Thursday, July 31, 2014

Meet the Faces Behind the Brand: Dave Sewich

This week as we continue our "Meet the Faces Behind the Brand" blog series, we feature our newest addition to the team Dave Sewich.  Dave may be the newest member of the team but he has definately gotten to know the AK Team quickly by helping with this blog series interviewing different team members. When he is not pumping iron or hangin with buddies he is busy pumping up our SEO and Social Media presence.

Dave Sewich
Marketing Intern
Richfield, MN

What is your role at AKMHS?

As the marketing intern at AKMHS, I work with Jason to implement digital marketing strategies, such as social media marketing and search engine optimization.  I also author blogs and help keep company websites fresh and up to date.

What is the most exciting aspect of your position?

The most exciting aspect of my position is being able to contribute to the company in a meaningful way.  To be able to connect the company with people via social media and other platforms and play a part in the advancement of AK’s goals is definitely special.

What have you learned about the AK Company culture in your time here?

I’ve been amazed at how AK company culture seems to get everything right.  Everyone works as a team for the betterment of the company, but is simultaneously encouraged to contribute their own individual talents and given a certain level of autonomy.  The people are laid back, but also very professional and driven.

What excites you the most about the future at AK?

I’m very excited about AK’s goals to continue to grow and serve as a leader, as well its commitment to give back to the community through charity events.

Do you have any role models or people you truly look up to?

Besides my parents, who have always been role models for me, I also look up to my uncle.  He was able to build an insurance company from the ground up after returning from serving in Vietnam,  which is an accomplishment that has always impressed me.

What are some of your main hobbies?

I love lifting weights and doing anything with my buddies.  I like getting into the outdoors whenever I get a chance, and I’m playing guitar again after putting it down for a couple of years.

What do you find most interesting about working with pallet rack/warehouse design/installation, etc. ?

Pallet rack may not be the most flashy or glamorous product, but it’s one that plays an integral part in industry and businesses across the world.  Still, many people aren’t aware of what it is.  It’s fun to be able to help bring awareness not only to the AK brand, but to pallet rack as a product as well.

  Dave Sewich Fun Facts: 

- Been to 5 countries and 33 states

- Trained and competed in kickboxing and boxing in college

- Avid barbecuer who is a smoker specialist

- Only child - stealing Shawn’s thunder as the only only child at AK

- Have played guitar since age 13

- Played High School hockey for Richfield 

- Is a fitness buff, that understands weightlifting and how follow a steady diet

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Store Your Kegs: Keg Storage Racks

The tap beer industry here in Minnesota and around the country is hopping, and many beer start-ups and craft breweries are hoping to tap into a more efficient means of storing their growing number of kegs.  Lame puns aside, storing these hefty, oblong metal barrels can present a serious logistical challenge to craft brewers, particularly for wholesalers and microbreweries experiencing growing pains.  Fortunately, there is a solution available for such brewers.  First, however, we’ll dive into a few of the unique challenges posed by kegs, so that we can better understand how to navigate them.

With the relatively rapid development of craft beer in the United States, brewers and wholesalers have had to meet consumer demand by brewing and supplying a wide array of beers.  This, of course, means additional complications when it comes to organizing and consolidating their beer inventory.  Kegs are difficult enough to store without the added challenge of an increasingly diverse inventory.  Breweries and wholesalers aren’t just diversifying their inventory, however, but adding to it as well, often resulting in a need for additional warehouse space. 

As anyone who has spent time handling kegs knows, they are incredibly heavy, and are shaped in a way that makes them difficult to store on pallets or on a traditional pallet rack system.  This weight, often in excess of 100 pounds, can put a considerable strain on storage systems and brewery workers alike.  Because of this, it is imperative that a keg storage system operate in a way that mitigates strenuous effort from workers, and is built to withstand an ever-present barrage of heavy metal beer barrels.

Unlike cartons, which are uniformly shaped without rounded edges and flow neatly when placed on a flow rack, the keg’s weight and unique shape make storing them in a first-in, first-out flow rack particularly difficult.  Kegs’ round edges mean that they won’t naturally file themselves behind one another in a rack, but will instead gather in an unorganized bunch, deflecting away from each other, and potentially off the rack itself.  To add to the difficulty, kegs must be stored standing up, meaning they have an unusually high center of gravity.  While cartons can often be stopped from falling off a rack by a low profile blocking mechanism, kegs must have a blocking mechanism that stops them at their higher center of gravity in order to prevent the kegs from simply tripping over the blocker and falling onto the floor.

While these challenges may seem too large a burden to overcome, this is not the case.  There is, in fact, a cost-effective solution to this logistical dilemma.  +AK Material Handling Systems
comes to the aid of brewers and wholesalers with the Keg Flow Rack Systems.  In order to meet demand from a growing number of brewers, AK has been offering flow rack systems designed specifically for keg storage.  Outfitted with large-diameter, high strength rollers, these flow racks are tough enough to stand up to the rigors of holding 100+ lb. kegs.  In order to keep kegs organized and in line, Keg Flow rack systems are outfitted with high-strength guard rails, which ensure kegs are consolidated and filed into individual lanes.  Of course, brewers and wholesalers will find themselves storing kegs of various sizes, so these lanes are fully adjustable in width.

At AK Material Handling Systems, we’ll work with you through each stage of finding a creative and effective solution to your storage problem, from consultation to installation.  Using Keg Flow technology and AK Material Handling Systems’ expertise and professionalism, we’ll provide you with a cost-effective and efficient means of getting your keg inventory organized, consolidated, and more productive, making keg storage racks a wise long-term investment for you and your brewery.  Get in touch with us via email at, or talk to one of our helpful sales team members at 888-722-5908.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meet the Faces Behind the Brand: Pete Brandon

Today, we continue “Meet the Faces Behind the Brand,” our blog series offering a more in-depth look at the people who contribute each day to the success of +AK Material Handling Systems .  This week’s article explores the world of Pete Brandon, System Design Specialist.  Pete focuses his efforts on creating and implementing custom-designed storage solutions, and has been with the company for 14 years.  In this week’s post, Pete talks about what he thinks makes AK a great place to work, as well as offering a sample of things that keep him busy in his spare time.

Pete Brandon
System Design Specialist
Long Lake, MN

What is your role at AKMHS?  
A Systems Design Specialist

How long have you been with AK?
14 Years

What do you like most about your career?
Meeting new people and providing solutions to improve their facility.

AK was voted a Top 100 business to work for for the Third year in a row, What do you think was the main reason for that?
We have a positive working environment and great people working here.

  Pete Brandon Fun Facts: 

- Has two children (Tyler & Chayse) and three dogs.

- Brother-In-Law to Josh Smith the Director of Sales and Operations at AK. 

- Met his wife Mandi at a friends house when he was 18. 

- Plays the drums

- In his spare time he enjoys spending with his family at the lake. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 10 Mistakes When Ordering New & Used Pallet Rack:

As a complete material handling outfitter, we at +AK Material Handling Systems are acutely aware of the competitive market that exists in the new and used pallet rack sector of the industry. So, in an effort to help those considering purchasing pallet rack, our pallet rack system experts compiled a list of the 10 most common mistakes people make when purchasing new or used pallet rack.

Not seeking professional advice with layout and design. While it may be possible for some people to determine the optimal layout and design for their pallet rack system on their own, it’s often a process better left to professionals.  As AKMHS System Design Specialist Brian Koski puts it, “I see two main parts to this mistake: layouts that waste space and rack that wastes space or causes damage by improper sizing of the rack”

Purchasing the cheapest rack system in the belief that all pallet rack is the same.  Like virtually any product, pallet rack varies dramatically in quality and performance.  Many folks buy the cheapest rack they can get their hands on, and are subsequently disappointed when it needs replacing earlier than they had expected.  There are certain products that demand an investment in quality, and pallet rack is, without a doubt, one of them.

Buying racking that is not universal for future expansion and growth.  We frequently talk with customers who have purchased proprietary pallet rack styles that don’t fit with any other brand of pallet rack, and who must, as a consequence, replace the entirety of their racking because they’re unable to find a style to match their current system. Purchasing universal pallet rack, such as teardrop style, enables one to expand upon their current system using a variety of different brands.

Purchasing the wrong height of racking for their forklift and wrong depth for their pallet size.  Pallet rack is only useful if you can access it with a forklift.  Customers often make the mistake of failing to consider the height to which their forklift can reach, making part of their rack obsolete. In addition, people frequently miscalculate the depth needed for their pallets, also rendering a rack system partially or completely useless.

Guesstimating weight and capacities.  Some things are okay to guesstimate.  Pallet rack weight and capacities don’t fall into that category.  Taking a guess at how much your racking needs to hold significantly undermines the safety of your warehouse and product, and is, to state it mildly, not a very good idea.

Buying from a non-stocking distributor.  At AK Material Handling Systems, our inventory is in stock and ready to ship within 24-48 hours of order placement.  However, this is not the case with all dealers.  Many have to order their products from third party suppliers, a process that can tack on several weeks of shipping time and added cost.

Buying rack from an auction website where you are not getting exactly what you need.  In case you haven’t picked this up yet, it’s extremely important to make sure your pallet rack system meets your needs.  Your needs are yours only, and buying rack from an auction website will often result in the purchase of racking that only partially accommodates your unique requirements.

Not considering freight when comparing quotes.  In the competitive pallet rack market, the difference between quotes quite often comes down to just a few dollars.  However, when freight costs are considered, the formerly cheaper option can become vastly more expensive.  Inexperienced customers tend to make the common mistake of not factoring freight costs into overall price, and in turn unknowingly choosing the more expensive option.

Paying too much for freight. Freight is an inevitable cost associated with shipping pallet rack, and it will almost invariably be passed to the consumer.  However, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for freight.  There are plenty of cost-effective options on the market.  AK Material Handling Systems, for example, offers customers the best available combination of shipping service and price.

Believing that a used pallet rack system is just as good a new system. While used rack may be ideal for some, particularly those whose top priority is immediate cost cutting, it simply won’t suffice for customers looking for optimal strength, durability, and usability.  Like any used product, used pallet rack typically incurs damage over the course of its lifetime.  The degree to which used pallet rack’s performance is compromised varies greatly, but it is rarely in the same pristine condition as new rack.

For more information and helpful tips on ordering pallet rack, visit our selective pallet rack homepage. Our pallet rack homepage offers a rack diagram that explains how to correctly order the right size pallet rack. Also, if you would like to speak directly to a pallet rack expert, give us a call @ 800-722-5908.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meet the Faces Behind the Brand: Matt Johnson

This week, we’ll continue to meet the faces behind the +AK Material Handling Systems brand.  This week’s interview features one of our warehouse all-stars, Matt Johnson.  Having been with the company for nine months, Matt’s the newest guy around besides Dave.  Matt loves it here at AK Material Handling Systems, and we love having him here.  He’s also one of the many dads that are part of the AK team.  We enjoyed learning a little more about Matt as a person.

Matt Johnson
Shipping Specialist
Champlin, MN

What is your role at AKMHS and how long have you been with the company?

I am the Used/PA Warehouse Specialist and I have worked for the company 9 months.

How do you think AK was able to be ranked as one of the top 100 companies to work for for three consecutive years?

The skills and experience that most of us have makes it easy for us to prosper and succeed to where we can focus more on team building and grow as a group. Al and Josh are great leaders and know what it takes for us all to be happy and I couldn't have asked for a better group of leaders. I love my job and we are a great company to work for.

What excites you the most about the future at AK? 

The fact that it has grown so much in the past few years (what I have been told) shows the vision in what Al and Josh are trying to do with the company and what we are capable of. Moving forward and growing is the best and challenging thing for a smaller company like us and I am so excited to be a part of whatever comes of us and the future!

What are some of the things you do for fun?

Parks and playing with my kids, hanging out with my friends, relaxing on patios with great weather, yard games and softball.

Do you have any role models you truly look up to?

My grandmother is a big part of my life and I have always thought of her as the most caring and giving individual I know. Her family comes first before anything, including herself. I try to pride myself and do what I can everyday to be like her. She's great!

In Five words of less describe Matt Johnson: 

Fun, Caring, Organized & Proud Father.

  Matt Johnson Fun Facts: 

-Was named Homecoming King in high school

- Oldest brother to seven siblings

- In High School he lettered in Baseball, Football and Weightlifting at Columbia Heights High School 

- Has two children (Riley 7, Jaidan 5)

- Once ate 4 Tostinos Party Pizzas in one sitting

- Was a Menards Team Member of the Month three times

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Craft Beer and its Impact on Warehouse Operations

By: Brian C Neuwirth of Unex Manufacturing

The craft beer business is booming,  In 2013 sales grew by 18% and the continued growth now comes from over 2,700 U.S. breweries.  With growth comes an introduction of  new SKUs and suppliers which presents a unique opportunity for beer wholesalers.   According to the NBWA, in 1996 the average beer distributor carried 190 unique SKUs from an average of nine different beer suppliers. By 2010 that number had ballooned to 536 SKUs from 18 different beer suppliers. Most estimates place the average SKUs today in the thousands. SKU proliferation has had a widespread impact on warehouse operations and is leaving beer wholesalers asking what can be done to accommodate this 10-fold increase in SKUs?  There is the opportunity for increased revenue derived from a larger product offering but the challenge of being able to store these products efficiently in a warehouse that was designed to house 190 SKUs.

At +AK Material Handling Systems (Unex), we work with beer wholesalers and have seen first-hand the challenges that our customers have faced integrating these additional SKUs into their warehouse. The biggest obstacle to overcome is that wholesalers can’t use the same day-to-day processes and pick styles that they used when they had 190 SKUs. It just isn’t feasible and there are way too many items. The processes and design of the warehouse and the actual path that pickers take to select items has to change in order to be more efficient and evolve with the times. Beer wholesalers have to take a page from the grocery distributor’s playbook. Grocery distributors deal with thousands of SKUs and have figured out an efficient way to store and pick those SKUs.

The first thing to do is to analyze your product mix  based on throughput to determine the best storage method Your slow to medium moving kegs (or cases) should be stored on keg racks. Keg flow is a wonderful space and cost-saving alternative to palletized storage. A 1/6 keg can be stored in much the same manner as you would store cases, on flow rack. For example, in this picture
you can see that there are 8 kegs stored across the bottom of this rack. Keg flow helps consolidate floor space and improves stock rotation with FIFO storage. When you pull a keg out for distribution, there is another one that slides in right behind it. And because each lane is labeled, it minimizes the chance of a mis-pick and reduces overall operating cost by not having to correct orders.

The craft and microbrew boom isn’t showing any signs of slowing down or stopping any time soon. Wholesalers need to either expand their warehouses or figure out how to efficiently use the space they already have. Looking to the grocery business gives us a blue print in how to handle this increased SKU proliferation.

If you are interested in maximizng your space with a Unex Keg Flow system make sure to contact AK Material Handling Systems.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Pallet is a Pallet… Right?

By: Nick Wenner Pallet Service Corporation

All too often, we have new customers call us up and say one of two things:  “I need a price on a pallet” or “How much for a 48x40 pallet?”  We use the analogy that this would be like walking in to the local Ford dealer and saying “I need a price on a vehicle” or “How much for an SUV?”  Similar to almost any other industry, there is a lot more that goes into the making (and pricing) of the right pallet for an application than what most people think.  Granted, while some people need just any “Pallet” to get their product from point A to point B, just like some people similarly need any “vehicle” to get them around, most customers have a specific set of needs for both.  This is where we believe that it is crucial for us as a pallet supplier to partner with the customer and take the time to learn and understand each application so that we can provide the right solution for the customer at the best price. 

At Pallet Service Corporation, we start by looking at a few key pieces of information that can help us match (or design) the right pallet for the customer’s unique unit load:

• Weight of the load being placed on the Pallet

• Type of load being placed on the pallet (Boxes,  Bags, Pales, etc.)

• Storage configuration (Floor storage, Floor Stack, Rack, etc.)

• Handling Requirements (2 way or 4 way entry)

• Plans for International Shipment (requires ISPM-15 Compliance)

• Sanitary Requirements (Sensitivity to mold, dust, bugs, dirt, moisture, etc.)

• Aesthetic Requirements (usually impacts Species, Grade and condition of wood – new or used)

• Budget (how much are you looking to pay per pallet)

• Anticipated order volume

We use all of this information to either design a custom pallet using a piece of software called Pallet Design System (PDS) that meets or exceeds your requirements or provide “stock” pallet options that can meet these same requirements, but usually at a lower cost to the customer.  This software was developed by the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) and allows us to provide the customer with an actual “spec” which allows us to analyze everything about the pallet to tell us things like:

• Safe load capacity in common storage configurations (Floor stack, rack, etc.)

• Dimensions, Grades and species of all of the wood components

• Help us remove waste from the pallet design to reduce cost for the customer.

• Exact spec on the fasteners being used (nails, screws, etc)

• Predicted life cycle analysis

• Estimated pallet weight

• Optimized Unit Load configuration (how to stack boxes, pales, bags, etc. to maximize the capacity of the pallet while protecting the product as much as possible)

Below is one of several pages from the software which shows the overall design and layout of the pallet.  More information can be found on the subsequent pages of the pallet analysis report.
 Image provided by NWPCA:

While we use this information to help us provide the best solution for the customer, once identified, the customer can use this information to use as a benchmark when getting competitive bids on their pallet orders.  This can help the customer be sure that they are not trying to compare a “Honda Civic” pallet to a “Cadillac Escalade” pallet.

Pallet Service Corporation is a family owned business that has been around for more than 45 years.  With 3 plants servicing the Midwest, we specialize in meeting all of our customers wood packaging needs.  We are also active members in our industry’s association (NWPCA) because we believe that it is part of our job to not only provide the right solution for the customer, but also to help educate them so that they understand how their needs affect the design of the packaging they choose.  We hope that this allows them to make more informed decisions when it comes to their wood packaging needs. Please contact Pallet Service Corporation with any or all of your pallet needs.