New standard offers safer, more economical storage systems

A NEW standard covering the design of steel storage racking systems was released on February 29th 2012 and will bring Australia up to date with the latest international knowledge and experience in the design of storage systems and cold-formed steel structures.

Compliance with the new standard, AS4084-2012 Steel Storage Racking, is a rack-by-rack, application-dependant proposition.

It is the designer's task to create steel racking systems that are fit for purpose, meet the user's requirements and budget, and provide acceptable safety margins to ensure safe, long-term operation.

However, when it comes to day-to-day operation, the onus of responsibility to ensure the systems are being properly used and maintained, and continue to meet the standard, falls squarely on the user.

Key changes

The major change contained in the new Australian standard for steel storage racking is the switch from using a "permissible stress" design philosophy to a "limit states" design approach – a move which brings Australia into line with most of the advanced rack designs codes in the world, including the European racking standard EN15512: 2009 and the Rack Manufacturers Institute Specification from North America. 

It also brings the standard into line with the relevant cross-referenced companion Australian standards, including AS/NZS4600: 2005 Cold Formed Steel Structures and AS4100-1998 Steel Structures.

From a structural design perspective, the limit states approach offers advantages over the permissible stress format. 

It allows the designer to consider the application of different margins of safety to different types of loads (dead loads, storage loads, live loads, seismic loads) to facilitate design optimisation, while guaranteeing a prescribed level of safety across different combinations of loads. Limit states design also provides the designer with greater insight as to how the structure will behave in the event of an overload that approaches the true collapse load of the system.

Other significant changes in the new standard include vastly expanded and improved testing provisions, including statistical evaluation, and the inclusion of advanced methods of structural analysis and finite element analysis.

Compared to the old standard from 1993, the new standard has the potential to result in more structurally efficient and finely tuned designs. 

The result is that the storage racks of today are generally lighter and cheaper than those of yesteryear, while still possessing the required minimum level of structural safety – and that's good news for end users.  

AS4804-2012 Steel Storage Racking contains a number of important changes storage system users should be aware of:

  • No changes to storage system configuration allowed without the approval of the equipment supplier or a structural engineer.
  • The vertical clearance requirement for pallets stored above heights of 6m has been increased from 75mm to 100mm. This is aimed at reducing the risk of accidental impact with beams during pallet put-away and retrieval.
  • The "flue space" between pallets backing on to each other has been increased by 50mm, reducing the risk of an adjacent pallet being accidentally dislodged when storing or retrieving pallets. This increase in flue space also better accommodates the needs of insurance companies who often insist on a minimum flue space of 75mm to allow adequate penetration of water from roof and rack-mounted sprinklers during a fire.
  • A minimum of two ground anchors must be used per baseplate on racks where forklifts are used.
  • Minor changes to rack load signage whereby the dimension from ground to first beam level, and from first to second beam level must be noted explicitly on signs.

What AS4808-2012 doesn't cover

Like the standard before it, the new steel storage racking standard is only relevant for closed-face racks such as Selective, Narrow-Aisle and Double Deep racking. It does not cover open-face racks such as Drive-In or Cantilever racking. 

When designing open-face racks, designers will need to seek guidance from other international standards and codes such as FEM 10.2.07 for drive-in racking and FEM 10.2.09 for cantilever racking. These codes can be used in conjunction with AS/NZS4600-2005 Cold Formed Steel Structures to obtain structurally sound racking designs consistent with world's best practice.

As per the previous standard, storage system users should ensure their system is professionally audited every year.

[Dr Murray Clarke is a member of the Standards Australia committee for steel storage racking and Structural Design Manager and Structural Design Manager with Dematic.]

LMH Q&A with MLA Holdings’ first female mechanic

MLA Holdings’ third-year apprentice diesel fitter, Amy Chetcuti talks to LMH about being the company’s first and only female mechanic.

LMH: Why did you consider a career in mechanical trade?
There isn’t any one thing in particular that influenced my decision to undertake a career in the mechanical trade. I have always enjoyed a challenge, such as troubleshooting, and love working with my hands. I don’t mind getting dirty and I gain a great deal of satisfaction when I can solve the problem at hand. Another aspect which influenced my decision was gaining the additional skills and abilities to use outside the workplace, such as working on my own vehicle. At this point in time I am the first of my family to undertake a mechanical trade. 

LMH: What do you like about your job at MLA?
The things I like most about working at MLA is the variety of work and challenges that are set before me. I enjoy taking pride and pleasure in fault finding and successfully restoring the forklift in working order. Overall, I love the challenge of the position and love continually learning new things. 

LMH: What does it mean to be MLA Holdings first and only female mechanic?
AC: I think it is amazing and it is an honour to be the first female mechanic within MLA Holdings; and also a great opportunity for which I am grateful for. I’m not sure why there isn’t more female mechanics within the industry. It can be quite daunting at times being such a male dominated trade, especially when going out on to site. I do enjoy the satisfaction of undertaking and completing jobs of which some people think a woman cannot do. I love it! 

LMH: What advice would you give to other females interested in a career in mechanical trade?
If you’re interested and want to pursue a trade I say go for it. It is very rewarding. It takes a bit of persistence but definitely worth it. Show these boys how it’s done!  

More about Amy

AMY is based at MLA’s Brisbane branch. In December last year, Amy travelled to Northern Territory to assist with the installation of two Vulcan C400/5. 

The project entailed taking the Vulcan C400 machine out of port to assemble it, test it, and commission it in Darwin, before flying to Alice Springs to repeat the process before delivering it to the customer. Amy’s role on the project involved her assisting with these tasks and putting the truck together. 

MLA said the 10-day project, which concluded on on 12 December, was an excellent platform to showcase Amy’s capability and strengths within the industry as "she excelled at all given roles".

Amy completed a Certificate IV in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering- Mechanical at Aviation Australia, before successfully applying for an apprenticeship with the forklift rental company in January of 2010.

MLA Holdings 131 652,

Dynamic supply chains: a bridge over troubled waters

FROM a business standpoint, the first 10 years of the 21st century have been anything but normal. Economic turmoil is almost constant. Currency valuations shift with the wind. Bank lending vacillates between lenient and tight-fisted. What many people are now saying, in fact, is that this state of volatility may actually be reinforced in 2012: a New Normal characterised by abnormal business conditions. 

According to a recent Accenture survey, executives are acutely aware ― and quite concerned ― about this apparently ceaseless state of sudden changes and rapidly shifting paradigms. Seventy percent of the 3,000-plus decision makers we polled expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s ability to predict future performance. And more than 80 percent said they are worried about the resilience of their supply chains ― the ability to adapt operationally to rapid changes in products, markets and currencies. 

As we embark on 2012, several global and regional circumstances foreshadow ongoing uncertainty and volatility. The economic instability in Europe could have ripple effects in the United States that may reverberate from the Western world into Asia Pacific. While companies monitor the situation and undertake contingency planning, they also have heightened awareness of the concerns associated with natural disasters, as evidenced by the recent flooding in several countries across the region.

The impact of this New Normal on companies’ supply chains is potentially huge. But what sort of changes should companies consider as a result? In our view, one of the best solutions is reinventing the supply chain as an adaptable, malleable ecosystem of processes, people, capital assets, technology and data. 

Simply put, the “dynamic supply chain” we’re proposing facilitates maneuverability in unpredictable markets. This may sound like something companies have always wanted, but the reality is that few organisations have achieved true supply chain dynamism. Most reside somewhere between the functional excellence and integrated enterprise stages. They’ve made tremendous progress but the emerging state of permanent volatility demands more. 

How necessary?

Can a typical company justify the changes needed to create a dynamic supply chain? Most likely, yes, because today’s state of permanent volatility can severely impede the operations of most organisations. Still, there are many questions companies can pose to help determine the intensity of their needs. For example, they can question their current level of adaptability. How nimbly does my supply chain organisation react to changing customer demands?” or “How strong is our ability to respond smoothly to major disruptions?”

Another evaluation perspective might be strategic value. Could my supply chain be positioned less as a cost centre and more as an enabler of key competitive capabilities? Lastly, companies might view the issue from a growth perspective. How prepared are we to operate in new or expanding global markets?

Addressing the above questions won’t produce a final decision, but it could shed more light on the game-changing shifts occurring in the global business community, as well as on supply chain solutions that help respond to those changes in a profitable and competitively advantageous way.

Better future of the supply chain dynamism in 2012

No two dynamic supply chains will be precisely alike, even among industries, geographies or business units within the same company. There is a common trait, however: speed to outcome within each functional domain. There are also at least five universal components of any dynamic supply chain for a better future. 

First is an adaptive operating model. This is a living, breathing design geared to ensuring that supply chains align with growth and innovation strategies, and embrace processes and systems that help companies rapidly scale or shutter operations based on short-notice demand signals.

Secondly, new skills in risk anticipation and mitigation. “Speed of response” is a critical characteristic of dynamic supply chains, and one way to get it is with advanced risk-prediction and identification capabilities. Unfortunately, only 11 percent of the survey respondents actively manage supply chain risk and only 18 percent have formal supply chain risk management systems in place. 

The third component is enhanced visibility and information acquisition. Maximising responsiveness and adaptability means you excel at gathering, analysing and applying information contributed by each link in the supply chain. Leveraging visibility and marshaling better information can also mean integrating your supply chain systems with pricing, promotion, sales and marketing applications. 

Fourth is executional excellence. Companies focused on the development of dynamic supply chains don’t overlook the importance of investing in core business processes. And finally, supply chain sophistication and professionalism. It’s essential that the organisation as a whole understands all components of a dynamic supply chain strategy, and this means developing superior supply chain skills and ensuring that the entire company is receptive to new ways of operating. 

[Olaf Schatteman is the managing director of Accenture Asia Pacific.]


Basic, better, best: mobile technologies on the road

Being  on the road, your delivery drivers may well have been the first of your employees to carry a mobile phone. Your supply chain organisation may even have been an early adopter of mobile and wireless technology. Today though, you’d be hard-pressed to find a supply chain organisation that isn’t making some use of smart phones or handheld computers, GPS, mobile printers and other technology to support its transport operations.

As technology has evolved and become more accessible, it has helped supply chain organisations set new standards for productivity and customer responsiveness. It has also become more difficult for companies to gain a competitive advantage through technology, as mobile computing, real-time communication and the extension of work order, inventory and sales to the on the road workers has become a de facto requirement for many companies. Nonetheless, savvy supply chain professionals continue to drive down their costs, improve efficiency and achieve revenue growth by enhancing their processes and technology. 

In Australia there are those supply chain organisations who are doing just the basics when it comes to automating processes for their on-the-road workers, and there are those who are doing better at equipping their drivers with mobile technology that enables limited support while on the job. Finally there are those transportation operators who have embraced mobile support best practice for their drivers, which affords them the advantage of ensuring delivery accuracy, efficiency and the opportunity to achieve further business promotion.

Delivery management process

Basic: The good application of technology is to use software to automatically generate schedules and routes for delivery drivers. Software can make the most efficient use of resources, especially applications that can factor in each driver’s location and past delivery records. In basic operations drivers receive jobs and other instructions via paper at headquarters at the start of the shift and report their progress periodically throughout the day via cell phone.

Better: Equip drivers with mobile computers and automatically push assignments, routes and driving instructions to the devices. This not only eliminates the need for paper, but eliminates the need for drivers to check in at a central location to receive assignments. By reducing drive time, organisations can increase efficiency. Drivers use the mobile computer to record job completion and can submit this information to headquarters using a modem or wireless connection.

Best: Use a rugged mobile computer continually to update job status and driver availability to enable real time dynamic dispatch. This practice helps organisations hit delivery windows and meet order compliance. The process is enabled by taking advantage of mobile computers’ real-time wireless communication capability, which provides the best possible data to deliver device management applications. 

Workforce management process

Basic: Use standardised forms for time and expense reporting in order to promote consistency and to simplify data entry. Periodically analyse completed job records to monitor productivity and costs for each driver.

Better: Free transportation drivers of the task of recording their hours, mileage and expenses on paper, and office staff the time and trouble of entering it into the computer system, by using electronic forms on mobile computers.

Best: Deliveries and other activities are automatically time stamped by the mobile computing application, which eliminates the time-recording requirement for technicians and prevents arbitrary time estimates. GPS systems can apply location stamps to transactions, automatically record mileage, and flag miles driven outside of assigned routes or work hours.

Driver and vehicle tracking procedures 

Basic: Technology enables managers to monitor a delivery driver workforce that is spread over a large area. As a starting point it is helpful having mobile workers periodically call in status updates to a dispatcher or manager. A GPS unit in the vehicle also promotes productivity by helping drivers get to their end destination as promptly as possible.

Better: Handheld computers can also support voice, data communication and GPS, and this gives users all the functionality they need in a single device. Combining functions also simplifies the delivery driver’s role as it means less devices need to be purchased, kept charged and maintained. It is helpful to set the mobile application software to send status updates to the office automatically, either at periodic time intervals or when certain jobs are completed.

Best: Proactively using location data, rather than simply waiting for updates. Vehicles can be tracked in real time to aid dispatch decision making and to provide up-to-date information for customer service. The GPS unit within a handheld computer can automatically attach a location stamp to all activities, which improves documentation and can help resolve any disputes. GPS-enabled location data can also be used to power route analysis and dwell time analysis that can suggest more efficient routes or alert managers to potential abuses.

Product or goods delivery 

Basic: Manually record products delivered on paper forms.

Better: Use RFID or bar code to support the delivery process by scanning and recording products that are being shipped from the warehouse to the customer. Share delivery data with inventory and billing applications so the products delivered can be automatically listed and billed on invoices that are generated at the customer site. This integration will speed up the payment cycle for products and enable maintenance of more accurate inventory levels. 

Best: Update enterprise inventory systems with real-time data from the field. Expand basic product tracking to give delivery drivers access to customer delivery information such as – which door they prefer to have goods delivered to, and which times might not be appropriate for delivery to occur – to support customer satisfaction.

Product tracking & management

Basic: Use barcode technology to automatically identify assets from the time the goods arrive in the warehouse to the time the products are delivered to the customer. 

Better: Link product ID application to databases and customer records so that delivery drivers can validate the authenticity of the product upon delivery. Accurately identifying products assures customers of delivery competency.

Best: Fully integrate delivery operations with head office customer intelligence so that customers can track the delivery of their goods in real time and ensure that the right product arrives to them at the right time. 

Revenue assurance

Basic: Upon completion of a job, record all time spent, and goods delivered while still on site in order to prevent errors and omissions. Obtain customer signature for the delivery job.

Better: Automate the data recording process with mobile computers and bar code scanners. Upon delivery, immediately present customer with a work order and invoice that is generated on site with a mobile printer. Obtain customer signature at the same time. 

Best: Attach a digitised image of the customer’s signature to the transaction record on the computer. Enable delivery drivers to accept payment at the time of service via a credit card reader. Payments can be authorised immediately using a wireless connection, or processed in batch later.


The optimisation of delivery operations represents low-hanging fruit for supply chain organisations in Australia, whilst still providing more experienced organisations the ability to improve efficiency levels. Optimising delivery operations can encompass tasks such as delivery job management, data management and productivity management. 

Scheduling software provides the foundation for automating these operations, while electronic forms, mobile printing, GPS, mobile computers, scanners and imagers can further increase the benefits. Australian Supply Chain organisations should continually look for ways to improve their operations. Those that don’t look towards the future to see how new technologies can support their delivery processes could find that their business has quickly fallen from ‘best’ to ‘basic’ in the eyes of the customer.

About the author: Tony Repaci is Intermec managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

Has the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement been good for both parties?

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has just completed its seventh year. The US Bureau of Census calculated that most marriages which end last for eight years. That was almost fifty years ago. The itch is supposed to begin in the seventh year. The fundamental issue is whether the relationship has been good for both parties.

[Author, right: Martin Feil (B.Arts B.Ec M.Ec) is an economist specialising in Customs, logistics, ACCC actions, industry policy and international trade-related matters, including transfer pricing.]

Past events and behaviour are generally the best way to predict the likely course of future relationships.  

The FTA was a major event. It was conceived by the friendship between Prime Minister John Howard and President George Bush.  It had the total support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The chief negotiator for the USA was Richard Zoellick, a senior official in the US State Department and an ex-Managing Director of Goldman Sachs. He is now President and Chairman of Directors of the World Bank.

Zoellick arrived for the negotiations with a very large and sophisticated team. We were almost drowned before we knew we were in deep water. Australia’s prospects of selling Elaborately Transformed Manufactures (ETMs) to the USA were very limited at the outset. A lot of what was promised by the USA either didn’t happen (sugar and access to the US market for movies and TV) or was put on an eighteen year phasing program. 

We did allow concessions on the Pharmaceutical Benefits System and agreed to totally free imports entry by the USA. The suggestion that we would have access to the US Motor Vehicle  market was farcical.

We should be thinking about a thirty year-long itch. We have been opening up the Australian economy for that long and have only succeeded in closing down our ability to produce ETMs.

Despite the contrary rhetoric, we have been inward looking and confused in our thinking for a long time. We have focused on innovation and productivity. We have focused on our services sector. We have focused on a mining boom that has been all about extracting and exporting raw materials. 

We have never focused on what the rest of the world was doing. We even gave our hill-billy dogma a name – unilateral trade liberalisation. That meant that we would ignore what the rest of the industrialised world regarded as sensible industry policy practice.

In the first part of the 21st century we commissioned a number of studies which talked about the Low Road or the High Road (Australian Business Foundation) or the importance of “elaborately transformed manufactures”  (Koop et al). In Australia’s case that is mainly a name for further processing of agricultural products and minerals. Instead we decided we would be a service economy, or a regional finance capital or that innovation and productivity was the problem we needed to solve.

Recently we decided again, with a great deal of self-righteous enthusiasm, that we would lead the world in climate change legislation and the introduction of a far reaching and society changing Emissions Trading Scheme, with a collection of taxation and bells and whistles to compensate those industries still producing ETMs.

The biggest seducer in our ETM decline has been the USA through the FTA. Our policies created an open door for ETM imports sourced from the USA. China, with its voracious appetite for world best quality and lowest priced coal and iron ore, and its cheap consumer goods, has aided and abetted the USA.

We have been inward looking. Whenever we talk about ETMs we talk about aerospace and pharmaceuticals and high-tech pie in the sky stuff that we have absolutely no economic or productive capacity to manufacture. 

Our Government response to the rape of our mineral resources has been to attempt to introduce a mining tax. We should have been, and still should be, insisting upon BHP and Rio Tinto adding value to iron ore and coal instead of cheering as the minerals left our shores, without any value added. All of the elaborate transformation occurs overseas.

So it is really a double whammy. We have been inward looking with the nature of Australian manufacture and have concentrated on the domestic market and protection through tariffs or whatever. We have let obvious ETM exports go by. We have focused on service exports and hallucinogenic dreams of exporting jet planes and global Big Pharma. Everyone else has stuck to their knitting.

Australia’s great weakness is hubris. We think we are too smart to follow what is the obvious and proven course in other industrial economies. We have walked off on a false trail of innovation and productivity, which is frankly a dead end and a costly diversion for Australia. It must be connected to the manufacture of ETMs.

The table below clearly demonstrates our international weakness:

Vision-impaired Freddy could see the problem. Australia and New Zealand, the theoretical bastions of tariff reform and no non-tariff barriers, are at the absolute bottom of the class in terms of adding value to exports. We are too stupid for our own good.  

The second major statistical outcome is the USA’s benefit from the proportion of exports of ETMs, helped considerably by the FTA. The data below details the US-Australia imports/exports values from 2004-05 to 2010-2011. The statistics have been directly sourced from DFAT’s Statistical Section.

The obvious result from this table of facts is that we have bought more than a hundred billion dollars’ worth of goods from the USA than we have received from sales to them since the FTA commenced.

This outcome can be further exacerbated by the deficit in our trade with the USA for services (probably more than $20 billion over the FTA period, but needs its own analysis). There are also significant adjustment issues arising from the movement in the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Australian dollar since 2004. These adjustments would increase the Australian disadvantage. 

The analysis does not include internet ETM imports from the USA, which will be an increasingly significant item.

Make up your own mind. Is this a good deal for Australia?

We have to go back to first principles. We must do what the rest of the world is doing and balance our exports of ETMs against our imports. The US-AFTA has not benefited Australia. George Bush and John Howard have gone, but their legacy lingers on. It’s time to call it a day.

[Article originally appeared in The Age.]

Rolling out the ‘green’ tyre for fuel economy and sustainability

Various improvements have been made to the manufacture of tyres since the invention of the pneumatic tyre by John Dunlop in 1888. In 1973, Italian tyremaker, Pirelli, developed the steel-belted radial tyre which reduces the fuel consumption of cars fitted with them. 

[Image, right: The different rubbers produced at Lanxess’s Port Jérôme, France facility are mainly being employed in the production of high performance tires, which have especially good properties in rolling friction, brake response and abrasion resistance.]

Today, tyre manufacturers are still continuing to find ways to develop tyres that reduce full consumption further, and with the introduction of stricter environmental laws and standards, the need to have a fuel-efficient ‘green’ tyre is becoming imperative.

Next year, Europe will legalise the mandatory labelling of tyre performance under an EU tyre labelling regulation. The new regulation comes as no surprise as CO2 emissions from vehicle tyres contribute between 20-30%of a passenger car’s fuel consumption and around 24% of its CO2 emissions, according to German chemical firm, Lanxess, who supplies rubber to major tyre manufacturers around the world. 

The European Union tire labeling initiative is expected to increase the market share of ‘green tyres’ made from high-performance rubber from the present 35% to around 50% of the overall tyre market. According to Dr Heitmann, a regulation around tyre labeling will not only help customers to determine the size of a tyre’s carbon footprint, but also help to reduce the environmental impact of growing global population and their need for increased mobility.

Dr Heitmann was speaking at the Lanxess Rubber Day 2011 in Düsseldorf, which attracted 250 international members of industry associations and media.

The latest Lanxess forecasts supported by internal market studies estimate that around 2 billion tyres will come off manufacturing production lines by 2015 compared with around 1.6 billion at present. This is an increase of about 25% output for the tyre industry.

Lanxess chairman of the Board of Management Dr Axel Heitmann says the trend towards mobility will only continue to grow as more people choose to drive cars and the need for much more environmentally friendly means of mobility will continue to be a priority for the industry. The trend will lead to greater demand for ‘green’ innovation in tyre manufacturing. 

Tyres reportedly account for about a fifth of the energy required to power a car and the ‘rolling resistance’ tyres accounts for approximately 4% of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions. This has lead tyre manufacturers and suppliers to share the view that improved fuel economy can be achieve through reducing rolling resistance of tyres. 

For example, reducing rolling resistance by up to 30 per cent can significantly cut the fuel consumption of cars, for example, with a gasoline engine with average fuel consumption of 10 l/100km, by half a litre per 100km and its CO2 emissions by 1.2 kg per 100 km, says Lanxess head of research and development on the board of management, Dr. Werner Breuers.

Outside of Europe, tyre labelling programs are already under consideration in the countries with the strongest forecasted growth in mobility – largely the emerging markets of Asia and South America. 

In South Korea, plans to introduce compulsory labelling based on the EU-model in 2012 is already under consideration, while in Japan, a voluntary obligation by the industry to label tyres has existed since 2010. Tyre labelling regulations are also currently under discussion in the United States and Brazil. China is yet another country, where tire labelling is the subject of debate. 

Australia is yet to enter the tyre labelling conversation, largely because there are hardly any tyre manufactures left in the domestic market; however it does not mean local manufacturers should shy away from the debate.

3PL overhaul gives Lion’s Dairy & Drinks division a competitive edge

LION (formerly Lion Nathan National Foods) is a leading beverage and food company with a portfolio that includes many of Australia and New Zealand’s favourite brands. Last year, Lion engaged Linfox to manage the majority of its Australian distribution requirements.

[Image right: Custom job: Dematic’s Joe Carmody and Linfox’s Travis Small.]

The Dairy & Drinks division (formerly National Foods) produces household name brands of milk and dairy beverages, juice, dairy, cheese and soy products. The Dairy & Drinks footprint includes production facilities and sales offices in all Australian states, as well as New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

In addition to consolidating linehaul and transport operations for Lion, a key feature of the massive 3PL contract was the establishment of two new national distribution centres (DCs) in Sydney and Melbourne. 

The Sydney NDC was up and running in January 2009, with the new Melbourne NDC at Laverton now fully operational as of June 2011. 

With a storage capacity of more than 26,000 pallets, the new 28,600m2, temperature-controlled Laverton NDC is a high velocity operation, distributing over 100,000 cases per day. 

Meeting demanding project milestones

Linfox’s NDC operations manager, Travis Small, said: "Many of the SKUs (stock keeping units) we distribute for Lion have a limited shelf life.

"Stock turns over very quickly. Storing and distributing such SKUs efficiently requires a smart DC layout and storage systems, and that’s exactly what Dematic delivered.

"The use of drive-in or double deep storage racks would have improved the site’s total storage capacity. But, given the high turnover of the products we are distributing, Linfox opted for single deep selective racking to provide safer, faster, unrestricted access to every product line," he said.

"It also gives us total storage flexibility, with just about every product capable of being slotted in every location.

"Dematic didn’t just meet our demanding project deadlines; they exceeded expectations at every phase of the project," added Linfox’s Travis Small.

"We basically took possession of a massive empty shed in October 2010 and had to bring the first phase of the NDC with over 20,000 pallet locations online before Christmas. 

"Fitting out a DC with over 20,000 pallet locations in such a short timeframe is no small task, and installation of the storage system was very much on our critical path.

"Dematic’s ability to complete the installation of more than 26,000 pallet storage locations ahead of time across all four implementation phases contributed greatly to our meeting critical project delivery milestones."

Project management the key

Dematic’s Project Engineer, Joe Carmody, said implementing the short two-month installation schedule required all of Dematic’s extensive project management experience.

"It was essential we had all of the storage equipment in place prior to each phase going live, which meant working around the clock, seven days a week when necessary," he said. 

The installation of such a large storage system in under two months was only made possible through Dematic’s ISO9001 Certified Quality System-accredited project management and implementation methodology, said Mr Carmody. Initiatives included:

  • Setting up a steering committee comprising senior Linfox and Dematic managers to facilitate open communications at a high level.
  • Project planning and scheduling, including a detailed program of works covering all major implementation tasks from site establishment and installation to commissioning and acceptance
  • Development and implementation of risk management. 
  • Regular site meetings, detailed weekly progress and monthly reporting.

The Laverton NDC is currently configured with two separate chambers – one providing storage for over 21,000 pallets, and the other more than 5,000. 

Splitting the NDC into separate chambers gives Linfox the flexibility to run different zones at different temperatures if required. The NDC and storage system layout make it easy for walls to be added to create further separate chambers if required. 

High order safety

About half of the NDC’s orders are despatched as full pallets. Split case orders are picked from Colby Cartonflo carton live storage and packed into shippers and palletised for local direct to store delivery through Linfox’s route trade distribution network.

All order picking is RF-directed, with both Linfox and Lion running SAP IT. 

Through its Vision Zero program, Linfox is totally committed to ensuring occupational health and safety (OH&S). To that end, the NDC’s storage systems incorporate a number of safety initiatives including Dematic’s ColbyRACK Protect-a-Rack.

Dematic designed the 26,000 pallet capacity storage system to suit Lion’s requirements, which includes not storing products on the ground for hygiene reasons. A first storage beam level 300mm above ground keeps all pallets clear of contamination or pests, and provides sufficient access for regular cleaning.

To help prevent rack damage during pallet put-away and retrieval, the storage system incorporates modified Colby Protect-a-Racks to suit the 300mm high first beam level on all rack uprights, together with end-of-aisle protection.

The new baseplate protector is mounted to the base of front uprights providing protection at ground level against minor collisions with forklifts and pallets. It features an angled front face, which curves and wraps around the whole upright to eliminate any catch points when pallets are being placed or removed. 

Colby Protect-a-Rack upright protectors interlock with the Protect-a-Base, forming a highly robust member. Protect-a-Rack upright protectors not only deflect impacts away from the upright, they also absorb them and transfer inertia to the strongest part of the rack – the bracing nodes. They also include a rear flange protector to ensure the entire upright is shielded from direct impact damage from the rear. 

"Safety is obviously our number one concern. Preventing storage systems from getting damaged in the first place not only provides a much safer workplace, it will also reduce operating costs over the life of the DC," said Linfox’s Operations Manager Travis Small.

[Carole McCormick is Dematic marketing manager.]


Lean Manufacturing: What it means for the shop floor

Automation of processes to improve productivity and operational effectiveness is a major key to success for Australian manufacturers in 2012 and beyond writes Tony Repaci*.

Driving innovation on the shop floor in 2012 and beyond for the local manufacturing sector will be new technologies that automate a number of processes that have been problematic in the past, and feed into lean manufacturing – a concept which will no doubt trouble the sleep of many local manufacturers in the future.

Lean manufacturing is defined by The Lean Manufacturing Guide as: "A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the demand of the customer".

This has significant implications for local manufacturers, who are being pressured to streamline their processes, often through automation, and minimise their overall operating costs.

While responsible manufacturers will always look to minimising their outgoings, there are a number of technology trends that local operators should be aware of that can greatly enhance overall productivity and operational effectiveness of a manufacturing organisation.

As local manufacturers move towards the concept of lean manufacturing, wireless technologies such as mobile printers will be a focal point of future warehouse fit-outs and critical to on the shop floor operations, as these devices can contribute to the productivity of a warehouse by fitting easily into existing work spaces and processes.

For repetitive, high-volume tasks such as applying labels, saving just a few seconds per operation can translate into meaningful efficiency gains and can go a long way towards a local manufacturing becoming ‘lean.’

Wireless printers give Australian warehouse operators a lot of flexibility on where printers can be positioned and by printing at the point of activity; workers are much less likely to apply the wrong label to an item or package.

In the case where a mobile printer isn’t feasible or possible, positioning printers closer to areas where the work actually gets done also eliminates unnecessary trips back and forth from the workstation to the centralised printer.

These walks to the printer may take only a few minutes, but multiplied across dozens of workers on multiple shifts, they represent an opportunity for tremendous time savings and productivity improvements. Eliminating unnecessary walking also helps eliminate distractions that lead to labelling errors and lost productivity.

To help achieve greater levels of productivity, local manufacturers should also be looking to integrate voice activated solutions into their operations.

An advanced voice activated kit can allow personnel to efficiently handle tasks like production line management, equipment replenishment, shipping and truck loading, which allows the shop floor to become a well-oiled machine at all stages of the manufacturing and distribution process.

The benefits of a voice solution can be attributed to the fact that it leaves the operator wholly hands free. Whereas in the past workers would be effectively chained to their paper order form and pen, the voice-directed system speaks to its operator via a headset, meaning that both hands and eyes are at liberty to accurately and safely complete any task at hand.

Manufacturing environments are also rich with technology and high value equipment these days. Many key pieces of equipment used on the shop floor can also be small and hard to trace.

Utilising an advanced asset tracking solution allows managers to keep a record of their equipment, thus ensuring greater organisational inventory control and ensuring that the production line is not halted of slowed by key equipment going missing.

The application of serial numbered tracking labels to all piece of key equipment allows employees to sign out equipment or enter them back into the inventory by scanning the tag followed by their own personal identification badge, which is also coded.

The manufacturing industry is at a tipping point. Warehouse and manufacturing operations in Australia are facing more pressure from a competitively strong Australian dollar and cheap imports to come up with solutions that ensure they will remain competitive in the long term.

Any investments in new technology that will help drive innovation and increase efficiencies should therefore focus on providing strong ROI, tangible efficiency gains and a noticeable reduction in error rates.

* Tony Repaci is Intermec’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand.

Image: from the Intermec website

Industry experience gets students careers moving

A hands-on Challenger Institute of Technology training course has seen a group of Safety Bay Senior High School students get a taste for working life in the Transport and Logistics industry.

The course was designed to engage year eleven and twelve students and encourage them to consider the industry as a possible career path by attending class based on-campus activities and then undertaking industry placement in local businesses in the Rockingham area.

Students were allocated placements at The Good Guys, Blackwoods, Covs, Rockingham Hyundai/Suzuki, Toll Ipec and Veale Auto Parts.

Sherrell Crisp, a Program Manager at Challenger Institute said that the feedback and support that the students received from local industry has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Some employers were a little nervous at the tasks required by student placements. However, once the students came on board they were set very clear tasks with defined outcomes. The students stepped up to the plate very quickly,” Crisp said.

Local retailer Gino Cafini from The Good Guys in Rockingham said that they would like to take part again next year. He said it was rewarding seeing their student placement Sarah Murphy come out of her shell and develop her confidence in the workplace.

“Sarah was initially quite shy when she started but quickly integrated into the role, developing both practical warehousing skills as well as life skills,” Cafini said.

Cafini said the program also had a beneficial impact on the employees at The Good Guys. “There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the team as they showed Sarah the ropes. You could really notice the team lifted and they were genuinely proud to teach and show her what the Transport & Logistics industry is all about,” he said.

Due to the success of the course Challenger Institute is looking to expand the course to also take in businesses from the Mandurah area.

The students now hold a Certificate I in Transport and Logistics.


Photo: Sarah Murphy holds her certificate, with Dave Noota (left) and Gino Cafini (right) from The Good Guys.

Mercury Awards winners revealed!

The winners of the 6th annual Logistics & Materials Handling Mercury Awards, hosted by Logistics & Materials Handling magazine, rewarded and recognised Australia’s very best in the logistics, supply chain and materials handling sectors at Waters Edge in Sydney last night.

With double the amount of finalists (more than 40!) than last year and an overwhelming attendance of 150 people last night, this year’s Mercury Awards was by far the biggest ever!

Thank you to all our sponsors, judges and RBI events team for making the night possible. 

Congratulations to the winners:

Supply Chain Innovation                                                                                                       Sponsored by Cornerstone Automation System Inc


Product name: Westfield Dock Appointment Scheduler

Warehousing and/or Storage Solution


Project name: Project Refresh – Mulgrave NDC upgrade

Technology Application                                                                                                         Sponsored by Century Yuasa Batteries 

Robotic Automation & Amcor Cartons

Project name: Robotic End-of-Line Solution

Logistics Leader                                                                                                                 Sponsored by CEVA Logistics 

DHL Supply Chain

Project name: DHL Supply Chain’s Pfizer Direct Distribution Model

Materials Handling Solution                                                                                                         Sponsored by Linde Material Handling

Robotic Automation & Amcor Cartons

Project name: Robotic End-of-Line Solution

Best Green Initiative                                                                                                           Sponsored by Century Yuasa Batteries 

Schenker Australia (DB Schenker)

Project name: Green Logistics Solutions

Young Professional of the Year                                                                                                     Sponsored by SSI Schaefer

Daniel Castle from BlueScope Steel

Top Third Party Logistics Provider (3PL)

DHL Supply Chain

Project name: DHL Supply Chain’s Pfizer Direct Distribution Model

Best of the Best of 2011                                                                                                                Sponsored by Loscam

Robotic Automation & Amcor Cartons

Project name: Robotic End-of-Line Solution

Congratulations again to all our winners and we hope to see you all again next year! 

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