The management of the vast Quad/Graphics distribution center in Menomonee Falls, WI has developed a unique way to make use of their space by shortening the distance from the floor to the door when moving pallets of product through their supply chain. This is part of their effort to save money on their cross-country trips even before product sets out on the journey. The equipment used at their loading dock helps ensure that the doorway they need is available every time.
This Wisconsin-based company that has printing facilities in North America and Poland (partnerships with printers in South America) is actively practicing sustainability throughout all of its activities and has done so before going green was widespread. As part of this program, one of their goals has been to reduce the amount of miles that their trucking services spend on the road.
Until a few years ago, Quad was storing and shipping out of their five plants located throughout Southeastern Wisconsin and had many multi-stop loads involving shipments from those plants. “Our plants,” according to Quad Distribution Operations Manager Mark Benson, “were mini distribution centers.”
This changed when trucking companies made a decision to limit the amount of time drivers spend on the road in a day. Printing shipped out of Quad either as full or partial loads.
Trucking companies decided to attack the problem by limiting the number of stops through the day, applying a rising scale of costs to the shipper for each stop made during the day involving these partial loads. “The costs were killing us,” Benson said.
The charge for the first stop could be $50, the second $75 and then so on. This led Quad to look at the way they routed partial loads, which comprise 40% of their shipments. They decided the best course of action was to send their partial truckloads to a central DC where they could build full truckloads from product coming out of multiple plants.
Several years ago Quad moved their partial loads to a facility that was formerly a grocery DC on the west side of Milwaukee. Quad avoided the multi-stop charges and cut down on the travel for their shipments, saving the nearly two million miles they could rack up from trucks having to go out of their way. The change saved a considerable amount of truck fuel in the process.
They soon outgrew that facility and Quad turned to the First Industrial development company to build a new facility for it to lease.
Overcoming Building Constraints
The DC is located in Menomonee Falls, accessible to Highway 45 that connects into I-94. Quad arranged for First Industrial to work with The Paul Reilly Company, their long-time supplier of dock equipment.
The dock equipment would be important to the plan worked out by Benson. The challenge in the new facility would be pallet flow and in this case, excess travel within the building. With a large number of pallets within this 388,000 sq ft area a poor plan could result in a lot of wasted time for forklifts running back and forth moving pallets throughout the day.
All of the pallets are stored on the floor. The facility does not use racking. Benson looked at where to stage the product, how to keep track of it and how to make the distance from the pallet’s storage spot to the door as short as possible. So the question was where to put the doorways and the dock equipment.
“The doorways,” according to Benson, “have a dual function.”
Out of the 49 dock doorways, just nine have a designated use of receiving only. In this building like other DCs there is no shipping or receiving wall. The remaining 40 doors handle both inbound and outbound, which provides Quad with a lot of flexibility. But organization is key here, “enabling us,” according to Benson, “to send out full truck loads.”
The only LTL loads that operate out of this facility are for the most part limited to supplies. Quad has set aside about 50,000 sq ft for paper rolls.
WMS Directs Flows
The largely self-sufficient Quad operation has a cradle-to-grave approach to their huge network of plants, developing much of the services they use including the WMS system that orchestrates the pallet flow at the Menomonee Falls DC.
Bar coding is present throughout the process, on the pallets, at the doorways and on the placards suspended above the staging locations along the aisles on the DC floor. When the pallet arrives the forklift driver scans it, finds its destination within the DC and scans the placard to verify position. When the pallet is headed out the door the driver scans the barcode at the doorway to verify the pallet’s destination. The WMS has also directed the truck to the appropriate doorway.
The WMS determines pallet position to establish the shortest distance from the staging location to the doorway. “The system knows,” says Benson, “if say certain pallets are to ship out on Monday, so it sets aside empty bays to stage all of the Monday pallets.”
Forklift-mounted computers direct the drivers to the pallet positions and through the facility. Drivers don’t have to waste time meandering around the nearly eight-acre DC to find a pallet to get it to a doorway. Along with making the best use of their DC space, the Menomonee Falls site can use a bare-bones crew of just eight people a shift for this large volume of shipping, saving money by saving time.
Dock Equipment Improves Speed
Of course none of this works unless they can access their doorways, and that means the dock equipment has to work consistently. Management chose Serco equipment to fill that bill. Every shipping and receiving dock at the DC is equipped with Serco 7’ x 8’ hydraulic dock levelers to handle their wider 9’ doorways. Along with handling standard pallets the extra doorway width accommodates international shipping containers.
“We have learned,” says Dale Hernke, Quad/Graphics distribution services manager, “that we need the hydraulic units to handle our heavier loads, plus provide better operating life and ease of use.”
Speed is important here. The Serco hydraulic levelers shave time off the loading operation by providing a full range of control to position the platform while also providing powered lip control to quickly cycle the lip into the back of the trailer.
“There’s no waiting for the sequencing valve to put out the lip,” says Hernke. “Pop the lip and boom you’re done. That cuts our cycle time – and waiting time – by two thirds.”
Here every minute counts. On an average day they have 70 truckloads coming in and of course an equal number going out. Some days they may have up to a total 240 trucks at their docks. “That cycle time,” notes Benson, “saves us a lot of time.
The leveler’s SafeTFrame design was another time saver during installation. For decades all pit-mounted dock levelers required an installer to place and weld steel shim under the rear frame of the dock leveler to level the device and provide structural support.
This process can lead to install errors as installers are often working under the dock leveler in a cramped environment and may not use the correct size shim and/or weld the shim properly. The dock leveler can suffer structural fatigue, which may lead to expensive repair or replacement and unwanted downtime.
The frame design includes four heavy-duty vertical uprights at the rear of the leveler. Each rear support has an adjustable 3”x3” pad on the pit floor.
Rather than working in the pit, the installer at dock floor level adjusts the leveling bolts through a 1½” range using a standard ½” square head socket located at the top rear of the dock leveler deck. Once the leveler is adjusted it is welded into place. When in use, forklifts have a level interface from the warehouse floor and solid structural support at the rear of the leveler where it’s needed most.
At the Menomonee Falls DC, vehicle restraints reduce the risk of accidents occurring from trucks prematurely leaving the dock while a forklift is operating inside the trailer. Featuring a rotating hook engagement that captures and complies with NHTSA regulation rear impact guards, the APS 2000 secures the trailer to the dock. Interior and exterior LED green and red lights communicate the status of the dock to the truck driver and forklift operator to ensure safe operation. The restraint is released when loading/unloading is complete and the truck is ready to make its way down the highway.
The restraints also help reduce trailer creep, so that the trailer maintains compression against the Serco dock seals to prevent energy loss during loading/unloading and stop moisture from entering the building. “This is a climate controlled environment,” says Hernke, “We have rolls paper so they can’t get wet. They declined the driveway apron away from the building at a 1% grade so the water is always running away from it.
The trailer roof is a common entry point for rain, snow and other moisture. The dock seals are equipped with Serco’s Dry Dock Sealing System which literally wipes water off the top of the trailer. “Rain is no longer the problem that it used to be for us,” says Hernke.
Dock seals also need to be flexible to wrap around truck trailers to provide that energy saving seal, but like everything that is pliable, seals wear out over time, especially with the constant friction caused by backing trailers and motion created during the loading process, not to mention the potential for being torn by sharp metal trailer corners. Many times the docks are handling shipping containers that suffer the abuse of the road and eventually their bolts stick out, leading to rips in the seals.
When debilitating rips occur rather than having to replace the whole panel, the ripped section can be pealed off and a new one installed, getting that dock fully functional again much more quickly.
Quad/Graphics has been around for almost 40 years, and with this commitment to keeping product flowing through its DC, it is determined to keep that run alive.