Nowadays, high-density warehouses, with their narrow aisles and towering storage racks, are taken for granted. But they might not exist if George F. Raymond Sr., founder of The Raymond Corp., hadn't figured out a money-saving solution to a common problem more than six decades ago.
According to the Greene, N.Y.-based company, in the late 1940s, a grocery industry consultant mentioned to Raymond that the wide aisles in warehouses were costing U.S. companies millions of dollars. Raymond then came up with an idea that's nearly ubiquitous today: the narrow-aisle warehouse. Without equipment that could safely and productively operate in that specific environment, though, the concept would never be anything more than a vision.
Raymond enlisted company engineer Christian Gibson to work on the project, and on Aug. 14, 1951, the two received a U.S. patent for a narrow-aisle power-driven material handling truck that could maneuver in aisles that were less than seven feet wide and could put away pallets two tiers high, the company says. That original truck, shown in the accompanying photo, has evolved into today's Raymond Reach-Fork truck.
In the years since, Raymond has continued to refine the concept. Today, the Reach-Fork truck series has some 200 configurations. The company even offers a special turret truck that can put away pallets at heights of up to 60 feet and maneuver in aisles as narrow as five feet.
Raymond considers innovation to be one of its core competencies: Earlier this summer, the company honored 19 engineers for their contributions to 32 U.S. patents the company has been awarded since 2012. There is even a Raymond Inventors Club, which includes employees and retirees who have been awarded patents throughout the years. "Companies speak publicly of innovation all the time," said CEO Michael Field at an event honoring the engineers. "Thirty-two patents in four years shows that we act on that conversation and that Raymond is truly invested in innovation."