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Why Deep Discounts on Warehouse Equipment Can Cost Far More in the Long Run

Poorly designed equipment can lead to costly downtime and supply chain disruptions.

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Seventy-six percent of 2014 Supply Chain Resilience survey respondents disclosed they experienced at least one instance of supply chain disruption the previous year, with unplanned IT and telecommunications outages being the primary source for disruption 52.9 percent of the time. The report also revealed the increased cost of working and losses of revenue due to disruption were more common among respondents than the previous year.

The report underscores the severe negative consequences that can result from supply chain disruption and downtime. And as demonstrated by the Supply Chain Resilience Survey, IT breakdowns – which include equipment failure – are the main culprits of downtime. Further compounding this, downtime ultimately leads to supply chain disruptions.

Slipshod quality equipment poses great risk to operations and accelerates the potential for downtime. While it is tempting to purchase warehouse and industrial equipment from a general website that offers deep discounts, the decision may end up proving more costly in the end if the equipment fails.

Some manufacturers place priority on designing equipment that will sell because it is cheap. Producing substandard quality items costs manufacturers less as well, because they often skimp on materials. For example, one of the easiest ways to reduce production costs is to decrease steel quantity. This happens frequently and is problematic in situations such as industrial distribution. The comparatively lightweight equipment is not fit to support the heavy loads common in warehouse operations. Inefficient support leads to post and caster failure, which results in repair and replacement costs.

Without the knowledge that specialized industrial equipment online stores offer, shoppers can far too easily select products not suited for their applications – further increasing the risk of equipment failure. The repercussions of using general purpose equipment are not always severe. However, failures can slow down operations. When shopping for products that will endure, it is important to keep the following in mind.

Wire shelving. It is critical to use wire shelving specifically built for industrial purposes, as manufacturers design it to survive in abusive markets. At one time, patents preserved the integrity of industrial shelving, but they have lapsed over time. This shift has opened up the flood gates for new manufacturers who do not necessarily design to specifications. In addition, the use of wire shelving has become widespread, making it difficult at times to weed out generic products.

It is easy to assume that the same type of product will serve different purposes, but in terms of industrial shelving, this is rarely the case. For example, when used in a warehouse setting, each shelf often must support more than 300 lbs., and not all manufacturers design it to fit this standard.

Be wary of shelving sold from a personal website, or an account lacking a physical location and shipped from a public storage locker. Choosing these options, while cost-effective upfront, is a risky proposition. Buying shelving from these establishments also makes returns difficult or even impossible.

Big box stores do not offer the best solution, either. Manufacturers typically equip consumer shelving with a split post that allows placement into a car trunk. Unfortunately, this post can prove inefficient in supporting the substantial weight of industrial items for an extended period of time.  In this situation, replacement parts can become an issue.

Dedicated industrial equipment websites allow customers to review specifications and tolerances, as well as explain applications. These online equipment stores offer expert help to ensure customers receive the correct wire shelving each time, helping to keep projects on schedule. 

Casters. While they are small, the type of casters companies select can make or break operations. General purpose casters are typically undersized, poorly manufactured and ill-fitted.  Substandard casters can negatively impact how well carts roll and how much additional effort is required to move them.

For example, the smaller diameter rubber casters sometimes have a softer durometer, which can prevent them from rolling as efficiently. In addition, they can leave black skid marks in their wake. Industrial casters may cost a bit more, but the high quality of these products will pay for themselves when they outlast and out perform their cheaper counterparts.

When selecting casters, it is important to consider working conditions. Taking into account floor grades, thresholds and transportation needs can aid in determining the appropriate caster systems. Load weight is another important factor. For example, heavier loads may require a dolly base and plate caster system.

The Proper Finish. This design element plays a critical role in the longevity of products. When suppliers and buyers of material handling equipment fail to apply the appropriate finish for a given job, materials can quickly begin to pucker, peel and rust. This affects not only the aesthetics of the product, but also can cause a decline in overall quality.  Reputable manufacturers will put layers of protection over the raw steel to create zinc, chrome and epoxy finishes.

It is critical to determine which finish is most suitable for each application. For example, while it is aesthetically pleasing, chrome wire is not the best option for the majority of applications. Epoxy finishes are affordable and surpass chrome wire’s ability to shield material from rust over time. Stainless steel and composite plastics are a bit more expensive, but provide superior protection.

Short-term fixes do not suit industrial settings. These types of operations demand careful thought and preparation in regard to selecting equipment. A thoughtful approach will help prevent downtime and supply chain disruption.

No organization wants to become the broken link in a supply chain. It rarely bodes well for business, and in most cases, carries serious consequences. Companies may have little control over external factors like natural disasters, but by investing a bit more time and money upfront, they can keep their operations – as well as their revenues and productivity – as strong and stable as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Don DeSimone is Director of Sales for the Warehouse Equipment Store at Wynright Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daifuku North America and a leading U.S.-based provider of intelligent material handling systems. With more than 200 engineers in-house, Wynright designs, manufactures, integrates and installs a full spectrum of intralogistics solutions, offering both Wynright-branded and third-party equipment to meet client needs. He can be reached at [email protected].