Lessons Learned from Platform (Mezzanine) Installations

Providing Fast-Turnaround Workspace and Inventory Solutions

mezzanineWhen it comes to reaping the benefits of a new work platform (mezzanine), the key to keeping Murphy’s Law at bay is good planning and anticipation. But, for many platform (mezzanine) projects, lessons have been learned the hard way:

  • Design integration is not given enough careful consideration (ex: base plate orientation, span not correlating with existing wall or column locations. Column bearing surfaces are of unequal height
  •  Not enough contingency time is built into the construction time-line
  • Life Safety and OSHAC considerations aren’t thoroughly addressed.

When a large material handling system is planned for and then implemented as part of a new construction effort, everyone involved can thank their lucky stars. This can be labeled a “best case” scenario, with ample time for planning and installation. More often than not, a client needs to integrate a new material handling system within an
existing structure already in full operation.

Two common mistakes that can lead to “worst-case” scenarios when installing an add-on platform (mezzanine) are:

1. Putting the cart before the horse:
Insufficient planning regarding how construction can impact daily operations can be costly.
A large east coast appliance company needed an efficient material handling solution built within its 500,000 square foot warehouse to accommodate the company’s imminent launch into the small-electronics market. The primary objective was to provide optimum efficiency, handling and delivery of small electronic goods to its customers arriving at a will-call location.

The warehouse space, initially set up to handle large carton items like refrigerators and washers, required space for an additional 10,000 electronic SKUs.

Working under a tight three-week production deadline, a 14,000 sq. ft. custom wide-span platform (mezzanine) was designed and built over the facility’s existing dock area with compliance to code and clearance requirements. The platform (mezzanine) span had to correlate with the building’s column span of 44’ and handle a load of 150 Psi.

To ensure public safety and uninterrupted customer service, the 44’ span platform (mezzanine) was installed during the 3rd shift. The finished structure added 14,000 SF of floor space over the existing loading docks of the warehouse. The platform (mezzanine) was equipped with efficient storage and order picking with a high-speed conveying system.

The company’s rush to market (i.e. cart before horse) imposed an urgency on the project’s production schedule
which could have resulted in costly mistakes, causing field modifications and the shutdown of several dock doors.
This story had a happy ending; many cart-before-the-horse stories do not.

2. Underestimating existing building constraints:
Having the right team to help you plan work-arounds is critical.

A customer needed a new platform (mezzanine) built over their customer service floor to provide 2,800 SF of work space for new personnel and fourteen workstations. The customer also required a 48-hour project turnaround and 24/7 construction schedule.

  • There were other building constraints:
  • existing columns were of unequal heights;
  • the platform (mezzanine) had to accommodate facility
    trunk lines along with new wiring;
  • and because it would be visible to the public, the work
    space had to blend with the overall interior design.

To summarize,
insufficient planning and an unseasoned platform (mezzanine) installation crew can cause unnecessarily high project costs, delays and risk. Material handing problem solvers can steer the project around these pitfalls, but counting the bullets you managed to dodge is not the best gauge for project success. According to one engineer:
“Figure out all the worst case and “what if” scenarios ahead of time, and plan accordingly.”

Choosing the Right Type of Industrial Shelving Systems

Although there are many differences in how various warehouses operate, one dynamic shared by all is the use of industrial shelving systems. Whether used strictly for storage or inventory being prepared for shipment, it is important to choose the right type of system. By doing so, warehouses run more efficiently, production increases, and safety improves.

•  Special Considerations
When looking at different industrial shelving systems, you want to consider several factors. With good planning, you will save time and money in both the short and long term.

•  Internal Business Operations– Whether you require standard or heavy-duty steel shelving, start by looking at the business as a whole. As part of this, include a forecast for growth. This allows enough space, as well as flexibility to adapt for any changes that might arise. Most importantly, consider current plans for expansion, including product lines, new stock, unique categories, and so on.

•  Industry Overview– You also want to consider how industry-specific factors might impact your business operations. For instance, is your company in slow or fast growth mode? Are you ready for changes in regulations that might affect the handling of stock? Does the business respond to seasonal variations? The goal is to look at steel shelving that offers long-term efficiency.

•  Picking Profile– The movement of your product range and SKU are also important. When researching industrial shelves, consider the method for receiving orders and the design of pickup zones. Shelves should handle changes that occur between levels of SKUs. For product range, you want industrial steel shelving that works best for the weight, height, and movement of your products.

•  Equipment– Industrial shelving units must accommodate equipment requirements, as well, especially if there are plans to change or add different pieces of equipment to your operations.

•  Financial Investment– The amount of money that you spend on industrial shelving systems depends on the exact product, the number of steel shelves, the company budget, and future needs. This is why it is so critical to look for industrial shelving that is smart and flexible.

At Western Pacific Storage Solutions (WPSS), we offer the highest quality of industrial shelving systems available. For steel shelving, boltless, mezzanine systems (work platforms), and more, we are the number one trusted source.

CASE STUDY: OʼReilly Auto Parts

Requirement: Seismically sound multi-level shelving engineered to hold hazardous materials
Participants: Western Pacific Storage Solutions & Fortna Partner on DC

When Missouri-based O’Reilly Auto Parts purchased CSK Automotive, the merger of the two companies presented O’Reilly with a number of distribution-related strategic and tactical challenges. Not the least of these challenges was the need to remodel select facilities to meet O’Reilly’s business model, and to construct new distribution centers to support the growing O’Reilly organization. To handle the integration, O’Reilly partnered with distribution experts, Fortna, who in turn, selected Western Pacific Storage Solutions (www.wpss.com) from an array of leading shelving manufacturers to craft and deliver tough, seismically sound multi-level shelving for select DCs. The systems needed to integrate components engineered for the special storage requirements including aerosol products and other hazardous materials.
Fortna selected Western Pacific’s Deluxe Box Shelving System. The Deluxe System provided a platform for flexibility, with two different post styles giving Fortna a range of options for heavy-duty, multilevel applications:

“Western Pacific Storage Solutions engineers and personnel are flexible, responsive, and are serious about problem solving.”

– Rod Stites, Fortna Senior Project Manager
  •  The Deluxe System’s vertical shelf adjustability in 1-inch increments met Fortna’s need to make the most of all
    available storage space.
  •  For the projects, Western Pacific’s in-house design team engineered custom system components.
  • All components were designed around each distribution center’s unique requirements. A number of tactical and structural challenges were involved in the design and construction process as two of the O’Reilly distribution centers were geographically located in areas where the probability of significant seismic activity is high.

oreilly2Mike Guererro, Western Pacific’s Vice President of Engineering explains: “in order to meet the high seismic design requirements, we needed to provide double back & side sway braces. We also had to add a concealed reinforcement channel to the lower extremity of our already robust high rise box post. We solved this problem with a unique grill- style shelf that had the capacity to store a wide range of products. This structure required custom engineered components. Not all shelving manufacturers are willing or able to take on the task of designing a shelving structure for such a specialized application.” Bruce Midkiff, Fortna Design Engineer said,
“I’ve been a project manager for 13 years, and over that time period I’ve worked with a number of vendors and manufacturers. One thing you learn over the course of any project is how those with whom you partner respond to challenges – that single factor can make all the difference.”

Because of stringent time constraints, Fortna knew that Western Pacific’s engineering and manufacturing capacities could deliver the systems on an efficient, just-in-time basis. Western Pacific Storage Solutions supported Fortna’s accelerated time frame, meeting O’Reilly’s goal to bring on line and synchronize a fully integrated, efficient distribution network.

“Western Pacific takes ownership of each project’s design and manufacture. We have tight deadlines and frequently work on projects simultaneously. We don’t have wide margins and have to lean on our partners to meet our engineering and delivery deadlines. On-time delivery of storage systems is critical.  In addition, we buy entire systems ready-to-go, we don’t have time to chase down parts and part numbers. Western Pacific delivers quality product on time. They maintain open lines of communication through every step of the process, and we appreciate their commitment to follow-up via on-site debriefings post-project.”

– Bruce Midkiff, Fortna Design Engineer

Drones Promise to Shakeup Logistical Operations Methods in Warehouses

In recent years, drones have been used to automate many industries.  From package delivery to recreation, the applications are endless. Some companies have been taking it a step further with automated drones in their distribution centers as well – an innovation that is bringing about impressive results.

Most of the media attention that has circulated concerning the use of drones generally revolves around their application as a delivery agent threatening the livelihoods of countless couriers across the nation. Amazon Prime recently delivered a bottle of sunscreen to an Amazon conference in Palm Springs, with UPS and Google following suit with their own displays of technological prowess. Not willing to be outdone, these giants have been some of the leaders in the use of drones at this stage of distribution.

Of course, their limitations are still noticeable. With limits on battery life as well as package weight, these drones have a limited distance they can travel – making them still impractical for widespread use just yet. However, some companies have switched how they use these UAVs for other tasks. Instead of delivering parcels, some businesses are using them for data collection instead. With a small camera feeding wireless video back to the user, these machines can count inventory, patrol borders, and locate trucks. Best of all, without a heavy payload, drones can remain in operation for hours over small areas where there is little need to travel. Not to mention the height advantage that these UAV’s have over mezzanine or work platforms.

UPS has already stepped up to the plate with trial runs involving these machines in their DCs. Proponents of this strategy bring up the fact that drones can reduce employee time spent climbing industrial stairs and platforms to verify the quantity or identity of goods.

Other logistical tasks these drones can contribute to would be security jobs. Inspecting lots, yards, and tracking trucks are all some of the duties that come to mind that can be simplified with the smart use of these UAVs.

Although not yet in widespread use in mid-level logistical operations, this technology holds great promise for the industry. Industry experts are already claiming that this niche market will grow fast in the coming years and will potentially revolutionize how distribution centers maximize use of their industrial shelving, platforms, stairs and mezzanines.

As drone applications continue to develop, the logistics sector should anticipate the coming innovations that these drones can bring to their warehouses, industrial shelving, work platforms, mezzanines and stairs.

How Micro-Warehouses Will Change The Consumer Landscape

If you thought the idea of portable, scalable micro-warehouses was a thing of the future, then you are in for a pleasant surprise. Shotput, a San Francisco based startup is seeking to change the warehouse storage space industry for good.

Seeking to fulfill a need in fast-growing e-commerce companies that would appreciate a less investment-heavy alternative to the traditional industrial storage model, Shotput is one such company whose ambition is to change warehouse shelving process in its entirety.

Coming in the form of large shipping containers, these micro-warehouses have pressure-sensitive shelves with radio frequency identification that helps monitor inventory in real time. When coupled with a high-end automated “auto-bagger” system that fills orders in on the spot, these micro-warehouses promise to usher in a new manner of warehouse shelving.

The premise is that a company, usually a smaller firm, installs one of these as a portable distribution center, allowing for a more flexible and mutable approach to logistical supply. Cutting costs both through automation as well as the portable nature of these devices allow a more flexible delivery strategy at a fraction of the cost. The ambition is that this innovation in the warehouse storage space world can give smaller companies a distribution system that rivals giants such as Amazon Prime.

Shotput plans to ship these containers directly to manufacturers, who then stock the shelves straight out of their factories, sending the containers out to the desired location via truck or rail.
Instead of having one large warehouse and an accompanying fleet of trucks, companies can instead mobilize 20-30 mobile warehouses that decentralize the distribution process.

Once in place, the retailers contract local carriers to pick up parcels from the portable unit.

Amazon Prime may indeed have a future competitor in the form of this small startup, as this new development could completely alter the world of industrial storage, shelving, mezzanines and platforms.

As promising as these developments can be for both vendors as well as consumers, we shall have to see if such ambitions will take root in the real world.