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December 2017
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Shining a light on rack selection

Member-owned public utility cooperative consolidates operations into warehouse with forklift resistant rack

Even before Clay Electric Cooperative sought to build a new warehouse to consolidate maintenance materials from various storage facilities into one location, the north Florida member-owned cooperative was determined to dramatically improve logistics, reliability and productivity.  However, achieving this required resolving the most pressing issues encountered at its existing facilities, and engineering a solution that would lower costs and reduce downtime in the future.

The co-op, which serves approximately 170,000 accounts and services an area that stretches into 14 counties, had ongoing issues with forklifts running into and damaging the racking. Bidding for the job had to be open but would come down to more than the lowest bid.  In choosing value over price alone, the co-op was looking for the best long term solution.

“The co-op wanted to invest from day one in the proper safety gear to get the most life out of their equipment, since the value of their purchase and the safety of their operations are paramount,” says Buddy Chadwell, President of a material handling distributor in Florida.

Because the new warehouse would not require high-volume traffic, like a distribution center for example, employees would not be dedicated, full-time forklift operators. In the past, consequently, this had increased the instances of forklift impact related rack damage, so the racking had to be capable of withstanding unavoidable accidents with minimal maintenance.

In such cases, increasing rack resistance to impact can improve safety and operations while reducing the total cost of ownership including repair and premature replacement.

Generally, there are several ways to achieve this, which involve choosing the appropriate racking materials and options.

“Typical rack that uses three sided upright columns with an open back, called open back roll form rack, is more susceptible to potential accidents by operators lifting a load too high and backing out,” says Chadwell.  “This can place twisting, torsional loads on the rack that can shorten its lifespan and even lead to it tipping over.  It is seldom the best choice when the structure must endure frequent or long term forklift impact.”

A better choice is to opt for a cost effective racking system that is designed to withstand the increased impact, and then supplement the most impact prone areas with additional protection. 

In search of a solution, Chadwell conferred with a national manufacturer of storage rack and material handling products, whose engineers reviewed the co-op’s warehouse layout and blueprint.

The engineers recommended a tubular upright rack product, with a robust four-sided column structure that offers a more suitable choice at a similar price point.

For the project, the co-op decision makers chose SK2000 pallet rack, a boltless, closed tubular upright product.

Compared to open back roll formed columns, the closed tubular uprights are 44 times more torsion/twist resistant, with 250% greater frontal impact resistance and 68% greater side impact resistance.  All beams are constructed of high-strength (55,000 p.s.i. minimum) steel, and holes are placed on the column’s face, not the corners, minimizing strength loss. 

“The tubular rack is much more resistant to rack movement and twisting than open back channel designs,” says Chadwell.  “This translates into a much longer usable lifespan and more operational uptime with minimal maintenance.”

To make its storage racking system even more impact resistant, Clay Electric also implemented an innovative, adjustable, boltless rack column protector, called Snap-Guard, which safeguards the upright rack column from forklift damage.  Constructed of structural angle, with a unique 4-rivet connection that automatically locks into the upright column, it can be adjusted and removed as needed to protect the desired storage level.

“Instead of a typical bolt-on design, the snap on protector snaps into the rack’s tear-drop holes, which makes it very easy to install and adjust,” says Chadwell. 

Since a rack upright’s first 6” to 12” of column from the floor is also prone to fork truck impact, particularly at end rows and intersections where maneuvering is tight, they also recommended and installed Guard Dawg guard rail rack protection. 

The guard rail, constructed of high-strength steel angle, protects upright columns and comes in right, left or double ended guards so it is fully compatible with most end row racks.

According to Chadwell, there were distinct advantages to this turnkey approach toward integrated racking versus a less comprehensive piecemeal approach.

“Too often when a company purchases rack and then tries to mix and match guardrail or other accessories from third party sources, there can be compatibility or accountability issues,” says Chadwell. “When buying from an integrated manufacturer it is all engineered to work together, with one company taking full responsibility if support is ever needed.”

As for the end result, Chadwell says, “The closed tubular selective rack, with its accompanying guardrail and column protection, is designed to last decades longer than typical open back rack, with less maintenance and more uptime.”

For its part, the co-op is already experiencing the benefits of the extra engineering that went into its new warehouse, along with its selective rack. 

With more than 13,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines, the co-op has received a superior Average Service Availability Index of 99.95 percent, a measure of reliability commonly used by electric utilities.  By making these types of key, targeted improvements to increase uptime, productivity and safety, Clay Electric Cooperative expects to further build on its stellar reputation and overall index rating.

About the author: Arlin Keck is an R&D Engineer for Steel King Industries, a manufacturer of warehouse material handling products that specializes in optimizing warehouse storage and production located in Stevens Point, WI.

 
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