Central Steel & Wire Boosts Warehouse Efficiency With Use of AGV’s and New Cantilever Racking | Steel King Industries, Inc.

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Central Steel & Wire Boosts Warehouse Efficiency With Use of AGV’s and New Cantilever Racking

Posted on May 9, 2024

Unique Cantilever Racking Design Allows for Narrower Aisles

When Central Steel & Wire decided to move from the Chicago facility that had been its home for 80 years, it envisioned a product depot and service center that would extensively benefit from material handling technology and that would be a state-of-the-art operation within its industry.

It would be a major transformation for Central Steel & Wire (CS&W), leaving behind a labor-intensive method of material handling and instead engaging automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to move its wide range of metal products. “For the first time in the metal service center business, we brought in AGVs to replace standard material handling equipment,” said Nicole Giesie, vice president of operations at Central Steel & Wire – a member of the Ryerson Family of Companies. “This is allowing us to utilize new technology, which creates driverless vehicles to store and pull our material to fill customer orders.”

Greatest Benefits from Technology Would Require a New Facility

The greatest benefits from the use of AGVs, however, could only be realized by developing a new facility that would incorporate racking that had consistent pocket locations and that was even throughout the location. The presence of damaged racking arms in the existing facility would have reduced the effectiveness of the AGVs, Giesie noted.

While AGVs require a significant investment, the payoff comes in increased efficiency and accuracy of material handling, a likely reduction in damage to racking, equipment and structures, and the reduced need for labor in the material handling process. “With AGVs, we were able to utilize our workforce in other value-added tasks rather than just moving metal throughout the facility,” Giesie said.

Initial design discussions for the new facility began in August, 2021, and included requirements relating to the use of AGVs in a 900,000-square-foot facility that would be developed in southern Chicagoland’s Village of University Park.

18,000 Storage Locations Needed

The University Park facility would need 18,000 storage locations to accommodate 6,000 product SKUs that have a combined weight of 50 million pounds of carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum and specialty metals. Space was also needed for value-added work, such as precision cutting and tube laser operations.

For storage of all that metal, CS&W looked at racking manufacturers throughout the U.S., and then selected Steel King Industries, a leading manufacturer of storage rack and material handling products. The two companies had an long-standing relationship, in that CS&W supplies steel for Steel King’s products. “We were able to expand an already existing great relationship with Steel King as a customer, and then we learned the value of them as a manufacturer. We had a lot of things to worry about in a project this size, and the racking was never one of the things that we worried about,” Giesie said.

Steel King Dealer Fulfilled Project Manager Role

Another factor that would work to CS&W’s advantage was the involvement of Steel King dealer Container Systems, Inc., of suburban Chicago.
“This was an extremely large project for Central Steel & Wire,” Giesie said. “We needed a reliable partner to ensure success, and Container Systems proved to be that partner. In a project of this size, there is a lot that can go wrong, dealing with a lot of different contractors, equipment vendors, etc. Having Container Systems involved removed that burden from us, and kept the project moving forward to the point that installation was completed ahead of schedule.”

The new facility uses Steel King’s I-beam cantilever racking for 1,300 uprights, and guard rail products. I-beam cantilever steel storage racks allow access from both sides. This design saves horizontal space normally lost to rack structure, reduces fork truck damage, and allows for faster load and unload times.

The cantilever racking is comprised of more than 1,000 double-sided columns, more than 30,000 arms and more than 15,000 linear feet of structural metal for guard rails. It took 70 truckloads to deliver the racking and guard rail elements – all which came at a pace whereby installers never had to stop their work, noted Mike Scarlati of Container Systems. “This was a huge order, and what made it work was Steel King’s ability to get their product out on time, so installers always had buildable material on hand,” Scarlati said.

The racking system was able to have narrower aisles – and thus have a greater storage density – through an engineering solution designed by Steel King, said Kurt Larson, the company’s regional sales manager for the central U.S. “Our engineers designed notches in rails to guide Combilift vehicles, which meant that more space could be dedicated to racking rather than to aisles,” Larson said.

The new racking system is allowing CS&W to operate more efficiently and with greater productivity. It also will let the company adjust racking to meet changing needs, Larson noted. “In their former facility, the racking elements were all welded, so adjustments could not be made. With our system, they’ll be able to reconfigure the racking to accommodate changing storage needs” Larson said.

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