Freight Railroads Plan $24.5 Million Revitalization Project

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced that freight railroads will be investing an estimated $24.5 million into a major freight railroad revitalization plan in 2013 according to Material Handling Wholesaler magazine’s March issue. This comprehensive plan includes building, maintaining and upgrading America’s rail network to ensure that freight railroads continue to contribute to the nation’s economy. This investment in America’s freight railroads is significant for everyone selling material handling equipment, since literally every product moved from boxcar to dock or dock to boxcar needs a rail board for safe and efficient transport. Similarly, every product moved from the ground into a boxcar or from a boxcar to the ground needs a yard ramp and potentially a platform for effective and safe loading and unloading. This means 650 freight railroads across the U.S. may be looking for rail boards, yard ramps, as well as portable steel platforms as part of this initiative to upgrade and enhance the capacity of our nation’s freight rail network.

Rail board

Are you ready to capture your share of this rail freight market? Do you have the equipment knowledge you need to provide the best possible solutions for transporting freight in and out of boxcars? Did you know that Bluff’s all-steel construction rail boards are custom-designed for use on all types of railway cars, including refrigerated cars and the special cars used in the lumber and the paper industries? In addition, every Bluff rail board is engineered with specifications to match specific dock conditions so you can meet the needs of all of your freight customers. Bluff rail boards are also engineered with heavy duty locking rings for safe and secure positioning for capacities up from 15,000 to 90,000 lbs.

Bluff’s 36′ yard ramp unit with a 6’ level off is the best solution for ground-to-boxcar loading. For boxcar loading and unloading in remote areas of a rail yard, a portable steel dock combined with a yard ramp can serve as a satellite unloading area. A portable steel dock is a fast, economical way to expand a dock area and increase freight handling capabilities without the expense of concrete work. A portable dock affords 90 degree turn ability for safe forklift maneuvering as well as trans-loading. Portable docks can also be easily relocated to other areas of a yard where a free-standing loading dock may be needed.

Worksheets created by our engineering department help ensure that your customer’s rail boards, yard ramps and portable steel docks will be the best solution for their specific application, making your job easier. If you would like to learn more about products that can help meet the material handling needs that will arise from this major freight railroad revitalization initiative, call 800.433.2212.

Bridging Gaps in the Recycling Industry

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. recycles over 85 million tons of trash each year. In fact, Forbes magazine reported that in 2012, American communities on average spent more on waste management than any other public service, including fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries, and schoolbooks. In addition to trash handled in U.S. facilities, Forbes also reported that trash was America’s biggest export in 2012. As America strives to become a green nation while continuing to produce more waste each year, the recycling industry can only continue to grow.

What does all this garbage mean for sales of distribution and material handling equipment? All recycled trash that is handled and distributed requires equipment! At Bluff, we’ve found that our yard ramps, in particular, are highly sought after by recycling companies for their ease of mobility, strength and self-cleaning feature.

All recycled materials getting transported must go from ground level into different trucks at recycling plants, so mobility is crucial for the recycling industry’s ground-to-truck application. Bluff’s yard ramps have heavy-duty, solid rubber, pneumatic profile tires, which make positioning easy. In addition, our hydraulic system allows for a smooth and quick transition to changing trailer heights.

With standard capacities from 16,000 to 60,000 pounds, and higher capacities made to special order, Bluff’s yard ramps are ideal for the distribution of the lightest plastics to the heaviest scrap metal. Moreover, our serrated-grating, self-cleaning design also makes our yard ramps perfect for handling even the dirtiest of trash.

Adding a Portable Platform Can Save Time and Money

Attaching a portable steel platform to a yard ramp and positioning three trucks around the platform can give your recycling customers the ability to load multiple trucks at the same time without repositioning the yard ramp. This trans-loading process can save them valuable time and money.  Call 800.433.2212 to learn more about yard ramp and portable dock applications for your customers.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident

September 2012 marks the ninth annual National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the goal of National Preparedness Month is to educate the community about how to prepare for various types of emergencies. Ready.gov is FEMA’s official preparedness website and a great resource for those looking for more information about the campaign. This year’s main highlights include home and family preparedness, back-to-school, and business preparedness.

Businesses are encouraged to participate in National Preparedness Month by developing a preparedness plan for their company. Their Ready Business program is divided into five steps: Program Management, Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercises, and Program Improvement. Ready Business utilizes an “all hazards approach” encompassing everything from natural disasters to malfunction of technology-related systems. One of the most impactful hazards affecting the material handling, warehouse, and logistics/supply chain industries, categorized under “human-caused hazards,” is accidents.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries. OSHA estimates, for example, that “about 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts.” Warehouse operations can present an abundance of potential hazards for workers, and being prepared is absolutely imperative. Sadly, many accidents, injuries, and deaths could have been preventable had certain safety measures been in place at the time.

Pokaka Timber Products Limited, a New Zealand company, learned the cost of improper warehouse safety, after an employee suffered serious injury when his foot was trapped in an unguarded conveyer. The company was fined $52,500 and ordered to pay reparation of $20,000 to the victim.The conveyer was in full production for only two weeks before the accident. The victim was waiting at the end of the conveyor for timber product to be fed through the de-duster machine. He rested his arms on the table and placed his right foot underneath the channel guiding the chain while there was a break in the flow of wood. Pulled off his feet, he hit his head and his right foot became trapped between the chain and teeth of the sprocket.

The victim spent 17 days in the hospital. According to John Howard, the Northern General Manager for the Labour Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, Mt Pokaka Timber Products Limited “failed to identify the trapping point between the chains and sprockets as a hazard and there were no guards to ensure the safety of employees working on or near [the] conveyor.”

A crucial step in FEMA’s Ready Business program is to examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks. OSHA provides a pocket guide for the Warehousing portion of their Worker Safety Series. Included in the guide is a list of hazards and solutions, specific to the industry. Conveyor injuries, such as the Pokaka Timber Products Limited incident, are addressed with solutions including inspecting conveyors regularly, ensuring that pinch points are adequately guarded, and providing proper lighting and working surfaces in the area surrounding the conveyor.

OSHA also stresses the need to make sure that warehouse equipment meets OSHA specifications.  Safety is of the utmost importance at Bluff Manufacturing, for both our employees and customers. Establishing the highest industry standards is one of our fundamental principles. Adhering to the  ANSI MH30.2 standard testing process for our board and plates , we continually ask ourselves, “Is it safe?” We’ve developed Industrial Crash Guard Safety Products to help our customers protect their employees and equipment.

National Preparedness Month holds incredible significance for our industry, reminding us that safety cannot be taken for granted. It gives us a great opportunity to look closely at the safety-related programs we have in place, and assess where there is room for improvement. Has your business implemented a successful preparedness program? Please feel free to share your suggestions!

Drucker challenges with five simple, yet important questions.

“The mission says why you do what you do, not the means by which you do it.” – Peter Drucker

In our day-to-day business as manufacturers, resellers, marketers, accountants or whatever titles we hold, we forget to stop and reflect. Why are we doing what we’re doing? Is it purely bottom-line economics? Or are we looking to firmly establish our careers? Or are we motivated to achieve something beyond just money and career? In the daily grind of things, it’s easy to sometimes forget that the main purpose of any business is to provide a certain set of products or services that can fulfill the unique needs of a certain set of customers. If our customers didn’t have a need that we couldn’t fulfill with our products or services, we wouldn’t have a business, or goals, or a mission statement. In fact, it is good to re-visit those goals and mission statements as often as possible to remember the big picture:

  • Are our customers happy with our service or product?
  • Are we satisfying their ever-changing needs?
  • Are we evolving with those changing needs?

The only constant is change and most days it’s easy to forget the big picture because we have so many small moving parts to deal with on a daily basis.

Peter Drucker – the management guru of the 21st century, invented modern day management, as we know it. For all his fame and fortune, the man left behind a simple legacy wrapped up in a world of knowledge.  If we don’t have time to read his various books or articles, we can definitely take time out of our busy schedules to answer 5 basic questions:

  1. What is our mission?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does the customer value?
  4. What are our results?
  5. What is our plan?

The questions are simple, but by forcing ourselves to re-examine our assumptions, we can focus on why we are doing what we are doing, and how to do it better.

Bluff Manufacturing’s mission statement asserts that Bluff Manufacturing will strive for superior partnering in all channels to fully understand our customers’ challenges and provide innovative solutions that make us the ‘Go-To Company’ in the material handing industry.

Our customers are our distributors and our end-users. Our customers value high-quality, secure docking solutions that can match their unique needs and requirements. Our plan is to constantly aspire to understand our customers’ needs and to create products that surpass safety standards while meeting these needs. Bluff Manufacturing has worked to closely match results with its company objectives. But in order to continue that, it’s important to keep asking these five questions. As Drucker puts it, “Suppliers and especially manufacturers have market power because they have information about a product or a service that the customer does not and cannot have, and does not need if he can trust the brand. This explains the profitability of brands.” Here’s to profitability in American manufacturing and creating trust-worthy brands.

Summarizing SERC 2012 – The Southeast Recycling Conference

The 25th Southeast Recycling Conference & Trade Show – SERC – was in sunny Destin, Florida at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa held between March 11 – 14, 2012. Two of our lucky employees got to attend this wonderful show at a fantastic location and this blog is a summary of their account of the show.

To begin with, this is a great four day event linking industry leaders and recycling officials, offering focused educational sessions, the latest recycling products, equipment and services and exciting networking opportunities all at an economical rate.

Where does Bluff Manufacturing fit into all this excitement? A substantial percentage of Bluff’s customer base originates from the recycling industry. The recycling industry has various material handling needs and Bluff Manufacturing provides unique solutions to match this industry’s requirements.

Some of our customers in the recycling industry face the common problem of inadequate amount of dock space or no dock at all. Those without a ramp commented that unloading a trailer without a dock or ramp was hard work, time consuming, and hazardous.  At the Bluff booth, the team highlighted the Bluff Portable Yard Ramp using a new video showing the Bluff Portable Yard Ramp in use at a paper recycling facility. The video along with a miniature replica of the 36’ ramp created buzz and excitement and enthusiasm for the solution. Our team was also able to engage with a customer and help him find an optimal solution to extend the life of his existing ramp (which was at least 15 years old).

Bluff also introduced our new Tuff Guard Safety Rails at SERC 2012! The recycling process / operation involves heavy forklift traffic in recycling plants. This creates a critical need for safety measures to protect personnel, products, and property.  The Bluff Tuff Guard Safety Rails provides the safety barriers that recycling plants need.

With over 600 attendees and 80 exhibitors (Bluff being one of them), this was a great trading and networking event. Key note speaker Dr. Leonard Coldwell motivated an already enthused audience when he reminded them that “we are all born champions” and “that we determine our own health and happiness – it all starts with believing in oneself.”

All in all, this networking event was truly productive and our team gained a lot of information from this event while spreading the word about Bluff’s products and solutions. On a more social note, looks like our postings on SERC’s Facebook page earned us a few fans that arrived at our booth to claim their prize – a Bluff jacket! See you at SERC 2013 and don’t forget to recycle!