Brains and Brawn

Brains and Brawn

Old-fashioned spirit and high-tech lift trucks keep Hanover Terminal moving.

Hanover Terminal (Hanover, Pa.) receives, ships and tracks orders—consisting of everything from Romanian glassware to mandarin oranges from Israel—for more than 12 million cases of product a year. Over the years, one 132,000-square-foot warehouse has grown into four warehouses. Two are located in Hanover, Pa., and two in York, Pa.

Hanover began operations in 1956, and since its purchase by Kurt Dietrich in 1977, has more than tripled its operating capacity. Last year, more than 300 million pounds of product passed through the company’s distribution facilities.

The company draws inspiration from the strong work ethic of the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, who keep the agrarian tradition alive in surrounding south-central Pennsylvania.

“We are really a company in which high-tech mixes with old-fashioned muscle,” says Tim Nicholas, operations manager at Hanover. “We’re both a business and a family, and that about says it all. The tenure of our employees is exceptionally long as is the tenure of most of our accounts, which, on average, is about 15 years. We just don’t experience turnover.

“It’s that spirit that continues to keep the trucks moving in and out of our facilities on time, often at a rate of 100 or more a day,” he concludes. “It’s that spirit that keeps our employees and customers happy.”

Inventory Control
Hanover uses 14 Mitsubishi lift trucks from Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) for most of its product handling.

The company has about 70 accounts; each receives five to 20 container shipments a day. Orders vary from 2,000 to 4,000 cases, and depending on the number of full pallets, a lift truck operator might spend an entire day or just a few hours pulling an order.

“With a company like ours, with 35 doors at one facility alone, we need lift trucks that are

Mitsubishi Caterpillar
Lift trucks from Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. help Hanover Terminal move more than 12 million cases a year.

dependable and efficient to load and unload 15 trucks at any given time,” says Nicholas.

With 12 million cases of product per year flowing through Hanover’s warehouses, a high-tech inventory control system is paramount. Almost all products are canned or boxed food items, which are shipped on a first-in, first-out rotation. To orchestrate this logistical challenge, Hanover uses an inventory lot system.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) keeps products from the Port of Baltimore organized and accounted for as they are unloaded and stored in the four warehouses until orders are received. Orders are then automatically routed and consolidated into truckloads for delivery to customers in the Northeast. Orders can be shipped throughout the country, either to other distribution centers or directly to the customer.

Hanover’s ability to consolidate several orders for a customer into truckloads can reduce freight costs enough that the savings offset the cost of handling and storing the product.

The inventory control system offers a computerized history of each shipment that arrives at a warehouse, including the number of cases of each product, its description and weight. Then, each case is assigned a number and location. This system allows customers to access Hanover’s Web site and view their inventory.

“The challenge is keeping the system intact from beginning to end,” Nicholas explains. “We make sure everyone learns and understands our philosophy. If a step is skipped, there is a bump in the road that could be an issue later.”

Hanover’s lift trucks load and unload shipments, transport product through the warehouse and lift pallets weighing up to 2,500 pounds up to 10 feet in the air.

Hanover’s lift trucks are LP-gas powered, 5,000-pound-capacity FGC25N models. They are specified with three and four-way hydraulic valves and use attachments.

“At Hanover, there could be up to eight layers of cases on a skid, and the operator may only need to lift off the top six cases,” says Ben Moyer, product manager at MCFA. “By using a carton-clamp attachment that squeezes the sides of the cases, the company increases efficiency by having the ability to move specific freight around within the same skid. By working with our local dealer, we were able to tailor the lift trucks used at Hanover to accommodate their operations with the specific features they need.”

A slipsheet attachment is used to grab and pull out the cardboard sheet placed underneath product that comes in on railcars or trucks. That product then can be loaded onto pallets. A roll clamp is also used to lift and transport rolls of paper safely and securely.

Safety and Ergonomics
Though efficiency, maneuverability and job-specific attachments are important, safety is a top priority at Hanover. The lift trucks are equipped with safety features, such as lights, horns, backup alarms and MCFA’s Integrated Presence System (IPS).

“Our IPS feature is designed to work with educated operators to promote safe operation of our lift trucks,” says Moyer. Audible and visual alerts remind drivers to fasten seatbelts and set parking brakes, he says. “The key to IPS is the requirement that operators be in the normal seated position to operate any hydraulic or travel function,” Moyer says.

To ensure the safe operation of each lift truck, Hanover offers its own operator certification. As part of the training, each morning, an operator is required to fill out a safety checklist.

Given the amount of time an operator spends on a lift truck, comfort is also an important consideration. “The cab is compact and comfortable,” says Nicholas. “Operators don’t have to reach and stretch; they just move their hands around. The levers are very sensitive and easy to use. The operators are also very pleased with performance and maneuverability.”

Hanover runs two shifts a day, five days a week, and on weekends as required. The lift trucks work all day in a variety of applications. They unload trailers and start and stop frequently to pick up orders.

Hanover’s newest lift trucks were acquired on a long-term lease about two years ago. The local lift truck dealer takes care of all maintenance. “It sends in a technician for regular planned maintenance,” Nicholas says. “Other than our daily inspections, we really don’t do any maintenance at all. The service technicians are usually here twice a week, and one will come right away if we call.”

“The lift trucks have come a long way and continue to be reliable with little downtime, which I count on tremendously,” Nicholas adds.

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