“As supermarkets have become increasingly focused on their supply chain efforts, the backroom utilization and storage efforts have become more important,” says Shawn Kahler, VP of sales and marketing at Goodwater, Alabama-based Madix Inc.
Kahler points out that retailers use four distinct types of fixtures for backroom storage: traditional center store fixtures, light-duty storage, and wide-span and pallet racks.
“Traditional center store fi xtures are durable enough for the backroom,” he says, “but because the base area behind the kickplate is generally closed off, it can be an area that accumulates debris pretty quickly.”
Kahler says light-duty storage works well for smaller, low-volume stores, whose backrooms are sometimes cramped, but that Madix has implemented a catwalk system that can nearly double backroom space.
Most stores have gone to the traditional pallet rack over the years, which he calls “a relic of past practices, overkill and money not well spent,” because most stores don’t have a forklift in the backroom to hoist full pallets. “We see these retailers stacking product vertically, but it’s typically achieved with rolling stairs these days,” Kahler says. “They’d be better off cutting some expense and utilizing wide-span, which allows the retailer to hand-stack up to a ton and a half on each deck, but they can still park a pallet beneath with a hand jack. It gives the same general look as a pallet rack, but it’s a much more economical solution for the backroom.”
Madix manufactures wide-span and pallet racks, and offers a variety of components designed to attach to them that hold excess shelves, uprights, pegboards and other such fi xtures out of the way of day-to-day restock items, and specifi cally off cooler boxes, Kahler notes. “While the retailer will put their daily stock on the wide-span or pallet rack as normal, we’ve designed these extensions to hold the excess fi xtures above that and out of the way,” he says. “Similarly, these could span doorways or affi x directly to an overhead door, space that’s never well utilized.”
Kahler envisions backroom equipment in the future being enabled for RFID (radio frequency identification) so the retailer knows exactly where a product is and how much is on Hand.
Terence Kevett, market manager at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based InterMetro Corp, sees advances in backroom equipment systems that enhance food safety at the store Level.
Among Metro’s range of storage and productivity-enhancing products are the Super Erecta Pro storage system that features Metro’s patented Metroseal 3 corrosionresistant finish with Microban Antimicrobial Product Protection, and Super Erecta wire shelving. The company’s removable polymer shelf mats are sized for sinks and help simplify adherence to cleaning protocols for store teams. Other products include stainless-steel work tables, heated hot-food holding cabinets and new SmartWall G3 wall-based productivity systems.
While pallets have long been a backroom staple, carts are also coming into prominence.
Kenneth Ramsey, VP of marketing and cart engineering at Rosemount, Minnesota-based Cannon Equipment, points out the advantages that he believes the company’s CannonCarts offer over pallets: They require no special equipment like pallet jacks and forklifts to operate; they’re more ergonomically designed, which reduces chronic injuries associated with bending and lifting items off pallets; they’re safer than pallets because there are no rusty nails protruding, which can cause injuries; they’re not fl ammable like wood and plastic pallets; they’re made of steel, while pallets are made of absorbent wood that can become a breeding ground for bacteria; and they contain no toxic materials like those that may be found in adhesives used to make wood pallets.
Ramsey notes that CannonCarts have such green aspects as requiring no additional wrapping materials like stretch wrap or straps to protect the load, and they’re made of completely recyclable steel. “All new steel made last year contained a minimum of 25 percent steel scrap on average,” he says, “so CannonCarts are made from some recycled material and can be recycled at the end of life.”
Alison Shea, market development manager for Falmouth, Maine-based Retail Handling Solutions, extols the virtues of her company’s compact Stock & Roll cart. “[It] keeps cases at the right height, allowing personnel to price and stock goods with two hands, thus maximizing productivity,” she says. “Better yet, the cart also minimizes employee injuries and aisle congestion.”
She further notes that the Stock & Roll cart requires no power, and its compact footprint makes stocking during business hours possible without blocking aisles. Also, it can be used with U-boats or other dollies, eliminating the need to carry heavy loads up and down aisles. The height of the platform is easily adjusted and has handgrips on all four sides for easy maneuverability on smoothly rolling Casters.
Shea points to an independent study conducted on three ergonomic devices for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) by The Ergonomics Center of North Carolina, which found that Stock & Roll carts showed “a reduction in ergonomic risk level … [and] reported discomfort,” as well as “a substantial improvement in stocking productivity.”
“This study and others have shown that the units typically pay for themselves with productivity increases in under six months — sooner if reduced workers’ compensation costs are considered,” Shea says. “Productivity, customer convenience and worker safety should be a retailer’s prime concerns.”
And it all starts in the backroom.