Electric scooters rev up the pace of warehouses
With the slow rebound of economy and two-three percent predicated growth in 2013, more and more businesses look for ways to cut cost and increase productivity. As a result, large manufacturing plants and distribution warehouses are increasingly turning to small electric scooters to shave off miles of unproductive walking time.
The goal: to recoup lost hours walking for more productive tasks, reduce wear and tear on employee’s bodies, and prevent the misappropriation of material handling equipment such as forklifts, taggers and pallet jacks for simply moving personnel around.
With the average walking speed estimated at 3.1 mph, even a distance of a half a mile and back, several times a day, can eat up four-five hours each week in walking time. Multiply that by several employees and multiple shifts and the production loss adds up quickly.
Excessive daily walking also takes a toll in wear and tear on employees. Even healthy personnel that travel daily throughout the facility can become fatigued, which can lead to mistakes, injuries or lost productivity. This is exacerbated for older employees, those that have difficulty walking, and those with disabilities.
As a result, many plant, warehouse and distribution center managers are turning to small, one-person electric scooters as an economical, safe and eco-friendly solution.
Electric scooters fill a gap in the market, namely safe, efficient personnel movers at an affordable price. A small, one-person electric scooter costs between 20-30 percent of the price of electric utility carts (golf carts), Segways, T3s, ATVs and other personnel movers.
Today’s leading industrial electric scooters can achieve speeds up to 16 mph, to distances of 25 miles on a single, ten cent charge. Because they are small, they fit easily through standard doorways and narrow aisles found in many of today’s large warehouses. They are also extremely quiet and operate without emissions, making it ideal for noise pollution and clean air standards.
Tasks in a plant or warehouse where scooters are ideal include supervisor rounds, picking small items from inventory, maintenance, and conducting inventory counts and meter readings, to name a few.
At a retail cost of less than two thousand dollars, the return on investment for an electric scooter can be as little as one month, if two-three people sharing the scooter save an average of one hour a day simply by not having to walk throughout the plant.
Hallmark’s Subterranean DC
Recently, General Manager Lona Smith decided to invest in five electric scooters for use at Hallmark’s 300,000 square foot distribution centre located at SubTropolis, the largest underground business complex in the world.
The manmade limestone cave in Kansas City, Missouri, contains almost seven miles of illuminated, paved roads and several miles of railroad track.
Within this complex, five million square feet is dedicated to housing approximately 50 different tenants, including Hallmark Retail, which ships gift products to hundreds of corporately-owned Gold Crown Hallmark stores throughout the United States.
After some investigation, Smith decided on a scooter with the option of several accessories, including a small trailer that can haul items up to 350 lbs of total weight, a small front basket for carrying small packages or other items, and the option of a seat for those that prefer not to stand while riding.
For Hallmark, the scooters are used by employees and facility managers for everything from supervision to researching inventory issues, identifying automation production issues, transporting paperwork and moving from one place to another.
General Manager Lona Smith estimates that each scooter saves employees up to 10 mile per day total in walking over the course of the company’s daily three shift operation. Smith uses a scooter herself to conduct site surveys throughout the facility.
“It definitely frees up employee time they would have spent just literally walking from one location back to their office area to do other, more meaningful functions,” said Smith.
In search of a solution to cover the vast distances at SubTropolis, Smith initially approved the purchase of a golf cart. However, she says it required a lot of maintenance, including frequent battery changes.
For Doug Buehl, Risk Manager at metal component manufacturer Clow Stamping, trips from one end of the company’s 250,387 square foot facility in Merrifield, MN of a quarter mile each way stimulated his desire for a better solution.
Initially, Buehl considered the Segway. The Segway comes the closest to meeting the design functionality of an electric scooter, though at approximately three times the cost.
However, concerns over the safety of the Segway, which are two wheeled devices that require balance and leaning of the body to operate, along with the amount of time required to master this technique, deterred him.
“The Segway cost more and seemed a little less safe,” said Buehl.
After purchasing a scooter from a company called GoPet as a trial run, Clow Stamping purchased three additional scooters, to be shared among personnel operating in each of three 8 hour shifts. The scooters are used for shift supervision, maintenance, and transportation of overnight shipping packages from the delivery area using the trailer cart accessory.
Buehl estimates that one key shift supervisor was walking over six miles each day, at a loss of two hours of time per shift. Now, with the electric scooter, “he travels more distance than he could possibly walk in a day,” said Buehl.
He adds that the supervisor is one of many of the company’s current 400+ employees that have been with the company for 20-30 years, which means they are in their 50s and 60s.
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.