Benefits of Warehouse Automation

New Packaging Technology Can Solve your Christmas Staff Shortages Problems

When it comes to the end of the year and the big seasonal push in the food, manufacturing and distribution sectors, businesses traditionally brace themselves for heavy staff shortages. Figures released ahead of the last 10-12 weeks of the year reveal that 43% of labour providers state they will struggle to cope with demand this Christmas due to lack of staff.

With both Black Friday and Cyber Mondays increasing demand even further due to the high peak in sales on these days, businesses are being advised to look towards the latest packaging technology as a way of coping with a lack of staff on the factory floor.

Growing sales and higher demand

It has been reported that while the high street will be feeling the pinch again this festive period, the food and e-commerce sectors will be making the most gains. According to market research company Mintel, compared with December 2017, total spending is set to rise 4%, reaching nearly £48bn excluding VAT.

When these figures are examined in more detail, they reveal that food sales will grow by 3.3% to £18.6bn. Online orders will continue to rise by a further 14% to £5.6bn, which accounts for almost 12% of all retail spending. This will place higher expectation for manufacturers and distributors to keep up with the pace of demand, which calls for a new approach to the type of packaging machinery being used during this period.

Christmas packaging solutions

Rather than placing further pressure on the business by rushing to hire more staff at peak times during the year, companies should look towards sustainable alternatives. Modernised packaging machinery is beginning to emerge as the long-term solution businesses have been hoping to find for quite some time.

They are able to play a key role in speeding up the packing process in a way that will allow companies to meet demand even with a smaller rota of available staff. This can be seen in the technology that features case erectors which are able to handle flat packed boxes and build them up. Or, how pallet wrappers have the ability to maximise the amount of stretch film being put to use.

The knock-on effect is these machines will reduce the amount of materials being used, while saving on warehouse space and labour expenditure. When these benefits are enjoyed at a time when sales are sky high, the business is able to increase profit margins to really get the most out of their inventory.

There are even automated packaging machines available that can build, fill, fold and label boxes around any product to match its exact dimensions. This takes place in a single process, instantly making the supply chain more efficient. There will no longer be a requirement to add savings and void-fill on materials, all the while saving time and reducing the amount of man-hours used to complete the job.

Planning for the future

Much of this comes down to the ongoing advancements made in automated packaging technology over the past few years. By making an investment into these sort of machines it removes the need to bring a raft of new employees on board to deal with the festive rush. This also means the usual training programme is no longer a requirement as the packaging machine slots seamlessly into the existing processes.

These are just some of the advantages businesses across the UK will be able to enjoy as the technology improves year on year. Online shopping will only continue to grow, and the need to find cost-effective and sustainable solutions becomes an ever-pressing issue for manufacturers and distributors. New packaging machines appear to hold the answer, changing and improving the way many industries cope with seasonal peaks.

 

 

 

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brexit

How are Warehouses Preparing for Brexit?

With the UK on course to leave the EU, and with no deal on the table that everyone can agree to, there is a lot of confusion right across the warehouse and manufacturing industries. And yet, business owners still have to find solutions that will make the transition smoother, even though they are not aware of the terms of the Brexit deal, or the exact details of our relationship with the EU once we have left.

In the meantime, UK businesses are starting to look for facilities that can provide flexible storage space. These ‘build to suit’ solutions are constructed to support companies in becoming more efficient with planning and preparing for future events. They also require storage space that is adaptable and will allow them to make the alterations they need if – or when – demands change post-Brexit.

Temporary Storage Demands

The current status of Brexit negotiations has led to an increase in requests for temporary and smaller storage shelters. What storage constructors are also noticing is a change in rental requirements. Instead of long term leases, companies are starting to ask for shorter periods that run for anywhere between 1-5 years.

The reason for this is because companies are trying to plan ahead into the future. They have to find sustainable methods of maintaining their production flow that will allow them to continue to fulfil the needs of their customers at a time of extreme uncertainty. By investing in custom built storage facilities, they are creating an alternative solution that differs from the typical spaces used to store their products.

Many of these structures are fabric based, so they are not permanent, but offer the right kind of conditions to store merchandise and goods. Because they can be adapted to suit the specific user, it will help businesses react quickly to any changes in the market while helping to save on costs in the short run.

Preparing For Brexit

Another option being explored, and taken up by, manufacturers in the UK is stockpiling. Those who rely on raw materials being shipped in from various countries need to find ways to ensure they do not experience a dramatic shortage that could affect their ability to produce. Aston Martin recently announced they would be increasing stockpiles of car components from 3 days’ supply to 5 as a precaution, in the event of no deal being reached at all.

This follows on from Bentley also stating they would begin doing the same. Airbus have been vocal in their concerns about the current situation over Brexit and have started to increase storage of aeroplane components. However, at the moment, many small-to-medium sized firms are not looking at this as an option due to the financial risks involved.

Although this may change the closer we move towards Brexit if there is no deal on the table. Aside from the cash flow needed to invest in stockpiling, it also requires a larger amount of storage space. With e-commerce demands growing all the time, there is an increased need to find cost effective 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) storage space.

No matter how large or small the business, finding a balance between flexibility and dependability will prove crucial no matter what the outcome of Brexit. Whether building new custom built storage spaces, or maximising the space within their current warehouse, companies will have to think on their feet to ensure they keep pace with the ever changing logistical landscape.

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Mezzanine Floor

How to build a Mezzanine Floor

Using the height in your storage facility is one of the best ways to maximise the space available to you. Mezzanine flooring allows you to do just that, acting as a cost effective and efficient solution for your warehouse.

This blog will go into more detail about the options available to you when installing mezzanine flooring and a general overview of the process involved.

Design process

There are a number of different design variations for mezzanine floors, each one constructed to being the most out of your work environment. One thing they do all have in common is a well thought out design that has been made in accordance with CE marking. This means the construction meets the essential regulations of the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation.

Additional features

Businesses are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. If their regular daily duties involve working on or around the mezzanine floor then any potential risks or hazards have to be fully considered before installation.

One such measure would be the installation of protective handrails to ensure staff working at height are prevented from falling and injuring themselves. This also applies to any equipment that may be used on the mezzanine, stopping it from going over the edge and becoming damaged or potentially injuring someone. Mesh panels are an alternative which will also serve to prevent small work items from going over the sides.

Adjustments made to mezzanine flooring aren’t only carried out for safety concerns. It could also simply be to create more of a visual impact in the space if brand image is of importance. For example, staircases, handrails and pallet gates could be branded using the company colours. These would be powder coated to ensure there is a high level of corrosion resistance.

The staircases used to connect the lower and upper floors of the mezzanine play a key role in ensuring it is effectively used. The type of staircase being installed will vary on the type of environment it is being placed into. For example, an industrial space will have different requirements to a staircase being installed into a retail setting,

There are three different types of pallet gates to choose from – the fail-safe roll-over, a light weight design or a swing gate. These help to protect staff members from open areas, such as the loading of pallets. Once installed, pallet gates are extremely durable and require very little ongoing maintenance.

Floor decking

There are a number of different options available when it comes to choosing the flooring material. However, to help narrow it down, below are the three most popular types that are suitable for the vast majority of environments.

38mm Particle Board
This is a high density board that can also include additional moisture resistance, wear resistance and non-slip features if required. If there are a lot of spills or leaks in the building then moisture resistance could be a good option.

Durbar Plate
The textured patterns of this style provide extra grip and it copes well with heavier loads. It is a hot-rolled structural steel floor plate and is characterised by a raised, even pattern.

Forge-Welded Gratings
Forge-wielded gratings are often used as the preferred choice for areas such as gangways, plant platforms and transfer aisles.

Building and Planning Regulations

The maximum size of a mezzanine floor should be 200m² if you do not wish to apply for planning permission. This also means that any planned alterations must take place solely within the building.

However, building regulations will have to be met. This will come down to the supplier to ensure it meets the required standards on areas such as fire escapes, fire protection, disabled access and more.

Fire safety is a big concern when installing a mezzanine floor. It should be constructed so it slows the spread of fire while maintaining the structural integrity of the building so staff members can evacuate. The supplier will have to provide a range of methods to ensure early warning of fire can be raised and that it can also be prevented and slowed down.

Installing a mezzanine floor

Once site surveys and inspections have finished, a qualified surveyor will review the site to understand the full requirements. From there, accurate quotations can be produced, along with production schedules, CAD drawings, manufacturing drawings, materials procurement and an installation schedule.

After building regulation requirements have been checked and cleared, work on the project can begin. The manufactured parts will be delivered to the site once ready so the installation team can start constructing the mezzanine floor.

 

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Worlds First Fully Automated Warehouse Run by Robots

For many years Amazon have led the way with the use of automated systems in their warehouses, combining traditional human methods with cutting edge technology. However, until this point there has never been a fully automated factory anywhere in the world, although it was only a matter of time before one was created.

That has now happened in Japan, where Mujin, a Tokyo-based start-up have created the world’s first fully-automated warehouse that requires no help from human workers. Their technology has transformed a JD.com warehouse into a facility of the future and they have plans to rapidly expand the use of their software.

 

Mujin produce controllers that are about the size of a briefcase, and can serve as an operating system to control hardware made by any robot manufacturer. There are typically two of these controllers used in any installation – one for vision and the other for motion planning.

The aim of these controllers is to automatically generate motions for the robots, which would remove the need to manually teach the robots. According to Mujin, this will improve efficiency and make for a more productive warehouse environment. The technology uses a combination of motion planning and computer vision, which enables the robots to move autonomously and intelligently.

When the 40,000-sqm JD.com facility was opened in June 2018 it instantly turned heads due to its impressive set-up. It comes equipped with 20 industrial robots that are able to pick, transfer and pack goods by using crates moved along on conveyor belts. This system is aided further by use of camera technology and Mujin’s vision and motion planning controllers. Elsewhere in the facility, merchandise is carted around by robots onto loading docks and trucks ready for shipping.

The robots used in the warehouse are smart machines that have been programmed to perform a specific task. This allows every position of every joint to be tracked down to the millisecond, which significantly minimises the possibility of errors occurring. Each of the controllers feature fast microchips that can handle the burden of extremely large computational processes. With this software installed, they can evaluate a huge range of possible manoeuvres, before the best one is selected in less than a second.

 

Back in 2012, Amazon purchased robot company Kiva Systems and have been deploying automated technology in their fulfilment centres ever since. The key differential between Amazon and this new layout is that no humans work on the floor of the JD.com warehouse. Amazon employ around 400-500 workers in each fulfilment centre, and Mujin’s system requires only 5 employees be present. However, their job is not to run any of the operations, rather, they are there only to service the machines to ensure they remain in good working order.

Mujin currently offer their software as a customisable service. However, their plan is to move away from offering this model to every client, and to create a standardised automation package in America. This will make it more accessible and affordable for the vast majority of businesses, and could pose a further threat to employment levels in the industrial sector. Concerns about the impact of automation have already been raised for a number of years, although Mujin’s system proposes to dispose of nearly all human assistance.

Yet, there is a strong case to be made that fully-automated warehouses will not be detrimental to jobs. Traditionally, the introduction of technology and robots has created more jobs. Japanese car company Toyota are a perfect example. They have fully embraced automation and have since grown into the biggest car company in the world. This has allowed to accentuate human craftsmanship to improve manufacturing while becoming a more efficient operation.

Mujin’s technology looks set to transform warehouses as we know it – but it is likely to be a positive change that will benefit businesses, staff and customers.

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Workstation with 2 upper shelves and full undershelf

What are the best industrial shelving units?

The industrial environment is unlike any other which means any shelving being installed needs to be able to withstand the tough demands placed upon it. Shelving styles that work well in the home or in an office won’t necessarily be the best option for your warehouse or industrial space. Below are some of the best and most popular industrial shelving units currently in use today.

Rivet shelving

This type of shelving can be easily installed within the warehouse and its steel structure ensures it remains stable and secure when put to use. You will see it largely used in storage rooms, warehouse and industrial units. The benefits of using rivet shelving include:

  • Quick assembly

Not only can it be in place very quickly but it allows you to attach it to the wall to strengthen and reinforce its rigidity.

  • Modular design

Businesses tend to invest in rivet shelving as it can be expanded upon as and when needed. This enables you to grow while keeping the style uniform and in line with existing shelving.

  • High density

Single rivet shelving uses low-profile beams to form the shelf frame. This allows the vertical space between each level to be maximised making it perfect to store multiple smaller items.

Wire shelving

A more aesthetically pleasing  option is wire shelving, which also loses none of the essential elements you need for good storage. It features an open design which allows products to be accessed from any side, helping maintain the efficiency and throughput in the facility. The benefits of wire shelving are:

  • Low maintenance

Compared to other systems, wiring shelving collects very little dust and only requires the occasional quick wipe down. They are also rust resistant which is a huge advantage for longevity.

  • Open design

Depending on the layout of the warehouse, the open nature of wiring shelving will make the retrieval, storage and rotation of products extremely easy to do.

  • Special configurations

Whether you want to have it wall mounted, with tilt shelves or with any number of other variations, wire shelving gives you the adaptability you are looking for in a storage unit.

Steel shelving

Steel shelving works well in tandem underneath mezzanine storage to keep essentials spares and parts. It features back and away braces to keep the unit steady once installed and is available in either an open or closed style, depending on your requirements. Steel shelving has a number of advantages including:

  • Adjustability

Compared to rivet shelving it offers more options to adjust the system to suit. The compression clips that come with steel shelving make this easy to do.

  • Customisable

Steel shelving usually comes with add-ons such as dividers, doors, drawer inserts and bin fronts. The actual shelving can be clipped into place in any direction you want.

  • Multiple uses

If fits into warehouse and industrial environments as you’d expect, but steel shelving can also be used in commercial spaces and offices, without looking out of place.

Bulk rack shelving

The name suggests a shelving system that is large and cumbersome but that isn’t the case with bulk rack shelving. It’s almost the complete opposite, as it can be light-duty and fit into smaller spaces if required, slotting into store rooms, or corners of the warehouse that can be better utilised. Using bulk rack shelving is helpful because of:

  • Easy assembly

Not only is it easy to build and quick to put in place, but it can also be taken apart just as fast so it can be manoeuvred anytime time you want.

  • Cost effective

The unit arrives with wielded frames and good capacity for storage of smaller items. This ensures it remains durable and is purchased at a far lower price point compared to some alternatives.

  • Configurable

The shelving can be easily adjusted if required. The system comes with good depth and height variety to allow you to find the right combination to suit your products and goods.

If your not sure which is the best industrial shelving units for you get in touch.  This is what 2h Storage Solutions do.  They are storage experts and are best for supplying industrial shelving units and racking.

 

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Cloud ERP

Benefits of Cloud ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is software that connects your finance, accounting and business operations data. ERP software is must for any modern fast-growing company. However, many of the best ERP software is very expensive and hard to manage which is why many businesses are now turning to Cloud ERP.

Cloud ERP is software that is stored on the internet including all the data. Users access the software via the internet and can do so from any location at any time. Cloud-based computing is also called Software as a Service, or SaaS. The only main difference between Cloud ERP and on-premises ERP is where the software is psychically located and the price.

Growing business either small to medium sized can benefit from Cloud ERP. The cost of scaling business productivity is far less with Cloud ERP. With the right cloud provider, businesses can access applications at a reasonable fixed monthly price without the substantial upfront expenditure for hardware and software. They host all the hardware and software and you just access it.

Benefits other than the lower costs include the ability to access and share data from any mobile device like laptops, mobile phones and tablets. In todays mobile world, employees and customers expect access to data on all of their devices and this is what Cloud ERP allows.

With Cloud ERP there is no more software to manage, all software is stored on the cloud and updated automatically meaning no down time. The cloud is your virtual hard drive meaning you don’t need to store data on storage devices or send large files of data to colleagues, everything is all accessible and at your fingertips.
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we live and work. Cloud computing is an environment where we’re always prepared. All business data is stored in a centralized location that we can access whenever and wherever we are.

If you’re looking to embrace the digital world and move your warehouse management into the cloud, we can help. Contact our warehouse experts today on 01937 585 057 to see what we can do for you.

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