One of the late comedian George Carlin’s famous monologues poked fun at “our stuff” – why we need it, what we do with it, where we put it. But, in business, “stuff” – i.e., product – is a company’s lifeblood, and how and where “stuff” is put bears directly on company profitability. It’s no laughing matter.
Indeed, even while the American economy seems to be on a downward spin, one constant remains – the need to be more efficient. This is why business continues to be constant for a company whose name epitomizes stability. According to Ray Chase, executive vice president of Konstant, the U.S. division of the Canadian-based Econo-Rack Storage Equipment, “We haven’t seen a slowdown in business. During times that strain your capital funds budget, you want to focus your spending on areas that get you the most significant payback. Warehouse racking and pallet storage is a critical cost center. The more effectively a company can store and protect its assets, the lower the expense to access and transport them. Our storage systems can lower the cost of labor and reduce inventory square footage by more effectively utilizing warehouse space and facilitating more efficient workflows. Reducing inventory carrying costs is always a concern, but even more so when your profit margins are getting squeezed during a slow economy.”
Based in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows, Ill. And employing 190, Konstant has more than 50 years of experience in the warehouse racking and pallet storage business. The company designs, manufactures and installs primarily hot-rolled structural steel selective racking, pallet racking, push back rack, pick modules, carton flow rack, cantilever racking, drive-in racking and pallet flow racking.
Konstant engineers hold more than 40 patents in the material handling industry, including the first drive-in rack, the first rack support building, and the first recessed leg trusses. The often copied but never equaled Konstant Flow Push Back Cart provides horizontal and vertical storage options while maintaining multiple pallets stored in depth. The cart is manufactured with a welded front, middle and rear cross member. The wheels on the carts travel inside an “I” beam rail and can even be tied into support beams. This heavy duty but flexible system allows storage on each cart from two to six pallets in depth. These systems can be placed back to back allowing for a maximum of 12 pallets deep of storage.
According to company product literature, “Our versatile system allows for the frames to be arranged in a traditional straight line front to back or a staggered frame pattern. The patented staggered pattern reduces the column load, which reduces loading on the floor. It also reduces the capacity required on the support beam, thus reducing the height of the beam and increasing the available vertical height.”
Another example of Konstant’s innovation is its Container Pick and Return (CPR) system, which provides multi-level modules for first-in first out (FIFO) dense storage for full pallets and the compilation of multiple SKUs (stock keeping unit). Boxed items are picked from the pallet to a conveyor for transfer to other locations.
In a larger scale application , Konstant racking is used in erecting a rack-supported building. This cost-effective process uses the rack system as the structural support for the warehouse itself. The roof and walls are added to the extensive rack system to provide a storage facility with maximum pallet capacity.
The easy erection and incredible rigidity of Konstant storage systems are achieved through the use of a simple, positive lever-action bolt, yet another innovation that offers both cost savings and improved productivity. The bolt acts as a drift pin; as the pin is tightened, channel beam flanges are drawn tight against post flanges. Consequently, beams are tightly affixed, and self-aligned for quick, easy installation. At the same time, Konstant product literature claims that independent laboratory tests establish the ultimate load per level at an impressive 50,000 pounds.
Konstant has an 112,000-square-foot plant in Quincy, Ill., with another 220,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Branford, Ontario, Canada. Chase says, “While our storage systems are custom made-to-order, in most cases they can be designed using standard components.”
Chase emphasizes that “storage rack systems are made out of steel, but there are two types of steel manufacturing. One is roll-form steel; the other is structural, which has a much longer life expectancy in today’s demanding warehouse environment.. We manufacture mostly with structural steel, so our products are generally more durable. It’s not to say that for certain applications roll-form would do the job. But, for the type of applications we do, long-term strength is another one of our many competitive advantages.”
These days, any kind of steel is expensive. While some manufacturers look to other materials to replace steel in their products, Chase says that’s not an option. “You’re talking about structures that could be 80 feet tall. There’s nothing that can bear weight over those kinds of distances better than steel. We’re trying to manage the cost problems as best we can by buying smart. But the steel market is so volatile that long term commitments just aren’t possible.
Of course, the product itself is supposed to help companies save money. “Effective materials handling can be the big difference between whether a company is profitable or not,” Chase says. “We develop turnkey solutions that do more than simply protect and store product, though that’s certainly important. They are designed to facilitate better workflows that improve inventory management and reduce labor costs.”
Because they are modular, Konstant rack systems are also expandable. “It’s not unusual for us to install a semi-automatic storage system with the intent that three to five years down the road we’ll build on that base to construct a fully automated system as the customer’s needs grow.”
He adds that Konstant is involved with its customers, well, constantly. “We provide complete project management, from design to manufacture to install. We do subcontract the installation labor, and we only use crews we that are highly capable and reliable.”
While Konstant has focused on the U.S. market, Chase notes considerable interest in Konstant systems from Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. At the present time, Konstant is completing a major installation in Jamaica. “Part of that is just the nature of the global marketplace as U.S.-based companies set up foreign operations and want to install the same efficient storage systems that we have here. Also, the declining value of the American dollar in relation to the Euro makes our products attractive to these European companies.”
Konstant also sees additional opportunities in the food services sector. “Many of the major institutional food service companies are customers, and we see additional needs to more effectively store food products for what is a very complex national distribution system. It’s a market niche where we can provide significant added – value.”
In all the markets it serves, Konstant is dedicated to one objective: to build the world’s best storage systems, customized to individual customer needs, with the future built-in.