In Depth: Racking & Delivery
In an 1888 letter to American novelist and literary critic William Dean Howells, Mark Twain wrote, “The thing which has made labor great and powerful is labor-saving machinery, and nothing else in the world could have done it.” To the LBM dealer, Mr. Twain’s insights should come as no surprise—if it weren’t for devices such as forklifts and stacking systems, labor would be the same back-breaking task now as it was in the 1800s.
“I’ve been hearing for years about lumberyard owners having a hard time trying to find guys who were willing to do physical labor,” says Clint Darnell, senior account manager for Sunbelt Rack/CT Darnell Construction. “I don’t want to put it on the millennials, but that seems to be when it all started. That generation doesn’t seem to mind getting on a forklift or using automated loading devices, but they’re not too keen on physical labor by hand. If you ask them to move materials by hand, they’re going to seek gainful employment somewhere else.”
Real-world examples show how dramatic the impacts of improved material handling and storage can be. Chris Krauter, president of Krauter Auto-Stak, shares a recent example of how those improved efficiencies can pay off. “We did a project for a wholesaler who was struggling to get all orders picked and shipped with his current staff of 20,” he explained. “Employees were working overtime and weekends to keep up. After we installed an Auto-Stak System, the result was an efficiency that not only enabled weekly job tickets to get executed on time without additional daily or weekend hours, but 10% of the workforce was either reduced or assigned to other responsibilities. The payback on the system was a short 18-24 months.”