Still Standing

Every piece of equipment in an efficient system requires regular maintenance. Yet, some consistently get pushed to the back of the queue. In most instances, it’s literally a case of the squeaky wheel which gets the most oil.

Racking systems generally land at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, unless they all come crashing down – which can happen. Consider the implications of repeated bumping and jarring combined with heavy loads. A serious accident might only be one forklift collision away.

“Supply Chain Today” spoke to Cullem McKay of ROS International Rack Repair SA to find out about the business of repairing and maintaining racking systems. “Traditionally in South Africa, if someone bumps an upright, people turn a blind eye because they see weeks of downtime if repairs are necessary,” he tells us. “We can do it on-site during normal working hours in a fraction of the time it would take to replace.”

Domino effect

Racking and shelving are the mainstays of an efficient warehouse, and most managers hate to see production grind to a halt, so regular maintenance is often put off. Unfortunately, even when parts are replaced, racking systems can still be compromised.

“You order an upright, and you wait four to six weeks for it to arrive. In that time, your shelving is vulnerable. Tests conducted show that a bump might reduce your carrying capacity by 12% – 80%, depending on the severity. Knock it again, and your whole shelf can fall in,” warns Cullem. He cites incidents in which entire racking systems have collapsed and explains that it can have a domino effect on the rest of the warehouse when one shelf goes.

The ROS International process involves a patented system incorporating a series of precision moulds manufactured by their partners in the Netherlands. Using a hydraulic tool to fit the mould to the damaged upright, controlled pressure is exerted to the affected area, returning the upright to its original strength and carrying capacity in a matter of minutes. (The process can be viewed here: www.ros-intl.com). The company’s team can mend up to 15 uprights in a day.

Internationally, ROS is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, with over 200 000 uprights already repaired. Locally ROS International is celebrating its fourth year in operation and has grown exponentially to become the leading rack maintenance company in South Africa.

Why repair?

“We can repair an upright for about 80% of the replacement cost, so it’s a saving in terms of immediate cost. In addition, thanks to the speed involved, there’s a saving in terms of minimised downtime,” says Cullem. However, considering the losses involved should a system collapse, the potential savings are impossible to calculate.

“The principles of Hooke’s Law dictate that when pressure is exerted on steel, it becomes more rigid and less flexible,” explains Cullem. “For this reason, we would only repair an upright for a maximum of three times. This way, we avoid potentially brittling the upright. After that, we’ll advise that the structure be replaced.” In addition, each repaired piece is labelled by bin location according to how many times it has been repaired so that managers have a record of what has been done.

From an accreditation perspective, ROS International has earned the coveted international DEKRA approval for its process, ensuring workmanship quality and a two-year guarantee.

Assessments

The company also conducts comprehensive assessments of racking systems to advise warehouse managers of where problems may lie. “Apathy can be a big problem,” admits Cullem. “Without regular checks, it’s easy to miss potential hazards. Often we’re called in to inspect a warehouse and told that five or six uprights need attention. However, upon inspection, we’ll discover 80! That’s an accident just waiting to happen.”

Aside from damage being overlooked, Cullem adds that overloading is another issue, which is particularly problematic combined with racking that is already weakened.

“We’ll go through the premises and evaluate the condition of your racking system, highlighting damages according to how serious the condition is,” he continues. “’Green’ indicates where the upright is marginally damaged and is deflected by about 3 mm, ‘orange’ indicates more significant damage, and ‘red’ requires urgent attention as this poses a serious safety hazard.” Uprights with tears or severe bowing are never repaired but always replaced. This is something that ROS can also assist with.

Global safety standards

While smaller operators have yet to embrace the service, Cullem tells us that the company maintains the warehouses of some pretty significant local and international customers, including Spar, Pick n Pay, Volkswagen, DHL, L’Oreal, Clover, and ABI. “Many international companies are required to adhere to global safety standards,” he says. “We can keep their racking systems up to scratch.” When necessary, ROS International will enlist the help of independent structural engineers, who will thoroughly check everything from metal structure to welding joints before providing a full defect report.

“This is a sphere we’re becoming increasingly involved with,” Cullem says. “It’s encouraging to see that more and more companies are recognising the importance of checking the safety of their racking systems. So we’ll certainly be investigating this more in terms of local regulatory requirements.”

Cullem McKay, ROS International, Tel. 011 023 5448, Email. SA@ros-intl.com, www.ros-intl.com

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