Operations and Management: Talking Trash in the DC

It’s no secret that catalog order fulfillment generates a fair amount of garbage, such as cardboard boxes, dunnage, and wrapping paper. Steve Harris, senior vice president of Middlebury, VT-based design and build agency Bread Loaf Corp., says the receiving stages, gift-wrapping stations, and returns processing areas can get especially litter-filled — and dangerous as a result. But planning in advance for the removal and cleanup of garbage and other waste in your distribution center can boost productivity and keep hazards and vermin at bay.

Low-speed, wide-belt overhead conveyers can help get boxes and dunnage off the floor and transport them away from the work area at a speed of 10 feet per minute. Rye, NY-based gifts cataloger Lillian Vernon Corp. uses conveyer systems to remove corrugated materials from work centers and delivers them to automatic balers and compactors. Harris estimates that such a system costs $125 per linear foot installed.

Trash shoots from mezzanines directly to sorting tables also enable you to remove bulky trash and recyclables from work areas. Docks dedicated to recycle trailers can be built into trash handling areas equipped with sinks, container- and tote-washing stations, and storage bins to help ensure you’re running a clean operation. For cleanup of perishables and liquids, keep a supply of industrial-strength disposal containers, or “pigs.”

Part of the challenge of keeping your work areas trash-free is having a place to put the debris. Many catalogers, including Vermont Country Store and Lillian Vernon, have a room dedicated to housing garbage and debris from receiving and returns areas. “We can keep our people focused on their work without the hassle and cost of clogging up their work space with trash,” says Rob Petrini, director of fulfillment at North Clarendon, VT-based Vermont Country Store.

“Our waste management room is off to one side of a very busy loading dock and is provided with three dock doors of its own,” says Ralph Buchanan, warehouse manager for Brattleboro, VT-based wholesale grocer Northeast Cooperatives. “By getting accumulations of trash and perishables out of the way of receiving, merging, and loading operations, we can schedule the labor required to sort and handle our waste at our convenience. This makes the work area safer, cleaner, and easier to manage.”