Replace and repair without disruption

South Africa currently has no specific legislation that regulates the maintenance of warehouse racking. However, there are companies such as Vital Distribution Solutions, demonstrating a forward-thinking approach to self-regulation.

As a company that says it prides itself on its growing reputation for timeous delivery, transparency and integrity, the management team was not prepared to risk possible injury to employees, compromise on its customer service, and possibly even lose millions of rands in damages, should the existing racking system at its new Gauteng premises fail.

So, when Vital Distribution took occupation of its new warehousing facilities in early 2014, it soon became clear to its management team that the warehouse’s old racking system would not be suitable for long-term business operations.

While the new facility met the company’s needs in terms of capacity, it was clear that the racking system needed extensive refurbishment. Vital Distribution’s management team was also fully prepared for the probable cost and time implications that would be required to replace its new warehouse’s entire racking system.

Gauging client requirements

At this point, Vital Distribution called on ROS International to conduct a full audit of its Gauteng warehouse to establish the actual state of the current racking system. As is the norm with all its customers, ROS International provided a comprehensive evaluation report on the overall condition of the current system based on the international Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) coding.

As the only company in South Africa that can offer rack repair services due to its patented rack repair system, ROS International provides its customers with a colour-coded grading report that provides a clear understanding of the level of damage to the current racking system. The grading system is recorded as green (lightly damaged, but beyond acceptable specifications), orange (significant damage and damage to sidewall), red (severe damage to an upright that requires immediate repair), irreparable damage (upright must be replaced urgently).

Following the initial evaluation, ROS International established that the client would require a combination of repairs, refurbishments, and replacements. ROS International further identified that the current depth of the racking was not conducive to the safe storage of Chep Pallets. Therefore, it became essential that the racking brace configuration be altered to increase the overall rack depth.  “Once we completed our numbers, we established that the client would be able to save up to 80% of the rack replacement value by refurbishing the racking,” says Cullem. “However, in this case, it became clear that careful planning and ongoing communication with the client would be key to the success of the project,” he adds. ROS International was awarded the contract in September because the refurbishment would be completed within ten weeks and with minimal disruption to the client’s ongoing operations.

Business as usual

The Vital Solutions Distribution project had to meet extensive demands in a warehouse with a storage capacity of 11 500 pallet places of storage, including 1 000 frames and 9 500 beams. In addition to the comprehensive replacement of racking, ROS International’s unique patented system for repair also ensured that Vital could save at least R2 million in replacement costs. Over the following weeks, the entire warehouse racking refurbishment was carried out in phases to avoid disrupting Vital Distribution’s day-to-day operations.

The ROS repair system works with a hydraulic tool by fitting a mould to the damaged upright and exerting a controlled and punctual pressure over the damaged area to return the upright to its original format in a matter of minutes.

Cullem cautions that while in most cases repair is possible, a replacement will always be insisted on if there is a tear or breakage in the system. However, the true advantage of the ROS repair system is that it can be carried out under full pallet load, providing a significant benefit in time and cost-saving.

Further to ROS International’s service offering, they offer clients an assessment and rack certification by an independent structural engineer. ROS International also adheres to a strict policy that no more than three repairs may be carried out before necessary replacement. Therefore, it has devised a system of decals attached to each warehousing upright with clear markings to show how many times the upright has been repaired.

“We also offer our clients the option to outsource the long-term administration, checking, and repairing of their racking system to us in future,” says Cullem. “This includes monthly or quarterly inspections and annual certification by a structural engineer to confirm that the system still complies with SEMA and FEM regulations.

In addition to the complete warehouse refurbishment, ROS International concluded the project by cleaning and barcode labelling the entire racking system and installing all the new rack and end barriers. The refurbishment project was further integrated with the installation of an automatic sprinkler and fire protection system.

“The Vital Distribution warehouse project required extensive preparation and planning,” says Cullem. “Our team met with the client daily, and by the end of each day, we had to be able to tell the client’s team what would be carried out the next day so that they could prepare accordingly and avoid delay and disruption to their normal operations,” he adds. “It became clear to us that we were working with a client that was extremely well-organised and dedicated to the health and safety of their employees. Their commitment to the process made the project a significant success. Despite the limited time in which to complete the project, we were able to achieve this successfully with their assistance and proactive approach.”

Keep it green

The ROS International repair system also complimented the client’s current environmentally friendly initiatives. Vital Distribution has recently embarked on a green initiative campaign in a bid to produce less CO2 emissions. The repair of racking systems wherever possible, offered by ROS International, also positively impacts the environment. The certified ROS repair method is fast, safe, and sustainable. A comparative analysis of the Institute ACV EKOTIKA shows that repairing damage is far more environmentally friendly than replacement. Not only does repair extend the lifespan of the product for up to six years, but the ROS Repair System provides an average of 53% reduction of CO2 emissions.

Expanding portfolio

ROS International will be showcasing its unique patented repair system at the SAPICS Conference from 31 May to 2 June 2015 at Sun City. “As the only service provider in South Africa that currently offers racking repair, we believe that we can add significant value to the supply chain industry,” says Cullem.

The company was established in the Netherlands over a decade ago and has since expanded its operations worldwide. ROS international currently services a wide range of customers from small independent operations with only a few bays of racking to large FMCG customers where handling speed is high, and there are more than 8 000 pallets and up to 200 000m2 of warehousing space. In its fifth year of operation in South Africa, the company has added the likes of Coca Cola, Simba, Volkswagen, Ford, and DHL to its growing portfolio of clients.

“Provided that the racking inspections are carried out quarterly and that repairs are conducted at the recommended intervals, our customers see savings on their racking repairs up to 80% each year on their budget. In addition, all repairs are independently verified and insured, and the ROS system has undergone extensive quality tests carried out by leading testing institutes around the world.  These include The Netherlands Council for Applied Scientific Research, Oxford University, and DEKRA.” 

ROS International South Africa includes a subsidiary, Optima Storage Solutions, with specialist expertise in the supply chain and racking industry. Optima Storage Solutions provides customers with a comprehensive and turnkey warehouse and storage management solution from planning to installation, support, repair, and replacement. Established by Cullem McKay and Charles Langeveld in 2008, this end-to-end storage solution project management company has gained a solid reputation with leading local and international players such as L’Oreal, Woolworths, and ABI.

“Our goal remains meeting the unique requirements of every customer,” says Cullem. “We achieve this by helping them to apply the most efficient and sustainable racking system at the most affordable cost. The key is to form a close partnership with every client and develop a clear understanding of the demands of their business so that we can help them to achieve their requirements as efficiently as possible,” he concluded.