Are you following these warehouse material handling best practices?
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Though it’s often for laughs, the consequences of improper material handling can be significant, including damaged product and equipment as well as injuries or even death.
Even if your team isn’t attempting forklift stunts, minor improper material handling techniques can cost your business major time and money.
To avoid product and monetary losses while ensuring safety, consider these best practices for moving inventory and finished orders around a manufacturing, distribution, or retail facility.
Use the right equipment
The first step to proper material handling is understanding the differences between three of the most common types of equipment: forklifts, pallet jacks, and hand trucks.
Forklifts are primarily used to carry heavy loads around a facility or yard, and to raise and lower loads onto and off of pallet racking or cantilever racking. Forklifts also maneuver boxes and pallets onto delivery trucks.
Strict adherence to safety protocols is critical when using a forklift, as related accidents result keep some 8,000 people away from work each year, according to the National Safety Council. Reduce the risk of accidents by only allowing certified operators to use forklifts, and only as intended. Also, ensure load capacity doesn’t exceed the equipment’s specifications, and load the forklift properly to avoid overturns. Protect bystanders by clearly demarcating forklift lanes and using proper protocols for rounding corners, including blind spot mirrors and forklift warning lights. Follow guidelines for using security gates to block aisles when loading materials onto shelves.
Pallet jacks also use forks to carry materials, but with some manual operation and smaller load capacities.
Though they’re not as large as forklifts, pallet jacks can still be dangerous to operators and bystanders, including the potential for collisions with objects and people. Operators should be trained on how to operate the pallet jack safely (including OSHA certification for those using powered pallet jacks) and understand that functionality will vary based on the model.
For both pallet jacks and forklifts, never allow people to ride on the forks.
Hand trucks are ideal for transporting smaller, lighter objects and boxes. Hand trucks are versatile—depending on the model, they may convert from upright hand transport to a platform truck, and a range of capacities are available to suit your needs. Specialty hand trucks allow for easy transport of water bottles, file cabinets, and cylinders.
As with other lifting devices, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for capacity, as overloading can break the hand truck or cause damage to products. When stacking boxes or items, pay attention to balance, placing the heaviest items on the bottom to lower the center of gravity, and don’t allow cargo to obstruct visibility. Because hand trucks rely on human power, operators should pay attention to their own strength and capabilities to avoid injury.
Are your conveyors in the right configuration?
Conveyors offer an efficient way to move manufactured goods or cartons and boxes in an orderly manner, relatively fast, and with the least amount of physical force applied by the worker, similar to assembly-line manufacturing. Conveyors can ease strain on employees and boost efficiency by moving loads quicker, such as from packing stations to shipping areas.
- Metal skate wheel gravity conveyors, which are lightweight for portability.
- Portable flexible and expandable gravity conveyors, which are ideal for scenarios where line length needs change or the ability to break down the setup quickly is important.
- Steel roller gravity conveyors, which provide medium- to heavy-duty material handling, including moving material with complex or flat bottoms.
Are you making the most of your carts?
Industrial carts seem like one-size-fits-all solutions, but the optimal design and construction varies based on the task. Ensure teams are consistently using the right cart for the job to avoid product damage or contamination and to increase efficiency.
Made of steel or heavy-duty plastic and usually consisting of two to three shelves, rolling utility carts are ideally suited to storing and carrying supplies, particularly for those tasks that require supply sharing or movement around the facility, such as machinery maintenance.
Designed for moving finished goods and stock in a retail and warehouse environment, stock carts are taller and wider in size than general-purpose carts and feature mesh or bars to keep materials in place.
Options include slatted or wire mesh sides, depending on the size of the materials to be transported. Carts are available without shelves or with multiple shelves, some of which may be adjustable for added flexibility.
When needed, security trucks offer stocking functionality with a full enclosure and a locking system.
Manufacturing and distribution require a range of specialty jobs that demand mobile storage, so consider a specialty model for these needs. Tool maintenance carts may include drawers, cabinets, and shelves to store tools, duct tape, and other small items required for machine and facility repair.
Mail carts typically feature two levels of utility baskets and smooth-running wheels for carrying mail around a facility. Media carts provide shelving and space for storing printers, A/V equipment, and other applications.
From manufacturing to the loading dock and everywhere in between, it’s important to match your material handling needs with the right equipment. Doing so will help improve efficiency and protect your products and workers.
Global Industrial supplies the products you need to move materials, inventory, and other goods where you need them and when you need them. Connect with our product experts to learn more.
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