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Racks, shelving and storage manufacturers anticipate fewer disruptions, shorter lead times in 2022

Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that prove to be the most vital, but we don’t have to tell that to anyone using a rack or shelf in a product fulfillment center. The keeper of all products and inventory, industrial storage equipment must be quickly accessible, seamless, and efficient. And if this last year has taught us anything, storage systems must absolutely enhance productivity to keep up with rapid-fire industry changes.

Storage systems manufacturers and suppliers tasked with meeting these demands say they are working to keep up with orders, despite the supply chain issues shared by nearly every industry.

“It’s all about speed and efficiency these days. For several of our large clients, it’s seconds that count. Saving a second or two in processing time allows more orders to be filled,” said Robert Railis, Director of Business Development at Custom Industrial Products. The Melbourne-Fla.-based company manufacturers vertical reciprocating conveyors, modular mezzanine, and safety products. The company’s mezzanines support the rack shelving, and business has been very good, Railis said. “In today’s world, it’s all about maximizing space by moving upwards rather than expanding outwards. Companies are buying mezzanines as a second floor and using our VRCs to move products to the mezzanines,” he added.

Using mezzanines for storage clears ground floor space to be used as work areas. Other customers use them to support modular offices and production equipment as a way to increase production.

Business at Tri-Boro Storage Products in Brooklyn, N.Y. is no less brisk, with factory orders continuing at an aggressive pace, said Nelson J. Cantillo, vice president of sales and marketing.

“The most common inquiry we get is, ‘How soon can I get my shipment?’ Also, ‘Will prices ever drop to more reasonable levels or is this the new normal?’” Cantillo said. He believes 2022 will bring more reasonable lead times below double digits. As far as costs, steel pricing is “leveling off,” but the cost of production, packaging, and shipping have escalated, Castillo added.

“The challenges faced this year and last have been unprecedented in that it was a “perfect storm” of unusually high product demand despite exorbitant and escalating raw materials costs, unpredictable supplier shipments/delays, and the reduced plant efficiencies as a result of employee absence and a shortage of available new labor candidates,” he said.

Meanwhile, at Miami-based Quantum Storage Solutions, the business is booming. “Our top-line sales are off the charts and we are having our best sales year — by far — in our company’s history,” said Ed Granger, Director of Sales at Quantum, one of the fastest-growing manufacturers of plastic bins and bin storage systems. But like other manufacturers, supply chain bottlenecks are challenging the company’s ability to get products to customers. “The supply chain delays are very real and inventory outages are prevalent and the cost of importation has skyrocketed,” Granger said. “In summer of 2020, we were paying $3,500 per container in shipping cost, and in 2021 we’ve paid as much as $27,000. Our customers really are only asking for product — those who have the product are getting the orders, and cost seems to be irrelevant. Inventory is king!”

Custom Industrial Products is encountering similar challenges finding raw materials to manufacture their systems. “Currently, we have some parts back-ordered for six months. While this is an extreme example, there are big disruptions to our supply chain. So much so, we find ourselves spending a great deal of time sourcing parts and vendors,” Railis said. Rising costs have also been a continual challenge. The price of steel is up an estimated 52% and electronics 40%.

“As a result, we have been forced to increase our selling price twice this year. It was not a decision we took lightly but really had no other viable option,” he said. But expectations for a quieter, less troublesome next year are high, allowing manufacturers to continue to identify creative solutions and adaptable equipment.

Railis said that while research shows warehouse construction is expected to stay strong, with a slight dip in new equipment orders, the practices implemented this year are likely here to stay. “We’re confident that the moving vertically is going to stay hot, especially if construction materials continue to rise,” he said. “The pandemic has, in part, forever changed how we shop. Ecommerce shopping and same/next day deliveries exploded, and companies need to keep up.”

Railis said Customer Industrial Products will continue to create greater efficiencies in their current line while developing new products to increase production and improve safety. He said they have seen a recent shift in clientele over the company’s 25-year history, from traditionally large companies with multiple distribution centers to a “healthier balance” of companies of all sizes, especially those in eCommerce.

Granger believes those in charge of inventory will be influenced by the conditions of the past year, erring on the side of caution by keeping more, rather than less, on the shelves and racks. Quantum will be focused on continuing to engineer top-of-the-line bins used in the automation process, with an eye toward making them stronger and flatter, Granger said.

One of the projects is making industrial bins that withstand some conveyor systems. When empty, the receptacles can sometimes become damaged as they crash into one another sliding down shutes on some conveyor systems. “Quantum is able to manufacture bins being used in this fashion with an extra additive that provides more strength and durability,” Granger said. “It comes with an additional cost, but the companies we have worked with are willing to pay a little extra for this feature as it extends the life of the bin.” Customers are also requesting flat-bottom bins for greater connection between the bin and the conveyor belt.

“Lastly it seems more customers are looking at bins where the inside can be divided so that it can house more than one type of item; being able to divide the inside of the bin helps to prevent items from becoming co-mingled,” Granger said.

Tri-Boro is continuing to add work-center and workflow initiatives that will help to lessen lead times on the production of finished goods and reduce reliance on physical labor, Cantillo said. He added that while traditional physical and skilled labor is still so crucial on the plant floor, was fortunate enough to begin implementing additional automated and robotic work cells in various fabrication departments just prior to the pandemic hitting in early 2020.

Next year will bring more advancements in the industry. “We are going to continue to add to our application and safety centric products and accessories such as the Steel-Clad internal frame impact panels, field bolt-on Heavy Duty Bottom Horizontal bracing, and our latest 50% Open Pattern Perf Decks,” Cantillo said.

 

About the Author:

Lisa Curtis is a freelance writer based in Cedarburg, WI. She has nearly 30 years of experience working for local newspapers and magazines, including serving as managing editor of the Ozaukee News Graphic. She is also the author of the book “Images of America: Cedarburg.” To contact Lisa email editorial@MHNetwork.com

 

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