Whether you're a vendor, a middleman or a manufacturer, success is judged by how smartly you manage supply chain flow. This innovator's smarts start in the warehouse, where flow is managed two pallets at a time.
Gilmer Warehouse & Logistics has been providing logistical support for paper mills across South Georgia for years. Gilmer's new (2004) 320,000-square-foot Perry, Georgia, facility is dedicated to backing Graphic Packaging International Inc., one of the nation's leading paperboard companies. Graphic Packaging processes raw paperboard and then prints the packaging graphics used for the increasingly popular 12-can refrigerator packs and more traditional 24-can cases in addition to other sizes. Gilmer palletizes the folded cartons, warehouses them and then transfers them to some 40 over-the-road trucks on the way to conversion every day.
Gilmer's facility is not only located next door to the Graphic Packaging plant, but it is also connected to it via a conveyor. Throughout the workday, that umbilical carries printed cartons across to Gilmer where they are palletized, wrapped and bar coded. The innovative twist to this story involves how Gilmer moves 800 pallets a day in and out of flow racks in this 24,000-pallet warehouse.
When Gilmer started planning the Perry facility, management knew it needed to be in a position to quadruple storage capacity without quadrupling its standard building size. Its other warehouse was 240,000 square feet and used floor storage. If it were to go with floor storage in Perry, it would require an 800,000-square-foot building to accommodate the business in that region. Gilmer then looked at rack storage options.
"We looked at single-deep selective rack as well as the double-deep option," recalls Darren Farber, Gilmer's operation manager, and MHM's October Innovator of the Month. "That got us down to a 550,000-square-foot building, but we wanted to do better than that. That's when we decided to go with dense storage. That got us down to 320,000 square feet."
Flow storage made the most sense. In this facility, the product would arrive via conveyor from the back. That made it logical to load the system from the back, and have product flow to the front. "That way our people are always putting away and picking from the same point," Farber explains.
The next decision involved how to make loading the system more productive. Farber thought a double-wide pallet attachment would boost lift truck productivity.
"We researched four different attachment companies that could meet our needs for such an attachment," he continues. "After testing them out for maintenance accessibility and durability, our operators all liked the Brudi."
The Brudi Bolzoni Auramo Single-Double Pallet Handlers (# KS25FKBG) are attached to seven 8,000-poundcapacity Hyster Boxcar Specials (S80XMBCS). These lift trucks are derated to 4,600 pounds at 294 inches. Each palletload weighs about 2,100 pounds.
Rod Spain, account manager for Barloworld, Hyster dealer in the South Georgia area, explains the concept behind Gilmer's use of the BBA Single-Double saying, "They discovered that picking up two pallets at a time doubled their efficiency. So, when Gilmer was designing the Perry operation, we worked with Dick Wiley of BBA to make sure that the lifts could move two pallets at once into the flow racks. The carriage on this particular BBA unit can spread the pallets a little farther apart, making insertion easier."
Farber adds: "We spent quite a few hours of testing to ensure that the flow rack system was to be built with the right types of entry and exit guides to enable two-at-a-time charging and discharging. The rack manufacturer had never done this before with a double attachment."
While lift trucks and racks can adjust to two-at-a-time pallet handling, what about the lift truck operators?
"At our other facility we had some lift truck drivers who said they did not want to remain on a lift truck when they transferred over to Perry because they were afraid of handling product that high in the air. They just wanted to check outbound trucks on the docks [not work on a lift truck]. I insisted that they try it for three weeks before making that decision. Today, I have to force them off of the lift trucks with prybars to get them to do any outbound checking. Once you overcome the fear of putting away at 246 inches and picking at 205 inches, it's simple. In fact, handling product at higher levels is a lot easier because you're looking from underneath and you can see where your forks are. With quad masts, working at ground level, visibility of your forks is greatly reduced."
Aside from the fact that Gilmer did not have to build a larger building, it is meeting and exceeding the shipping efficiencies it projected in terms of volume and trucks serviced per manhour.
"Consolidating 800 pallets daily demands that we run a technologically driven operation," Farber maintains. "All our lift trucks have onboard touch-screen computers, and operators scan the pallets twoata-time as they load them into the racks."
The scanned information is communicated via radio frequency to Gilmer's SAP system. It uses SAP because that's the software platform used by most of its customers.
"Graphic Packaging International did most of the front-end work to SAP to make this all user-friendly," says Farber. "I helped them develop the warehouse management system [WMS] to accommodate exactly how we do things. Lots of systems require you to scan one pallet and then the location or a truck. We can scan two pallets and then put away to a single location or can scan two pallets and then place onto one outbound truck."
Farber concludes with the most unusual aspect of this handling story: "We've used single-doubles at other locations for about six years, but never to the extent that we do in Perry. Doubling our handling efficiency is really important. But what is even more important is that in our sort of operation, the longer our equipment holds up, the more profitable we can be. By using single-doubles to their maximum potential, we have cut our work cycles, our starts and stops, all the revs and gear changes right in half. That says to me that we are extending the life of our trucks by reducing the overall wearand-tear while still getting the same amount of work out of them."