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Cover Story: Maximizing warehouse efficiency in 2012
By Robert Callahan
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The Tug’s towing capacity makes it ideal for facilities that regularly transport heavy materials or industrial equipment.
Photo courtesy Motofish
The Tug’s towing capacity makes it ideal for facilities that regularly transport heavy materials or industrial equipment.

What will the warehouse of the future look like? That’s tough to predict. What’s certain is, as an emphasis on warehouse efficiency increases in 2012 and beyond, products will be ready to fit that role.

When Darryl Heffline broke into the industry with Kimberly Clark he recalled feeling “big time” when he used a cell phone the size of a small lunch box.

Cell phones have become far more efficient since then, and so has the material handling industry.

“When I broke in there were pick tickets and manual paperwork. I have seen the advent of automated storage retrieval systems, implementation of RFID and use of GPS technologies,” Heffline said. “There has been a significant shift. I don’t even know what it’s going to look like 10 years from now.”

Heffline is now vice president marketing & strategy at E-Z-GO/Textron. E-Z-GO/Textron offers the Cushman line of utility vehicles to industrial and commercial markets.

“We have really four different products, the Stock Chaser, Tug, Minute Miser and Titan,” Heffline said. “The Titan is a burden and passenger carrier.

“All four of these vehicles are able to move materials throughout warehouses.”

What advantages do Cushman vehicles offer over a forklift?

“You have cost advantage, safe of use advantage and narrow aisle capabilities options,” Heffline said. “If you look at cost, our smaller vehicles will be between $8,000 and $10,000.”

Heffline believes future trends in warehouse efficiency will be an extension of existing trends.

“Right now the trend is driving inventory levels down. You tie up less cash and you are able to use your cash for other things,” Heffline said. “To do that, you have to be able to move smaller quantities faster. There are conveyors to do that and there are our products. There is also RFID technology and GPS.”

As efficiency continues to grow, Heffline expects to see an extension of those dynamics.

“I think going forward, your warehouse industry will look different than it did five years ago,” Heffline said. “You will see quantities move in smaller increments. You will see less forklift traffic and more traffic of the vehicles in our portfolio.

“I think you will also see some tighter aisle space. You will be able to have more efficient utilization of floor space, as quantities decrease. Inventory levels overall may decrease, but you will have more stock keeping units. You will have to use tighter aisles and more frequent moves.”

A change to tighter aisles would be a change welcomed by Aaron Lamb, president and founder of Ergologistics, LLC.

Ergologistics manufactures products for the health and welfare of material handling workers. Lift'n Buddy is its first series to market.

If you attended ProMat 2011, you may have seen the Lift’n Buddy in action.

“ProMat was kind of the initiation of our sales process,” Lamb said. “ProMat allowed us to go from obscurity to a level of recognition.

“We were even able to sell internationally because of ProMat.”

How is the Lift’n Buddy different from the current market of material handling?

“We found this hole in the market, a portable lifting device,” Lamb explained. “We provide a lifting solution in an area where a forklift might not fit, or wouldn’t be practical.

“That defines our hole in the market. We are significantly cheaper than a forklift, but can offer an end user a lifting capability.”

Lamb believes one of the trends in the material handling industry has been and will continue to be a keen focus on “soft money” savings, in regards to whatever can improve a company’s bottom line as far as insurance premiums and worker’s compensation.


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