VRC Lifts and Mezzanines | Key Components for Productivity and Safety
As technology becomes more advanced and the Amazons 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 for businesses owners looking to improve productivity and safety.
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 traction 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 (VRCs), materials 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 VRCs 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.
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.
The Industry journal Inbound Logistics describes one of the five principles that drives lean process improvements as “reducing the time it takes to complete a task.” The Journal also says lean process improvements are “a strong competitive advantage in today’s environment” and advises companies to “look for ways to eliminate non-value added activity and waste from every step in the process.”
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).
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?
Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors (VRCs) 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 improves productivity by saving employee energy from manually moving materials to different levels in a more expedient manner.
What is a Mezzanine?
A mezzanine is an intermediate floor in a building that 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
- A mezzanine 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. We’ve found a few key factors to help you make the determination.
- Your floor space is over 85% capacity
- You find yourself needing additional staff to fulfill orders
- Your parts and inventory are not easily accessible
- You’re thinking about a facility expansion
- You need a faster, more efficient way to lift materials or goods
As large e-commerce companies continue to dominate the distribution landscape, smaller companies will have to have to adopt more automated and ergonomic equipment to move materials and goods. Automated and ergonomic equipment, such as VRC Lifts and mezzanines, can also increase production and improved worker safety. The adoption of VRC Lifts and mezzanines is proving to be an instrumental strategy for smaller companies that want to increase production and improve worker safety.