Storage solutions provider APC Storage Solutions South Africa (SA) believes the South African warehousing industry is not adequately protecting its racking, shelving, forklifts and drivers from collisions, which could result in eventual racking system collapse, costly repairs and serious injury.
“The latter is as a result of the fact that the South African warehousing industry is not always aware of the range of available protectors,” says MD Fred Albrecht.
He notes that the company is mitigating this challenge by importing a range of column, racking and corner protection systems from US-based protection products manufacturer Sentry Pro.
The company was officially awarded the sole African distribution rights for the product range in June and is introducing the entire range to the local market under the APC Protect brand.
“The problem with most traditional warehousing protectors is their usability. They require measurements, drilling and trimming and, because they become less effective after every impact, they need replacement at least every six months to adhere to the Storage Equipment Manufacturing Association standards and the norms provided by European safety standards.
“The new APC Protect range of plastic strap-on, impact-resistant cushion systems can be installed easily and quickly without any tools and is able to withstand up to 5 000 medium- to high-velocity collisions,” he says.
The units feature Velcro and patented fasteners for quick maintenance and cleaning; they also save labour costs and downtime.
APC Storage Solutions SA client relations manager Germarie Human notes that collisions in a warehouse usually occur at the beginning and end of rows, where the forklift driver is required to turn. She says the risk is also greater in high-traffic zones.
“Aisle width is often not ideal for the size of forklift a company has; drivers may take the corners too sharply or have the forks extended too much when trying to move around the warehouse.
These collisions can be dangerous as racking systems often carry the most weight on the extreme end frames, not to mention the high cost of repairs and the downtime, that could be avoided,” she says.
Previously, the company offered lateral and upright protectors, which protected the fronts and ends of the rows. These were made from metal and were anchored to the floor.
Human explains that, although these protectors could take impacts of up to 400 Nm, the highest norm in the industry, they still had to be replaced often owing to the constant damage caused during impacts.
“Warehouses need protectors because these collisions cannot be avoided owing to human error. It is far more costly to replace a whole racking or shelving system, or section thereof, than to marginally increase your initial investment in such protectors.
“The APC Protect range will not have to be replaced every six months, as it absorbs multi- ple impacts, acting as a reusable air cushion instead of just protecting the equipment from a single impact using traditional steel and brittle plastic protectors,” she explains.
The range is available in various premanu- factured sizes to fit most applications and needs no maintenance.
“Protecting your investments, including staff, stock, racking installations and forklifts, is an essential warehouse best practice. The APC Protect range is a one-off insurance investment that is much more affordable than having to replace or repair damaged pillars, racks or inventory,” notes Albrecht.
The cushions are moulded from semiflexible, stress-crack and chemical-resistant plastics that absorb the impact and return to their normal shape afterwards.
Each unit is ultraviolet stabilised for outdoor use and is coloured bright yellow, with contrasting black stripes for improved visibility. The units are also waterproof and easy to clean.
“There are a few similar protection products on the local market, but none of them have the unique air-padding of the APC Protect range, nor can any of these take several impacts and remain resistant to the next impact without any visible or structural damage,” claims Human.
She says APC Storage Solutions SA offers a five-year guarantee on all its products, including the new APC Protect range.
“An installation which complies with European regulations is a full guarantee of safety. This is highly valued by insurance companies and by legal authorities, should a question of liability in work safety arise,” she says.
The company also offers a lifetime warranty on its racking and shelving installations.
“The lifetime warranty spans over the life span of our products, which is 25 years. During this time, we will keep in touch with our clients on the latest developments and have field engineers inspect the products every six months,” she says.
This after-sales care is a new development and forms part of APC Storage Solutions SA’s total quality management (TQM) drive.
“We no longer just install the solutions; but with our consulting arm, APC Consult, we offer a holistic package, assisting our clients from the start of the concept, design, and construction of their warehouse, as well as throughout the operational life span of the facility,” says Albrecht.
Human notes that the products are also available in recycled plastic materials for companies wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, Albrecht says there is a trend towards narrower aisles in warehouses, which allows more storage capacity in a smaller area.
“With this trend, the risks of impacts inside the warehouse are increasing. This is why we are placing emphasis on this range of protection solutions.
“We are even considering a more consumer-focused approach to market the parking garage range of protection solutions, which reduces the risk of damaging car doors against pillars and walls,” he says.
Besides warehouses falling short in terms of protection, Albrecht believes a lack of education or knowledge in the local industry about the developments in warehousing and storage technology in Europe and how these developments can be applied in the African context is another significant challenge.
“In Africa, there is a misconception that warehousing is only about racking and shelving, but it is about much more than this. Warehouse owners often do not realise that they can double their throughput and storage capacity with simple improvements,” he states.
As part of its TQM drive, Human notes that the company is spreading the knowledge of the latest advancements and available improvements as much as possible.
“We ensure that our staff are knowledgeable about these improvements and developments and we keep all our clients abreast of the latest available solutions.
Further, because we supply warehousing technology that originates in Europe, we are able to provide all the necessary products available for automation, protection and materials handling to assist our clients in achieving greater efficiency and profitability,” says Human.