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A Bounty of Bins

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Find the types that are right for your facility.

By: Maureen Paraventi

They are affordable, durable and reusable and can be used in a wide range of applications, which are some of the reasons why bins are such indispensable items in many warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. If you haven’t reassessed your facility’s bin needs for a while, you may not be aware of the sheer variety of bin types that have been introduced into the marketplace in recent years. It may be time to take a fresh look at your operations – and take advantage of what’s available in the way of specialty bins.

Traditional plastic bins that stack and nest or that hang and sit on shelves are still in widespread use, but they’ve been joined by an array of bins with special features, such as barcodes and radio-frequency identification. There are bins that can withstand vibrations and survive collisions, bins specifically designed to work with automation, like conveyors and automated storage and retrieval systems.

There is also a greater variety in materials from which bins are made, which means you can select bins that are fire-retardant, conductive or resistant to electrostatic discharge. There are bins made of fiberglass or metal, bins that are boxes, heavy duty bins, lightweight bins and clear-view bins, so that workers can see their contents at a glance. Some bins can be divided, some locked, and some used long term both indoors and outdoors. Fixed wall containers are stable and strong and provide easy access to supplies and equipment. Bulk storage bins can transport large volumes or large products. There are bins that are shipped flat and assembled on site. Not only does this save on shipping costs, it makes the most of storage space, since these bins can be returned to their flat state when they are not in use.

In most facilities efficient inventory management – including storage and transportation – requires having bins of different sizes, materials and colors on hand. Don’t overlook small bins; they can be useful in organizing the workflow by making smaller objects quickly accessible. As for color, bright red, blue and yellow remain popular, but many manufacturers offer others as well. Some are willing to customize colors to align with a company’s logo hues or to identify categories of bin contents through custom coding.

Bins can hold everything from parts to tools, personal protective equipment to rolls and reels of chain or cord. They are easily moved, which can be a valuable attribute if a layout is changed. Plastic bins are primarily useful for smaller, lightweight items, while metal bins can handle heavyweight stock. Another benefit of metal bins: their durability makes them eco-friendly.

Keeping track of bins

In most facilities, efficient inventory management – including storage and transportation – requires having bins of different sizes, materials and colors on hand. © jcfotografo –

Many warehouses are plagued by confusion over where bins can be found and space that is disorganized and underutilized. A bin location system that organizes inventory in a systematic way will contribute to both efficiency and productivity. It allows managers to trace items, maintain optimal stock levels and increase the accuracy of order fulfillment. Best practices for setting up such a system call for:

  • Evaluating the size, layout and storage needs of your facility.
  • Marking each bin with a unique location code that can be used to track and locate products quickly, eliminating the need for time-consuming searches.
  • Training workers on how to identify the codes and safely reach the bins they need to perform tasks.
  • Installing racks and shelves appropriate to the size, type and number of bins being used. The configuration of these support structures should also take into account how often the bins will need to be accessed.
  • Regularly assess and update your bin location system to ensure that it is housing inventory in a way that is suitable to your company’s operations.

Need something stronger than bins?

Industrial containers with metal interiors can accommodate objects that are dirty, dangerous to handle or whose size or dimensions make them awkward to store and move. This includes scrap metal, bricks, tubing, recyclables and broken glass that accumulate during the disassembly of machinery and buildings. Other good fits for industrial containers: large branches and other landscaping debris, garbage and gravel.

Industrial storage containers are considerably larger than bins, generally ranging from 10 to 40 inches in length. They can be moved as needed, and are often found on construction sites. Warehouses dealing with a higher-than-usual inventory due to seasonal or fluctuating demand can use weather-resistant, highly durable industrial storage containers to store the overflow. WMHS

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