As technology becomes more advanced and the Amazon’s and other large e-commerce companies of the world continue to challenge the traditional distribution model with lower production costs, quicker processing times, and next day shipping, business owners are looking to automation and ‘lean’ distribution to increase productivity and improve safety – while keeping costs down to remain competitive.

VRC lifts, mezzanines, and other ergonomic materials handling equipment are proving to be a key part of their strategy.

What is automation?

Dictionary.com defines automation as “the technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devices, reducing human intervention to a minimum.”

There are many ways to automate a warehouse or distribution center.  Automation can be as simple as mobile warehouse barcoding to complex conveyor systems and robotic order pickers.

One area that’s gaining a lot of automation traffic is how to move materials more quickly and safely. In the past, manual labor moved materials, along with forklifts and other ‘lifting’ equipment.

However, in the age of lean manufacturing and lean warehousing, ergonomic material handling is taking over. With the advent of mezzanines and vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRC lifts), material handling is becoming more automated and with less human intervention. This, of course, leads to increased productivity and improved employee safety leading to a more ‘lean’ environment.

The demand for VRC lifts has skyrocketed over the last few years. According to CIP’s VP of Sales, JP Valcarce “there’s been a 30% increase in sales over the last two years.”

Before discussing how VRC lifts and mezzanines contribute to increased production and improved safety, let’s look at some statistics on each.

Productivity

According to researchgate.net, manual material handling is the most common cause of fatigue, waist injury, and spinal cord injury.

The Center for Construction Research and Training wrote “Productivity drops and schedules get delayed when workers must wait for materials to be delivered or spend time and energy locating and manually lifting and carrying materials around a job site.

Productivity can be improved with ergonomic lifting equipment – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found a reduction in days lost due to soft tissue injuries (back injuries, etc.) when contractors used selected lift assist equipment.

In Industry journal Inbound Logistics describes one of the five principles that drive lean process improvements as “reducing the time it takes to complete a task is a strong competitive advantage in today’s environment.” And to “look for ways to eliminate non-value added activity and waste from every step in the process.”

Safety

According to OSHA, of the 5,250 construction worker fatalities reported in 2018, three of the four leading causes were:

  • Falls – 338 out of 1,008 total deaths in construction in CY 2018 (33.5%)
  • Struck by Object – 112 (11.1%)
  • Caught-in/between – 55 (5.5%)*

(* This category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material).

Studies tell us that 20% of all workplace injuries are caused by slips, trips, or falls. 60% of elevated falls are from heights of less than 10 feet, such as from stairs or ramps.

In 2015, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), one result of manual material handling, accounted for a third of all workplace injuries that required time away from work that averaged 12 days. Not only does this hurt productivity, but it is also costly.

What is a VRC (vertical reciprocating conveyor) Lift?

S Series VRC lift

Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors are a classification of material lifts used to move products and other goods from one level to another.  They provide an efficient, convenient, and safe way to transfer materials from mezzanines, basements, and between levels in multiple story buildings.

How a Freight Lift Can Improve Productivity and Safety

VRC Lifts improve safety by avoiding situations that can lead to a potential injury. The average cost of a lift Is less than the average cost per injury incident.

  • A VRC lift improves productivity by saving employees energy from manually moving materials to different levels and in a more expedient manner.

What is a mezzanine?

A mezzanine is an intermediate floor in a building which is partly open to the double-height ceilinged floor below, or which does not extend over the whole floor space of the building.

How a Mezzanine Can Improve Productivity and Safety

  • Mezzanines can dramatically increase the available workspace. In some cases, it can more than double the available floor space, allowing for more staff, production lines, machinery, etc.
  • Mezzanines improve safety in much the same way. By freeing up the available workspace, staff can move around much more freely and make use of other safety equipment – limiting the potential for injury.

When to install a mezzanine and VRC lift?

Only you know whether your warehouse or distribution center will benefit from automating to an industrial mezzanine or VRC lift. We’ve found a few key factors to help you make the determination.

  • Your over 85% capacity
  • You find yourself needing additional staff to fulfill orders
  • Parts and inventory are not easily accessible
  • Your thinking about a facility-expansion
  • Need for faster, more efficient way to lift materials or goods

Conclusion

As large e-commerce companies continue to dominate the distribution landscape, smaller companies will have to continue to adopt more automated and ergonomic equipment to move materials and goods for increased production and improved worker safety. VRC lifts and mezzanines are proving to be instrumental in their strategies.

To learn whether a vertical lift or mezzanine is right for you, please contact us at sales@customindprod.com.

Custom Industrial Products