Distribution centers and retailers are already aware that carts make material handling easier and more affordable. While forklifts and pallets are invaluable to some operations for loading and unloading, constant wrapping and unwrapping lead to wasted money and too many touchpoints for modern operations.
Therefore, carts have become a basic requirement for efficient material handling between delivery in and delivery out.
But some operations can’t solve material handling inefficiencies with just any four wheels and a shelf. The first cart you see in a catalog probably isn’t the best fit for your operation.
Facilities that settle for less-than-ideal carts saddle themselves with small, ongoing issues that add up to reduced efficiency and unfulfilled ROI. So you need to know what cart is right for you.
When do organizations opt for smarter cart design?
More thoughtful cart design can avoid pitfalls that off-the-shelf carts run into. These issues can seriously impact operations or get in the way of efficiency. Here’s a list of some of the problems that lead organizations to opt for custom carts:
- Casters falling apart rapidly or lacking mobility
- A failure to hold a diverse set of package sizes
- Poor storability
- Safety incidents due to absent precautions
- Improper fits for aisles and facility layouts
- Rust or flaking of finish
But the biggest shift in modern cart design comes from how we think about ergonomics. Good carts are carts that are designed with people in mind: It isn’t uncommon to find carts with handles that are set too high or too low, leading to back strain and other injuries.
While ergonomics is especially relevant when it comes to pushing carts with heavy loads, it’s also something we take seriously when designing carts for speedy stocking or a more comfortable customer experience (like at a grocery store).
Are custom carts worth it?
It depends on your organization. In general, we can provide strong indicators of just how much an investment in custom carts will pay off, and when, as part of our consultative process.
Not every organization needs custom carts. And sometimes, the ROI on a custom cart just isn’t worth it. A basic, cheap cart might be the right choice for facilities that don’t rely on carts throughout their operations. And a thoughtfully designed, off-the-shelf cart could be the right choice for your organization — we build these carts ourselves, with designs that can meet a wide range of facility needs.
Talking through what your goals are is part of what makes a consultative approach to material handling equipment so effective. The best option for one facility is almost never the same as it would be for another.
So how do custom carts get designed?
Any good design starts by understanding a business’ needs. At Cannon, we generally start by asking a few general questions:
What are the conditions of use?
Trying to drive an off-the-shelf cart through a salted, snowy parking lot in a Midwestern winter will lead to a wheel that’s meant to last 3 years breaking down in a fraction of the time. Where that cart is used matters: A cart that stays in a warehouse requires different custom design criteria than a cart that’s used to carry product over-the-road.
Taking a big-picture look at all the possible wear-and-tear that will happen to a cart, allows us to design carts that last in all the ways that matter.
What’s the job it needs to do?
Here, we figure out the specifics behind the application the cart is meant to perform. Is there a minimum size for packages, or a maximum? A grocery cart wouldn’t do its job very well if toothpaste packages slipped through its grating.
Does the cart need shelves? If so, how much weight should these shelves be expected to hold? To avoid equipment malfunctions and breakdowns, we start by designing carts that can handle their duties.
What are you trying to achieve?
Cart design can meet goals and objectives beyond basic problem-solving, too. For example, if you need to move as much product as possible with a trailer, you’ll want carts that are designed to stay flush with the trailer’s dimensions, so there’s less wasted space. Designing for your goals — whether they have to do with speed, portability or storability — helps us create carts that improve your efficiency and scalability.
While these questions give us a starting point for a design, there are always surprises in this kind of work. To fully understand an organization’s needs, we send our engineers out to the field to ask more questions and make more observations. Through expertise and experience, we’re able to identify unforeseen use cases for carts and issues that might not have come up on an initial call.
Once we’ve settled on a design, we build prototypes and test them out in the field. That way, we can make any final adjustments before putting in a full production order.
What about motorized carts?
Pushing heavy loads for significant distances isn’t easy for anybody. Motorized cart solutions make the work of pushing 700+ pounds far lighter, with less strain and fatigue. In a tight labor market, organizations turn to motorized carts to improve retention and access a greater pool of workers at diverse levels of physical ability.
Cannon’s engineers have developed our own SmartPWR® solution for facilities looking to explore motorized carts. We configure our SmartPWR® tech to work alongside our cart design, providing the right amount of added power to make operations smoother and safer.
Want to talk about what cart would be right for you?
Whether you think you’re a good fit for custom equipment or not, we want to hear from you. We may already have an off-the-shelf cart that’d be perfect for your facility. If you’re looking for improvements to your material handling operations, we’ll know where to point you.
Reach out and we’ll be in touch within a business day to see how we can help.