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Beyond Basics


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The competition keeps coming, and coming, and coming. From online retail threats to the unending number of new formats popping up, grocers are under constant pressure to improve efficiencies across the supply chain.

Accordingly, it has become clear that to succeed, retailers must find new ways to respond to customers with greater speed, safety, consistency and precision.

Improving supply chain execution, however, will require taking a closer look at distribution and logistics practices, inventory management and warehouse operations that can improve speed and efficiency while offering cost savings.

With that in mind, food retailers are focusing on innovating in areas such as IoT-enabled solutions that improve product status visibility, risk reduction strategies, increasing task accuracy and information sharing to better enable collaboration.

To assist retailers who are looking to address their supply chain needs, Grocery Headquarters has assembled a sampling of equipment, design and operations companies offering the products and services needed to remain competitive in today’s hectic marketplace.

Apex Supply Chain Technologies

Apex Supply Chain Technologies has created the AXCESS self-serve automated locker solutions to help companies better manage mission-critical equipment used in warehouses and distribution centers. These facilities can come to a complete standstill without high-value mobile devices, like handheld scanners, but supermarkets often do not manage these devices, resulting in device hoarding, damage and loss, notes Kent Savage, founder and CEO of the Mason, Ohio-based company. Savage points out that costs increase due to more frequent repairs and device replacement, plus productivity decreases when time needs to be spent looking for the tools needed to start a shift.

“AXCESS locker solutions help supermarkets eliminate the waste and inefficiency hiding in their supply chains to gain measurable bottom-line savings,” says Savage, noting that their product has helped retailers reduce handheld scanner replacement costs by as much as 40 percent. He points out that automating the check-out and return process is the key to these process improvements. As Savage explains, each mobile device is made available 24/7 in a secure locker compartment. Employees check them out using their ID cards.

 The Apex Trajectory Cloud tracks the activity in real-time. It then automatically creates reports, monitors status and alerts managers if a device is not returned at the end of a shift, or needs service. “Our system makes employees accountable for their device and gives them easy, immediate access to the tools needed to do their job. Management can focus on more important tasks since they no longer need to locate missing devices,” says Savage.

Crown Equipment Corp.

Crown Equipment Corp. is best known for having the expertise, capabilities and innovative mindset required to identify, implement, service and support material handling solutions needed in today’s business environment. Company officials say offering a connected and worry-free experience is at the heart of its technology strategy.

“By enhancing the experience between operators and their forklifts, forklifts and their environment, and managers with their employees and operations, we are enabling higher productivity, safer operations, increased visibility and more effective labor and operations management,” says Jim Gaskell, director of global technology business development for the New Bremen, Ohio-based company.

One of Crown’s latest innovations, QuickPick Remote, features an order picking automation technology that is a game-changer for low-level order picking. “QuickPick Remote brings automation to this fast-paced, physically demanding job by giving the operator the ability to control the forklift from the aisle, allowing operators to maintain a smooth workflow pattern, focusing less on positioning the truck and more on the task of picking,” says Gaskell. Crown research has shown that the Crown QuickPick Remote system can save up to five seconds per pick at a 16-foot interpick distance.

According to Gaskell, Ace Endico, a full-service provider of fine foods, has been using Crown QuickPick Remote in their warehouse. Up to 100,000 cases of perishable food products come in and out of their warehouse through 11 temperature zones. Using QuickPick Remote, they were able to keep up with constant demand, increase productivity by 20 percent and reduce fatigue for their order selectors.

Eco Pack

Founded in 2008, Eco Pack’s vision is to become a global industry standard for the cleaner, greener, healthier transportation of fresh and processed foods.

The company is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel, with a North American sales office in Phoenix and a production facility in Georgia, with facilities in California and Mexico coming soon.

Eco Pack’s easy-to-use, fully-customizable patented packaging system – the Eco Pack System – was designed to change the way retailers, distributors, farmers and agricultural exporters package and recycle. It was created to reduce costs, enhance food safety, improve shelf life and increase product support while reducing overall packaging weight. The end result is that more actual product can be shipped.

“Our mission at Eco Pack is to lead the packing industry into the next generation with simple, yet environmentally smart packaging products that can be recycled and reused in order to reduce waste and help preserve the planet,” says Randy Harmon, vice president of business development, North America.

ORBIS Corp.

ORBIS Corp., headquartered in Oconomowoc, Wis., is best known for being an innovator in reusable plastic packaging. ORBIS’ complete product portfolio includes containers, pallets, bulk systems and mobile solutions that feature ergonomic, sleek and durable designs for traditional distribution, as well as e-commerce fulfillment and distribution.

Norm Kukuk, executive vice president, says ORBIS’ products can help improve product flow, reduce costs, enhance profitability, and increase food safety and sustainability in distribution centers, warehouses and at retail.

ORBIS helps its customers achieve the right plastic packaging mix by analyzing customer systems and developing and implementing customized reusable plastic packaging programs. As part of the process, its experts help customers measure their overall environmental impact using Environmental Analysis Services to compare single use with reusable packaging in terms of cost per trip, savings over packaging life, solid waste, energy and greenhouse gas emissions. “At a time when supply chains are adjusting to changes in technology, ordering, customer expectations and demand, ORBIS’ expertise, analysis, innovation and high-quality products make it a reliable and insightful supplier,” says Kukuk.

Officials say ORBIS’ drive to be environmentally conscious is what makes it stand apart from its competitors. The company provides alternatives to the disposal of excess, surplus, damaged or obsolete plastic packaging, limiting the amount entering the solid waste stream. To facilitate the efficient recovery of material, ORBIS can purchase end-of-life plastic products to provide credit to purchase new packaging, such as crates, containers, trays, pallets, divider sheets and bulk containers.

Rite-Hite

Founded in 1965, Rite-Hite is a leader in the manufacture, sales, and service of loading dock equipment, industrial doors, safety barriers, HVLS fans, industrial curtain walls and more. However, the Rite-Hite name is probably most synonymous with Dok-Lok, the original rotating hook vehicle restraint developed in 1980.

Whether it is at the loading dock or inside the warehouse or distribution center, all of Rite-Hite’s products are designed to improve safety, security, productivity, energy savings and environmental control. Company officials say ingenuity and innovation are driving forces behind Rite-Hite’s product development. And as Walt Swietlik, director of customer relations and sales support for the Milwaukee-based company notes, many loading dock products that exist today were first developed and patented by Rite-Hite.

Understanding the multidimensional dangers facing workers inside and outside at the loading dock, Rite-Hite recently introduced two new products to its Rite-Vu Hazard Communication Systems family – Pedestrian-Vu for the dock’s interior and Approach-Vu for its exterior.

Outside the dock opening, from a fixed location above the dock door, the Approach-Vu sensor detects the motion of a tractor-trailer backing into a dock position. A visual and audible alarm located on the Dok-Lok vehicle restraint (SHR and STR models) alerts dock workers and pedestrians in the drive approach of the impending danger. “This multisensory alert system is particularly important because ambient noise often masks the sound of a cab’s noisy engine, which can be 70 feet from the back of the trailer,” says Swietlik.

Inside the dock area, Pedestrian-Vu uses motion-sensing technology to trigger a bright blue light that projects onto the dock leveler when it detects material handling equipment or a pedestrian’s presence inside the trailer. Pedestrian-Vu works in conjunction with Dok-Lok products to alert any dock worker or forklift that enters an unsecured trailer. The blue light flickers as an audible alarm alerts the unsuspecting dock worker that they’ve entered an unsecured trailer, while the external light system simultaneously changes to red, warning the truck driver that there is activity inside the trailer and that it’s not safe to pull away.

Ruan Transportation Management Systems

Ruan Transportation Management Systems, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, has deployed advanced in-cab safety technologies in their nationwide fleet since 2012. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) monitor events like hard braking, following distance alerts, lane departure warnings and speeding, providing opportunities to not only improve safety, but also KPIs like mpg. Currently, approximately 51 percent of Ruan’s fleet has a collision mitigation system installed, and all new trucks are being ordered with this option.

Lisa Gonnerman, vice president of safety, says overall, the safety results they have experienced for the trucks with the collision mitigation systems have exceeded expectations. “In our experience, units equipped with a collision safety system have fewer rear-end, merging and lane change accidents than those not equipped with the systems,” she says.

Dashboard video cameras provide the ability to view and record real-time driver performance. Onboard video event recorder systems link into a truck’s electronic logging device (ELD) and advanced driver safety systems to record video clips before and after exception-based events such as speeding, forward collision warnings, harsh braking, lane departure alerts and collisions. Those recorders may then be accessed for litigation in the case of an accident or for driver coaching.

 Additionally, dashboard cameras allow fleets to proactively identify drivers who exhibit risky driving behaviors. Gonnerman says by coaching drivers to eliminate those behaviors, they are less likely to have accidents. Ruan is currently testing 100 road- and driver-facing dash cameras with a large retail customer, and to date they have seen great results, particularly in correcting driver behaviors.

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) ensure regulatory compliance with hours-of-service rules. Drivers avoid manual logs, instead entering a change of duty status and noting any exceptions (like damaged freight). ELD technology activates time tracking once the truck is put into motion, providing an automatic arrival time that can be sent in real time to customers and the carrier. Ninety percent of Ruan trucks are equipped with ELDs.

Steel King Industries

Steel King is best known for its wide range of storage solutions – from simple pallet racks to complex multi-level dynamic systems with the attention to detail that produces safer, longer lasting products. The Stevens Point, Wis.-based company’s Closed Tube Rack Columns (SK2000) have become the industry’s workhorse in design and performance when subjected to the daily rigors of a fast-paced warehouse and distribution operation.

“What’s more, the closed-tube horizontals and diagonals on our SK2000 ensure stability – far greater impact and torsional resistance than other roll-form products,” says Dan Wierzba, inside sales manager.

The company’s attention to detail, notes Wierzba, makes their products stand out from similar ones in the market. “From the solid rectangular horizontals and solid round tube diagonal braces in our SK2000 rack to the flared entry load rail on our SK3000 drive-in rack and angle load rail design, which essentially captures the pallet (left-to-right) for greater safety, our products go above and beyond,” he says. Those details also extend to greater weld surfaces, paint quality, on-time deliveries and packaging of the product for shipment.

Additionally, Steel King offers a broad line of material handling products – containers, portable racks, pallet and drive-in rack, pushback/flow rack, cantilever rack and safety rail guarding as well as a number of rack accessories that enhance the product function and safety, such as double deep pallet support, rack guards and pallet load stop beams. The wider range of products enable the company to provide a complete turnkey material handling solution for its customer.

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