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Store: Nordic Ware DC Protects Performance by Protecting Rack

Aug. 14, 2013
A new distribution center with forklift impact-resistant racking helps this cookware manufacturer preserve its double-digit growth.

Nordic Ware, a manufacturer of cookware, bakeware, barbecue, microwave and specialty kitchenware products, had outgrown its facilities.  The St. Louis Park, Minn.-based manufacturer, best known for its nearly 60 million bundt pans in kitchens across America, needed to consolidate warehousing, add storage and improve distribution to continue growing its business, according to Bob Clifford, Nordic Ware's plant manager.

"After years of double-digit growth, we were overcrowded at the main plant and inefficiently running parts to and from offsite warehouses," says Clifford.  "To beat overseas competitors and meet Just-In-Time demands, we sought a more efficient order fulfillment, warehousing and distribution process."

Nordic Ware decided to consolidate its offsite warehousing in a new 60,000 sq. ft. distribution center.  For high storage density of select, fast moving items, Skarnes, its Plymouth, Minn.-based material handling systems distributor, suggested pushback rack.  To take advantage of the new distribution center's almost 30-foot ceiling and position Nordic Ware for long-term growth, the distributor suggested using a 23-foot high pallet rack system.  All the storage rack, however, would need to resist damage from a high-volume of lift truck traffic.

Damage Protection Avoids Downtime

"We wanted to protect our ability to grow business and our storage rack in the new distribution center," says Clifford.  "We wanted a lasting showcase, fit for tours, with minimal downtime or repairs due to lift-truck-caused rack damage."

To maximize storage and selectivity for a limited number of Nordic Ware's fast moving items, the company chose a two-deep pushback rack system (made by Steel King,, as was the other racking selected for this site). This system allows storing pallets two- to five-deep while providing easy access to a variety of different SKUs.  Pallets are stored behind each other in a series of nested carts and are loaded and unloaded from the same side of the system, eliminating separate aisles for each function.  Composed of a stable pallet rack structure along with a series of inclined rails and carts, when one pallet is pulled out, the one behind it rolls forward.

To meet strength, durability and maintenance goals, Jim Menges, the Skarnes' sales engineer who oversaw the project, recommended and Nordic Ware chose bolted pallet rack with structural channel columns and horizontal-diagonal bracing for extra frame strength. Grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.

"For our fastest moving retailers with the shortest delivery windows, our pushback rack increases storage density and speeds pick rates," says Clifford.  "The structural channel steel withstands the inevitable wear-and-tear and impact of high-volume fork truck use."

To provide necessary selectivity for most stored items in the new distribution center, Nordic Ware chose a boltless, closed tubular upright pallet rack.

"A closed tubular upright design provides 250% greater resistance to frontal impact and increased strength to side impact," says Menges.  A number of other pallet rack features helped Nordic Ware meet its strength, durability, and maintenance goals.

"While impact-resistant rack is vital in high-volume operations to reduce downtime and repair, it's essential to protect the first column, upright and end from lift trucks," says Menges.  "Most of the damage to the outside of a rack bay occurs in these places when a lift truck enters the bay."

Column reinforcements add further protection at the front corners and sides where the upright is the most vulnerable.  

Menges says column reinforcement on the bottom 18" of the rack provides additional protection from lift truck damage without interfering with product put away or picking.  Also, right, left and double ended steel guards measuring 5" x 3" x 3/8" protect upright columns from the ends to the interior of rack rows.  

Meeting Retailer Service Demands

Nordic Ware's investment in its new distribution center and rack safety has paid off and is continuing to do so, according to Clifford.

"With the efficiency gains provided by our new distribution center and racking, we're meeting ever shorter delivery windows for major retailers across America and overseas," says Clifford.  "By preventing damage with the impact-resistant rack and guarding, we've reduced the need for repair and increased uptime.  After applying some of these protective measures plant wide, we've significantly reduced lift truck-caused rack damage and improved production.  These improvements helped contribute to our fifth straight year of double-digit growth."

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

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