Better equipment can improve the efficiency of your warehouse, but you need to prepare your workers and your facility for the change. By investing in new equipment, you can reduce repairs of aging machines and improve worker productivity. To attain these perks, you don't even have to make drastic changes to fully embrace the latest technology. You must only find the right equipment to upgrade your facility's operations, based on what your warehouse needs.
If you still have old equipment in your warehouse, it could be costing you money in wasted productivity. Repairs, lost time and lagging technology could all put you behind your competition. With warehouses becoming even more critical with the rise in e-commerce, there has never been a better time to assess your warehouse's equipment. Through a careful evaluation of your facility, you can discover places where you can make changes to improve efficiency.
Does Your Warehouse Equipment Need Updating?
To answer your question, "Should I buy new warehouse equipment?" you need to assess your facility's needs. Warehouses have varying requirements to handle their volumes. Certain products, such as frozen foods, need different handling and equipment than others, like paper products. The roster of new devices you need comes from your current productivity levels, your facility's layout and how you need to improve.
Determine if your existing equipment and facility arrangement are fulfilling your production requirements. In some instances, worker training is at the root of low productivity. However, as often happens, your employees are doing their best, but the equipment is holding back their performance. To decide whether you need new machinery, evaluate your answers to some simple questions about your warehouse.
Are You Maximizing Efficiency?
You should strive for greater efficiency continually. Better management of your warehouse's systems can help you achieve this. How accurately your workers retrieve orders depends on the presence of a warehouse management system (WMS) and your overall performance. The lowest performers without a WMS only pulled perfect orders 69 percent of the time, whereas bottom performers with a WMS pulled perfectly 88 percent of the time.
While the data a WMS gathers and uses to improve your warehouse will go a long way toward improving efficiency, changing your equipment is also essential. Think about ways to reduce the time workers handle products. Cutting hands-on time will improve efficiency in your facility. For instance, spacer and pallet retrievers can speed up removing or adding spacers. Some models cut down on human work at the task by 95 percent.
Efficiency includes more than productivity. How well do you make use of the space in your warehouse? If you have tall ceilings and short shelves, you are wasting the valuable vertical space. Depending on the equipment you have, you may increase the heights of your shelves or install a mezzanine level for offices or records storage.
Also, look at your aisle widths. If you have too much space between aisles, you waste space that could hold another row of shelves, but if you do not have enough space, you create a danger for workers in those aisles. Create a layout of your warehouse to see how well foot traffic and vehicle traffic flow through the area. If you notice bottlenecks, open those areas. A floorplan will also highlight any unused space you have.
However, your space efficiency will only go so far toward maximizing your warehouse's potential. Consider your equipment's operations, too.
Is Your Equipment Outdated?
Outdated equipment may still work for you, but how do you stack up to your competitors? Are other facilities able to get out related products faster and with fewer errors? Has your warehouse not performed at its peak during high-demand times? If you say yes to these queries, you could be feeling the negative impacts of outdated equipment in your facility.
Consider the cautionary tale of UPS and FedEx. These companies compete to ship goods to consumers and businesses. While 96 percent of FedEx facilities are fully automated, only 50 percent of UPS sites are. Some UPS facilities have equipment that is more than 30 years old. Operating with outdated equipment has cost UPS money. During Thanksgiving 2017, online orders flooded both shipping companies, resulting in a surge in deliveries. While FedEx moved quickly through the onslaught, UPS experienced significant hiccups from the unexpected increase in packages. A newer system with more automation could have helped UPS handle the higher shipping numbers more efficiently.
Outdated equipment tends to rely more on human power and processing than on machines. For example, new pallet inverters automatically switch pallets without making workers do the task manually. These pallet inverters can hold up to 4,400 pounds or up to 10,000 pounds if you get a customized machine. Turning these loads without a device is both dangerous and time-consuming. Upgrading to pallet turners will save your employees time and effort.
One of the most frequently encountered issues with using outdated equipment is the labor it needs for repairs. Older mechanical parts have more significant amounts of wear, making them susceptible to breakdowns. When your machinery stops working, so does your warehouse. Older equipment that regularly needs repairs needs upgrading before you lose any more time to fixing broken machines.
Are You Concerned With Upfront Costs?
The upfront costs of upgrading your equipment may seem high, but consider this: You are not making a one-off purchase that will only help your facility for a short while. New machines for your warehouse will pay off significantly in the long run. You don't have to invest $7 billion in facility and equipment upgrades like UPS is doing, but like that shipper, you should recognize the importance of investing in your business to stay competitive. UPS decided it was worth the investment to keep its century-old business relevant today. Why do you want to upgrade your facility?
Warehouses are likely to continue to increase in need as e-commerce rises in popularity. Your operations have the potential to grow, but only if you have a facility ready to meet the newly increased demands. The technology available to warehouses has risen dramatically. The last decade has introduced more technology for distribution centers and warehouses than the previous three decades. But what is the right equipment for your warehouse operations? Do you need to invest in all modern technology?
One way to cut down on upfront costs is to upgrade your equipment by choosing durable, long-lasting products. To get the most from your new machinery, consider equipment options that automate labor-intensive tasks, while still allowing for human workers in your facility. For example, investing in stretch wrappers creates tighter wrapped loads, reducing loss and saving workers time. The automatic wrappers can pull the plastic more thoroughly than any human can, and some models use 30 percent less film than human workers. Though you will pay initially, you will get better-wrapped loads, use less wrap and free your workers for other jobs.
Are You Automating?
If you want to upgrade your facility through automation, do some number-crunching first. You may find full automation to be a poorer investment compared to updating your manual equipment. For instance, one mid-level distributor chose to invest $3 million in automation through conveyors and carousels. This investment proved unsatisfactory for the facility's needs, and the machinery ended up going unused shortly after. The company failed to evaluate its ROI in even a best-case situation, where it would still lose 19 percent of its initial investment over five years.
Determine if automating will save you money and how much it will save before you invest in the technology. Use your labor standards from the last 18 to 24 months as a baseline. If you can conduct a small test with one part of your facility using a new piece of equipment, that will be the ideal method before buying enough machinery for your whole warehouse. If you cannot do a physical test, consider simulation software to compare the product use.
Always factor in training your workers on the equipment to see how quickly your employees can adapt to the change. Also, consider how much time your workers will save throughout the processes of their jobs. Do they reduce the number of steps they take? Or do they cut down on their physical strain? Answer these questions and others to fully assess the ROI on your new automation equipment. Depending on your facility, you may get more out of upgrading slowly with things like pallet inverters first before you opt for a fully automated retrieval and storage system.
Are Your Employees Safe Using Your Equipment?
Keep the safety of your employees the primary consideration in your facility. Safer workers lose less time to injury, resulting in less downtime for your facility. Also, those who work in a facility with a higher safety record are more likely to stay loyal to the company.
How safe your employees are when using new equipment for the warehouse will depend on how much training they receive. The training part of installing new equipment determines the ROI and the employees' acceptance of it. If new equipment has a steep learning curve, it will reduce your facility's productivity. However, if the workers are now safer on the job, the brief loss in productivity may be worth it. Also, if the equipment is highly efficient, you could recover the time lost to training with future use of the device.
For example, training your workers to use pallet washers and dryers for cleaning off your plastic pallets may take time. But once your workers learn how to feed the pallets into these machines, they will no longer need to wash or dry pallets by hand. Saving your employees' time on a manual task will free them up to learn how to use all the new devices you install in your warehouse.
Do You Want to Invest in the Future?
Investing in the future depends on what you put into your facility. Part of your investment should include choosing the right warehouse equipment for your needs. Don't assume the machines that work well for a large company will suffice for a smaller one, or vice versa. Examine your facility's operations to determine the types of equipment you want to bring into your warehouse.
When you invest in the future, you will need long-lasting products. If you are concerned about buying technological upgrades, at least get rid of your old wooden pallets in exchange for sturdy and sanitary plastic pallets. Unlike wood pallets, you can wash plastic pallets, making them a better choice for food warehouses. Plastic also readies your warehouse for the future because the more uniform structure of the plastic will better allow you to integrate automated storage and retrieval systems if you choose.
Maybe you are not ready to swap out your human order pickers for robots, but you can still invest in future changes by using plastic pallets and machines to make pallet use more efficient. Another decision to make concerns your aisle widths. If you have forklifts driving down your aisles, you will need more space than future designs with automated storage and retrieval systems. Is your facility ready for the change?
Can You Reach Your Long-Term Goals With Your Current Equipment?
If you feel uncertain about investing for the future, assess whether your current equipment can help you reach your long-term goals. What if you don't have goals five to 10 years into the future? Sketch out your aspirations for your facility and see how your current operations can fit into this ideal future. If you have lofty goals of massive expansion, but you have not yet seen growth in your current productivity, you may not have the right warehouse equipment to do the job.
Are you looking to create a fully automated warehouse in the future? Consider in-line automation machines, like a pallet spacer retriever that will simplify pulling spacers and sending the loads directly to a stretch wrapper. This type of device significantly reduces the amount of manual back-breaking labor your workers have to do while the mechanical stretch wrapper creates stronger wraps for the loads. With conveyors moving the products, the loads are less susceptible to damage.
Ideally, you will want to cut down on how many times humans touch products. At a fast-paced company like UPS, a single human error, which can occur at any touch, can add a whole day to the delivery schedule for a package. To illustrate the difference, UPS' automated hub in Fort Worth can handle the same volume of work as their Mesquite facility, but with 420 fewer employees. Will your current equipment get you similar efficiency results?
Solutions We Offer
Among our products, we have many offerings for your warehouse's needs. Select products based on the task, load and more. By investing in your warehouse with new equipment, you can boost productivity, making your facility more profitable. Check out our warehouse equipment options.
- Pallet inverters: Pallet inverters make it safe and comfortable for your workers to switch loads between pallets. These devices preserve your employees' health and wellness by reducing the loads they must lift. With heavy-duty construction, our pallet inverters also prevent damage to loads when moving them between pallets or skids.
- Dispensers: Store your pallets in a centralized location without risking the stack tipping over. Pallet dispensers can increase employee pick rates by reducing their fatigue from moving pallets manually.
- 90-degree tippers and upenders: Rotating pallets 90 degrees is dangerous and difficult. Pallet tippers perform this task safely. With multiple operation methods, including electric, hydraulic and mechanical and loads up to 50 tons, you will find a product for your facility's requirements.
- Pallet changers: Standard methods of shifting loads between pallets can cause worker fatigue and product damage. Save your employees from having to take time to move loads between pallets. Our automatic systems do the work without putting workers or the loads at risk of harm.
- Spacer and pallet retrievers: Reduce the time it takes to pull or insert spacers from between boxes with one of these systems. These devices cut the time it takes for workers to do these tasks, freeing them for other, more important jobs. You even have the choice for a fully automated in-line spacer and pallet retriever that will pull spacers and move the load directly to a wrapper, all with the help of conveyors.
- Lift tables: Lift tables bring pallets up to a safe working height, protecting the goods on the pallet and your workers' health. Bringing the pallets up to the workers means they maintain a proper ergonomic height, which cuts on back strain and accidents from improper lifting. Stretch wrappers: Machine-operated stretch wrappers can achieve 200 percent stretch, compared to manual stretching, which only pulls the plastic wrap 10 percent. A pre-stretched wrapper reduces components from the load loosening and falling off. Pre-stretched wrapping keeps everything on a pallet more secure.
- Washing equipment: Reduce contamination and keep your facility cleaner with washing equipment. If you have plastic pallets, a washing and drying system keeps them clean for food storage. If you have a food storage facility, washing equipment for your pallets should be a requirement for reducing cross-contamination.
- Plastic pallets: Compared to older wooden pallets, plastic pallets last longer, weigh less and have more consistent measurements. Plastic pallets are also reusable and easy to clean with proper washing equipment. These sturdy, lightweight pallets are built to last, even with frequent use and cleaning.
The products we sell solve many problems in warehouses. Whether you need reusable, long-lasting pallets that offer cleaner surfaces or need more automated equipment, you can find it. Even small changes in your warehouse's equipment can help you reach greater efficiency and productivity. At Cherry's Industrial Equipment, we're here to help you improve your warehouse's operations.
Discover Ways to Improve Your Warehouse
If you have outdated equipment, but fear the expense of upgrading and the training your workers will need, consider it an investment in your future operations. Your time and money will return as your new equipment saves you both in the months and years ahead. The secret to saving in the future is investing a little now. There has never been a better time to bring your facility to current operations.
Discover products to boost your warehouse's efficiency at Cherry's Industrial Equipment, like spacer retrievers and lift tables. You will even find plastic pallets and cleaning equipment for them. Plastic pallets are durable and reusable. They can also reduce the waste associated with having to regularly discard worn or broken wooden pallets. These are only a few of the ways our products can turn around your productivity.
For more than 35 years, we at Cherry's Industrial Equipment have been helping our customers upgrade their warehouses through better equipment for material handling. With our experience, we can help answer your questions about the products we sell, including the best solutions for your warehouse problems.
To get a quote or to contact one of our experts, phone us at 800-350-0011. If you prefer sending a message, complete our contact form online. We can help you with choosing the right equipment for your warehouse. Contact us today to start on a more productive future for your facility.