Who has a crystal ball to see into the future?

These days , senior managers, are having to make difficult choices (as we always do) about how much to spend, what to spend it on, and when to spend it. We all wish we knew with certainty what will be different with this economic cycle, but this time it’s even worse than normal… the stats don’t seem to be following the trends we have relied on in the past. This last horrendous economic cycle that began in 2007 just won’t stop! And at the World Economic Forum in Davos, some creative analysts at Oliver Wyman predicted the next downturn in April 2015 when some haven’t even gotten over the last one. What’s a manager to do and how do you plan for it?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the ongoing push (and success!!! – let’s not be shy about our great American Spirit at this 4th of July) in American Business to become more efficient while at the same time managing large capital costs. This helps us reserve cash flow necessary for survival in the downtimes. But the balance between getting the improvements and spending is tricky, it’s an art, and you can’t both spend money and save it at the same time.

One of the things you can do is to substitute alternate, lower-cost investments that get most of the results while making the investment itself much smaller. For those who need additional warehousing and dock space, have you thought of how to spend less while still keeping your operation going efficiently? Here are four things you can do to maximize results with minimum investment:

Need an extra dock?

One answer is to add a steel platform and yard ramp in your yard to unload additional trailers. This saves the cost of a major addition to add dock space or the cost of moving to a bigger, more expensive building. One portable dock ramp or a steel platform with yard ramp can be used 24/7 to increase the flow-through of goods.

Need extra floor space for operations?

Don’t move! Store what you do have more efficiently and vertically to free up floor space for other, revenue-producing activities. The problem is often unusually-shaped, heavy, or awkward pieces that just don’t store well in your existing rack. To solve the problem, call in an expert and design a custom cantilever rack that stacks the biggest “floor-hogs”.

Need more fork lifts, more drivers and more time to unload trucks?

You have good equipment and people, make them more efficient! Why invest in additional or replacement pit levelers that are subject to downtime – and make the dock shortage more acute. An alternative can be one of the less expensive, but highly efficient dock boards, such as the Speedy Board® by Bluff. One (or more) Speedy® Board can be used at multiple docks, and the driver never has to get off the fork lift to put it in place easily and quickly.

Need more rack space?

If you are running out of rack space, the thought may have occurred to you that you need more room, a bigger warehouse, additional rack or higher racking. But in the blink of an eye, a forklift careens into one of the posts putting 2 or 3 bays out of commission, and now things are more cramped and slower than ever. Maybe the solution is to protect what you have so that you are always at 100% utilization. You can minimize the chance for it being out of commission by protecting it with rack guards and post protectors. A smaller investment in protection can eliminate a bigger investment in racking or additional space.

So while we can’t all go to World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and hear the economic trends first hand, we can all take those insights and make them our own. Spend a little, get a big bang for the buck, save for a rainy day, and use good old fashioned American spirit to run fast, run lean. May you all have a safe and memorable 4th of July.


Make organization a winter sport!

Business for some of us slows down in the holiday season and some of us are already on our winter breaks! This is a great time to organize and streamline the efficiency around your plant and warehouse.

So, itemize “organizing” in next year’s budget. Investing in specialized storage that is highly efficient for your particular product can create efficiencies that lead savings in both time and money. Not to mention increasing your safety substantially.

Look around your facility – do you have heavy slabs of stone or other large heavy slabs taking up valuable space and creating a handling hazard? Bluff’s A-Frame Slab Transport Rack is designed specifically to handle heavy slab material such as natural stone and provides a much-needed additional layer of safety for workers handling these slabs. Bluff A-Frames provide a secondary safety stop to the slabs when they are being separated for delivery, thereby significantly decreasing the risk to the workers handling them.Additionally, you can get the most storage in the least amount of space.

Organize your pipes or flat boards with Bluff’s Cantilever Racks – these don’t just free up floor space, they are also fully customizable to to increase your operational efficiencies. Best part – use them indoors or outdoors.

If you service the beer industry, organize your craft “sixer” kegs with our new keg flow racks. Not only is this a great storage system that keeps the kegs off the floors and opens up space, but it also helps make it easier to find what you’re looking for. It is a great handling tool innovatively designed to minimize worker injury. A worker can simply grab a keg from its more convenient ends and load it onto a pallet while the remaining stock rolls forward. To load the rack, the kegs are put in from the rear and roll gently to the front. Shallower racks can even be loaded from the front.

Move up! When you are really cramped for space in your warehouse, don’t go looking to expand your real estate horizontally, especially when you can do it vertically at a much lower cost. In keeping with its objective of increasing in-plant efficiency, space utilization and safety, Bluff Manufacturing offers mezzanines and stairways. They can be custom designed and built to meet your expansion/storage needs – whether you’re looking at 100 square feet or 25,000 square feet. A warehouse mezzanine is an ideal, economical solution for freeing up floor space while providing expanded storage capacity by clearing vertical spans up to 40 feet and load capacities up to 1,000 pounds per square foot. Eliminate the expense of moving to a new facility or leasing additional space by adding a freestanding mezzanine.

It’s always a great feeling to return to a fully organized and functioning workplace after a holiday rather than a chaotic, messy one. Think of how efficient and effective your new year will be! You’ll be off to a great start!

How American-made products fare better than Chinese made plates

Few things are more American than the tradition of Thanksgiving. Our country has also had a long tradition of manufacturing – everything from steel to furniture.  And although in recent decades manufacturing seems to have become a foreign notion to us, studies and reports seem to be telling us otherwise. A turn-around in manufacturing trends seems to be bringing production back to our shores. As noted earlier, manufacturing is set to see a marked improvement in the next couple of years mainly due to technological advancements in automation, rising wage rates around the globe and increased productivity and quality control within our borders. All of this combined with lower interest rates and a ready labor force have created a more favorable economic climate for domestic manufacturing.

Here at Bluff Manufacturing, we continue to design and build products right here in our Texas-based manufacturing plant. In addition, we source our materials from American partners. For example, Bluff is sourcing its high quality hose bridges from an American manufacturer with efficiency outside of our expertise.  This allows us to provide you with high-value, high-quality, American-made products combined with Bluff’s top-notch customer service.  These hose bridges are made of recycled plastic, and patented all-stainless joiners, and the innovative bridges offer a sturdy, dry, and slip-free crossover for pedestrians and vehicles. With its 14,000 lbs. per axle capacity, this is a great product for firefighters or at fracking and construction sites.

American manufacturing matters because quality matters. For instance, Bluff’s dock plates have met the most stringent MH30.2 standard set by the American National Standards Institute. The ANSI is an organization that helps promote global competitiveness and enhances quality in products by setting these standards written by the Loading Dock Manufacturers section (LODEM) of the Material Handling Institute of America (MHIA).

Our steel dock plates and boards are designed and produced to this standard for safety and performance, and Bluff can proudly state that we meet the MH30.2 standard. Recently, Bluff Manufacturing tested a plate manufactured in China on an ANSI testing machine to verify load capacity, and that plate did not pass the tests.  ANSI standards require a dock plate or dock board to undergo cycle testing at 100% of the rated load for 10,000 cycles. “The plate couldn’t finish the test because the deflection exceeded the acceptable amount shortly after the test started, which was approximately 150 cycles,” said Tom Hobbs, Vice President Operations at Bluff Manufacturing.

Safety has always been a major concern at Bluff, and our focus on quality products is our way to help ensure safety at the facilities of those who use our products.  When we source our materials and make our products, mostly all in America, Bluff Manufacturing can control the process and the quality that ensure the highest quality. Our products speak for themselves as quality can be seen from design and sourcing, all the way to the finished product.

Industrial Mezzanines are Flexible and Affordable

Mezzanines Create More Space

The decision to expand your business facility is, while extremely exciting, also fraught with many uncertainties. Does the prospect of increased business merit the expense of acquiring and modifying a new building? Should we find and develop a location for a new facility? What about the disruption of day to day business as we move?

The answers to these dilemmas are right above you. Affordable and flexible, an industrial mezzanine system can add floor space to your shop using the space between the floor and the ceiling. Found often in industrial settings as storage areas the mezzanine can also be used as office space or break room facilities.

Bluff Manufacturing’s industrial mezzanines are constructed with heavy duty steel,and are usually free standing. The systems offer a great deal of flexibility in that most can be dismantled and moved. The flooring is dependent on the intended use and varies from a wood finished deck to heavy duty steel grating. Depending on what is required mezzanine floors can handle a load of up to 1,000 pounds per square foot.

The mezzanine system should also include stairways, railings and landings to provide both easy access and address safety issues, complying with OSHA, IBC and other agencies regulations.

Rather than moving out, you can avoid the expense and inconvenience of expansion by moving up. The design and engineering experts at Bluff Manufacturing are available to help increase your plants efficiency; using the space available in the most efficient and safe manner possible. A custom designed mezzanine, built to meet your specific needs, is a cost effective and safe way to expand your facility to meet the growing demands on your business.

From dock plates to warehouse safety systems, contact us for the latest innovations in material handling, safety and storage.

Keg Racks To Improve Storage and Flow

Even if it’s filled with “light beer”, sixer beer kegs can be quite heavy. Weights can vary according to what’s stored inside, but a sixer can weigh in at around 55 pounds with most typical beers. OSHA and the Department of Labor and Industries recommends a lifting limit of 50 pounds, so even allowing for varying liquid weights, the typical sixer is still pushing the envelope of official limits.

Loading and unloading sixers off of rack can become pretty strenuous after even a short while. Back injuries caused by warehouse work are fairly common due to the lifting and shifting of heavy loads. Among those heavy loads is the wrangling of beer kegs, such as the loading of racks, taking inventory off of the racks, and moving product from the rear of the rack to the front.

Bluff Manufacturing has created a system of keg racks that alleviates much of the wrangling, reducing the risk of injury, while increasing your storage space. Many keg storage systems are simple shelves requiring the keg to be stored upright. Removing these kegs requires them to be dragged along their flat edges. Bluff’s keg racks store them on their sides with the back of the rack being slightly elevated to take advantage of a keg’s cylindrical shape. A worker can simply grab a keg from its more convenient ends and load it onto a pallet while the remaining stock rolls forward. To load the rack, the kegs are put in from the rear and roll gently to the front.

Bluff’s keg racks range in length from 38 inches (warehouse rack length 42 inches), holding 4 kegs, to 116 inches (warehouse rack length 120 inches), holding 12 kegs. They are easy to install, requiring no welding or bolting, and are virtually maintenance free. Contact us to see how we can help improve your craft beer keg storage and flow.