Superior products and marketing have made Senco Products Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, grow into an international powerhouse. "In my 41 years with the company, we've changed from the small start-up in an old school building into a leader in our industry," Ernie Hoeb, senior buyer, explains. "That's due to a history of an excellent sales force selling quality products. It's a tradition that goes all the way back to our inventive founder, A.G. Juilfs, and the great marketing of William Tillinghast, who started it all in 1951."
SENCO now has affiliates all over the world to serve customers in the housing, manufactured housing (mobile homes and recreational vehicles), pallet and furniture industries. In Cincinnati, two buildings - one to manufacture tools and house the corporate headquarters, and one to manufacture fasteners - total almost 1 million sq. ft. Production works three shifts for five days a week, more when needed. Product for North America is distributed through facilities in Cincinnati, the West Coast, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast and Midwest. As the company's thick product catalogs proclaim, survey after survey reveal that SENCO is the No. 1 brand of choice by professionals. Its motto sums up the company philosophy: Serious work. Serious tools.
Material on the move
SENCO offers tools powered by air, batteries, electricity and gas. In addition, it makes fasteners in a variety of finishes, sizes, styles and packages for professionals and the do it-yourselfer. These fasteners fit all major tool brands, as well as SENCO tools. According to Jim Spradlin, logistics manager, "It adds up to almost 2,000 different stockkeeping units (SKUs). They're constantly changing, too, as we bring out new products and expand our offerings through the 'Big Box' retailers." This diversity makes Bob Miller's job as supervisor of shipping and receiving logistics a real challenge. "We handle about 250,000 pallets every year," he says, "with an average of 1,200 lbs. on each one. That adds up to about 140 million lbs. we move through this operation." How do the material handlers do it all and the company manage to turn inventory every 36 hours, plus operate in a just-in-time environment? Good organization helps. In the 145,000-sq. - ft. of total warehouse (one area at each plant), for instance, everything is organized by location and bar code. This helps now and in the future, when the new warehouse management system goes online and operations become almost paperless.
Forklifts to do the job, every day
Another key factor in efficiency is the forklift fleet. For more than 20 years, material handling has been accomplished with the help of dependable Cat® lift trucks and the local Cat lift truck dealer's expertise in matching lift truck to application. The current forklift fleet consists of LP-gas models: 14 C3500 forklifts, two C4000 forklifts with integral scales, and four C6500 forklifts with triplex masts and one with a two-stage mast.
All have sideshifters, while one model, used in the wiredraw and receiving operations, has a fork-positioner. Forks vary from 60 in. in receiving and manufacturing (some are tapered style to ease wire roll handling) to 30- and 36-in. styles in shipping (for moving small pallets that mass merchandisers require). The LP-gas forklift models now have low fuel warning lights to avoid running out of fuel at inconvenient times and places. They all have backup lights. Some in the wiredraw area where dust is a problem have pre-cleaners on the air intake system.
Because customers occasionally pick up orders, shipping department forklifts have non-marking tires to help keep things looking cleaner. And trucks used on the busy shipping dock have the speed control option to help prevent accidents. "Our forklift selection boils down to reliability, once we're sure each model fits our various applications," Miller says. "Last year, when our forklift fleet began to age and we wanted to upgrade, we naturally contacted the local Cat lift truck dealer." Hoeb, as senior buyer and a "money man," understands the need for uptime as well as value for each dollar SENCO spends. "We need dependability for sure," he says, "and we appreciate the competitive prices our Cat lift truck dealer has offered for the past 25 years. But probably the biggest asset for us is that the dealer provides a forklift technician on-site several days a week. He does a really good job for us and seems like one of the crew." SENCO provides a workroom and tools for the Cat lift truck technician.
"We have his cell and home phone numbers, so we just call our technician if he doesn't happen to be here and we have a problem after hours," Miller says. "We can't afford downtime, and he understands that. He responds immediately to our needs at all times." Danny Day, a 35-year veteran with the company who speaks for the forklift operators in shipping, says, "Jim is very accommodating to our needs and easy to talk with about any forklift concerns we have." Day has been through at least four different transitions to new forklift fleets. "Although we always hate to give up the old ones that we're used to, the C3500 I have now is the best ever," he points out. "It's quiet and less strenuous to brake. It's like driving a BMW all day long."
"Our forklift selection boils down to reliability, once we're sure each model fits our various applications."
- Bob Miller, Supervisor of Shipping and Receiving
Guaranteed Forklift Uptime
In keeping with the company's strong lift truck fleet management approach and emphasis on uptime, every forklift in the fleet that's used more than 2,000 hours is part of a long-term forklift rental-type lease with a Total Maintenance and Repair program rolled in. Trucks used less are still leased and serviced through the Cat lift truck dealer. Lease terms vary from two to five years, depending on usage. "This is the way we guarantee forklift uptime," Hoeb explains, adding, "Our relationship with the Cat lift truck dealer has been very good for us. For example, on a couple of trucks with low hours, we've even extended the lease, which is a cost savings. "Another benefit of the relationship is the new forklifts themselves," he continues. "They're cleaner with their catalytic converters and 'smart' engine/ transmission systems. Their higher horsepower and longer service intervals help us stay productive." Hoeb points to the two C4000 Cat lift trucks with the integral scales as another cost-saving, higher-productivity bonus. "They save us a lot of time we used to waste putting loads on a floor scale," he explains. "We use one in the manufacturing area and one in shipping. They're so accurate, they're legal for trade, and we can enter the weight right on the shipping documents." He concludes, "We have to produce a quality product that the public around the world will buy. To survive in this global economy, we have to be efficient and concentrate on our strengths. We don't have time to worry about the material handling fleet. Thanks to Cat lift trucks and our local Cat lift truck dealer, we know we'll be up and running. It's why the relationship continues."