Case Study: Increased Efficiency and Workplace Safety Due to Caster and Cart Solution
Our client, a heavy stamping plant, located in Ontario, Canada is dedicated to metal stampings to make exterior panels for many automotive OEMs. They currently have several different product lines that include hoods, roofs, tailgates, fenders, etc. Their facility is a spacious warehouse, with aisles spread out to accommodate forklifts and fork trucks.
The client’s original goal was to shrink their warehouse aisles to create more revenue generating space. In order to do this, they were trying to implement a “Fork Free” program. Forklifts and fork trucks take up the most space in warehouse aisles and so they recognized the easiest way to shrink their aisles were to get rid of Fork trucks and move to manual and tugger assisted material handling. Besides gaining revenue generating space, the “Fork Free” program would also increase workplace safety. With Forklifts in assembly areas there were many blind corners employees were constantly having to dodge. Additionally, semiskilled operators and drivers were hard to find and there was a shortage of employees that was decreasing efficiency. Overall the goal to implement a “Fork Free” system would increase revenue, efficiency and safety for this client. It is also crucial to remember that this workforce is older and it was crucial that this transition to “Fork Free” be as seamless as possible. Internally, an ergonomist student on site at the time determined a 40-pound push/pull force limit was the goal to achieve based on existing workplace guidelines.
Once the client recognized their need for carts to replace their old system of Fork trucks, they went to their parent company to ask for recommendations. Another division within their company had gone through a similar transition and provided them with the advice to allocate a bigger portion of their budget for casters as opposed to carts, as casters provide the ergonomic and mobility performance. This division had experienced first hand that spending money on casters would drastically shift the efficiency and productivity on the warehouse floor vs. carts which were purely metal and did not effect the worker’s mobility the way casters do. It was this recommendation that lead them to Darcor and to begin discussions about the ergonomic value and performance that they will gain from casters.
Through an audit of the client’s current system and company processes, Darcor had assessed they needed multiple different carts with a variety of caster solutions. For example, good mobility force and traction/ non-slip were crucial for not only safety but also a smooth transition for the workforce. When the client came to Darcor’s facility to witness different tests it was determined a single SE on the swivel had the best push/ pull while an LE was required on the rigid for the towing application to maintain grip.
Originally, this “Fork Free” solution had some push back from employees who were an older workforce that didn’t like the idea of having to transition from driving Forklifts and Fork trucks to manually pushing a cart, however shortly after the change they have begun to value the health and workplace safety benefits of walking and moving around. The culture has shifted and has recognized the increased ergonomic value to their everyday jobs. With Darcor’s ergonomic caster solution the client was able to add 25% more production lines in the same sized facility.
“Fork free” also increases efficiency. Their new tuggers can move multiple bin sizes in one trip using less employees. By eliminating Forklifts and Fork trucks, they were no longer in need of drivers, therefore they not only stopped their search for drivers, but their current workforce was able to move more on the warehouse floor than before. This new process also increases workplace safety. Before employees would be dodging Forklifts and Fork trucks, but now they are able to move freely on the floor with Darcor’s tugger trains and workplace safe non-slip casters.
With Darcor’s help they were able to shrink aisle sizes from 16 to 7 feet with the implementation of carts over forklifts, ultimately achieving their main goal of creating more revenue generating space, with additional cost savings. Carts and tuggers cost significantly less than the maintenance and cost of forklifts and fork trucks. With this savings in not only cost but time the client was able to create a new digitized Kanban system that wouldn’t have been possible without switching to carts. Overall, Darcor also achieved the goal of a 40 pound push/pull force limit and maintained this ergonomic performance over several years of service.