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In 2010, Andrea Ahern co-founded Mid Florida Material Handling (MFMH) with her partner Paul Sutherland. The business was launched as a "full-service” material handling distributor for Central Florida and has grown by leaps and bounds since first. They differentiate themselves from forklift dealers, pallet rack dealers, and other material handling operators in the area by offering a more complete and consultative approach.
MFMH serves a broad customer base that includes multinational companies running massive distribution centers. Their primary product lines are forklifts, pallet racks, mezzanines, conveyors, and pretty much any supplies or hardware you may require for your warehouse or distribution center.
Material Handling & Shipping
FreightPOP: What are some misconceptions about your business?
Andrea: We run into many warehousing customers with an unrealistic idea of lead times for equipment. Unfortunately, the material handling industry isn't really at the level of e-commerce; lead times for stock items can be 1-2 weeks. (There’s definitely no Prime or 2-day delivery!)
In addition, a lot of things are manufactured to order – this could mean lead times in excess of 3 months.
FreightPOP: What are some common mistakes you see shippers make?
Andrea: One of the biggest mistakes I see shippers make is not taking the time to understand their options when it comes to pallet racking. Most people’s default choice is selective racking, which is what is typically seen in warehouses.
Many warehouse owners don't realize there are other options available such as pushback, pallet flow, or drive-in. These options have some significant benefits in specific applications and can increase storage density and faster pick times.
Another thing to look at is the price difference between new and used pallet rack. There can be significant savings by going the used route without any impact on storage density.
FreightPOP: MFMH helps customers with warehouse moves. What are some tips for those moving to a new location?
Andrea: I think the biggest key to moving to a new warehouse location is planning – don’t make any knee-jerk decisions.
We’ve worked with a lot of shippers that have rushed into a warehouse move and ended up with pretty significant downtime due to poor planning. (They called us in at the last minute to fix mistakes.)
Most material handling companies offer free pallet rack designs and quotes. There’s no downside to bringing in the experts to look at your process and help you prepare your new warehouse.
FreightPOP: Where do you think things are heading in shipping over the next year?
Andrea: We are feeling a lot of pain with rising freight costs and decreased shipment space. The cost to bring a container in from our overseas suppliers has nearly doubled, and lead times have been extended. We see similar problems with trucking costs throughout the United States.
We expect to see shippers start focusing on productivity improvements through new technology to offset some of these obstacles with freight.
FreightPOP: Recent MODEX and PROMAT DX conferences were full of the world of AMRs, optimal picking solutions, sortation technologies, robot order picking, and the like.
Do you think this is on logistics and warehouse managers' minds generally?
Andrea: These technologies are definitely on people’s minds as many shippers are trying to stay ahead of the curve.
I think we are on the precipice of a big push towards digitization – our larger customers are either investigating these options or are in the process of implementing them. Small to mid-level shippers aren’t always there yet as the capital cost can be pretty high for these products.
For us, the biggest thing we will change is our product offering. The main pallet rack manufacturer that we represent, Interlake Mecalux, has launched a few new products such as stacker cranes, pallet shuttles, and pallet conveyors. We are beginning to offer these new technologies to our customers, and interest is growing exponentially.
While the initial capital cost of these new technologies can be high, the cost savings from labor reduction and productivity improvements make it easy to prove a customer’s potential ROI.
FreightPOP: Can you share some tips for shippers using a material handling service like yours?
Andrea: The best thing to do is just reach out if you have any questions regarding warehouse optimization or material handling equipment. Most material handling companies will offer free quotes/rack design and work with you to find the best solution to your problem. Site visits are common, and any information you share with us about your operation will help us find the optimal solution for your business.
Companies like us are unique in that we offer a full suite of warehouse equipment, so we can truly become partners with other companies. We ensure that all aspects of your warehouse work together, from your forklifts and pallet rack to your dock levelers and doors.
Logistics Integrations & Digitization
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