Warehousing, Distribution and 3PLs
Optimizing Efficiency and Productivity in Warehousing, Distribution Centers and 3PLs
Warehouses, distribution centers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers face constant pressure to move product faster and more efficiently. Rising consumer expectations for rapid order fulfillment, along with the growth of omnichannel retail, have compressed order turnaround times to hours and minutes. At the same time, escalating throughput demands strain warehouse infrastructure, equipment, and personnel.
Without the right solutions, warehouses and 3PLs risk compromised productivity, avoidable equipment downtime, product and facility damage, and worker injuries. Fortunately, today’s innovations in materials handling equipment, fleet optimization, and operator assist technologies enable warehouses and 3PLs to overcome these challenges and maximize efficiency.
The Problems Warehouses and 3PLs Face
Meeting Throughput Pressures
- Ecommerce has driven consumer expectations of receiving orders within hours or days of placing them. This puts extreme pressure on warehouses and 3PLs to rapidly fulfill and ship orders. Amazon Prime members expect order delivery in 1-2 days, and many other retailers are matching these compressed delivery windows.
- Peak periods like holidays and sales events bring spikes in order volumes that strain resources. For example, during peak seasons, ecommerce order volume can increase up to 400% year over year. This significantly stresses warehouse infrastructure and labor.
- Many facilities still rely on paper-based processes that are far less efficient compared to automated picking, inventory tracking and order management systems. Paper processes bottleneck productivity and throughput.
- High turnover in the warehouse sector requires frequent retraining which slows the onboarding of new hires to full productivity.
- Inexperienced operators are more prone to errors that damage inventory, equipment, and facilities. They also work at slower speeds than seasoned operators. Damaged inventory and slower operators decrease throughput.
- Opportunity charging downtime during shifts decreases available runtime. With lead-acid batteries, operators lose upwards of 2.5 hours of an 8-hour shift waiting for batteries to charge. Battery maintenance and replacement results in hours or even days of added downtime.
- Approximately 70% of lift truck incidents can be reduced with sufficient training. Forklift operators need regular refreshers and updates as policies, equipment and facilities change.
- Lift truck incidents incur expensive medical costs and workers compensation claims.
- Repetitive motions and long hours on their feet put operators at high risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Sprains, strains, and back injuries lead to lost time and replacement worker costs. Poor cabin ergonomics can increase injuries.
- Unplanned equipment downtime leads to expensive emergency service calls and rental replacement fees. With insufficient backup equipment, downtime also results in delayed shipments and revenue losses.
- Maintaining excess lift trucks on-site to compensate for potential downtime inflates capital costs. However, lacking needed equipment also leads to downtime, leaving facilities stuck between high capital costs and revenue losses.
- Inefficient equipment, overly large fleets, and poor charging practices consume excessive energy and drive-up operating expenses. Electricity is one of the largest variable costs in material handling, so reducing wasted energy significantly decreases costs.
Increasing Storage Density
- Proliferating SKU counts make it difficult to slot all active pick inventory within the optimal “golden zone” picking range of 5-9 feet high. This leads to inefficient picking processes that require more time and labor.
- Expanding warehouse footprint to add more ground-level racks or a new facility is extremely costly in terms of construction, permitting, materials and land costs. It also does not fully solve picking inefficiency issues.
Difficulty Adapting to Fluctuating Demand
- Growth, seasonal sales, and promotions drive rapid changes in inventory volumes. This requires frequently adjusting warehouse capacity, workforce levels and equipment to meet changing needs.
- Adding fixed assets and employees to meet peak periods leaves resources underutilized during slower periods. However, being under-resourced during peaks leads to costly delays and overtime expenses.
- Dramatic peaks and valleys in activity make it hard to balance high service levels with lean operations. Safety and training also become a challenge with large short-term labor increases.
The Black Equipment Difference
For over 50 years, Black Equipment has partnered with warehouses, DCs and 3PLs to optimize their operations and materials handling. Our experts evaluate your infrastructure, workflows, and objectives to recommend solutions that enhance productivity, safety and uptime.
Responsive Service That Keeps You Running
- 24/7 emergency response: We understand downtime is unacceptable. Our technicians are available around the clock to troubleshoot issues and minimize disruptions. We can even provide remote diagnostics in some cases to get you back up and running.
- Proactive maintenance programs: Preventive maintenance maximizes uptime and extends the lifespan of your fleet. Regular service optimizes availability while avoiding costly major repairs.
- Genuine OEM parts: Using genuine Yale and Hyster components keeps your trucks operating as designed over the long run. This prevents performance degradation or failures. Access our extensive parts inventory for fast order fulfillment with same day or next day delivery.
- Premier Fleet: Black Equipment’s proprietary Premier Fleet allows you to track asset costs by department, type of work, age, and more. It helps you implement and monitor preventative maintenance & repairs with 100% transparency. Premier Fleet data is always available on any device through an online portal that lets you optimize costs, minimize risks, find the root cause of maintenance issues, and right-size your fleet. The data is input automatically, and the interface is intuitive and easy to use. And best of all, it’s completely free for our service customers.
- Short term rentals: We offer rental terms from daily, weekly, and monthly, up to 1 year to help you flexibly meet seasonal or unexpected peaks in demand. With over 1,300 units in our rental fleet, we can deliver units quickly across our 10-branch network.
Ergonomic Equipment That Protects Operators
- Spacious compartments: Our exclusive operator platforms offer over 30% more floor space than traditional platforms. Thick cushion mats reduce vibration by 30% compared to industry averages. This significantly enhances comfort and stability for picking tasks, improving productivity.
- Superior visibility: Yale truck features like 360° steering provide operators unmatched sightlines. Enhanced lighting packages improve visibility inside trailers to help reduce product and facility damage risks.
- Precision control: Features like fingertip controls on Yale’s end rider allow operators to smoothly navigate congested aisles and build stable stacks faster. Specialized packages, like (Yale Direct Store Delivery Package PDF) for last-mile delivery, provide the tight maneuvering needed in confined retail environments.
- Assisted operation: Yale Reliant technologies reinforce safe operating practices by automatically adjusting lift truck performance based on conditions. Reliant helps compensate for inexperienced operators and crowded environments.
Innovative Technology to Enhance Productivity
- Yale Vision: This telematics solution provides real-time fleet data to optimize equipment utilization, operator performance, maintenance practices, and charging infrastructure. Actionable insights help reduce costs and maximize fleet productivity.
- Yale Robotics: Automate repetitive lift truck tasks like transporting and retrieving pallets. This frees operators for more value-added work. Yale robots optimize workflows, throughput, and accuracy.
- ReliantTM operator assistance: This system helps reinforce safe operating practices by automatically adjusting lift truck performance based on the environment and operating conditions. Reliant helps protect inventory, facilities, and people.
- Opportunity charging: Yale’s lithium-ion forklifts allow fast opportunity charging during breaks to minimize downtime. This supports continuous operation and consistent power delivery throughout shifts.
- Warehouse optimization assessments: Our experts conduct in-depth analyses of your infrastructure, workflows, and inventory to identify opportunities to boost storage density, specify & right-size your fleet, ensure order accuracy and labor efficiency.
Optimizing Storage Density and Picking Processes
Boosting storage density maximizes the footprint of your facility so you can accommodate growth and seasonal peaks without costly new construction. Streamlined picking processes also translate to faster order fulfillment and labor efficiency. We offer the following solutions:
Very Narrow Aisle Solutions
- Very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks like Yale’s NR series optimize storage density through narrower aisles and taller racks. Their tight 92″ turning radius allows smooth operation in extremely confined aisles.
- By utilizing the full vertical space of the warehouse, VNA configurations can increase pallet positions by up to 100% using the same footprint. This allows substantial SKU growth without expanding the facility.
- Rail guidance systems available on Yale VNA trucks enhance precision maneuvering in narrow aisles. Sensors provide operators feedback on truck position and warn if they drift off the guide path.
Multi-Level Order Picking
- Low-level order pickers enable picking across an expanded vertical range. This allows you to store fast moving SKUs in lower picking zones and reserve upper levels for slow movers.
- By leveraging the low-level order picker’s expanded picking range, the same footprint can accommodate 33-45% more pick positions. Facility expansion to add pick slots is avoided.
- Longer forks on low-level order pickers allow the simultaneous handling of up to 4 pallets. This further enhances labor efficiency and order throughput.
- High-capacity lift trucks like Hyster’s 8,000 – 12,000lbs H80-120FT models allow the stable handling of multiple pallets and large loads in each trip. This reduces total trips required, maximizing labor efficiency.
- Yale’s high-capacity trucks feature industry-leading dual side shifters for quick, precise load positioning during order picking and putaway processes. The dual shifters eliminate the need to reposition the truck to handle pallets.
- When storage density is maximized, fewer aisles and pick paths are needed to store the same SKU volume. By traveling shorter distances, high-capacity trucks further boost productivity.
- Cushion tire trucks like Yale’s ERC series offer exceptional maneuverability. Their refined control enhances putaway and retrieval in confined spaces.
- Responsive steering and acceleration provided by Yale’s trucks allows operators to navigate densely packed warehouses quickly while maintaining load stability even at high lifts.
Optimized Slotting Strategies
Our warehouse optimization experts can redesign pick slot layouts and workflows to leverage the expanded vertical picking range of low-level order pickers. This allows greater SKU capacity within your existing footprint.
- Detailed pre-assessments of your infrastructure, inventory profile, order data and business objectives inform an optimized slotting strategy.
- Our recommendations enable expedited picking processes and “perfect order” fulfillment through well-designed workflows.
- We verify that the optimized slotting strategy is implemented correctly during roll-out to ensure maximum ROI.
Optimizing Shipping and Receiving Operations
To keep your docks flowing smoothly, your warehouse trucks need to enable rapid, reliable load handling. Yale’s lift trucks deliver the performance, visibility and precise control needed to excel in the demanding loading yard and trailer environments.
Agile Handling Where Space is Limited
- 3-wheel stand up trucks like Yale’s ESC040AD allow tight turning and precise maneuvering for loading and unloading trailers. Their three-wheel stability and compact size provide exceptional control where space is extremely confined.
- With a 15% smaller footprint than competitors, Yale’s stand-up trucks can operate in tight trailer margins. Their optional side-stance operator position enables excellent visibility into trailers.
- Programmable performance settings like rabbits and turtles modes allow facilities to customize truck control features to match operator skill levels. This helps prevent load damage and accidents among less experienced drivers.
Smooth Trailer Entry and Exit
- Pneumatic tire trucks like Yale’s GDP080VX provide superior visibility and a smooth, stable ride across uneven surfaces, dock plates and thresholds. The suspended cabins and pneumatic tires cushion the operator from bumps and ruts.
- With lift heights up to 440″, Yale’s pneumatic trucks can handle difficult loading tasks like multiple pallet loading of trucks and containers transported by rail. Their cushioned ride provides stability when hauling heavy loads across rough yards.
- Convenient floor-mounted throttle pedals allow precise speed control without removing a hand from the steering wheel. This enhances control during trailer loading and unloading.
Versatile Load Handling
- Fork positioners Bolzoni/Auramo Multi Pallet Handlers allow efficient handling of two pallets simultaneously. This instantly doubles productivity per loading cycle.
- Yale’s single and double reach mechanism fork positioners provide up to 42″ of powered side shift to securely retrieve and place loads. This minimizes the need to reposition the truck during putaway and retrieval.
- Bolzoni/Auromo carton clamps provide a secure grip on non-palletized boxes and crates for damage-free handling and transport. Carton clamps optimize productivity in piece picking operations.
Enhancing Comfort and Stability
- Ergonomic platforms on Yale’s end rider reduce whole body vibration by 30%. Thick cushion mats significantly enhance stability and endurance when operators must repeatedly enter and exit trailers.
- Standard and premium Yale cabins include thick padded armrests, lumbar supports, adjustable steering columns, and low step heights. Enhanced comfort allows operators to stay productive and focused shift after shift.
- With superior maneuverability from features like simultaneous steer, Yale’s warehouse trucks allow smooth trailer loading and unloading, preventing product shifting that can result in accidents or damage.
Adapting to Fluctuating Demand
Growth spikes, seasonal sales and promotions drive rapid changes in inventory volumes. This requires frequently adjusting warehouse capacity, workforce levels and equipment to meet changing needs. Short-term rentals provide access to high performing lift trucks that flexibly scale to meet your requirements.
Flexible Short-Term Rentals
- Short-term rentals allow you to easily scale your fleet for peak demands.
- For extended rental needs, we offer 3, 6, 9 and 12-month rental terms with 24/7 emergency service included.
- To easily scale and optimize your fleet for actual needs instead of peak demand, we also offer daily, weekly, and monthly rentals with the same 24/7 emergency service.
- With over 1,300 units in our rental fleet, we fulfill requests rapidly across our 10-branch network. We handle delivery, set up and retrieval when the rental period ends.
- Our certified technicians ensure rented trucks are serviced for maximum uptime. We can also provide on-site technicians during peak rental periods.
Optimizing Direct Store and Last Mile Delivery
Direct store delivery (DSD) and last mile delivery bring unique challenges like frequent entry and exit, tight maneuvering, and varying trailer configurations. Our specialized equipment, accessories and technologies optimize efficiency and control.
Superior Retail Maneuverability
- Hand pallet trucks like Yale’s electric pallet jacks are equipped with exclusive features like Smart Lift that enhance control and shave seconds off each delivery.
- Creep Speed Control, Yale Smart Lift, Yale Smart Slow Down, and Moveable Load Backrest are just some of the features that make these walkies so easy to use.
- With the optional DSD package, accessories like non-marking tires, high visibility markings, horn and blue spotlight protect people and inventory in crowded retail settings.
Enhanced Visibility and Control
- Instrumentation like side-stance operator positions, dual side mirrors and side lighting packages on trucks enhance visibility. This helps operators avoid accidents in retail environments.
- With Yale’s exclusive BlueSpotTM package, blue LED ground lighting signals truck presence to pedestrians while optional strobe lights provide 360° visibility to protect operators and inventory.
- Controlled acceleration on trucks and programmable performance protect merchandise. Features like Yale’s Smart SlowdownTM reduce top travel speed when cornering to prevent load shifting.
- Yale Reliant™ is an advanced operator assistance technology that helps reinforce safe lift truck operating practices. It uses a combination of detection systems to monitor the environment, equipment status, and location in real-time. Based on this data, Reliant can automatically adjust lift truck performance to match conditions while keeping operators safely in control.
- Leveraging the reporting capabilities of Yale’s Vision fleet management system, supervisors can analyze metrics like drops per hour to inform route optimization.
- Operators can also leverage Vision’s turn-by-turn navigation feature to provide guidance to each stop. Voice-enabled headsets allow operators to hear audio directions.
- With Vision, dispatchers gain real-time equipment and operator location visibility. This enables dynamic route adjustments to accommodate priority deliveries or delays.
Start Optimizing Your Operations Today
With pressure on warehouses and 3PLs only intensifying, now is the time to assess if your infrastructure, equipment, and processes are optimized for today’s demands. Our team of experts is ready to evaluate your unique challenges and needs to recommend solutions that enhance safety, uptime, and productivity.
Contact us today to request a comprehensive warehouse optimization assessment and consultation or to learn more about the best solutions for your operation. With 10 locations across the state, we’re ready to partner with you.