The aisles of material handling equipment trade shows are filled with complex, highly automated systems. But sometimes a comparatively simple solution developed by those on the warehouse floor can solve the thorniest of material handling problems. Two products we saw at the recent Modex 2012 show in Atlanta are a case in point.
•The Yellow Jacket 110 Orbital Stretch Wrap Machine was invented by a metal fabricator who tired of manually wrapping pallets of oddly shaped, heavy, and oversized parts. He developed a drum-shaped machine that allows a single operator to securely wrap pallets without taking them off the lift truck's forks—and in one-tenth the time it takes two workers to wrap similar loads by hand.
The orbital wrapper, which moves a stretch-wrap dispenser over, around, and under a pallet sitting on a forklift, worked so well that the inventor's customers asked him to build machines for them, too. Eventually, he sold the concept to ITW, which now makes the portable equipment in manual, semi-automatic, and automatic versions. For a demonstration of how it works, go to www.yellowjacket110.com
•Komyo Logistics originally developed its collapsible, returnable shipping and storage crates for a closed-loop transportation system operated by its parent company, Honda Logistics Inc., a subsidiary of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. The metal crates, designed to carry auto parts and components to factories for assembly, were sized to maximize the space in 53-foot U.S. domestic trailers or 40-foot ocean containers. The panels fold down or can be removed for easy access to the product inside. When not in use, they collapse, stack, and interlock for storage or return.
Not long ago, COO Rich Franklin told DC Velocity, the 3PL noticed that one of Honda's facilities wasn't returning the crates as promptly as expected. Puzzled, managers visited the site and discovered that warehouse personnel had added bar-code labels to the crates and were using them in place of racks for storage. To pick orders, workers simply folded down the sides of the crates. Their idea worked so well that Honda now uses the crates for both shipping and storage, and Komyo is selling the equipment (as well as third-party logistics services) to outside customers. Go to www.komyologistics.com for more information.