and recogitionMost warehouses, docks, and distribution centers are in the midst of their busiest time of the year right now.

How successfully they deal with the challenges of the holiday rush often depends on how organized, clean, and efficient their operations are throughout the rest of the year.

Neatness Counts

During the holidays, most operations are stuffed to the ceiling with inventory. Regardless of whether you are handling food and beverage, Christmas toys, chemical products, or industrial equipment, storage is likely to be filled to be capacity this time of year.

When your workspaces are more crowded than usual, it’s critical that you follow best practices in terms of keeping your operation neat, clean, and efficient. Keep aisles clear of debris like empty boxes or trash from packing materials.

Keeping floor space clear will give your employees more room to work and possibly even give you more valuable storage space. At this time of year, every square foot counts.

Organize and Label Your Storage Space

During the holidays, many businesses will expand their staff or onboard temporary employees to help deal with the rush. Because these workers haven’t worked in your business before, they probably aren’t going to be familiar with where everything goes.

Delays in storing and retrieving items due to ignorance and confusion on the part of new employees can be overcome by carefully organizing and labeling shelves, racking, and other storage spaces before the busy season begins.

But if you haven’t already organized your storage space already, doing it now may be challenging. But at least you can get some benefit from it, at least in the short run.

Streamlining Operations

Your operation will be more efficient if it runs like a well-oiled machine. In order for this to happen, all the moving parts must work together. And there needs to be adequate and capable supervision to spot and correct problems before they occur.

Make it your goal to move items only once, rather than handling the same item multiple times. Fewer trips increase efficiency and help keep the operation running smoother and faster.

Recognize Great Work

This time a year when demand and high there can be a tendency to skip niceties and be more direct with line level employees. But they are probably as stressed out as you are when your operation is in full swing.

Take the time to recognize and reward workers who are doing a great job. Make an effort to show your appreciation to all of your employees, even temporary and seasonal workers. And don’t forget to say “thank you”.

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