Getting the Most from Your Supply Chain: Part II of an Ongoing ROI Series

ROI - L4F drumhandling attachment

A L4F drum handling attachment from Liftomatic being used to collect 4 drums at one time at the end of a conveyor line – no manual handling and only a single operator involved.

If our decades of experience in the material handling  field have taught us one overriding lesson, then it’s how best to optimize a distribution center or warehousing company’s ROI in drum handling operations. If it means updating inefficient equipment and work procedures to meet the demands of the market (not to mention your competition), then so be it. One must not only be assiduous in how one sums up the current needs of his or her operation, one must also anticipate trends, opportunities, and backlashes that might come along the way. One must get in the habit of gauging where the industry is gradually heading, as well as determining where the profit is being made (and getting lost), and then plan accordingly. So much of warehousing is a do-or-die business, and every advantage and/or trick-of-the-trade can mean the difference between black and red ink.

Take the common case of what we encounter frequently in China (though this certainly applies to many warehousing outfits in the Americas and elsewhere globally): a company that not only possesses a vast amount of warehousing space, but boasts a large, able-bodied workforce that can carry out any task given to them. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, nothing’s wrong, unless the company in question isn’t utilizing its warehousing space to maximum effect. This often happens when the company tries to use brute labor in place of technology. If the company in question only uses manual hand trucks for instance, there’s no human way to lift and stack drums higher than a single barrel high in a warehouse. Rather, forklifts with drum-handling attachments are needed. With a forklift, you can stack drums many units high – as high as the forklift’s hydraulics and integrity of the drums will allow. Imagine being able to increase cubic utilization by two, or even three times.

Investing in the right equipment may not feel beneficial in the short run, especially when it comes to your operating capital. But given the long-term advantage of exponentially growing your storage capacity, the savings costs may well be worth it.

How Materials Handling Can Affect Your ROI Exponentially: Part One

Stack of drums

Moving drums by hand truck or pallet is labor intensive and costly.

It’s a safe bet that the final cost of any product increases on account of its material handling function. In fact, the Material Handling Industry of America estimates that material handling can boost a product’s final sale-price up a stunning 40%. In today’s fast-moving blur of a global economy, companies simply cannot afford to skimp on the right kind of material handling for their products. Ignoring the problem of how best to ship their products can mean the difference between a company’s quarterly profit and its quarterly loss.

Liftomatic model 2-FTA

Technology can speed up the process and a provide a high ROI.

Take, for example, your typical warehousing operation in China from 15 years ago (this isn’t to say that many such operations don’t exist still today). Time and again, when we approached these warehouses about adopting our drum handling technology, we found staggering amounts of waste happening in their way of doing things. You would have two workers loading and unloading drums using a hand-truck or a wooden pallet.  For anyone who’s ever performed that kind of work, the labor intensiveness (and number of man hours involved) is well-known. While labor in China several years ago may have been abundant and inexpensive- that is not longer true.  Additionally, you simply cannot throw enough labor at a drum handling problem to move items fast enough to maintain the throughput required in these logistics operations.  It’s physically impossible to do.  But by using a forklift and a 2-drum attachment from Liftomatic, the number of man hours involved in loading and unloading gets reduced to maybe a half hour’s time, increasing efficiency and throughput. When you add up the sheer number of drums that many of these Chinese warehouses handle in the course of a month, you can begin to appreciate how Liftomatic drum handling equipment can save warehouses a (not so) small fortune in terms of ROI.

In the following entries, we will be taking a closer look at some of the ways that modernizing your material handling equipment can hugely impact your company’s ROI. We’ll explore such issues as storage capacity, drum damage, and safety. Furthermore, we invite anyone who’s had experience with optimizing their warehousing equipment and/or operating procedures to chime in on this blog.