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U.S. Manufacturer Protects Its Growth and Storage Rack

Monday, July 30, 2012

Nordic Ware, a manufacturer of quality cookware, bakeware, barbecue, microwave, and specialty kitchenware products, had outgrown its facilities. The St. Louis Park, Minn.-based manufacturer, best known for its nearly 60 million Bundt pans in kitchens across America, needed to consolidate warehousing, add storage, and improve distribution to continue growing its business, according to Bob Clifford, Nordic Ware’s Plant Manager.

“After years of double digit growth, we were overcrowded at the main plant and inefficiently running parts to and from offsite warehouses,” says Clifford. “To beat overseas competitors and meet Just-In-Time demands, we sought a more efficient order fulfillment, warehousing, and distribution process.”

Nordic Ware decided to consolidate its offsite warehousing in a new 60,000 sq. ft. distribution center that it equipped with the help of Skarnes, a Plymouth, Minn.-based material handling systems distributor. For high storage density of select, fast moving items, Skarnes suggested pushback rack. To take advantage of the new distribution center’s almost 30-foot ceiling and position Nordic Ware for long-term growth, Skarnes suggested using a rugged, 23-foot high pallet rack system. All the storage rack, however, would need to resist damage from a high-volume of fork truck traffic.

“We wanted to protect our ability to grow business and our storage rack in the new distribution center,” says Clifford. “We wanted a lasting showcase, fit for tours, with minimal downtime or repairs due to fork truck-caused rack damage.”

To maximize storage and selectivity for a limited number of Nordic Ware’s fast moving items, the company chose Steel King’s SK3600® two-deep pushback rack system, which offers more dense storage than selective rack systems and more selectivity than drive-in racks.

Unlike static, single-deep selective pallet racks, a dynamic pushback rack system allows storing pallets two to five deep while providing easy access to a variety of different SKUs. Pallets are stored behind each other in a series of nested carts and are loaded and unloaded from the same side of the system, eliminating separate aisles for each function. Composed of a stable pallet rack structure along with a series of inclined rails and carts, when one pallet is pulled out, the one behind it rolls forward.

To meet strength, durability and maintenance goals, Jim Menges, the Skarnes’ sales engineer who oversaw the project, recommended and Nordic Ware chose SK3000® pallet rack, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns, by Steel King, a leading manufacturer of storage rack and material handling products.

Compared to typical racking, the SK3000 pallet rack, constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontal-diagonal bracing, offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.

“For our fastest moving retailers with the shortest delivery windows, our pushback rack increases storage density and speeds pick rates,” says Clifford. “The structural channel steel withstands the inevitable wear-and-tear and impact of high-volume fork truck use.”

To provide necessary selectivity for most stored items in the new distribution center, Menges recommended and Nordic Ware chose SK2000® pallet rack, a boltless, closed tubular upright product also manufactured by Steel King.

"A closed tubular upright design like Steel King's provides 250% greater resistance to frontal impact and increased strength to side impact," says Menges. A number of other pallet rack features helped Nordic Ware meet its strength, durability, and maintenance goals.

Compared to open back roll formed columns, Steel King’s SK2000 closed tubular uprights are 44 times more torsion/twist resistant, with 250% greater frontal impact resistance and 68% greater side impact resistance. All beams are constructed of high-strength (55,000 p.s.i. minimum) steel, and holes are placed on the column's face, not the corners, minimizing strength loss.

“While impact-resistant rack is vital in high-volume operations to reduce downtime and repair, it’s essential to protect the first column, upright, and end from fork trucks,” says Menges. “Most of the damage to the outside of a rack bay occurs in these places when a fork truck enters the bay.”

To make their storage racking system even more fork truck resistant, Nordic Ware opted for Column Core® column reinforcements, which can make the SK2000 rack five times more impact resistant at the front corners and sides where the upright is the most vulnerable.

According to Menges, column reinforcement on the bottom 18" of the rack provides additional protection from fork truck damage without interfering with product put away or picking. Unlike sheet metal placed in front of a rack, Column Core® adds structural integrity that can help prevent downtime for rack repair or replacement.

“Because rack inside each bay is also vulnerable to fork truck impact, it’s also important to protect it in high-volume operations,” says Menges.

To protect both upright columns and the vulnerable interior areas of rack rows from fork truck impact, Menges recommended and Nordic Ware selected Steel King’s Guard Dawg® Protective Guarding along each row. These 5” x 3” x 3/8” right, left, or double ended steel guards protect upright columns from the ends to the interior of rack rows. “The low elevation guarding wraps around the end column and goes all the way back to the end of the bay, protecting all the uprights,” says Menges. “This further prevents costly rack damage and repair while improving warehouse uptime and productivity.”

Nordic Ware’s investment in its new distribution center and rack safety has paid off and is continuing to do so, according to Clifford.

“With the efficiency gains provided by our new distribution center and racking, we’re meeting ever shorter delivery windows for major retailers across America and overseas,” says Clifford. “By preventing damage with the impact-resistant Steel King rack and guarding, we’ve reduced the need for repair and increased uptime. After applying some of these protective measures plant wide, we’ve significantly reduced fork truck-caused rack damage and improved production. These improvements helped contribute to our fifth straight year of double-digit growth.”

Besides improving Nordic Ware’s productivity, the new distribution center with its 23-foot high rack systems are proving to be a fitting showcase. Because the rack is powder coated rather than painted with enamel, it's 94% more resistant to chips and scratches.

“It’s quite a sight for tour groups to enter our new distribution center with its racking decked out in Nordic blue,” says Clifford. “The racking still looks new after almost three years, and we look forward to many productive years to come.”

For more info, contact Donald Heemstra at Steel King, 2700 Chamber St., Stevens Point, WI 54481; call 800-826-0203; email: or visit the website

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