More shipping, more problems?
28 July 2020
How increased distribution can compromise safety – and what you can do about it.
For many smaller distribution centres recent changes in throughput have required process, personal or site layout alterations that have been hastily improvised. When this occurs it’s often difficult to see all the implications, particularly when it comes to health and safety.
We’ve been noticing that some medium sized businesses in New Zealand have been experiencing growth from online sales. As a consequence they’ve seen their shipping increase – and their pallet wrapping requirements too.
The reality is that increased throughput often brings with it ad-hoc responses to distribution processes. As companies struggle to forecast and plan with any certainty these responses then become ‘the new normal’, for better or worse.
For many companies making the leap from doing things by hand to semi-automated pallet wrapping is not considered an option. Even a small one-off investment that can save costs, increase health and safety and reduce plastic is not considered. The cheapest roll of pallet wrap stays on order and that’s that – there’s one less thing to think about.
Instead, an additional staging point might be set up. Or helping hands hired temporarily to deal with the increased need. Or targets might be adjusted to emphasize speed over quality.
For one thing, the changes both in floor layout and the general movement of people and equipment can play a big part in site safety. With plenty of moving parts in any distribution operation, particularly forklifts, it can be difficult to keep eyes in the back of the head. Then add in fatigue from additional hours and extra pallet wrapping and things can quickly go from calm to chaotic.
There haven’t been any major incidents that we’ve heard of. However, putting it diplomatically, there are certainly some sub-optimal arrangements out there. It’s only a matter of time before the ‘Number of days since last safety incident’ counter will have to be wound back to zero.
1. Ignoring it. The old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach is certainly viable for some operations.
However many are putting pressure on staff, with more bending and more straining from hand wrapping. This can cause repetitive strain injuries and the aforementioned fatigue and safety issues. So too do cheap wrap products affect load stability and the subsequent safety of people around these inadequate pallets.
2. Front-footing it. Given the current global situation, New Zealand companies can’t plan for every possible change in the future.
However, the smart ones are taking the time to research things properly. They’re establishing how they can save time and money without reducing throughput or, as importantly, compromising employee health and safety. With small tweaks to layout, pallet wrap audits or equipment investments they’re future-proofing distribution to flourish during both busy and quiet times.
Many of the decisions required for this approach can only be made with confidence when experts are involved.
With lockdown now just a memory we’re proud of our work travelling the country to meet with companies that are taking the step ahead. From on-site wrap testing to layout audits and more, we’re ensuring these businesses have the right information to change processes quickly, cost-effectively and safely.
If you’d like a no-obligation site audit we’re happy to help.