Re: [MessaboutW] Andy's Big Idea - not boat related at all, except is has everything to do with shipping.


That could lead to a lot more time for boat building and to go boating!!  Might be a little  hard on your income though.  Probably a view of the future.

Hank in OR

On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 11:42 AM, Andrew Linn alinn@... [MessaboutW] <MessaboutW@...> wrote:
I work at a Rapid Deployment Center for the Home Depot. Trucks filled
with product from manufacturers come in on one side of the building, we
unload them, split the product up, assign them to 95 stores in the
Western US, pack everything up for transport, and load them into trucks
on the other side of the building.

My specific job is packing everything up for transport. I pull boxes off
a conveyor belt and get them ready to be trucked. I move boxes as small
as the palm of my hand to monsters 5' long with a maximum weight of
75lbs. I am one of a team of 14 (per shift) who do this particular task
and we move between 1800 and 2500 individual boxes every day. Not every
box is touched by us, some pallets come off the inbound trucks and are
moved directly to the outbound trucks.

We have two main costs - and these costs dwarf all other expenses:
Transportation and labor. The company is always striving to minimize
these costs.

We used to palletize everything - A box comes off the conveyor and I'd
stack it on a 3.5x4 pallet, and I'd try to make that stack 8' high.
Remember, these boxes are any size, any weight - from flimsy boxes of
lightbulbs to sturdy cartons of bleach. They are rarely 8' high. Once
sufficiently high, I would wrap the pallet with industrial Saran Wrap
and it would be loaded into a truck. This work required some training,
experience, and skill as the pallets have to remain upright during
stacking, they have to remain upright during transport.

Sometime last year (2015) it was decided transportation costs could be
lowered if we could get more product onto a truck. With pallets, there
is always space at the top, sides, and between. It was decided we could
more fully fill the truck if we stopped palletizing everything and went
to  stacking small boxes around the big appliances and unbroken pallets
of goods.

In January, we stopped using pallets and went to using carts. I now take
boxes off the conveyor and stack them on 6wx4dx5h carts. When the cart
is full, it is wheeled over to the truck and someone else unloads it,
stacking the boxes around the product already on the truck.

Stacking carts is braindead easy - the cart has 3 sides so it takes
almost no skill to fill a cart (because they can't tip over) and because
you don't have to be careful, you can go really fast. 2000 boxes is a
busy day for a pallet builder while cart stackers can easily do 2400 or

A truck's capacity is measured in 'cube' and the more cube you fill, the
more efficiently the truck is packed. Better cube = fewer trucks
resulting in reduced transportation costs - BUT it takes more people
(labor) to do it.

We've been doing this for 3 months, and our overall cube has risen from
~2500 to ~2600, not the 2800 they were hoping for. At the same time,
fuel costs have dropped by at least 1/3 and we have had to hire a LOT
more people. There's still a significant amount of breakage and the
stores receiving the product are not nearly as happy with us as they
were when we used pallets (and they weren't too happy then, either.

My idea is to marry the best aspect of pallets (uniform size for
efficient loading) with carts (easy stacking of product.) To do this, I
would make a gaylord, a shipping container with 3 sides (maybe an
optional 4th to keep things in) that is 4wx4dx8h.

The problem with gaylords (we already use 4x4x4 gaylords for some
things) is "What does the store do with them?" Once the truck gets to
the store and the product is unloaded, the gaylord is as useless as an
empty beer can.
As we do already use small gaylords, there is already a method in place
to get them returned to us, but a truck full of empty gaylords produces
no income - it's just a cost. While we could *probably* use this
existing method, why not look to the future?

The gaylords we use now are made from plastic (ABS?) and are sturdy,
strong, and long lasting, When they get damaged (which they do) they
become garbage and are either sent to a landfill or recycled somehow.

What if we had a Single Use Super Gaylord that was designed to be
endlessly recycled? A big, 3-sided box with a bottom designed to be
lifted by a forklift. It only has to be sturdy enough to carry product
in a truck from point A to point B. Once at the store, it would be  . .
. ground into powder? melted into a block?  which would then be shipped
back to us (taking up far less space than the original container) to be
reconstituted into a new Single Use Super Gaylord?

That's the idea behind asking about an industrial 3D printer - except
the SUSG doesn't need to be 3D printed. 4x4 panels of sufficient
thickness could be designed to be snapped together fairly easily.

If this could be implemented, I believe we could eliminate 1/3 of the
workforce currently in my department. Having uniformly shaped shipping
containers paves the way for automation - autonomous forklifts to load
the containers into the trucks, specifically - which will allow us to
eliminate  1/3 to 1/2 of our overall workforce.

Posted by: Andrew Linn <alinn@...>

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