It’s no secret that retail has seen a fundamental shift in the way customers shop for household goods. Retailers in all sectors are feeling the pressure to follow the lead of giants like Amazon and develop sophisticated online sales channels. But how is this shift affecting the processing and delivery of these goods?
“One of the most significant changes we have seen in material handling has been the rise in eCommerce,” said Don Heemstra, Vice President of Sales for Steel King.
Distribution centers have always been under pressure to efficiently move large case-size shipments to retail outlets. Now demand has increased to fulfill smaller quantity, multiple-SKU orders with efficiency and accuracy and accommodate direct-to-the-consumer order volatility.
MHI forecasts an increasing need for distribution centers closer to metro areas, in order to reduce freight costs and move perishable goods more quickly. Increasing demand for next day or same day deliveries also are driving the growth of eCommerce distribution centers
Unfortunately, metro areas are where land is most costly. To reduce costs, a smaller footprint is needed, requiring taller structures and more automation. To optimize space, Steel King has designed and built free-standing and rack-supported automated storage systems as high as 120’.
Steel King’s in-house engineering team also helps companies meet demand by designing custom “pick modules” and automated systems for retail distribution centers.
Pick modules are large, rack-supported, multi-level systems that maximize efficiency by integrating miles of conveyors and gravity flow rack systems to move product. This increases accuracy and reduces congestion.
This pick module approach recently helped Werner Electric Supply of Appleton, WI, to increase inventory and move toward its goal to double sales by 2020. The Midwest distributor of electrical, lighting, datacomm, pneumatic, and automation solutions was also able to bring their entire operation under one roof again and respond to customer orders more quickly.
“With the new facility, we’re capable of taking orders later in the day, filling the orders, and having them delivered to our customers across Wisconsin and upper Michigan by our fleet before 6:00 AM the next day,” says Lloyd Fabry, Werner Electric Supply’s Regional Distribution Center Manager. “We’re aiming for a zero order backlog at end of each day.”
The new facility also incorporates zones of reel rack, cantilever rack, selective rack, safety guardrail engineered and manufactured by Steel King Industries, a leading manufacturer of material handling and storage racking products. While the warehouse layout incorporates selective rack serviced by high reach trucks and some narrow aisle, wire-guided reach trucks, the custom, four-level, pick module system is key to its efficient distribution.
“Our zone route, pick and pass, pick module essentially eliminates our secondary packing process,” says Fabry. “It is designed to handle from 70-80% of our volume. It allows us to place more locations at ground level so we can pick more items on foot. That means we need less equipment and training, and can avoid disruption if equipment breaks down.”
To construct the pick module, SK2000 pallet rack, a boltless, closed tubular upright product by Steel King was chosen. All beams are constructed of high-strength (55,000 p.s.i. minimum) steel, and holes are placed on the column’s face, not the corners, minimizing strength loss. Compared to open back roll formed columns, the closed tubular uprights are 44 times more torsion/twist resistant, with 250% greater frontal impact resistance and 68% greater side impact resistance. Easy, boltless assembly of the system enables flexibility for any future adjustments.
“At every stage of the process, it is important to have a partner that is willing to work with you,” concludes Fabry. “To meet our requirements, that sometimes meant innovative solutions and the flexibility to help control our costs. Steel King worked with us to tweak the final solution at the most competitive price.”
About Steel King
Steel King not only provides a wide range of material handling and safety solutions, but unlike some manufacturers, Steel King controls the entire rack manufacturing process in its own manufacturing facilities for greater quality control – all the way to the finish. Our durable and environmentally responsible powder coat paint finish used on our rack products always arrives to the jobsite fully cured, eliminating the possibility of paint damage to floors.
Steel King products like portable racks, cantilever racks and mezzanines, are sold through a unique network of Excalibur Dealers located across the country, ready to assist you with your material handling needs.