Posts Tagged ‘Manufacturing facilties’

Winter is coming: check your Dock Seals.

September 28, 2010

Dock Seals keep out the cold

Yes, the fall weather has finally arrived and it’s good to take some time off to enjoy it.  As we all know, the winter months will soon be upon us. For manufacturing sites and distribution centers, dock doors are a huge drain on heating bills. Every time a truck pulls in to load or unload, the dock door comes up and all the heat goes out into the winter air. A dock seal creates a barrier between the truck and the dock opening to prevent the huge loss of warm air.

Dock Seals are a very reasonable investment, ranging from $700 to as much as $2000.  In the dock seal world, “you get what you pay for” is the rule. Buyers should take a close look at the performance versus the cost. The performance of dock seals range from as low as 250 cycles, a cycle being each time a truck pulls in/out, up to 10,000 or even more cycles.

If you have a dock that only gets 1-2 trucks a day, then a lower cost dock seal may be all right for you. For high traffic docks, high-performance materials are a better investment. Make sure your vendor lists a cycle rating for any seal quoted. Please keep in mind that higher performance seals also use pleating, double stitching, weather resistant wood backing and other features to extend the life of the seal and prevent damage.

So, now is the time to take a look at the dock seals on your building and get the repaired or replaced before the cold weather sets in.


The Challenge of the Aging Workforce

September 24, 2010

I am a big fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I finally watched the episode that aired a couple of weeks ago and that program contained a really interesting story about BMW. They have recognized that their workforce is aging and that they may need to make some changes to accommodate older workers. By 2020 16% of the population will be over 65 years of age, so this is a problem common to all US companies.

BMW took one production line and staffed it with people approximately 47 years of age, since they expect their workforce average age to be 47 in 2017. They just talked to the people on the line and asked how the company could make improvements for them. The company purchased custom shoes for everyone on the line and installed wooden floors, since aching feet were a universal complaint. They also added lighted magnifiers for people that were inspecting parts and new computer screens that offer larger type. One man requested a place to “stretch” when he began to feel fatigued, so they built some bars on a nearby wall so he can go over and limber up.

In total, BMW spent a measly $50,000, including lost time. Here’s what they got in return; Absenteeism dropped below the plant average; Productivity increased 7% and defects dropped to ZERO. The program was so successful, that they are expanding it to other production lines and other plants. That’s a great productivity plan for any company.

Work Positioning Can Be A Big Challenge

July 30, 2010

Work positioning

Work positioning is a big challenge for many industrial manufacturers. I have seen countless tool and die makers hunched over worktables that are just too low. Often, the size of the piece makes it very difficult to work with even if the height is adjustable.
Many assemblers of bigger items, such as lawn mowers also have problems reaching the entire assembly. These poor postures result in back, neck and shoulder injuries. In addition, eye problems are common, since the worker blocks out the light needed to see the project.

There is a super product from Ergotech called an Ergo Chief. This is a motorized height adjustable pillar outfitted with a slotted turntable that easily accepts mounting of any tool, fixture or work part. It has foot petal controls for the height and rotation speed. The controls are variable speed so the user has accurate control of speed and rotation and can even reverse rotation at any time.  The Ergo Chief handles loads up to 400 pounds. This product is also available for welding production lines.

For applications where less movement is needed, Ergotech also offers the Ergo Master, a manual height-adjustable pedestal that can be set to any position in a 360 degree hemisphere. If you have an application where height adjustment is the only need, then the Ergo I is a very economical tool to improve work positioning challenges. For production lines handling larger products, such as auto assemblies, there is the programmable Ergo Control that offers 3-axis positioning of workloads, up to 13,200 pounds!

Ergotech products are engineered and manufactured in the United States. They have a number of exceptional products. Check out their website at

More on Creating Space with Mezzanines

July 23, 2010

I have been ignoring my blog on material handling because I have been very busy generating a proposal for a large, and rather complicated mezzanine. For this customer, the total is pretty large (over $100,000), but looking at the cost per square foot (about $20.00), it is certainly less than the alternative of adding building space.

Adding the mezzanine also offers more advantages. The addition of a building adds square footage, but it also adds more travel time within the building. This particular customer moves everything on carts, one at a time, so it is a big price tag to add another 250 feet to the travel on those carts. Additional square footage adds lots of costs: moving, utilities, maintenance and taxes to name a few. For a large company, even planning a move can cost double or triple the cost of a mezzanine.

The mezzanine will depreciate as a piece of equipment in 7 ½ years, unlike a building addition, which will depreciate in 39 years. If your company is profitable, the write-off can be significant (contact your tax professional!). Another big advantage of the mezzanine is that it can be modified, moved or sold in the future. We have several customers that have built mezzanine levels in several sections, as funds were available. One never knows about the future, so it is great to know that if your company relocates, the mezzanine can be taken down and moved to the new location. Stick built structures can’t do that!

There are lots of companies manufacturing mezzanines, so do your homework. You should not deal with any company that does not have structural engineers on staff. When you get a quote, it should detail the structure, size of beams, columns and all the weight capacities and loads. If you don’t have that information, then you can’t really know what you are buying. Some suppliers use lighter-weight structure, and the product costs less, but you probably won’t be happy with the finished product. In the mezzanine world, you get what you pay for.

Modular InPlant Offices

April 23, 2010
In Plant Office

In Plant Office in Warehouse

Today has been all about InPlant offices. A modular office can be a big bonus in industrial spaces. For a company that needs a warehouse office, lunchroom, storage areas or wants to cut noise and dust from a manufacturing area, modular InPlant offices offer many advantages.

Some companies think that general construction is better, but there are many disadvantages to stick building a structure. Modular offices ship in about 4 weeks and are fully assembled on the site, often in a couple of days. There is no mess, drywall dust or paint needed. If your company moves, then you can just take that structure along. Not so for constructed offices. Changing configurations or adding additional space is a breeze with modular systems. Since the IPO depreciates as equipment, your ROI is much better than 39.5 years of depreciation for construction.

A big benefit of InPlant offices is the sound reduction quality. A standard office can reduce the noise level 32db from the ambient plant noise. There are special panels available at a nominal cost that offer a 41db decrease.