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Collaborative Automation and the Reshoring of American Manufacturing

Between 2000 and 2010, the United States lost 6 million manufacturing jobs. Pundits and politicians offer a variety of explanations for how and why this happened. Depending on their political affiliation, talking heads might blame offshoring, illegal immigration, or bad trade deals. Among these conflicting ideas, there is one point that everyone seems to agree with: Workers are being replaced by increasingly effective machines. Automation is certainly a factor in the decline of high-paying manufacturing jobs. But the claim that “robots are taking our jobs” fails to tell the whole story. In fact, American automation might be the key to reclaiming manufacturing as a national strength. A manufacturing segment dominated by automation won’t lead to the worker’s paradise of previous…more

An Industrial Revolution in the Battery Room: Industry 4.0 and Battery Care

Think back to fifth-grade history class. You were probably taught that the Industrial Revolution took place in the early-to-mid 19th century, when the steam engine reshaped manufacturing techniques in dramatic ways. Well, things have changed — including history. Industrial academics now say that there wasn’t just one Industrial Revolution. There were four of them, and we’re in the midst of the fourth, or “Industry 4.0,” today. So what does all this have to do with improving a facility’s use and maintenance of industrial batteries? As it turns out, quite a bit. The Data Revolution of Industry 4.0 If the steam engine heralded the first Industrial Revolution, then the second was marked by the rise of the assembly line. Automated manufacturing…more

OSHA Updates Rules on Work Surfaces and Fall Protection; Will Your Personnel Lifts Comply?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a final rule on one of its most far-reaching safety standards for general industry. On January 17, 2017, all employers must comply with new standards designed to protect workers from the risk of falling off of work surfaces. This is a serious issue in the warehousing industry. As pallet racks have grown taller and taller, driven by the economics of vertical space and technological advances in high lift trucks, the need to lift staff to the upper reaches of the facility has increased substantially. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming changes to familiar OSHA standards, particularly as they relate to personnel lift devices that attach to forklifts: The changes…more

Switching from Liquid Propane to Electric Forklifts in the Produce Industry

In the mid-1990s, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) noticed an alarming trend. The state is the country’s largest provider of 11 types of produce, including apples, Concord grapes, and pears. In fruit-packing warehouses across the state, workers were being exposed to dangerous — and sometimes even poisonous — levels of carbon monoxide on the job. A major cause of this exposure turned out to be the operation of internal combustion (IC) forklifts in controlled atmosphere rooms, a mainstay of the produce handling industry. Ventilation doesn’t really work in cold rooms; they’re designed to hold in cold air, which also traps the carbon monoxide released by IC engines. Between 1994 and 1999, about 41 percent of the…more

What Type of Forklift is Right for Your Warehouse?

When it’s time to build a forklift fleet, start by choosing the right power source. The choice between electric and internal-combustion (IC) trucks is not just an issue of expense. It’s also crucial to running a safe business. That’s because internal combustion engines — whether they’re powered by diesel or by propane — emit carbon monoxide. This dangerous gas can accumulate in enclosed areas, poisoning anyone in the vicinity. Electric forklifts, on the other hand, have close to zero emissions, and they don’t produce any carbon monoxide at all. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other safety regulators recommend using electric forklifts in all enclosed areas. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is very clear about the…more

BHS Mobile Showrooms Offer “Try Before You Buy” Experience, Boost Sales

Most people wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive. And most business managers wouldn’t invest in a new collection of printers without testing one out on-site. Across all industries, consumers show a strong preference for trying products before deciding to buy. Purchasers of forklift battery handling equipment are subject to the same consumer psychology, a phenomenon that marketing analysts call, appropriately, “the foot in the door.” That explains the sales bump that dealers see when they offer product demonstrations of battery handling systems. The most effective demonstrations give customers hands-on time with products. When potential customers get the chance to operate a BHS Battery Extractor in person, it’s easy for them to grasp the benefits. That’s why BHS offers…more

Choosing Electric Forklifts in Mexico: The Battery Compartment

The vast warehouse industry in Mexico continues to shift from gas to electric forklifts to reap the economic and environmental benefits associated with electric power. As electric fleets grow more common, warehouse managers must continually ensure that they configure their operations to be as efficient as possible. One of the most important choices when building a fleet of electric lift trucks is deciding between overhead and side-removal extraction for batteries. Overhead extraction requires that a gantry crane lift the battery vertically from the compartment and lower it on to a charging stand. A side-removal configuration allows battery extractors to slide batteries out along rollers into a cart or charging rack. While leading manufacturers of electric lift trucks offer both options,…more

The Difference Between OSHA and NIOSH — and How They Work Together

Love it or hate it, every warehouse manager knows what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does. But OSHA isn’t the only federal organization dedicated to preserving the health of American workers. There’s also the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). So what’s the difference between OSHA and NIOSH? Why does the United States need two separate institutions that seem to have the same mission? The answers to these questions can help every warehouse manager understand the regulations that keep their workers safe. Here are the major differences between OSHA and NIOSH, along with the productive ways the two organizations interact to improve workplace safety in every industry: OSHA and NIOSH are divisions of two separate government…more

Tax Benefits in Mexico: Incentives for Forklift Battery Rooms and Warehouse Equipment

In recent years, Mexican policy has tended to shy away from tax breaks and corporate incentives. Where these benefits do exist, they are usually highly targeted, selective, and competitive. That said, there are a few tax breaks that can help companies in Mexico invest in battery handling equipment and other warehouse infrastructure. Be sure to research the following programs before making capital investments on equipment for facilities located in Mexico: Maquiladoras, or IMMEX The Mexican government created the maquiladora industry to boost manufacturing within its borders. Under the program, foreign companies — especially those in the nearby United States — can import materials to Mexican manufacturers, then export finished products, without paying import or export duties. The program also speeds…more

Choosing a Distribution Center for e-Commerce Fulfillment

The e-commerce boom caused many distribution centers to shift from dedicated to multi-channel fulfillment. As consumers expect increasingly faster shipping times, distribution center managers are scrambling to find the optimal way to get goods to consumers. Where does that leave retailers who are just now entering the online market? There is no universal solution to this problem, but looking at the pros and cons of the basic choices can help you decide which setup will make distribution for your company the most efficient, whether you plan to handle logistics in-house or go through a 3PL provider. Dedicated Centers The traditional setup of having separate facilities for fulfilling orders from stores and online customers allows for efficient order fulfillment, but makes…more