Material Handling

Ebb & flow

Engineering a turnkey picking and restocking system creates a host of advantages for a busy warehouse

By Corinna Petry

the Hubtex sideloader sits between two close aisles
The Hubtex sideloader is engineered for picking metal stock within high-density, tall, narrow aisles.
By Corinna Petry

acific Steel & Recycling, based in Great Falls, Montana, has 46 locations from the Northern Plains and Alberta, Canada, to the Rocky Mountains, Nevada and Pacific Northwest. Employee owned and operated, it has been on a path of steady growth for the past 25 years.

Stan Sears, general manager for the company’s Nampa, Idaho, branch, says, “The Boise market has been expanding over the last 10 years, and we hadn’t done any upgrades until the past year. We’ve gained over 30 percent more tons annually during that period and are really trying to meet the demand to move more tons every day.”

One of the ways to reach that goal is to manage products more efficiently. “We wanted to upgrade our material handling to perform better. I have worked with Design Storage & Handling Inc. for quite a few years. We previously purchased several Hubtex sideloaders from Design Storage & Handling for different locations. It’s the brand and supplier we have had the best luck with over the years,” Sears says.

The Nampa branch of Pacific Steel & Recycling primarily serves fabricators, manufacturers and construction companies. The region has quite a few manufacturing shops, such as those building agriculture equipment, among others. “They are moving here from other regions,” he notes.

“We are a general line steel distributor. We do a lot of processing, we produce parts and perform whole-piece distribution. We work with JIT and on-demand systems. We also serve the MRO needs of customers.”

Two phases
Paul Sartore, vice president and regional sales manager for Fredericksburg, Virginia-based Design Storage, confirms that long-term relationship with Pacific Steel. “In 2012, we supplied Pacific Steel with its first Hubtex multidirectional sideloader for its Pasco, Washington, facility.

For the project in Idaho, Sartore met with Sears and his team to discuss inventory, throughput and space requirements. “He was installing a flat laser cutting system, so we [drew up] plans for a narrow-aisle sheet storage system to aid material flow and storage density.

“The second phase was a 10,000-square-foot building expansion to accommodate 948 bar and tubing storage locations. We designed the storage system, and Pacific Steel built the building around it. The racking system was strategically positioned adjacent to the existing bay that is serviced by a drive-through and overhead cranes. The narrow-aisle long products storage system was turnkey from design to racking installation and sideloader operator training.

[new racking] emptied more floor space for staging customer orders.
stan sears, pacific Steel & recycling
“We also assist with permitting requirements,” Sartore says. Customers “like a single source of responsibility.”

In Nampa, Pacific Steel uses one 5.5-metric-ton-capacity Hubtex sideloader for sheet and two 4.5-metric-ton-capacity Hubtex for handling bar and tubing.

Going vertical

According to Sears, “We wanted to go more vertical with our storage. We can take advantage of full reach height. We went up to 24-foot-tall racks with storage for open bundles. It doubled the amount of storage available and emptied more floor space for staging customer orders. There are a lot of days we have to pick, process and ship within 24 hours, and we now have the space to stage that much volume,” he says.
view inside factory using a Hubtex
At an earlier job with the company, Sears operated a sideloader-based material handling system “so I knew what I wanted, and I measured everything. Design Storage came up with an almost identical plan to what I did. They determine how much racking is needed, where to put it and the material handling flow. You must have the right flow to stay efficient. We tweaked [the plan] a bit on picking locations.”
Safety concerns
“We really just moved into [the new material handling layout] but I can already see there will be faster pick times, especially compared with our previous system,” Sears says. “We were pulling steel out of racks horizontally, using crane support, and it required a lot of man-handling. We are still using overhead cranes but it is safer and requires much less manual labor. We are able to pick heavier items out of pans—no more throwing a product over one’s shoulder or dragging material.”

The new system is denser, he continues. With the previous racking system, too much time—up to half a shift—was spent reloading stock. “Now, that’s only about an hour a day. We can pull from back stock and continue pulling, while eliminating wasted motion.”

Sears says that Pacific Steel has installed sideloaders and tall racking systems at five locations, with more branches following suit because, as business increases, improving material handling solutions is critical.

“It makes sense in small markets to store and restock at high density without spending too much on real estate,” Sears says.

Sartore calls Pacific Steel “a class act and a pleasure to work with. As an employee-owned company, they are very hands-on, can-do people. All the folks in the warehouse, sales and management are very knowledgeable about what they want,” he says.

Numerous service centers can benefit from selective racking systems and sideloaders.

“A lot of times, outdated long product storage consists of stanchion racks where workers physically dig for bundles stacked on the floor. In an effort to pull a SKU for picking, they inadvertently bury their next line item. They are constantly juggling and stacking material on the floor.”

view between two close aisle in a factory
Design Storage can help customers to increase safety, productivity, order accuracy and inventory turnover while reducing material damage.
When Design Storage starts working with a client, says Sartore, “we talk about inventory requirements, material flow, space utilization and safety. Customers want to improve their entire order fulfillment process. We can increase safety, productivity, order accuracy and inventory turnover while reducing material damage by implementing a narrow-aisle storage system. The point is to streamline all of the above.”

Design Storage’s system will shrink the physical footprint for the storage of goods, he says. “When done correctly, order fulfillment will be more efficient and flexible.”

Design Storage & Handling Inc., Fredericksburg, Virginia, 800/548-2839,

Pacific Steel & Recycling, Great Falls, Montana, 800/889-6264,