March 1999

Receiving accolades

Things are on a fast track in Materials Management

Parcels practically whirl around the new conveyor system in Receiving
Building 7001 has been the supply hub of ORNL for more than 40 years. The current home of the Lab’s Materials Management Organization is where everything bound for ORNL arrives to be dispatched to a multitude of destinations.

Most of us know it as Receiving.

Call it what you like, but 7001 operated pretty much as originally configured for most of those 40 years. The situation in Receiving at the beginning of this decade, says MMO Manager Gary Denton, was that it was a tough place to work and had a spotty reputation with customers.

“The building had no improvements in equipment or to the facility,” Denton says. “Poor equipment, less than adequate change-room facilities, limited working space, ergonomically incorrect workstations and 1950s and ’60s materials handling technology were standard. “The conditions led to an injury-laden work force, poor customer service, and delays, delays, delays in material delivery.”

Now things are a lot better thanks to a campaign that included workplace assessments, workflow studies, an ergonomics reengineering effort and new designs that resulted in extensive renovations.

MMO’s pièce de résistance is a state-of-the-art conveyor system that has significantly improved materials clerks’ processing time and efficiency. Incoming orders practically skate their way through to the delivery trucks.

The new conveyor is ergonomically friendlier, meaning it’s not as hard on the employee: Packages are handled less often and there is less pushing, pulling and lifting. Denton expects the new system will reduce the number of injuries to the materials clerks. The changes in 7001 required an extensive renovation. The receiving and delivery staging areas were limited by a five-office complex, overhead mezzanine, stairwell and a “1950s compliant” firewall.

“All of which occupied most of the floor space in the center of the building,” Denton says. “Forklifts, pedestrians and material-moving equipment vied for the same space. Accidents were almost probable and small packages were routinely misplaced because of the mountain of boxes and material.”

So out came the offices. Out came the mezzanine. Away with the stairs and firewall. And in went the new conveyor.

MMO also replaced some old pieces of equipment with new, better models—wooden-handled, two-wheeled hand trucks were retired and replaced with pneumatic tire hand trucks, electric pallet jacks and aluminum carts. Old forklifts were replaced with three heavy-duty forklifts that have larger handling capacities and meet current safety standards.

Finally, in a move that could and probably should be emulated by all public gathering places including stadiums and fairgrounds, the tiny ladies’ change house with two sinks and a single toilet and shower was redesigned to accommodate 20 employees. Combined with the existing women’s restroom, the change house has three new shower stalls, new lockers and more room for changing clothes.

To those who might ask, “So what?” Denton replies, “Better service.” Delayed deliveries and lost packages that once plagued MMO have been significantly reduced. There are fewer injuries to MMO workers, who have better equipment and working conditions to do their jobs. Most importantly, ORNL staff members who need their supplies to do their work are getting them sooner and better.

To help them get your material to you even sooner, it’s important to give complete and correct addresses to your vendors. “Include the total address, including the room number,” Denton says. “Mail stops aren’t that useful because we deliver door-to-door.”

MMO should be called when packages are overdue, he advises, because they may be sitting in Receiving with an incomplete address.

Otherwise, if everything’s complete, your orders should be rolling out of Receiving in a matter of hours, not days.—B.C.