Archive for 2018

December 11, 2018

When Robots, Drones, and Automated Forklifts Rule Your Pallet Racks

As we write this blog, it’s December of 2018, and the new year is right around the corner. Depending on the products you keep in your warehouse, this could be the least busy or the busiest time of the year. Sales will certainly change during the course of the year depending on whether you sell lawnmowers or snowblowers, or bathing suits or winter coats!

While most people think of warehouses as being technology wastelands, more warehouses are becoming automated and sometimes contain the most complex pieces of machinery a business owns. This is certainly true when it comes to warehouse robots, forklifts, and drones, which are three of the hottest trends in the future of warehouses. Whether it’s stocking pallet racks, finding inventory on them, taking inventory on a daily basis, or picking and packing from industrial conveyor systems, there’s no doubt that automated machines will play a big part in the future of warehouses.

The new year seems as good a time as any to talk about warehouse trends and what it means for the future of industrial pallet racks and material handling systems, including how they’ll work with robotic machinery. Not all of these will apply to every business, depending on your supply chain and the inventory you sell. But we’ll bet you’ll be looking to “hire” something robotic in the next five years.

 

Robots

Robots in warehouses aren’t necessarily new. They’ve been stacking pallets that come off of production lines and conveyor systems for decades. They’re quite good at loading a pallet as efficiently as possible to make the best use of space and to keep the load even.

While those big pallet-loading machines would spin their arms around quite a bit, they were usually stationary. The big change that has been occurring with robots recently is how mobile they are, sometimes sharing space with their human counterparts. Some robots are involved in stocking inventory, while others can pick and pack.

One benefit of robots is that they can work all-day-every-day, and they don’t need to take breaks (except for recharging, which some robots deal with by changing out their own rechargeable batteries). Some can even work with the lights off.

 

What About Your Warehouse?

Whether or not you’ll be “employing” robots anytime soon depends primarily on the workflow of your warehouse. Do you have thousands of items going out the door on an average day? Then you might want to investigate what robots can do for you. On the other hand, if you stock large items that are worth thousands of dollars and only ship a few items out per week, you’re more likely to stick with a traditional forklift.

 

What Are The Problems?

Machines can be efficient, but when they’re inefficient then they’re very inefficient. A machine that breaks down — whether it’s software or hardware related — will take a specialist to fix, which means that it could be down for days at a time. And that’s after it’s already caused a mess of inventory.

Another problem that robots encounter is robot/human interaction. While robots can be programmed to spot humans, they can’t always be relied on (yet) to avoid bumping into people’s ankles or running over their feet. In many warehouses, it’s the humans who are told to avoid the robots…”just in case.”

It’s also important to remember that machines are there to do work, which means they’re taking jobs away from people. While that might be exactly what you’re looking for in order to save money, it could also be a public relations nightmare.

 

Automated Forklifts

A forklift might be your next robot. While most people think of robots as being machines the size of a microwave, they certainly don’t have to be. It’s very likely that, in the future, you’ll simply tell your robot forklift which pallet you need and it will go get it for you. (You might not even have to tell it, if it notices that inventory levels are low at the picking/packing station.) Will robots ever completely replace humans who drive forklifts? While we’d like to see a John Henry vs. The Machine style competition, the fact is that robotic forklifts are already around and in operation.

 

What About Your Warehouse?

While many small robots rolling around might not be right for every warehouse, robotic forklifts could benefit most of them. As long as a warehouse is set up with the proper sensors, barcodes, and RFID chips, a robotic forklift could easily be sent off to grab anything in the building.

 

What Are The Problems?

It’s not the end of the world if a small robot crashes into a guardrail, or if a drone drops a $20 items. But if an automated forklift goes nuts, watch out! Being driverless isn’t going to reduce the weight that much, and a robot forklift will still need to be nearly 10,000 pounds in order to lift heavy items from pallet racks. If a sensor gets misaligned, it could cause a serious industrial shelving collapse. But if humans are kept away from robot forklifts, as they should be, at least people won’t be around this dangerous situation.

 

Drones

Drones, sometimes called unmanned aerial vehicles, are essentially flying robots. But there are a few major differences to highlight. First of all, drones can get above pallets so that they can see down into boxes with open tops. Optical sensors can be utilized to identify and count items, immediately returning that information to the warehouse computers. This can help a warehouse determine inventory levels much faster.

Drones can also use their scanner to identify the barcodes on pallet racks or the pallets themselves from a greater distance, allowing them to find a particular location faster. And if the drone is powerful enough, it can bring an item down from a top shelf much faster than a person can go get a forklift, lower the pallet, find the item, replace the pallet, and return the forklift to its parking spot. There’s also less a chance of the pallet rack getting hit by the forks or the pallet being returned misaligned.

 

What About Your Warehouse?

If you use robots in your warehouse, it’s likely that you’ll find a use for drones as well. Again, the primary decider for many warehouses is inventory turnover.

 

What Are The Problems?

The biggest restriction with drones is the amount of weight they are able to carry. In general, drones can’t carry more than a few pounds, though the amount they can carry is getting better all the time. Like robots, a drone that is damaged is going to be out of commission until a professional can take a look at it.

Another problem: danger. If you think it’s bad getting hit in the ankle by a robot on the ground, imagine getting hit with a drone propeller at eye level! Drone/human interaction is an even bigger problem than the average robot/human interaction. Sure, drones make the telltale droning sound when they’re nearby, but when there are multiple drones in a warehouse humans tend to tune it out.

 

How Close Are You?

We certainly don’t expect every warehouse to be completely automated anytime soon, but big retailers are certainly leading the way with all three of the robots we’ve been discussing. Interestingly, the robots being created today might determine which kind of pallet racking system you look at in the next few years. Contact the experts at DAK Equipment and Engineering to find out more about the future of warehouses!

 

 

 

Read more

 
 
 

November 19, 2018

Green Warehouses: 7 Ways To Make Your Warehouse More Environmentally Friendly

In our most recent article, we discussed the four most important reasons that you should consider creating a green warehouse, whether you’re building a new one or retrofitting an old one. The most common reason that businesses choose to do this is that they are interested in saving money; energy efficiency can realize cost savings in both the short and long term. Another reason that business owners choose more energy efficient and low VOC buildings is that it creates a healthier environment for their coworkers, and that translates to fewer sick days. Having an environmentally friendly building also looks better in the public eye and can be used to promote a business. Finally, it just makes sense to leave the planet a better place for our descendants.

Those are four very good whys. But what about how? Once you decide that you’re interested in creating a more energy efficient warehouse, what’s the next step? Contacting DAK Equipment and Engineering is a great start, because we know about the latest and greatest ways of creating a green warehouse. Here are some of the most common suggestions to think about when it comes to warehouse energy efficiency.

 

Make Better Use of Conveyor Systems

You might not think that industrial conveyor systems take much energy to run, but they’re actually one of the biggest energy hogs out there. In fact, a single unit can take as much energy to run as lighting the entire warehouse.

What can be done during warehouse design to reduce the amount of energy used? First of all, don’t get a bigger conveyor system than you need. Even when they’re not on, they’re drawing lots of power, and the bigger your system the more it’s going to drain. Speaking of which, it’s also important to install convey systems that have sleep modes so that they’re not hogging power even when no one is in the warehouse. You might even want to investigate passive conveyor systems instead of powered ones. If you can get gravity to do some of the work for you, why shouldn’t you take full advantage of it?

It’s important to think about energy savings from the very beginning of your warehouse optimization. If you have a more efficiently designed warehouse, you’ll be able to use fewer conveyor systems that end up using less power. Investigate your conveyor systems and see if you can find a manufacturer who uses fewer motors that have less horsepower.

 

Reduce The Building Footprint

You have a certain amount of space that you need in your warehouse, so it might sound counterintuitive to suggest that you make your warehouse smaller. Yes, a smaller warehouse will use less energy in both lighting and heating, but if you need the space then you need the space.


That’s where efficient pallet racks and warehouse layout design come in. If you are making the absolute most of a space due to efficient pallet design, you’ll be able to build a smaller warehouse in the first place. That means less lighting, less heating, and a smaller area that forklifts have to drive around in.

 

Energy-Efficient Lights

One of the easiest ways to save money in a warehouse is to replace the lightbulbs. Lights used to be huge energy waste, and some bulbs would waste up to 90-percent of the energy as heat. By using more energy-efficient lightbulbs such as LEDs, you’ll be using a lot less energy. Yes, they might be more expensive upfront, but you’ll be saving a lot of money in the long run.

But wait, there’s more! You’re not just saving money on the energy, but you’ll also be saving money on labor. Because bulbs like LEDs last so much longer than other types of bulbs, you won’t have to pay someone to get up on a scissor lift in order to replace them nearly as often. It also means that the scissor lift won’t be getting in the way of your forklifts, which could slow things down. Plus, less time spent on scissor lift means less time in which an employee could suffer a serious accident.

Sensor-Controlled Lighting

It’s not likely that you’ll put the entire warehouse on sensor-controlled lights. After all, there are parts of it that are in use for the entire day, and only at the end of the day does it make sense to turn them off.

But there are areas of most warehouses that don’t see much traffic. It used to be that those areas would stay lighted for the entire day, but today the lights in those areas can automatically be turned off when no one is around. When the area is needed and a person needs a light, the lights come on in order to safety light their way to a particular pallet.

 

Recycling

Reducing, reusing, and recycling has been a part of warehouses forever. After all, wooden pallets are used again and again until they fall apart, and even then they are sometimes repaired. Materials recycling has been around as long as metal has been able to be melted down and used again.

Recycling isn’t just about being Earth-friendly — it can be good for a business’ bottom line as well. Set aside space where employees can place items that can be reused or recycled, and take a look at the packing material you use in a warehouse to see if it can be used again. Also, if you recycle more, then you might be able to reduce the number of times you pay someone to come and haul off the real trash in your dumpsters.

 

Lower the Temperature

This can be a tough one to balance. In an office setting, employees tend to work better when the temperature is a bit too warm rather than if it’s a bit too cool. But that doesn’t always translate to a warehouse, where people are moving around a lot more and creating their own heat.

It might be worth it to do some experiments to see how tolerant your employees are of a lower temperature. We’re not talking about lowering the temperature 10 degrees overnight, because they’ll certainly complain. But if you drop it a degree and no one says anything, you’ll have saved yourself a lot of money and used less energy at the same time. Over the course of a year, that’s big savings.

 

Site Selection

At first, the site that you choose for your green warehouse might not seem like that big of a deal. It’s not like you’re looking for a hot spring to build over to help with heating costs! But site selection can be very important if you’re interested in putting solar panels on your warehouse.

But it’s not the active savings that can make site selection so important — it’s often the passive ones. Let’s take transportation costs, for instance. If you are shipping via railroad, it’s important to choose a site so that you’re not so far away from the railroad loading station. Every extra mile that you’re away from the railroad means that your trucks are burning more fuel, costing gas and money. On the other hand, having a green warehouse or distribution center in the heart of a city can make it more attractive to employees who want to bicycle or walk to work. While the warehouse isn’t actively reducing its carbon footprint, it can create situations in which less fuel is spent.

Let DAK Help You Create a Greener Warehouse!

If you are about to build a new warehouse, you’ll want to have warehouse optimization experts like those at DAK Equipment and Engineering involved very early on. We can help you with many of the cost-saving measures we talked about above, and you’ll end up with a greener warehouse because of it. And if you’re refurbishing an existing warehouse, we’ll be there for that as well. Contact us today to get the process started.

 

 

 

Read more

 
 
 

November 14, 2018

Green Warehouses: Why You Should Make Your Warehouse Environmentally Friendly

Since the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire in 1969, (and also the 12 times it caught fire previous to that date) there has been a great interest in environmentalism. In fact, the first Earth Day occurred the next year, and anyone who’s paying attention knows that it’s a good idea to do what they can to be a good steward of our resources during our short time on the planet. But that’s far from the only reason you should consider doing whatever you can to make your next warehouse a green warehouse…or retrofit your current one to make it more energy efficient.

The fact is, the reason to make your warehouse green goes well beyond protecting our rivers from catching on fire. So, the question remains…

 

Why Create a Green Warehouse?

The good thing about creating an environmentally friendly warehouse is that there’s not just one good reason to do so. Here are four very good reasons to consider switching major and minor components in a warehouse to ones that will save energy.

 

You’ll Experience Cost Savings

The number one reason that a warehouse chooses to go green has nothing to do with the earth and everything to do with the bottom line. While building an energy-efficient building such as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building might cost a little more at the beginning of a project, it ends up easily paying for itself with ease.

We’re not just talking about small savings, either. A little investment now can end up paying for itself exponentially. Even small investments now can reap huge benefits in the future. In some cases, the energy efficient decisions can pay for themselves in under a year.

 

It Can Improve Employee Health

When most people think about a warehouse being greener, they think about energy-saving measure. But a greener building can also be better for employee health. At first this might seem counterintuitive: A building that is more energy efficient means that it’s less likely to let certain chemicals out, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Doesn’t that mean that the employees will be trapped inside with them? The solution is simple: use materials that don’t use VOCs. This means a more energy-efficient building and it means that fewer employees will be going home with headaches…or worse.

Okay, so let’s say that you aren’t a people person and really don’t care about how your employees are feeling. Maybe you’re more concerned about them getting their work done. Well, the fact is that an employee who’s feeling good is more likely to show up for work. They’re not only going to feel better about being there, but they’re also less likely to call in sick. Once again, having a green warehouse is a win-win situation.

Public Perception

You’ve probably noticed that many LEED-certified buildings have a plaque in the most prominent place possible, whether it’s on the inside or outside of a building. Not only are many business owners proud to tell their employees about their devotion to energy conservation, but they’re also interested in telling the public. It’s simply good PR to let people know that a space is energy efficient, because the bulk of the population understands the importance of doing so.

Such good PR can go well beyond having a plaque at the building. A company’s devotion to environmental protection can also be a marketing bragging point, whether it’s on the website, at job fairs, or on flyers. It can also be huge in business-to-business transactions, because companies want to work with other companies who have a positive public environmental image.

 

It’s Earth-Friendly

When we say earth-friendly, we’re not talking about the soil-covered rock that we’re floating through space on. The earth has survived much bigger problems than humanity and recovers every time..

When we say earth-friendly, we’re talking about the way in which we want to leave the planet for our children, grandchildren, and beyond. Being more responsible with the energy you use in your warehouse can play a tiny part in making sure that your descendants don’t have to deal with decade-long droughts, water wars, and constant category 5 hurricanes.

 

DAK Is Ready To Make You More Efficient

Now that we’ve taken a look at why you might decide to invest in a green warehouse, you’re probably wondering how you might make your warehouse — whether you’re building from scratch or retrofitting your old one — more energy efficient. That’s what we’ll be discussing in our next blog. If you can’t wait to find out, we’d love to talk with you about your green warehouse aspirations. Read more about it right here, then contact us to start talking about how you can save money and look better in the public eye by going green. When you think about it, there’s really no reason not to do so. DAK Equipment and Engineering is ready to help you get the most from your warehouse, so get in touch with us right here.

 

Read more

 
 
 
 

Built by Clique Studios