MH Equipment, a material handling solutions provider in the Midwest, is celebrating a notable milestone after employing its 500th service technician. MH’s certified technicians specialize in all types of material handling equipment repair and maintenance and are entrusted to be good stewards of customers’ resources.
John Wieland, the current CEO, purchased MH Equipment in 1994. Then a small company of 25 service technicians and 50 employees based out of Peoria, Illinois, the company has grown into an enterprise employing more than 900 people in 33 locations across 10 states.
John said, “It is humbling to have 500 technicians choose MH as their work family. We want our technicians to know they work for a company that is most interested in their safety as they work in all kinds of environments and on all types of heavy equipment.”
MH Equipment showed the importance of loyalty to their employees during the pandemic by keeping everyone fully employed. John said, “When our technicians didn’t have customer work, we sent them to food banks and other charities across our footprint to serve our communities. Our employees invested more than 11,000 hours in charitable organizations at this critical time.”
Forklifts are some of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the supply chain, used to efficiently move product to the next link in the chain. However, like any piece of industrial equipment, there is always the risk of injury when operating forklifts.
According to OSHA, forklifts cause about 85 fatal accidents each year. Moreover, nearly 35,000 forklift-related accidents result in serious bodily injury, and about 62,000 injuries are classified as non-serious each year. To put that further into perspective, about 1 in 10 forklifts will be involved in some type of accident this year, according to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA).
However, despite all of these harrowing numbers, we also know roughly 25 percent of these accidents are due to inadequate or a lack of forklift operator training. Translation: 25 percent of these accidents can be completely preventable.
By renewing your focus on forklift operator training, you can have more peace of mind knowing your workplace isn’t adding to any of the aforementioned statistics. Here are 9 of the most effective tips for how to avoid all-too-common forklift-related injuries and to put forklift safety procedures into practice:
1. Create Forklift Certification Opportunities
Because many accidents are the result of poor or a lack of training, it is recommended operators be responsible for operating a forklift only after completing an OSHA-approved certifications class. This certification should be reevaluated every three years; however, investing in supplemental training, such as OSHA’s training resources, is encouraged to keep operators fresh on best safety practices.
2. Require Forklift Inspections Each Shift
Forklifts are put through stress each and every day, the weight of the supply chain hinging on its forks. They make the same movement hundreds of times while simultaneously balancing thousands of pounds of product over numerous hours each day.
Because of this tough work, it’s important to inspect lift trucks before each shift to ensure operators can start their day safely and effectively. Daily pre-shift inspections are recommended to identify any problems or hazards that could prevent potential injury. Here are a few things to check before operating a forklift:
Examine tires for any obvious damage
Check for any water, radiator, or oil leaks
Keep an eye out for potential environmental hazards (like grease stains or cracks in the floor)
Test operational controls like horn, lights, and brakes
Examine fluid levels (hydraulic, brake, engine, coolant, and fuel)
Check the condition of the forks
If the forklift needs repair, it should not be operated until the problems have been addressed. MH Equipment’s certified technicians can swiftly diagnose and address any issues you may find. Check out this list of five forklift parts to routinely inspect for wear and tear to help ensure safe operation.
3. Maintain High Visibility at All Times
Blocked or partially-blocked visibility increases the chance of accidents. Be sure to keep the forks low to the ground to provide a clear view moving forward. If the load restricts visibility, operate the forklift in reverse, your eyes looking in the direction you are moving. Here are some other best practices for maintaining high visibility:
Use spotters if help is needed positioning the load off the rack
Equip headlights if working at night, outdoors, or in any area with poor lighting
Make direct eye contact with pedestrians when operating a lift truck near them
Slow down, sound the horn, and cautiously approach facility blind spots, such as aisle intersections
Drive slowly into and out of warehouses or other buildings, as going from bright daylight into a darkened warehouse may temporarily blind drivers just long enough to be a hazard to other workers and property.
MH Equipment offers numerous ancillary products like safety lights and rear-view mirrors that can make an impact on the safety of your day-to-day operations.
4. Operate Forklifts at a Safe Speed
Be sure to operate the forklift within the pre-determined speed limits to avoid serious injuries from tip-overs and whiplash from stopping too abruptly. Tip-overs can occur when operators stop, turn, change direction, or make sharp turns at too high of a speed – each of these can result in the operator being ejected from the forklift or being crushed by the equipment or the load they’re carrying. According to the ITA, forklift tip-overs are the leading cause of forklift-related fatalities, with 42 percent of all major forklift accidents being caused by tip-overs.
5. Ensure Load Stability and Security
In addition to speed, off-center loads, overloading, and loading damaged loads are often the primary causes of unstable loads that can lead to a forklift tip-over. Each forklift has a center of gravity and is built on a three-point suspension (often referred to as the “stability triangle”), that operators need to stay within to prevent a tip-over. The heavier the load, the further the center of gravity is from the center of the stability triangle, and therefore, the less capacity your equipment can lift. Here are some tips for difficult loads:
Off-Center Loads: If a load cannot be centered on the forks, arrange the load so the heaviest part is close to the front of the wheels.
Overloading: Be mindful of the capacity of the lift truck and any attachments being used, and be sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions before picking up a load (especially if it’s large or awkwardly shaped) to ensure you are not exceeding capacity. If the manufacturer instructions are not available, use OSHA’s Safe Load Capacity Calculation as a guide for safe loading.
Damaged Loads: Avoid picking up damaged loads unless they have been safely secured by wrapping or banding.
6. Know OSHA’s Floor Marking Requirements
Busy warehouses, loading docks, pedestrian traffic, and heavy equipment traffic can make it difficult for employees to work and move safely throughout the workplace. To combat this, floor marking can establish pedestrian-only paths, keep workers away from unsafe loads, and establish traffic controls for forklift operators.
OSHA specifically addresses floor marking in its standard on material handling and storage (29 CFR 1910.176), where it states, “Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.” This means a few things:
Floor marking lines must at least 2 inches wide to ensure high visibility, though it’s recommended lines be 2-6 inches wide.
Aisles should be at least 4-foot-wide, or at least 3 feet wider than the largest piece of equipment being used in that aisle.
If the facility has unusual surfaces (like dirt floors), flags, traffic cones, and other similar markers may be used as long as employees are trained on what the system means.
The color of the floor marks is incredibly important, too. Red identifies fire-related hazards, as well as emergency switches and hazardous machines. Yellow signals caution and marks physical hazards, such as falling or tripping hazards.
Make sure floors are marked appropriately throughout your facility, and make sure employees have a clear understanding of what the symbols and colors mean to create a safer workflow.
7. Refuel and Recharge in Specified Areas
Keeping equipment properly fueled and charged isn’t just important for maintaining productivity – it can also mitigate the risk of injury if the lift truck stops unexpectedly due to a lack of power. When recharging or refueling, also make sure you’re doing so in the designated area of the facility, which is usually well-ventilated and away from common workplace hazards. Remember to always turn off the lift truck before refueling, and to have the forks lowered to the ground and tilted downward.
For internal combustion engine forklifts, it’s important to have regular engine emissions tests to monitor any dangerous levels of carbon monoxide that can be harming employees, especially if the lift truck is continuously operating in an enclosed environment.
8. Listen to Your Body
Forklift operators’ bodies are put through a lot of stress when operating heavy equipment. Repetitive movements, sitting for long periods of time, and equipment vibration can all take a toll on the human body, creating issues like body pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and fatigue. Many of these can lead to chronic pain. Some of the common issues and tips for avoiding these injuries include.
Neck and Back Pain: Take breaks to stretch and use the seat’s backrest to avoid slumping.
Shoulder Pain: Keep elbows in while driving, stretch regularly, and use armrests, if possible. Holding your hand in a handshake position when using the controls can help, too.
Knee Pain: Be sure to walk for a few minutes every hour, and don’t jump on or off the forklift – opt to use three points of contact when entering or exiting the machine.
Musculoskeletal Injuries: These injuries can be caused by jerking or repetitive movements that damage discs, blood vessels, and muscular and nervous tissues over time. Stretch as much as you can, and use ergonomic seating, if possible, including suspension seats, armrests, and swiveling seats, to avoid injury.
Fatigue: When taking breaks, be sure to drink plenty of water. With long periods of time sitting, it’s important to walk as much as possible on your shift to boost energy levels.
When operators aren’t distracted by pain, they are more likely to make better, safer decisions throughout the rest of their work.
9. Wear Proper PPE
It is also important to dress appropriately before operating a forklift to avoid common workplace injuries:
Hard Hat: While the forklift’s overhead guard can provide some protection, falling objects can still cause significant harm. A hard hat can take much of the brunt of the impact and prevent serious head injuries.
Protective Eyewear: Wearing safety eyewear helps ensure no dust particles or other foreign objects can impair vision when operating a forklift. This is especially relevant for any operators who work outside and are exposed to wind and dirt or dust.
Steel-Capped Boots or Shoes: Reinforced footwear can prevent your foot from being crushed or being run over by a forklift or the misplacement of a heavy load.
High-Visibility Vest: Reflective, high-visibility clothing ensures you can be easily seen and identified by both pedestrians and other forklift operators, even in darker environments.
Hand Protection: Because forklifts have several moving parts that need oil and grease as part of regular maintenance, residue can often find its way onto the steering wheel or controls. Wearing gloves can reduce the slipperiness of any residues (while protecting the operator’s skin), as well as protect the hands when handing loads (avoiding splinters, chemical spills, etc.).
Also remember to tuck in any loose clothing to prevent potentially-hazardous snags on the forklift or its controls.
The Bottom Line
Regular, proper operator training is the best way to prevent accidents and injuries, as well as to promote a culture of safety, in the workplace. Accidents happen with all types of operators, no matter age or experience – that’s why keeping safety top of mind is never a poor investment.
If you are ready to renew your investment in forklift safety, MH Equipment offers two types of forklift training and certification classes to help ensure your operation is OSHA-compliant – a forklift operator certification class and a train-the-trainer course designed for individuals responsible for training other employees how to safely operate a forklift.
By Grant Wilkerson, Director of Safety and Loss Control
MH Equipment’s culture of safety follows our Safe in the Moment philosophy – take a moment to ensure you are doing your job safely before you act. We strive to educate and support each person at MH to achieve our most important safety goal: to help that employee have zero injuries throughout their career. While zero may seem like a difficult number to reach, injuries can be eliminated if we stay focused on being Safe in the Moment. You and your employees can also employ this philosophy to work toward zero injuries.
The most important tool, though, is ourselves. Individually, each of us is the only one who can make ourselves look twice, go a little slower, avoid straining, take time to correct a task hazard, or offer to help a coworker with a heavy load.
Be aware of these common contributors to workplace injuries:
Being in a Hurry. Sometimes there is more concern for completing a job quickly instead of safely. An injury will always take more time than the little bit you may save by hurrying.
Taking Chances. Daring behavior or blatant disregard for safe work practices can put the whole work team at risk. Follow all company safety rules and watch out for your fellow employees. Things like overexertion, “manhandling” heavy objects, refusing to ask for help or use a lifting device, as well as horseplay, are never appropriate on the job.
Being Preoccupied. Daydreaming, distractions, thinking about the weekend, and not paying attention to the task at hand can get you seriously injured. If your mind is troubled or distracted, take a moment to reorganize your thoughts and get refocused on the task at hand.
Having a Negative Mindset. Being angry or in a hostile mood can lead to severe injury because anger typically overrides caution and takes our minds off our tasks. Remember to stay cool and in charge of your emotions.
Failing to Look for Potential Hazards. Work conditions are constantly changing and often new, unexpected hazards develop. Always be alert for changes in the environment. Hidden hazards include spilled liquids that can cause slips and falls; out-of-place objects that can cause trips; sharp edges on components; and awkward positions that can cause undue straining.
Remember, each of us is in control of our own ability to stay alert for hazards, to slow and calm down, and to re-focus so we don't become just one more injury statistic. An injury-free workplace IS possible!
MH Equipment recently received two major awards from Hyster-Yale Group for its focused leadership and drive for success, despite the worldwide uncertainty last year – the 2020 Hyster Dealer of Distinction and 2020 Yale Dealer of Excellence awards.
MH Equipment had a record-setting year with seven recognitions being awarded across its regions. MH’s Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio South, and Indianapolis regions were recognized as 2020 Hyster dealers of distinction, and the Ohio North region was awarded the 2020 Yale Dealer of Excellence award. MH Equipment’s Iowa region was recognized with both awards.
To achieve the prestige of these recognitions, dealers must meet rigorous business practice standards and performance criteria that are modified regularly to ensure alignment with ever-evolving customer expectations and heightened industry demands. They must also demonstrate excellence in a variety of areas, including new unit sales, aftermarket options, customer satisfaction, and more.
To make those accomplishments even more significant, MH Equipment is also one of only two dealers to have received both a Hyster Dealer of Distinction and a Yale Dealer of Excellence award for its work in 2020.
“We are grateful to earn such recognitions and are proud of all of our employees,” said Woody Hartwell, President of Sales and Marketing at MH Equipment. “The standards to be a Hyster Dealer of Distinction or Yale Dealer of Excellence are very high and challenging to reach in a normal year. To have seven of our regions achieve this special accomplishment in such a challenging year is amazing – and we feel blessed.”
MH Engineered Solutions has been awarded the prestigious MVP (Most Valuable Partner) Award for 2021 for their accomplishments in 2020. For the eighth year in a row, MH Engineered Solutions has earned an MVP Award from the industry’s trade association, MHEDA (Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association).
Award recipients must satisfy a rigorous set of criteria with less than 10 percent of the association’s membership earning the award. As a 2021 MVP, MH Engineered Solutions has successfully demonstrated a commitment to business excellence, professionalism, and good stewardship.
To qualify for the annual MVP Award, companies are required to provide evidence of their commitment to their partners in business, including their customers, employees and suppliers. They must satisfy criteria in the following important areas:
• Industry Advocacy
• Customer Service & Safety Practices
• Business Networking
• Continuing Education
• Business Best Practices
“This award is difficult to achieve without a companywide commitment to excellence in education, networking, and community service. The companies that earn this distinction from MHEDA are the premier materials handling providers in the industry,” said Mike Wall, 2020 MHEDA Chairman of the Board and President of CSI Materials Handling in Westmont, IL.
In response to receiving the award for the eighth consecutive year, Scott Hennie, President of MH Engineered Solutions, said: “We are grateful to receive the MHEDA MVP distinction again, as this award supports our company Vison, Mission, and Values by providing the opportunity to support our clients by being consultative in nature and good stewards of their resources. Being an MHEDA MVP also supports our commitment to our employees by providing a safe and encouraging environment that recognizes integrity, inspires passion, and enables personal growth.”
Buying used material handling equipment can be a budget-friendly answer when you need a piece of equipment quickly and for a significantly lower price than a new piece of equipment. There are pros and cons to buying both new and used equipment, whether it be the cost savings of used equipment vs. the enhanced reliability of new equipment… but, what if you didn’t have to compromise? Have you given consideration to refurbished equipment? Many used forklifts and other materials handling pieces of equipment are refurbished to be like new machines. Buyers of reconditioned used equipment experience the added bonus of reliable features that normally come with the purchase of a new machine at a fraction of the cost. Added value from a used piece of equipment can make increasing fleet size prices easy to attain during normal business cycles, seasonal holiday spikes, and even times of adversity for any operation.
“How do you refurbish your used equipment?”
This is a common question from many material handling buyers. Most industry professionals understand the concept of refurbishment, but it is important to note that many companies approach reconditioning a piece of equipment differently. At MH Equipment, we follow the following process:
1. Perform an assessment. Before each truck begins the refurbishment process, technicians inspect the integral parts of the machine. They make a diagnosis as to whether the piece of equipment is suitable for reconditioning.
It is important to know that not every piece of used equipment is refurbished. Some lifts do not meet MH Equipment’s criteria for refurbishment. When buying a used machine, it is critical you ask your dealer if the piece of equipment has or has not been refurbished.
2. Fulfill inspection guidelines. Once a forklift meets the eligibility criteria, the piece of equipment goes through an inspection. At MH Equipment, technicians review the machine based on a 139-point inspection guideline that determines what components need repaired or replaced to make the lift like new.
MH Equipment’s 139-point inspection includes:
Instruments and Accessories
Parking Brake/Seat Brake
Lift and Tilt Cylinders
And more depending on the piece of equipment
3. Refresh the look. Forklifts are constantly undergoing minor damage from routine use resulting in a need for new paint. Once a truck has all the necessary parts repaired, many lifts are sanded down, prepped, and receive new paint.
4. Ready for the next operator. When all is said and done, the reconditioned machine is like new. Features and quality are comparable to a brand new machine. Reconditioning extends the life of equipment with buyers receiving the most benefit.
Refurbished material handling equipment can bring added value to your fleet:
Machines are made like new with the same capabilities and features as brand new machines.
Used equipment is readily available reducing downtime for businesses.
Buying refurbished machines is cost-effective. Most reconditioned forklifts at MH Equipment cost around 40 percent less than a standard brand new piece of equipment.
At MH Equipment, there are additional guarantees, including reliable maintenance and warranties available.
Buying a refurbished forklift should be an easy choice. Expand your fleet with a reliable refurbished forklift or another piece of refreshed equipment. At MH Equipment, reliability comes standard with every piece of equipment. From the major components, all the way down to the smallest detail, everything is focused on adding quality and integrity to our reconditioned equipment.
For the sixth year in a row, MH Equipment has been awarded the prestigious MVP (Most Valuable Partner) Award for 2021 from the material handling industry’s trade association, MHEDA (Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association). The award is based on various accomplishments in 2020.
To earn the award, recipients must satisfy a rigorous set of criteria – so rigorous, in fact, that less than 10 percent of the association’s membership receive the award. As a 2021 MVP, MH Equipment has successfully demonstrated a commitment to business excellence, professionalism, and good stewardship.
To qualify for the annual MVP Award, companies are required to provide evidence of their commitment to their partners in business, including their customers, employees, and suppliers. To be eligible, the company must participate in a “give back” program or activity, as well as satisfy specific criteria in the following areas:
Business Best Practices
Customer Service & Safety Practices
Having met and exceeded that criteria in 2020, the recognition has MH Equipment looking forward to another year of delivering responsible, quality solutions to customers, growing relationships with suppliers, and supporting employees in both personal and professional growth endeavors.
“We are always thankful to be recognized as an MHEDA MVP Award recipient. This honor is made possible because of our employees and their commitments to providing innovative solutions, as well as our strong customer and supplier relationships. This year is especially gratifying, as it helps us celebrate the 11,000 hours of voluntary work our employees invested back into their communities during this challenging year. We look forward to earning this award next year,” said Woody Hartwell, President, MH Equipment.
A forklift’s job is to keep your operations moving – in many companies, forklifts are doing that around the clock. Because a forklift’s parts, components, and accessories are constantly moving, they inevitably develop wear and tear that, over time, hinder the equipment’s productivity and overall performance.
When your lift truck isn’t functioning at its best, you’re losing time and money to increased downtime. Not maintaining wear and tear can also create an unsafe work environment – the machine could cause injury to its operator, and internal combustion trucks could give off harmful emissions that can negatively impact your workers’ health.
To get as much life as possible out of your forklift, look in these five places that are especially vulnerable to wear and tear:
Forklift tires are designed to be durable and hold a lot of weight, but just like with car tires, need to be replaced when they’re worn out. Bad tires can cause truck and load stability issues, discomfort to operators, damage to forks and undercarriage components, and even facility damage. Here are a few things to look for that indicate you may need to replace your tires:
Worn low: Most forklift tires have a clearly-defined line beneath the tread, often referred to as the 50 percent wear line. If you are close to or have worn through that line, it is time to replace the tire.
Tearing: Look for obvious tears and punctures on the surface of your tires. This type of damage is often caused by running the forklift over debris – a clean and well-swept workspace helps prevent tearing.
Chunking: If pieces of your tires are breaking or peeling off the body, it is time to replace them. Chunking renders the wheel useless, causing truck instability and operator discomfort.
Flat Spots: Flattening typically occurs when the forklift brakes at high speeds. If you notice any bald spots, the tire should be replaced. If the abrupt braking continues more frequently, the operator likely needs re-trained on safe operation of the forklift at reasonable speeds. Frequent sharp halts will not only make you replace your tires sooner than expected but also your brakes.
Bond Failure: Cushion tires have a central metal band with the rubber of the tire bonded to the metal band. If wear and tear near the band is bad enough that you can fit a flat screwdriver head or knife between the tire and band, you are overdue to switch out your tires.
Oil or Grease Stains: The chemicals in oil and grease can eat away at tire rubber over time. Oil or grease on the tires can also hazardously affect control of the forklift. If you see these types of stains, inspect your facility floor and clean the affected areas to avoid other potential hazards.
2. Oil and Air Filters
Your forklift’s oil and air filters protect the engine from preventable damage. A functional air filter keeps dirt and debris from affecting the engine’s performance, and the oil filter ensures clean oil is running through the engine; contaminated oil can increase engine component friction. Both should be replaced at recommended intervals to maintain maximum efficiency.
If you notice you need to replace air filters at a frequent rate, consider investing in solutions to improve the cleanliness of your facility – if it’s affecting your equipment, it’s definitely affecting your operators, too!
3. Mast and Chains
A forklift’s mast and chains experience heavy and frequent demands when in operation. This stress to the machine means these components should be inspected and replaced regularly to maintain safety and efficiency.
The mast is the vertical apparatus at the front of the forklift that allows a load to be raised, lowered, and tilted. One clear sign of wear and tear is metal-on-metal contact. If you hear grinding noises during operation or see visible scrape marks, it may be time to replace the mast.
Forklift chains can perform for thousands of hours of work if properly lubricated. If you notice rust, plate cracking, protruding or turned pins, or broken links, the chain needs to be replaced. These issues can be prevented with proper lubrication.
If you have an electric forklift, battery maintenance is of the utmost importance in maximizing efficiency and minimizing lifetime costs. Batteries have a finite number of charging cycles, so sticking to a charging schedule is critical to maximizing a battery’s life and usefulness – not enough charge at the beginning of a shift means more downtime, and charging too frequently could risk shortening the battery’s life.
For optimal battery performance, regular fluid level checks are necessary. If there is not enough fluid in the battery, you will need to add water – water typically needs to be added every 10 charges. Watering batteries can be a delicate process, as both the type and amount of water are integral in making the battery work well.
MH Equipment can help you increase your battery’s life with preventative maintenance services and battery watering, as well as charger inspections and repair, on all brands of batteries.
A lift truck’s forks experience stress with each load. While they are heavy-duty in construction, they will still wear out over time. Waiting too long to replace worn-out forks will likely lead to more-frequent accidents, such as dropped loads, damaged products, and workplace injuries. Fortunately, these accidents are preventable with regular fork inspections. Here are five critical signs of wear and tear that tell you it’s time to replace or restore your forks:
Surface cracks: Over time, forks can develop cracks from picking up, unloading, and transporting heavy loads. The parts of the fork closest to the equipment and the fork heel tend to obtain the most wear and tear.
Bent or worn fork hooks: Using a caliper, checks the hooks for wear and straightness. If the lip of the hook touches the back of the caliper, you should replace your forks.
More than 10 percent wear: The metal on forks gradually wears down with consistent use, but eventually the forks can no longer handle their original load capacity. Just 10 percent wear can reduce your load capacity by 20 percent, at which point the forks should be replaced. Metal wear is not obvious to notice over time – use calipers to measure the shaft, and compare that measurement to the thickness of the fork blade, heel, and hook to calculate the wear.
Uneven blade height: The tips of both forklift blades should roughly be the same height. If one of the forks differs by more than three percent of the blade length, the forks need to be replaced.
·Bent blade or shank: All forks are delivered with a 90-degree angle. The forks need to be replaced if the blades or shanks are bent more than 93 degrees – while it may look fixed, simply bending the fork back into place will not repair it, as the integrity of the fork is already compromised.
Proper maintenance is the best way to mitigate the harmful effects of wear and tear and increase the longevity of your lift truck.
Regular maintenance can lead to these benefits:
A higher resale value
A safer work environment for operators and other workers
Improved performance of the forklift’s attachments, accessories, and components
Reduced downtime and increased productivity
Cost reductions from identifying smaller problems early on that could potentially lead to larger, costlier problems in the future
Choosing the right partner for high-quality service and responsible recommendations is the first step to combating that inevitable wear and tear. MH Equipment’s certified service technicians can repair all makes and models of material handling equipment and are entrusted to provide recommendations that are right for you and your business. We will also come alongside you to design a service plan that works for you to keep your equipment doing its job and doing it well.
Contact us today to help stop wear and tear from impacting your business.
Baby…. It’s Cold Inside!
As we near the end of summer, some of us may be wishing for cooler temperatures. However, the cold food supply chain has never been hotter! The COVID-19 pandemic has massively impacted the cold food supply chain in just a few months, forcing the redirection of foodservice inventory away from closed restaurants, bars, hotels, and other food and beverage clients, and toward retail stores to satisfy consumer demand. While recent statistics show retail sales of cold foods are still extremely high compared to last year, the panic buying that was fueling demand and emptying store shelves in early March has seemingly leveled off.
Refrigerated storage has become an integral part of the supply chain when it comes to transporting and storing temperature-sensitive products. These specialized storage and logistics solutions are required to preserve the quality of and to extend the shelf life of products such as meat, seafood, fruits, chemicals, and medicines among others while they travel from the manufacturers to the end-users. This highly specialized process requires comprehensive knowledge of the industry, the ability to monitor processes occurring both inside and outside the facility, and constantly staying up-to-date on new and evolving innovative technological solutions available.
Distribution and manufacturing facilities across the nation share many of the same challenges, whether it be space optimization, order fulfillment, or labor management. Operations managers of cold storage facilities find themselves in the unique situation of not only being responsible for maintaining the quality and safety of their sensitive inventory, but also the safety and well-being of their employees working under these special environmental circumstances.
What are the most common problems involved in managing a cold storage warehouse?
Strategic planning and organizational skills are critical for cold storage operations managers to guarantee a seamless process that ensures the quality of their inventory.
1. Provide Employees with Proper Personal Equipment: Employee comfort is often an afterthought in cold storage warehouses. However, employees who feel protected and comfortable will not only perform better but will be more committed to ensuring the safety of the products they are responsible for. Along with the need for comfortable coats, insulated pants, and gloves, having equipment designed to keep employees comfortable can also lessen the strain on a business’s budget.
Both Hyster and Yale equipment is designed with ergonomics in mind including improved seat positioning, operator control placement, and more that reduces noise distractions improves operator alertness and keeps valuable goods visible. Telematics offered on Hyster and Yale equipment allows for trucks to only be accessed by trained operators reducing user error by unauthorized operators along with impact monitoring, alerts, and incident data. These unique features keep your team safe and your business thriving.
2. Use Equipment Designed for the Cold: The equipment you normally find in the warehouse should be designed or modified for cold temperatures. For example, it can be difficult to operate a touchscreen when you are wearing gloves. For this reason, cold storage warehouse equipment tends to be designed with buttons that are large enough to be felt through gloves.
The condensation that forms when devices are moved from one temperature zone into another can easily short out electrical equipment like scanners. The cold temperature also significantly degrades battery life. Handheld equipment and electric forklifts need to be sealed against condensation and higher voltage batteries need to be used to extend their use cycle.
Additionally, audio and visual picking systems eliminate the need for staff to manually reference paperwork, thereby freeing up their gloved hands and accelerating picking processes.
Another common incident in cold storage is the collection of moisture on the floors, which makes them slippery. If you use forklift tires that are not designed for cold storage operations, your forklift operators will have a difficult time maneuvering the forklifts. The ideal tires for cold storage are polyurethane tires, which are key to improving traction on slippery floors. They achieve this through micro-grips on their surfaces or different swipe patterns meant to deflect water from the path of the tire.
Cold storage space is more expensive than other types of warehouse space, in large part because of the costs associated with keeping a space at a constant low temperature. In conjunction with efficient, high-density storage, automation can make the most of the cold storage space available. Using robotics and automation can streamline repetitive tasks freeing workers to move to more valuable, safe, and comfortable roles in a facility. Robotic equipment can also detect obstacles during movement through and around exits reducing equipment damage and employee injury. Equipment manufacturers like Hyster and Yale have been focused on improving robotic and operator-focused technology and equipment by combining employee safety and comfort with equipment performance.
3. Accurate temperature and humidity: Not all products that need cold storage are the same. Different products require different temperatures to maintain their safety and quality. Many cold storage facilities have multiple products that need to be stored in these varying temperatures. Because of this, there must be constant monitoring in each area with adjustments being made as soon as necessary modifications are detected. Additionally, seasonal temperature changes can substantially affect the internal facility environment; for instance, moisture buildup from temperature changes when moving products can have disastrous effects on stock.
One solution for excess moisture is insulated curtain walls. These are plastic, modular curtains that can be deployed as needed to separate warehouses into different temperature zones. They are surprisingly effective and are able to create anywhere from 15 degrees F to 40 degrees F of temperature separation depending on the thickness of the insulation.
4. Label quality and product traceability: Barcode quality of labels can be easily damaged from hardening adhesives that can cause label failure, resulting in unidentified products. Therefore, unique, temperature-resistant materials must be implemented. Appropriate rack labeling must be selected to ensure the various warehouse temperature zones are easily identifiable.
Whether it is manufacturing, distributing, or storing meat and seafood, produce, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals or any other temperature-sensitive products, it is critical to identify the challenges of managing a cold storage warehouse and continue to improve upon them. To be successful in this highly competitive and growing sector, no detail can be taken for granted, and every step of the supply chain process must be constantly monitored. The failure to do so could literally mean life or death for consumers.
A forklift by any other name…..would still do the same thing!
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a popular reference to William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. It's one of the beauties of the English language that different regions have their own vocabularies, but sometimes the differences warrant a "Huh?" In certain parts of the country, you may need to order a Soda, in other parts it could be a Pop and to confuse the matter even further in the South you may need to order a Coke even though you don’t want a Coca-Cola. When it comes to the American lexicon, variety is key, and forklifts are not immune to this issue. However, the terminology people use to refer to forklifts does not vary as much by region but more about what company you work for.
From its early origins in the late 1800’s as a simple hoist to modern versions of hybrid-powered technology, the forklift was naturally born out of necessity. No matter what you call them, their purpose is simple, move product from point A to point B.
Forklifts have a long and important history that has significantly impacted supply innovation around the world. During their evolution, they have also been referred to by many different names. In 1923, Yale was the first company to use forks that lifted loads off the ground and an elevated mast that could extend beyond the height of the truck. The Yale truck is considered to be the first forklift. Thus was born the “forklift.” This is the most common term still used today. It is suggested that this has become the most popular name because it is also the most obvious description of the machine.
However, let’s explore some of the other names the most important and widely used piece of equipment in material handling goes by:
Lift truck: “Lift Truck” is arguably the second most popular name used to describe these pieces of equipment. Forklift and Lift Truck can be used interchangeably as there is no difference between the two. Other common words that are generically used to describe “forklifts” are fork truck, forklift truck, and lifts. These terms seem relatively obvious since they are different variations that ultimately describe the equipment.
One lesser known term that is still used today to describe forklifts is “jeep.” To find the origins of this reference we need to go way back to 1907. When the Mercury Company was the first to use the word “jeep” on its forklifts. The use of the name pre-dated the famous Willys Jeep.
In addition to these general terms there are also other nicknames that are used to describe more specific types of forklifts. There are seven different classifications of lift trucks. Classifications depend on factors such as applications, fuel options, and features of the forklift. Over the years different names have been used when describing certain types of forklifts within a class.
For example, order pickers are a type of Class II electric motor narrow aisle truck. These trucks are designed to lift the operator to retrieve items. Order pickers are specialized forklifts for selecting items from elevated heights in warehouse racking. Although “Order picker” is their common name they are also referred to as cherry pickers because of there ability to lift an operator high into the rack to “cherry pick” items. The term “cherry picker” is also used for other types of material handling equipment that have a railed platform at the end for raising and lowering people.
Another name used in the Class II family is a “turret truck.” This truck is specifically designed to do one task: operate in very narrow aisles. The turret truck is often abbreviated to VNA standing for a very narrow aisle truck. It is also often referred to as a “swing reach truck.” Turret Trucks are a battery-operated machine that uses both the electric engine, battery, and operator compartment to counterweight heavy loads.
Today we have a whole new type of forklift that also comes along with a few different names. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are forklifts that are designed to operate autonomously. These forklifts use guidance systems to maneuver themselves through a warehouse or building and pick up and drop off loads automatically. These vehicles are also known by other names such as LGV (Laser-Guided Vehicle), Mobile Robots, SGV (Self-Guided Vehicle), Guided Carts, Autonomous Vehicles, and Driverless Vehicles.
To confuse matters even worse, many organizations have their own unique nicknames for their forklifts. Comment below with some of the unique names you have heard them called.
No matter what you call them, there is no dispute that forklifts are the backbone of the supply chain. Without them, workdays would be longer and more strenuous and less efficient. History would have to be rewritten, as we would not have been able to achieve the extraordinary innovations that we all enjoy today.
Railcar movers are built to withstand decades of use as they contribute to keeping supply chains moving. To realize the full potential of your railcar mover, keeping your machine well-maintained becomes a priority to avoid breakdowns that can create costly downtime for your business.
Downtime is expensive, time-consuming, and interruptive to your operations. It is also often the repercussion of not effectively maintaining your railcar mover over time. In an effort to save you money, time, and other resources, here are three recommendations that can help maximize the usable life of your railcar mover:
1. Be diligent with your recommended maintenance schedule.
One of the best ways to protect your investment in your railcar mover is to be mindful of your operational hours and to follow the machine’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Having a periodic maintenance (PM) agreement with MH Equipment that aligns with your railcar mover’s recommended maintenance schedule can minimize any surprise breakdown costs that immediately halt your operations. In MH’s railcar mover PM agreements, our factory-certified technicians can complete a comprehensive maintenance check every 250, 500, 750, 1000, and 2000 hours, checking components like oils, filters, lines and fittings, couplers, and more.
Sometimes, however, maintenance emergencies happen on the clock, and you need to get back up and running. At MH Equipment, we understand the urgency of every service call because we know the importance of the railcar mover to your business. That’s why we offer 24/7 onsite service* options with our skilled technicians, backed with a vast parts inventory.
We know your time is valuable, and we understand you can’t always wait for repairs. MH Equipment also offers short- and long-term rental agreements to help you keep moving forward with your business.
2. Have your operators take a minute to visually inspect the railcar mover before operation.
Your operators play a crucial role in the life of your railcar mover – they are the eyes and feet on the ground that can identify any issues before they become a significant safety or maintenance problem. Here are a few items operators can easily inspect before operation:
While this is not a complete list, it is best to have your operators perform a “daily inspection checklist” before they start their shift. A visual inspection can indicate obvious maintenance issues, but following the recommended maintenance schedule will ensure you’re getting the most out of your railcar mover for as long as possible.
3. Empower your operators with the knowledge and skills to be successful.
One of the best things you can do to keep your railcar mover up and running is having trained operators at the helm. Proper training gives your staff a well-rounded view of all operational aspects, from safety best practices and troubleshooting and maintenance when something is not running as it should.
It is also important to offer refresher training to your employees. Over time, operators may develop bad habits, such as taking safety shortcuts – these bad habits can create productivity and safety issues, or even unnecessary maintenance costs, for your business. A trained operator will be a safer operator, which minimizes excessive wear and tear to the machine and keeps productivity high.
At the end of the day, your company is losing money if your equipment is not up and running. MH Equipment’s team of railcar mover specialists can assist you in finding effective solutions to your downtime and maintenance issues – visit www.mhrailcarmover.com or call your nearest MH Equipment location to get in contact with one of them today.
*Available for Rail King, Trackmobile, and Shuttlewagon models.
At MH Equipment, we believe People Matter and that is why we partner with Gallagher to share helpful tips and tricks for staying healthy. This month, we look at taking control of your health with several easy tips. First – everyone should know their numbers – Weight, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Blood Sugar. There is a helpful page on Eat This, Not That, and the benefits of swapping out certain foods. Lastly, we look at some key strategies for cancer prevention. We hope these tips have some value for you and your family!
Learn More: August 2020 Employee Health Newsletter
Most often, warehouses and manufacturing operations are known for the abundance of dirt, grease and grime that comes with the territory of working in an industrial environment. Keeping your facility clean is an important, and at times lofty task, but with recent updates and innovations in industrial cleaning equipment there is an abundance of cleaning solutions readily available for almost any cleaning need.
As our world continues to be impacted with things such as the Coronavirus, there is no more important time than now to ensure you are putting in place policies and procedures to keep your facility clean and sanitized and using the most effective cleaning equipment available.
Most Importantly: Clean Everything
Just like spring cleaning at home, do not miss the hard to reach spots. Clean every area in your facility from indoor offices to loading docks to parking lots. There is cleaning equipment that can wash and sanitize multiple types of surfaces. Do not only focus on high trafficked areas. Due to pandemics like COVID-19, it is important to sanitize every space to protect you, your workers, and your customers.
Service areas are the heart of many operations and require cleanliness to keep business moving and your employees safe. For service or in-door vehicle areas, a washer, like the Kärcher B 60 W Bp, is ideal for any shop area that requires maneuverability and even safeguards against incorrect operation. A scrubber like the PowerBoss Phoenix 3030, is great at cleaning those persistent and frustrating grease stains from shop floors using a scrub deck made of corrosion-resistant aluminum casting leaving a professional clean. The tested technology also conserves 20% of the water and chemicals compared to standard disc brushes helping your bottom line.
Many facilities have office spaces like conference rooms, bathrooms, and desk spaces that tend to be high traffic areas. When meeting with customers, conference rooms and bathrooms may be spaces they spend a lot of time in. Dress to impress by keeping your offices spotless. Go above and beyond just your standard vacuuming routine. Floor scrubbers are easy to operate and give your office space a deep clean removing set-in stains. Sprayers, like the Minuteman DS2 100 PSI Pump Powered Applicator, are great for bathrooms and tiled areas that need disinfecting quickly and need to be sanitized regularly. The DS2 provides a pulse-free spray ensuring a consistent application effectively leading to a more-uniform coverage than standard wiping methods.
Dust can accumulate quickly in Processing Centers due to spills and hard to reach areas. This is another area you will want to focus on cleaning expertly and efficiently to keep your business moving. Keep your workforce safe with a clean space by using a scrubber like the Kärcher B 150 R Bp SB to stay on track. The B 150 cleans floors quickly and safely with operators in mind. The machine is easy to use and great for narrow aisles.
Exteriors and Loading Docks
One area many businesses and operations seem to overlook in their cleaning routine is their facility’s exterior. Even though these spaces may not seem like the highest priority, they can show that your business is there to improve the community where you do business. Make cleaning platforms, ramps, parking lots, sidewalks, dock doors, and other exterior surfaces a must-do on your list. A good choice for exteriors is rider sweepers like PowerBoss’ Armadillo series. A sweeper like the PowerBoss Armadillo 9X is a cost-effective option for cleaning out-doors and is consistently reliable in parking lots and sidewalks.
Industrial Cleaning Helps You and the Community
Keeping warehouse and manufacturing operations clean is key to daily production and avoiding workforce injury or illness. In this day and age, the challenge of keeping facilities clean and disinfected is made easier with industrial cleaning equipment like sweepers, scrubbers, and sprayers that can complete the job quickly and efficiently. Take your facility to the next level of clean today!
Special Post from Grant Wilkerson, MH Equipment Director of Safety and Loss Control
You have most likely heard the expression, “Old habits die hard.” If you don’t believe it, just move your silverware to a different drawer and see how many times you keep going to the original drawer to get a fork. At my home, we remodeled our kitchen more than two years ago and I still can’t consistently find my favorite popcorn bowl.
Old habits are a key factor that continually leads to avoidable injuries. We tend to do things the way we’ve always done them, especially if there were no negative consequences.
For example, if you’ve worked on an engine while it’s running and weren’t cut by the fan blade, you often tend to go about it the same way the next time. You assume you will avoid the fan blade again. Just because we avoided an injury in the past by not controlling obvious hazards doesn’t mean we’ll avoid an injury in the future by not controlling those hazards.
Grab the Moment, MH Equipment's safety philosophy is specifically designed to help us interrupt and break our bad habits and keep ourselves safe. It isn’t hard, it doesn’t take much time and it definitely works. By stopping for just a moment to ask ourselves, “What could go wrong or possibly injure me?” we identifying potential hazards. We get a safe start before performing the task at hand. That, however, is not enough to stay safe.
To better ensure our safety, we must stop, Grab the Moment, and identify any potential hazards. It is of great importance that we take steps to eliminate or control any hazards. For example:
Your personal safety is determined by the amount of time you take to identify potential hazards and the effort you put into controlling or eliminating them. It is imperative you make a deliberate effort each and every day because after all, “our old habits die hard.”
Grab the Moment!
Stay Safe in the Moment!
At MH Equipment, we believe People Matter and that is why we partner with Gallagher to share helpful tips and tricks for staying healthy. This month, we discuss self-care and how it is not selfish! We talk about ways that you can show gratitude, which can actually make you happier. Learn how to care for your finances in order to care for your health. And we learn how active days equal a healthy life, which equals a happy you! We hope these helpful tips have some value for you and your family!
Learn More: July 2020 Employee Health Newsletter