Repairing racks to avoid disaster

Each year the warehousing industry in South Africa counts the cost of racking failures that lead to countless millions of Rands’ worth of damage and, in some instances, death or injury of warehouse workers.

Such incidents are brutal reminders of the country’s lack of specific legislation regarding the maintenance of racking equipment and reflect the requirement for companies within the industry to self-regulate and (at least) uphold minimum standards suggested by racking manufacturers.

To safeguard against accidents such as this, an annual inspection and audit of the condition of racks must be carried out, and companies should build in procedures to deal with accident damage to uprights and shelves caused by warehouse equipment.

Act immediately

“Supply Chain Today” speaks to Cullem McKay and Charles Langeveld of ROS International Rack Repair SA, an international company founded to help companies assess and repair damage on a regular (audited) basis or to respond to events as they occur and make necessary repairs.

“It is important to realise that every bump and scrape on a racking system has the potential to weaken the structure and, if left unattended, can ultimately lead to its failure. For example, a deflection of just 5 mm is enough to reduce the carrying capacity of an upright by more than half. Thus, even considering built-in strength-redundancy, the upright is likely to fail under a heavy load. That is why, in our experience, even insignificant damage caused by an impact or scrape of equipment should be checked out.

“Best of all, we now have the technology to straighten and reset the metal in a matter of minutes. So rather than clearing the whole rack and replacing the entire upright, we now have the technology available in South Africa to reset the damage and treat the metal to be as strong as it was before it was damaged,” says Cullem.

Repair or replace

He adds that the ROS system is extensively used worldwide by companies like DHL, Volkswagen, Coca Cola, and other prominent warehouse users. It is DEKRA-accredited and uses a patented controlled pressure system to “forge” the damaged uprights back to their original design and carrying capacity by using a specially designed jig.

However, tests have suggested that the uprights may only safely be subjected to three such repairs whereafter metal may start to become fatigued. It is therefore required that record be kept of repairs so that companies don’t accidentally repair the same upright too many times.”That’s where our innovation kicks in again, as we have devised a system of decals which we attach to the uprights with clear marking depicting how many times an upright has been repaired.

“What’s more, we can take over the administration of checking and repairing racking systems on behalf of clients, so we know exactly where a company stands in terms of work that has already been carried out, and the extent of work that needs to be carried out in future” explains Charles. In addition, as part of our service offering, the racking system can be certified annually. This process entails using an independent structural engineer who will confirm the carrying capacity of the racking system and ensure its compliance with SEMA and FEM Regulations. 

Safety is your concern

He continues that ROS International is serious about safeguarding companies’ goods and property and is primarily concerned with the safety of workers and other people on site. “For this reason, we are offering warehouses a complimentary evaluation on the overall state of their racks and will compile a complete assessment and report based on bin locations, etc.

We will also give the customer an idea of the kind of damage they have on their racks through a simple colour-coded grading which we conduct according to strict international Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) coding where damage is recorded as follows:

  • Green – Lightly damaged beyond acceptable specifications (beyond 5 mm deflection).
  • Orange – Significant wear and typical damage to the sidewall.
  • Red – Severe damage to an upright that needs immediate repair.
  • Irreparable damage – Uprights that need to be replaced as a matter of urgency,

“The grading makes it easy for companies to understand and, if necessary, to allocate time to schedule repairs.”

Successful business

The company was founded in Holland 10 years ago to assist a large-scale furniture supplying company whose massive warehouses required constant rack maintenance. Founder Hans Slavenburg, a mechanical engineer, was initially contracted to replace uprights but soon noticed that during the time it took to replace a single upright, more were being damaged. The growing backlog soon led him to seek faster, more efficient ways, and after much research and testing, the company’s first repair jigs were born.

Since then, the international operation has expanded across the globe, with representation now in more than a dozen countries and the start-up of South Africa four years ago. Locally, the operation has been equally successful, and repair crews are dispatched daily to new sites wherever assessments and repairs are required. As a result, ABI, Coca-Cola, Simba, DHL, and a growing number of customers have embraced and are already using the company’s repair systems.

“Our customer base is growing daily, and I can’t recall when last needed to cold-call potential customers, as most of our business these days is a result of referrals. A growing number of businesses is also approaching us to look after their racking systems on a long-term maintenance contract basis, whereby their racking is inspected and repaired quarterly. This is ideal for us as we get to know what type of damage they are incurring and can suggest and design improvements that can assist them in taking necessary precautions.”

Supplementary services

Prevention is always better than cure. As such, ROS International markets a wide variety of post protectors, from your traditional steel protectors to new polymer protectors. These high-density technopolymer protectors are simply fitted to uprights to give the same kind of protection as anchored steel post protectors. If severely damaged, they are replaced without the need to redo anchors etc., as would be the case with anchored post systems.

The luminous yellow colours also act as high-visibility markers for forklift operators and make them less likely to be struck.

“Apart from our repair business, we also have a subsidiary company, Optima Solutions, which can supply and install new racking systems according to customer requirements. It can supply new uprights and improved systems where damage cannot be repaired and, in addition, can offer clients everything from warehouse design to commissioning of new storage systems, etc. Our companies and our staff work hand-in-hand with our customers to deliver an all-round solution to their every requirement,” concludes Cullem.

ROS International SA, Cullem McKay, Tel: (011) 023 5448, Email: info@optimasolutions.co.za, Web: www.ros-intl.co.za

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