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Reusable Plastic ContainersIn today’s fast response marketplace, shipping costs are one of the fastest-growing line items in practically any business’s budget these days. Customers accustomed to online ordering now want their orders faster and cheaper than ever.

While mega-corporations like Amazon and Wal-Mart can afford to spend billions on research and development into innovative delivery methods such as robots and pilotless drones, the typical small business has to find ways to improve efficiency any way they can.

One possible solution to reducing shipping costs is to spend less on packaging and make a one-time investment in bulk containers.

Flexibility of Bulk Containers

Bulk containers are widely used in materials handling, especially in the transport of food products. Typically made of hard, durable plastic, bulk containers come in every imaginable size, shape, and thickness so you are sure to find the ones that are best for your particular product.

Most bulk containers are stackable. Some are even lockable for increased product protection and safety during shipping.

They also are affordable and cost-effective. A one-time investment in a reusable bulk container will usually be far less than the cost of disposable cardboard boxes and other types of single-use packaging.

Benefits of Bulk Containers

Most bulk containers are engineered to provide years of use. Many can be used over and over again without worry of warping, eroding, splintering, or rusting out. Long-lasting bulk containers are one of the most cost-effective ways to move parts, products, or supplies across your warehouse floor or across the country.

Because they are reusable, businesses can see an immediate reduction in their packaging line item. Even if they become damaged, most bulk containers can be easily repaired and put right back into service.

They also take up less space during transport than traditional disposable packaging. Most are stackable when filled and nestable when empty. They also come with or without lids, which reduces the amount of space needed to store them when they are not in use.

Sanitation and Environmental Benefits

Keeping bulk containers clean is simple. Just use water and a little soap if necessary and they are literally as good as new. Or if you use enough bulk containers, they can be pushed through a bulk container cleaning machine which sanitizes them completely.

Finally, because they reduce the amount of post-market waste, bulk containers are better for the environment, providing a benefit for both the planet and your business’s reputation.

 

 

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Word of Mouth MarketingKeeping employees happy is the best way to keep your workforce productive and your business profitable.

When employees are unhappy with their jobs, disappointed with management, and hostile towards their employer can open the door for collective bargaining. Sometimes investing in things like new employee lockers is all it takes to show your workers you care about their well-being.

Space for Lockers

You may have had large lockers in high school that went all the way down to the ground. But these lockers probably wouldn’t be practical for most workplaces because they take up too much space.

For example, if you have 100 employees working every shift, that would be 100 lockers. And that would take up considerable space. High schools have plenty of space because they have lots of classrooms. But your workplace probably doesn’t.

Size Matters

A good way to determine which size lockers you will need is to consider how many workers you have and how much space you have to accommodate lockers. Using the above example, if you need 100 lockers and have a dressing area that is relatively small, you may need to consider lockers that are stacked two, three, or even four lockers tall.

Then there is the question of whether each employee needs their own permanent locker or if they can share lockers with workers on other shifts. If you run three shifts, the same locker can be used by three different employees.

Lockers for Everybody or Nobody

If you are going to provide lockers for your employees, make sure you have enough locker space for everybody. It’s also a good idea to build in a little extra for when your company grows larger.

Lockers are ideal for storing coats, hats, and other cold weather gear. But you also may want to require your employees to store their smartphones or other mobile devices in their lockers when they are on the job.

Some lockers come with padlocks built in. But it’s generally easier to require employees to provide their own padlocks. That way you don’t have to worry about storing combination numbers or changing combinations when the locker changes hands to a new employee.

Invest in Lockers for Your Company’s Future

If your business is growing and you find yourself hiring new employees frequently, providing lockers is a great way to show your staff how much you appreciate them.

Lockers are a small investment that can pay huge dividends in terms of job satisfaction and reduced turnover.

 

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HALLOWELL Heavy-Duty Ventilated Steel LockersToday, everybody has a smartphone. But for many businesses, allowing employees to keep their smartphones with them while they work is just asking for trouble.

Yet if companies require workers to secure their smartphone somewhere while they work, they generally have to provide a safe place for them to do so.

Providing storage lockers for employees is a relatively minor upfront expense that can pay big dividends down the line. Not only can lockers keep your workspace cleaner, more organized, and safer, but they also can make it more productive.

Eliminating Clutter

Lockers offer employees a place to safely store their personal belonging while they work, such as coats, hats, gloves and scarves in cold weather months. Without lockers, many of these items could end up in the workplace, creating cluttered and even unsafe conditions.

Providing storage space for workers also can make your workspace look and feel more professional and less temporary. When your employees have a designated area where they can change into their work clothes and store their personal belongings, they will perceive your business as more organized.

An Affordable Employee Benefit

Your staff will also trust your business more when you provide secure storage space for their belongings. Lockers are one of the most affordable employee benefits because their cost can be accrued over a long period of time and they typically will last many years, if not decades.

When workers feel more comfortable working at your business, they are less likely to look for other jobs, reducing both your turnover and the cost of hiring and training new employees.

Word of Mouth MarketingSense of Belonging

Many workers will have more job satisfaction when they are provided with a storage locker. If it is a permanently assigned locker, they also can feel a greater sense of belonging. They may even feel as if they have the respect of management.

These types of “trust bonds” can enhance productivity in the workplace. When workers are happier in their jobs, they are less likely to look for other things to complain about, resulting in a more harmonious work environment in which more work gets done.

So a small investment in a  set of lockers can provide many benefits for both your employees and your business for many years to come.

Check out the large selection of lockers, shelving, cabinets, and other storage solutions at Bahrns.com. We have all of your storage solutions.

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Reusable Plastic ContainersYou may have noticed that more and more businesses and industries are switching to heavy duty plastic bulk containers over cardboard, paper, plastic, and disposable or recyclable packaging materials.

There’s a reason for that. In fact, there are several. In this article, we will explain the many benefits of reusable bulk containers and why your business should consider using them starting right away.

Environmental Benefits

Perhaps the biggest reason so many companies are switching to reusable plastic bulk containers is the increased focus on sustainability.

Plastic bins and other bulk containers can be used over and over again many times. Unlike cardboard boxes, they don’t need to go through the recycling process before they can be reused.

Instead, they can simply be sprayed clean, air dried, and put back into circulation — a process that takes just a few minutes rather than several weeks or even months.

And unlike disposable packaging, reusable plastic bulk containers don’t take up valuable landfill space and help preserve valuable resources. And because they are made from recyclable plastic, at the end of their useful life they can still avoid the waste stream.

Logistical Benefits

Bulk containers are stackable, so they can increase storage capacity in warehouses, docks, and other storage facilities.

Given their strength, many plastic bins can be stacked six to eight high. Try doing that with cardboard containers and you will have a mess to deal with, not to mention damaged products or supplies.

With bulk containers, you can optimize cube efficiency in cargo containers and trucks as well.

Capacity and Storage Benefits

Many of today’s reusable plastic bulk containers have weight capacities up to 2,500 pounds. Compared to cardboard boxes, bulk containers offer astronomically more weight and bulk capacity.

They also provide more protection for their contents than cardboard boxes. Plastic bins usually won’t crack, dent, or break under normal use circumstances. Instead, they provide maximum protection during storage, handling, and transit.

Moisture and Durability

Unlike cardboard boxes, plastic containers are weatherproof, non-absorbent, and resistant to most chemicals. This type of durability provides longer life, superior protection, and increased chances that your products or supplies will get where they are going in exactly the same shape as when they left your facility.

Add to that a higher return on investment, their ability to be opened without box cutters or other potentially dangerous tools, and their high degree of customization, and it’s clear that your business should consider switching plastic bulk containers for most or all of your storage needs.

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Storage SolutionsPicking and sorting operations have become increasingly important to many businesses in recent years. Thanks to the rise in popularity of online ordering, most businesses today are desperately looking for any way they can get products to customers faster and with fewer mistakes and/or damage.

So finding innovative ways to speed up picking and sorting operations has become something of a mantra to many businesses, from giant retailers like Amazon to small, local businesses simply looking for ways to build their customer base through online ordering.

Here then are five ways your business can instantly reduce the amount of time it takes to fulfill online orders so you can get products to customers faster and more accurately.

Touch Less, Earn More

Take a look at your current fulfillment process. How many times do actual people actually touch products? If it’s more than once, you probably are doing something wrong.

The more touches a product has, the slower it moves through the fulfillment process. Also, the higher the risk of damage of mistakes there will be.

What’s Your Storage Look Like?

How and where you store products is critical to the velocity of their movement through your fulfillment system. When it comes to storage in your warehouse, dock, or business, the first question you should be asking is “Why?”.

Are there any opportunities you could be exploiting, such as random storage — in which items are assigned to any open location — or volume-based storage in which items are ranked by demand and assigned storage locations accordingly.

The 80/20 Rule

Efficiency studies have proven that for most businesses 80% of orders come from 20% of the business’s inventory. Simply moving the most popular items closest to the packing station — or directly on the dock or shipping office itself — can significantly speed up the majority of your fulfillment.

Picking the Right Picking Strategy

By default, most businesses use manual piece picking. After all, it’s the simplest and it makes sense … as long as your volume is low.

But at a certain point, it makes more sense to consider picking strategies that better accommodate higher volumes, such as zone picking, batch picking, wave picking, or even automation.

Walking Is the Worst

Any time workers have to walk anywhere, you are losing money. Not only is it inefficient, but it exposes workers to fatigue, injury, and the risk of being run over by a forklift.

When looking for ways to improve picking and sorting operations, keep walking to an absolute minimum.

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A Way To Handle Excess Inventory

18 May 2016

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How do you manage excess inventory? (Courtesy: Kathy Turner1 at flickr.com)

How do you manage excess inventory?
(Courtesy: Kathy Turner1 at flickr.com)

Warehouse inventory managers are well aware of excessive inventory issues. Someone was too excited over the prospect of selling a particular product so he or she ended up ordering too many of them. Although there may be more reasons for excessive inventory, whatever the reasons the inventory manager needs to come up with ways to handle the surplus.

Inventory managers may commonly use nine methods to relieve the inventory overage, yet these methods may cause more problems. Common ways excess inventory is handled and the problems they cause include:

·      Doing nothing. Procrastination doesn’t relieve the problem. You may think you have time to settle the problem, but while you wait the amount of slow-moving products is multiplying. Doing nothing can result in a bottleneck that will affect the efficiency of the warehouse’s operation. Moreover, the company will be paying more taxes on the excess stock.
·      Lease more space. Viola! The problem is solved. But what about the slow seasons of the year when very little product orders are being made. The result could be the leasing of empty space. And consider this. Leasing space from another storage and logistics warehouse company means money flowing out of your warehouse to the benefit of another warehouse.
·      Liquidate it. Sounds like a good idea. Just mark the price down and sell it. However, the products you sell for a discount are finding their way to secondary markets that offer them to compete with your company’s release of new products.
·      Continue to sell it. If it’s not selling what makes you think you can sell it later? Don’t keep stale, outdated products. You may need the storage space they occupy for newer, more saleable products.
·      Give it away locally. Giving away product to the neighborhood may boost your company’s reputation in that neighborhood. However, it will reduce sales and get people to think that if they wait long enough you will give away products again.
·      Sell it to employees. It might help employee moral if you offer products to them on a discount. However, this is only a temporary fix to a continuing problem.
·      Give it away to employees. If you give products away to your employees, then some energetic workers looking for a quick buck can turn around and sell the giveaways through eBay, Amazon, or other similar retailer.
·      Sell it to your top customers. It may provide a quick fix, but your clients could decide to wait for your next discount dump due to another period of excess inventory and not buy products from you at full price.
·      Throw it out. You will be throwing out the money you paid to buy the product along with it.

Here’s another way to dump excess product. A little known section of the tax code called IRC Section 170(e)(3) permits Regular C Corporations to donate excess inventory and receive an up to twice-cost federal tax deduction. Give these products to gifts-in-kind organizations.

The law forbids the receiver of the donated products from reselling, bartering or trading them. Instead, the product must be used in a way that is consistent with the charities’ mission. So there is no way the product will end up on the open market competing against your new products.

Companies have been known to use this law to giveaway office supplies, classroom materials, clothes, maintenance items, tools and hardware, toys and games, computer software, sporting goods, books, tapes, CDs, arts and crafts, personal care items, holiday and party items, janitorial supplies and more.

The law can also be used to rid you of underselling SKUs or discontinued items. Not bad and you get a break on federal taxes and that’s even better.

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Finding additional space can be a major issue in some warehouses. (Courtesy: Consolidated Construction at flickr.com)

Finding additional space can be a major issue in some warehouses.
(Courtesy: Consolidated Construction at flickr.com)

In the first installment of Finding More Space When Expansion Isn’t an Option, I discussed what causes space issues in the first place. Here I will cover what you can do to alleviate the problem.

Three things can alleviate space limitations in a warehouse. They include:

1.     Creating storage areas outside the warehouse
2.     Redesign the warehouse interior
3.     Improve inventory management

Outside or Temporary Storage

Outside the doors of your warehouse is land that can be used to host temporary storage facilities. Bahrns.com offers a variety of sheds and other temporary buildings that could prove ideal for the creation of temporary storage areas outside. In addition, warehouses have been known to actually store products on trailers for short periods of time. This option could prove costly. It is said that using a trailer could cost between $180 to $220, not including drop-off charges, trailer loading and unloading labor costs, and security risk. Storage in trailers might work well if the warehouse has a partnership with a carrier. Often carriers will manage freight and store trailers in their yard as part of a freight agreement. A carrier might be inclined to make such a deal because he may be able to get a deal that includes guaranteed freight throughout the year and being able to charge a profitable rate for all routes.

Another method to make it through temporary space problems is to make an agreement with another warehouse to store extra inventory or ship orders to customers. One way to make this work is to build an alliance with another company that has different seasonal peaks, but the same storage needs. The two companies can make an agreement with a third party for storage base on a year-round contract.

Warehouse Redesign

Ways to use warehouse redesign include:

·      Using available space more efficiently.
·      Creating a more efficient method of material handling.
·      Using economical storage.
·      Building flexibility into your warehouse storage design to accommodate seasonal storage and handling issues.

Experts have identified eight steps that could be used to make the four points happen. They are:

1.     Measure the space you work with.
2.     Defined fixed barriers in warehouse construction including columns, walls, doors, clearance, and more.
3.     Knowing the products you’re storing and handling. For example, you can define storage zones, create throughput/replenishment requirements, have a plan for unit handling loads.
4.     Create material flow paths
5.     Determine auxiliary facility requirements for offices, dock staging, hold and inspection and more.
6.     Generate alternatives.
7.     Evaluate alternatives
8.     Recommend and execute improvements.

Be Creative in Developing More Space

Unique use of space can include:

·      Better use of space above loads.
·       Utilizing building clearance.
·      Using space above cross aisles.
·      Using space above work and pick areas.
·      Using space above docks.

Tunnel racks can be used in areas above cross aisles. Moreover, since dock activity occurs in the lower 10-feet of the facility, then using areas above this such as above dock doors or the use of racks on the walls rather than on the floor. In addition, you can construct mezzanines above work areas or use mezzanines as work areas.

Alternative Storage Methods

Different storage options can be used including:

·      Narrow Aisle Pallet Racks
·      Very Narrow Aisle Pallet Racks
·      Increasing Pallet Operation to 66-inches rack-to-rack.
·      Double-Deep Pallet Racks and Pushback Racks
·      Pallet Flow Racks
·      Small Parts Storage

Finally, you can improve inventory management by receiving inventory information in real-time. This can be achieved with a real-time warehouse management system to track inventory and transaction data.

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Pallets filled with products sitting in the aisles, stacked in dock areas, or placed on rack end caps can adversely affect warehouse operations.

Pallets filled with products sitting in the aisles, stacked in dock areas, or placed on rack end caps can adversely affect warehouse operations. (Courtesy: Joshuabooks at flickr.com)

There is only a certain amount of space in a confined building. If that building is a warehouse, then what can a warehouse manager do when he finds himself in need of more space to accommodate more products?

It is common for any size warehouse to experience space issues. These problems arise due to rapid growth, seasonal spikes, large discount buying sales campaigns, an inventory buildup due to manufacturers’ shutdowns, consolidation of a number of warehouses into one, and a slow selling period. All of these scenarios result in storage problems that occur due to three specific issues.

1.     Too much of the right product.
2.     Too much of the wrong product.
3.     Poorly used warehouse space.

Warehouse executives may have a good initial feeling when the problem of too much of the right product arises. In short, there is an abundance of the right product available to accommodate customer demand. That seems to be a good thing. However, it takes the warehouse executives time before they realize that warehouse operations are well below productivity quotas and conditions in the work environment are not safe.

A warehouse working under these circumstances probably suffer such issues as pallets filled with products sitting in the aisles, stacked in dock areas, or placed on rack end caps. Moreover, there’s a real possibility that multiple SKUs of products may be mixed in single bin locations.

There are all sorts of issues here that affect warehouse operation including blocked routes and visibility that can result in safety issues, problems in finding inventory, decreased worker productivity and multiple handling of products. The good thing here, however, is that the bottleneck probably won’t last too long because the products are moving through the warehouse quickly. This helps limit the existence of the problem to maybe a few weeks.

In the case of too much of the wrong product, some executives’ projection of sales and their production planning to accommodate were way off the mark. However, this scenario also suggests that the warehouse operation is not managing inventory levels or obsolete products well. When there are too much of the right product, warehouse managers can hire more personnel to speed up operations. However, in the case of too much of the wrong product, inventories are not picked for months and even years.

Poorly used warehouse space may take some time to become obvious to warehouse executives. That’s because the problem arises due to steady growth, changing storage requirements or change in product mix, and always expanding service requirements. This problem is a common happening for warehouses. That’s because warehouse operations are based on the handling of predicted volumes. Warehouses are expected to adjust as customer demands change and become more efficient over time. In this case, warehouses will execute short term plans over the long run including creating customized floor-ready merchandise, hand-pricing merchandise at the piece level or creating mix loads to speed up orders when products are usually shipped in full case or full pallet quantities.

As a result, there is a loss of floor space and labor from other important warehouse functions. Other issues due to poor use of space include bad use of vertical space, too wide aisles and too many products in single bin areas and/or partial unit loads left in full unit load locations.

Don’t worry. Finding more space and improving inventory management can fix all of this and we will show how with the next blog.

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Photo by Ildar Sagdejev (via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Ildar Sagdejev (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Dollar Tree discount store chain has agreed to adhere to a strict set of rules and pay more $825,000 in fines after a federal agency found multiple safety violations at its stores, including blocked emergency exits, obstructed access to exit routes and electrical equipment, and improper material storage.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation into the Chesapeake, Virginia-based discount chain after 13 separate inspections found numerous complaints about safety in many of its stores’ storerooms, according to Dr. David Michaels, assistant Labor Secretary for OSHA.

Multi-Tiered Safety Reforms

Under the terms of the agreement, Dollar Tree will improve its safety procedures at all of its 2,400 stores nationwide, including improvements in management commitment, employee participation, hazard identification and control, education and training for its workers and mid-level managers, and program evaluation.

The chain also has agreed to publish and distribute a corporate newsletter covering safety and health issues.

Other terms of the agreement include:

  • Dollar Tree will allow a third-party agency to audit 50 stores over the next two years. Store managers will be required to correct any safety issues found within 21 days of being notified of them.
  • The chain also agreed to internally inspect a cross-section of its stores for the next three years.
  • Employees will be encouraged to call an anonymous tip line to report safety and health issues.
  • OSHA will continue to monitor implementation of the agreement.

OSHA inspectors found numerous safety violations in Dollar Tree stores throughout the US, including a store in Houston, Texas, in which boxes of products were stacked at dangerous levels and exit routes were blocked. OSHA inspectors had previously cited the store for the same issues, but they had not been corrected when they returned to the store months later.

200 Citations in Six Years

Nationwide, Dollar Tree has been cited for safety and health violations more than 200 times since 2009.

Under the terms of the agreement, Dollar Tree must correct those violations, as well as comply with other engineering and administrative control measures, including:

  • Implementing a program in which store managers can request storage containers that allow stores to store items safely
  • Requiring routes to emergency exits and electrical equipment be at least 28 inches wide
  • Reviewing delivery, unloading and personnel systems to ensure placement of received merchandise and materials in designated storage or sales areas does not obstruct access to exits and electrical equipment, or create storage hazards

Dollar Tree employs about 17,600 full-time workers and 69,800 part-time employees. The settlement will create safer work environments for both store personnel and customers, said Michaels.

“This settlement agreement demonstrates Dollar Tree’s commitment to improve training, safety procedures, and working conditions at its stores nationwide,” Michaels said in a news release announcing the settlement. “OSHA looks forward to working cooperatively with the company to ensure that these changes better protect the safety and health of Dollar Tree’s employees.”

 

 

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Inventory That Should be in Warehouses

25 Aug 2015

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There are retailers who need warehouse back up to assure that the shelves stay full. (Courtesy: Habitat for Humanity in LaCross, WI. flickr.com)

There are retailers who need warehouse back up to assure that the shelves stay full.
(Courtesy: Habitat for Humanity in LaCross, WI. flickr.com)

There are businesses who can stock a lot of inventory on site and then there are businesses that need to rely on a warehouse for back up. The question begs to be asked. What type of inventory is warehouse inventory?

Warehouse managers who have knowledge in inventory management say that raw material; maintenance, repair or operation (MRO) inventory; merchandise; and finished products are ideal items to store in a warehouse.

Raw Materials

Manufacturing plants that use raw materials to make finished products are ideal candidates for having warehouse support. The plant doesn’t have to waste space that may be necessary on something that they don’t need immediately. An off-site warehouse permits the plant to handle variations in production due to the orders it receives.

For example, let’s say a plant unexpectedly receives a large order. What happens if they don’t have enough of the finished product inventoried on site to fill the order? They have to make more products. Instead of having to order the raw materials it needs to make those products, which can add down time to the production process, the manufacturer can simply call the warehouse for the additional raw materials it needs.

Raw materials can be defined as anything that needs to be purchased from an outside source that is necessary for use in the production process. That can include chemicals, minerals, or grains as well as nuts, bolts, wheels, or ball bearings.

MRO Inventory

Manufacturing facilities rely on their machines to work. However, when one breaks down, they need a replacement part pronto. Well, it’s going to be the warehouse that saves the day. Any items that are used in the maintenance, repair, or operation of a production facility are included in this category. That not only includes spare parts for the machinery, it also involves oils, lubricants, and other items that are needed to service the production process.

Merchandise

Retail stores that rely on having merchandise available risk the possibility of lost sales and unhappy customers if those products are not present when the shopper wants to buy them.  A warehouse assures that the items are available when the customers want it. Having enough inventories on hand or in the warehouse means that retailers don’t have to back order items causing customers to wait. And that means that the selling and shipping process performs smoothly.

Finished Products

Then there are manufacturers who must produce products based on orders. These manufacturers may run their operation continuously so that there are always enough products available. This business needs a warehouse where it can transport and store the finished product so that it has enough space for the production of the next batch of products.

The warehouse cannot only store the products, but it can also receive and ship out orders so that the manufacturing facility doesn’t have to worry about it.

In short, a business needs warehouse back up to supply assistance to the manufacturing segment in the production process and to fill orders when the production facility can’t.

(Next: How to set up inventory in a warehouse)

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