Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Red Nose Day at AKMHS

If you scanned the titles of our blog articles for a couple of minutes, you’d probably find that two of the things we like to do most here at AK are have a good time and give back in some form or another.  Events that somehow combine these two elements?  Well, those are pretty much no-brainers.  Let’s do it! Speaking of fun and charity, on Thursday, May 21st, we’ll be participating in the inaugural American version of Red Nose Day, an epic production that will fuse entertainment and fundraising to help improve the lives of impoverished children around the world.  Here at AK, we’ll be sporting our red noses, which are available at your local Walgreens, to help raise awareness for the cause and encourage others to come aboard with us.

Comic Relief UK, the organization that founded Red Nose Day, launched the inaugural Red Nose Day event in the UK in 1988.  In those 27 years, the organization has raised over $1.5 billion to support domestic and global poverty relief efforts.  Now it’s time for those of us in the U.S. to get involved with the first ever American Red Nose Day.  The event will consist of a three-hour long television program that will be aired by NBC, and will feature some of the most famous names in American television and entertainment.  The T.V. event will be aired in hopes that, while being entertained by film starts, comedians and musicians, viewers will be encouraged to donate to the campaign, which allocates funds raised towards charities such as Feeding America, United Way, Charity: Water, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and several more.  However, while the day is centered around the T.V. event, the campaign is already underway, and organizations and individuals across the nation are getting creative in their fundraising efforts.

One of the best things about Red Nose Day is its simplicity.  The red nose functions as a symbol of fun, laughter and entertainment, which are used to bring people together to help fight poverty.  By simply buying a red nose and wearing it for a day, you’re contributing to the campaign in a meaningful way by means of both financial support and raising awareness for the campaign and its goals.  There is an infinite number of ways business and individuals alike can help raise awareness and funds, but in case you’re stumped, the official website has a page to help get the idea ball rolling at  At +AK Material Handling Systems, we plan on rocking our red noses all day long (as long as our noses dont get sore) and getting in the spirit of fun and good will -- who’s joining us?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The MN Wild Lose and AK Pays Up, In a Good Way!

At the end of last month, we at +AK Material Handling Systems were pretty charged up about the Minnesota Wild’s recent success and were feeling pretty confident in their ability to take on all comers.  Well, a couple of our manufacturers based in the Chicago area, including Rack Builders, Inc., were feeling pretty good about their team, too.  Tony Sineni of RBI, a proud Blackhawks fan, was one of the first to suggest the idea of a friendly wager.  The opportunity was perfect, the proceeds of which would go to a charity of the winner’s choice. 

If you paid any attention to the series or simply watch Sports Center in the morning, you know that the series was a complete drubbing and our beloved Minnesota Wild were bounced in four games.  That part was disappointing, to be sure, but that disappointment quickly faded when we reminded ourselves of the opportunity we were now presented with to donate to a charity of RBI’s choice.  In our first article about the charity bets, RBI’s charity of choice was not yet specified.  Now, their team having thoroughly defeated ours, they have named their charity of choice:  the Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The National MS Society is a charity that our friends at RBI say is near and dear to their heart, so it makes us happy to forfeit our wager to them.  The organization is dedicated to helping people living with MS thrive despite the challenges that Multiple Sclerosis presents.  The National MS Society not only works tirelessly to create a stronger awareness of MS, but uses funds raised to sponsor state-of-the-art research directed at creating innovative treatments for the disease.  The Illinois Chapter of the National MS Society provides a platform for people in the area who are affected by MS to connect and support one another, as well as offering educational programs for people to learn and empower themselves.  You can find our more about their efforts in the community on their website.

In a classy move, RBI also decided to donate to the charity themselves, matching the contribution from AK.  Their decision to contribute themselves reinforced the true goal of our friendly bet: contributing to a cause that helps people in need.  Though there had to be a winner between the two teams, the wager between AK and RBI was a win-win from the start.  When the worst-case scenario involves giving to charity, you truly can’t go wrong.  Thanks again to our friends at RBI for the fun opportunity!

Monday, May 11, 2015

AK Welcomes Project Coordinator Jillian Baird to the Team

It's true at +AK Material Handling Systems that April showers bring in May flowers, but this year our April showers brought in something special in the form of a new team member. On May 5th, 2015 AK welcomed our newest team member Jillian Baird into her new role as Project Coordinator.

With years of material handling experience, Jillian will fit right in with our team of Senior Rack Design Specialists, helping them provide storage solutions for their customers. Jillian will be working very closely with our outside team, providing them with much needed support on all of their projects across the United States. So, without further ado, let's meet Jillian... 

Where did you grow up?  
I grew up in the southeastern corner of Wisconsin in a tiny town called Kansasville and graduated from Burlington High School.  Our house was out in the country, and my family has an eclectic collection of farm animals including horses, the occasional cow, ducks, chickens, swans, peacocks, emus, reindeer and lots of cats and dogs over the years.  I have one brother who is 4 years younger than me and is a police officer.

What are your hobbies or what do you do in your free time? 

My two big hobbies are waterskiing and running.  I’ve been on a competitive waterski team since I was 9 years old and will be continuing here this summer!  I also snowboard whenever possible and love gardening, hiking, camping, etc.  Anything to get me outside!  I am a big fan of craft beer so all the taprooms and breweries in the area are right up my alley!

Rumor has it, that your a runner… Brag a little bit about yourself, what are some of your greatest running accomplishments?

I am usually a big sandbagger in case I have a bad race, haha!  But I’ll admit that last year was a pretty fantastic one.  I spent Feb and March rehabbing some tendinitis in my knee, but I came back well enough to PR in all 4 “major” distances.  Over 4 minutes in the 5K, 3 minutes in the 10K, 4 minutes in the half marathon and 21 minutes in the marathon (at Twin Cities Marathon).  This past weekend I ran my 20th half marathon and am training for Milwaukee’s hometown marathon (Lakefront Marathon) in October.

Have you ever had a nickname? if so what is it?
Jillybean, Jilly, Jillybee, Wisconsin, Red, Gingersnap….take your pick!

What is something fun or interesting about yourself?

I lived in Portland, OR right after college and loved it there! 

What interested you most about AK when applying for the position?

I actually didn’t know there was an open position!  But the company was highly recommended and the stars aligned.  I have spent my career in material handling so I was excited for an opportunity to stay in the industry and get to know a new product.

What is one thing in the first week that surprised you about AK?
I noticed immediately how committed everyone is to the success of the company and the responsibility each person feels in contributing to that.  I came from a much larger company, so that feeling gets diluted as more layers of people are added.  I’m excited to find my niche here and take on that same responsibility.


I cannot pick just one, sorry!  Part of the deal with my move here is a bottomless supply of New Glarus Spotted Cow in my basement:-)  I also love Harpoon’s UFO White, Lakefront’s New Grist and Dangerous Man’s Hazelnut Porter.  I live near Harriet Brewing and absolutely love their beer.  I can’t wait to try as many new ones as possible!

Sports Team?
I’m a huge Packers fan and football fan in general.  I love a good Milwaukee Brewers game and used to live within walking distance to the stadium.  No other strong allegiances, although I hate basketball with a fiery passion.


Vacation Spot?

I’d go back to New Orleans or Winter Park in a heartbeat!

I can’t pick one, so I’ll say the best concert I’ve ever been to was Garth Brooks last year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AK Places Charitable Bet on the Wild vs Blackhawks NHL Playoff Series

Unlike the Vikings or the Twins, The Minnesota Wild may be the only Minnesota based sports team that our entire office can come together support. Being based in Minnesota, many AK employees either grew up playing the game of hockey or got introduced to the game early in their lives. I actually played against the Wild assistant captain Zach Parise in his youth only to get beat 14-2 back when Zach played for Bloomington Jefferson before heading to Shattuck for his High School years.

As the NHL playoffs began this year, the office hockey chatter also picked up. We decided to share our Wild Pride by having a "Wild Gear Day" in honor of the first game of the playoffs. There were some up and down moments in the first series against the Blues but the Wild persevered and ended up winning the series after 6 games. After the Wild took down Blues in Round 1 the emails started flying. A couple of our manufacturers located in and around Chicago started emailing about the upcoming match up between the Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tony Sineni from RBI Rack Builders Inc based in Quincy, IL was one of the first. So after a couple emails back and forth, we decided on a friendly wager BUT we made sure that it was all in the name of charity. We wanted to show our pride in our NHL teams but we also thought that a charitable donation would be the most meaningful prize. So here is what AK & RBI agreed upon:

If the MN Wild win the upcoming playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks we would like you to donate 800 meals from RBI to Feed My Starving Children  in Coon Rapids, MN. We will personally deliver the check sporting our Wild gear and taking pictures.

In turn, if the Blackhawks WIN the series AK will donate the same value to a Charity of your choosing.

They proudly accepted.

But the fun didn't stop there…

Next, we reached out to one of our favorite industry associations MHEDA based out of Chicago, IL and offered the same friendly wager:

If the MN Wild win the upcoming playoff series against the Blackhawks we would like you to donate 800 meals from MHEDA to Feed My Starving Children  in Coon Rapids, MN. We will personally deliver the check sporting our Wild gear and taking pictures.

In turn, if the Blackhawks WIN the series AK will donate the same value to a charity of your choosing.

They also proudly accepted.

Then to add even more to the mix AK’s Jerry Fredrickson and Josh Smith had already been working out a friendly wager with Kevin Risch from Mallard Manufacturing based in Sterling, IL. But this wager has some history. Unfortunately for AK’s Senior Design Specialist Jerry Fredrickson, he has been on the losing side of the bet for years. Last year he had to wear a Blackhawks jersey to a Minnesota Wild home game at the Excel Engery Center. But to switch things up this year, AK & Mallard agreed to the same terms as with MHEDA & RBI, all for the sake of charity.

Jerry is ready for revenge against John Fiori, Mallard Manufacturing and the Chicago Blackhawks… all in the name of charity.

Enjoy the series and no matter which NHL team wins, the true winner is the charity organizations…


Thank you: 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Warehouse & Distribution News

We find great value in a monthly email that we recieve from one of our logistics partners that updates us on all sectors of the logistics industry. The main focus of our reading is on the warehouse and distribution portion of the email. This informaiton is very interesting and vauable for all in the material handling and distribution industry. We have share some important nuggets below.

The U.S. average industrial vacancy rate fell for the 19th consecutive quarter to 7.2% in Q4 of 2014. This is the lowest level in nearly 14 years. Overall vacancy was 9.7% in Atlanta and 9.2% in the South during the fourth quarter of 2014.(Source: NGKF)

In Q4 2014, warehouse and distribution rental rates in the US averaged $5.64 per square foot, up from $5.66 Warehouse Rent Rates per square foot in the previous quarter. Rental rates for warehouse space averaged $4.10 per square foot in Atlanta. (Source: NGKF)

Net absorption in the US during Q1 2015 totaled more than 10.6 million square feet, down 5% from the same quarter one year ago. Despite the deceleration, net absorption has been positive now for 20 consecutive quarters (Source: Cassidy Turley) (Absorption is the net change in occupied space between two points in time. Positive absorption means that previously unoccupied space is being occupied.)

The National PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) fell 1.4 points to 51.5 in March 2015. New orders fell 0.7 points to 51.8 and production increased 0.1 points to 53.8. (Source: Institute for Supply Management) (The PMI combines data on new orders, inventory, production, supplier deliveries, and employment. A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pallet Rack Guide: Drive-In Pallet Rack

Pallet Rack Guide: Drive-In Pallet Rack

Drive In Pallet Rack

What Pallet Rack is Right for Me?

Have you acquired a warehouse and are now in search of the proper pallet rack for your storage needs?  Are you part of a growing company and in charge of selecting the rack system that will best meet your new requirements? Are you completely new to warehousing and pallet rack, and just want to learn the basics? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in the right place.  At AK Material Handling Systems, we strive to help people trying to learn more about material handling and industrial storage.  That’s why we decided to put together a six-part series covering various types of rack systems, the different ways they’re utilized and what type of applications they are best suited for.  This article’s focus will be on drive-in pallet rack, a unique type of high storage density pallet rack.

The Essentials: Drive-In Pallet Rack

Whereas traditional selective pallet rack consists of upright frames, cross beams and wire decking, drive-in pallet rack is made up of upright frames and horizontal rails upon which pallets can sit.  These rails are oriented depth-wise in the rack system, and are situated at both sides of a pallet rack lane.  This allows forklifts to completely enter the pallet rack system.  In a selective rack system, this would be prevented by the presence of cross beams.  This, in turn, makes for very high storage density, or the amount of product in a given space.  This is considered a positive attribute, as it makes for a more efficient use of space.  However, because product is loaded and unloaded from the same side of the rack system, drive-in pallet rack operates with first in, last out (FILO) inventory retrieval.  This means that the products stored within a given pallet rack lane should be like-product, and should not be sensitive, as one would have to move several of the front pallets out of the way to access one of the rear pallets.  Also, attention must be paid to drive-in rack maintenance, as driving into the rack system increases danger for the forklift operator and can increase the possibility of damaging the rack.

What Is Drive-In Pallet Rack Best Used For?

Drive In Pallet Rack
Drive-in pallet rack’s primary advantage is its storage density.  More so than any other rack system, it allows a comparably large amount of product to be stored in a relatively small area of warehouse.  As mentioned, though, drive-in rack systems have pretty poor selectivity, meaning you’ll only have immediate access to a small portion of the total product.  Ideal drive-in applications, then, should meet a couple of general criteria.  One of these is that they should store like-product.  Because it will likely be a while before you’ll have access to the pallets at the back end of the rack, it’s important that it doesn’t matter which pallets are picked first.  Because immediate access will be available for only a small number of pallets, it’s imperative that only a small number of SKU’s will be stored.  Again, because drive-in pallet rack systems are FILO, the product being stored cannot be time-sensitive — product at the back of the system may stay there for extended periods of time.  Drive-in rack is commonly used in freezer applications because of its ability to store large volumes of products in a small area of freezer space.

More Questions?

If we’ve left any of your drive-in pallet rack questions unanswered or you simply want to learn more about pallet rack and which type is right for you, let AK Material Handling Systems help.  Give our  rack systems experts a call at 800-722-5908 or send an email to  We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Warehouse Design Questions: Who Needs Push-Back Pallet Rack?

Push-Back Pallet Storage Systems

If you’ve spent a limited amount of time in warehouses, you might be unfamiliar with pallet rack.  Most people are, at least until they have it explained to them.  It’s a product that’s simultaneously straightforward and complex.  There is not just one type of pallet rack, but rather several sub-types, all with individual duties and specialized features.  There is a lot of information out there, and new business owners or those who have never overseen warehouse operations and are suddenly in a position to do so might have a challenging time trying to figure out which type of rack should be installed in their warehouse.  To help people in situations like these, we’ve developed a six-part series discussing the major types of rack and who would benefit most from using them.

Push-Back Pallet Rack 101

Part one of our series will focus on push-back pallet rack.  Push-back pallet rack is a unique type of racking in that it works to increase storage density while simultaneously retaining a considerable amount of selectivity.  Push-back pallet rack consists of anywhere from two to six carts nested atop one another at a given pallet position.  The carts sit on rails that are tilted at an angle.  When a pallet is loaded onto a push-back rack system, it is loaded onto one of these carts.  When another pallet is loaded onto the rack system at the same pallet position, the pallet (or pallets) that is already being stored at that position will be pushed backward on its cart, and the new pallet will be loaded onto the cart that was nested below.  Likewise, when a pallet is pulled from a particular pallet position, the pallet(s) that was resting behind it will slide forward to the front.  This means that push-back pallet rack is able to increase storage density by making each pallet position deeper, but retains selectivity by maintaining a large number of pick faces.

Who Needs Push-Back Pallet Rack?

The features of push-back pallet rack make it ideal for a variety of applications.  Push-back rack can accommodate different sizes and types of pallets, such as postal pallets, GMA pallets and skids.  Push-back rack doesn’t require specialized lift trucks or storage and retrieval equipment, and also saves space.  Push-back pallet rack can also be installed atop a different type of rack system for a more diversified storage solution. 

The industry in which push-back pallet rack is perhaps most ubiquitous is food and beverage.  The food and beverage industry often utilizes cold storage, a type of storage for which push-back rack is especially well-suited.  While food and beverage may make use of more push-back rack than any other industry, it’s potential applications span far and wide.  Whether or not push-back pallet rack would be beneficial is dependent upon the conditions and operations in that particular warehouse. 
If we’ve left any of your push-back pallet rack questions unanswered, give us a call at 800-722-5908 to talk to one of our seasoned pallet rack experts.  They’ll let you know if and how you can utilize push-back pallet rack in your warehouse.