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7 Quick Tips to a Safer Parking Lot

 

Did you know one in five automobile accidents occurs in a parking lot? Though there are often reduced speeds in these areas, fender benders are more likely to occur in parking lots than on open roadways. This, of course, can create a negative customer experience tied to your business just because it happened in your parking lot. So, how can you limit the number of accidents that occur in your own lot?

Follow these seven tips:

1. Control the flow of traffic with a well laid out parking lot.
2. Discourage speed demons. Install speed bumps to discourage “cut through” traffic.
3. Assign parking spaces.
4. Restrict parking in some areas. In particular near areas where delivery traffic flows.
5. Establish boundaries with paint lines or barriers like bushes or planter boxes.
6. Turn away trespassers, vehicles for sale or the occasional overnight RV camper.
7. Add a little light. Discourages issues with #6.

 

Jef Spencer

HFA Operations

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Subconsciously Affecting Your Customers with Your Showroom Lighting

A few months ago, I was out to do some grocery shopping but was turned away from the store when I arrived. It was the middle of the day and the whole store was shut down. Care to guess why?

A lighting outage.

Take that in for a minute. If you’re a store manager and your cash register is down, can you still operate your store? Technically, yes. There are workarounds for that. What if your toilets start overflowing or your internet goes down or your phone lines are down? Not ideal but, hey, you’re still in business.

That’s not the case when the lights go out. Unless your space has a ton of natural light when the lights go out, so does your business –– at least temporarily.

Lighting is fundamental to most any furniture retailer with brick-and-mortar space. It’s a bare necessity. But it has more bearing on your business than you may think. It’s easy to overlook the subtle effect that lighting can have in conveying your brand and influencing your customers’ experiences, that’s what’s not so obvious.

How exactly does lighting subconsciously affect your clients? It communicates the value of your products. It should complement and if done right, enhances what you’re selling.

Lighting for Discount Stores

Consider Wal-Mart, Big Lots, and Goodwill. What do all of these stores have in common? Their value proposition is simple: offer the lowest prices in town. One of the easiest ways to mark down the price of your product is to minimize overhead. Discount stores can achieve this by employing inexpensive, efficient lighting. The customer is not expecting and enhanced shopping experience beyond grabbing what they already know and expect. There are no fancy displays in these stores. No accent lighting. And bare-minimum merchandising to keep costs as low as possible for customers. Because of this unadorned, bleak look, customers have grown used to equating poor quality lighting and minimal merchandising displays with lower price points.

This strategy works great for those stores, but can you imagine walking into a Whole Foods furnished with outdated, cheap lighting? Subconsciously, you’d probably be thinking, “Why are these apples so expensive?”. Apply this same consumer perspective and perception to the furniture retailer environment.

Whether intended or not, low-quality lighting automatically makes the atmosphere feel as though the products should be at a lower price point. And that’s a two-way street –– high-quality lighting sets the stage for high-quality products.

The Right Lighting for Furniture & Specialty Retail

Let’s use the same example as above to demonstrate. If you look closely while grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you may be surprised at the level of detail that goes into creating the customer experience. The thoughtful, intricate merchandising and beautifully highlighted produce are perfectly complemented by carefully designed, quality lighting.

Turn your eyes upward and you’ll notice beautiful pendant lights hanging down over the hot food bar, track lighting displaying the fresh, organically-grown produce, and can lighting built into the custom wood signage above the specialty cheese counter. Every detail is consciously designed to provide a specific atmosphere. The reality is, a thoughtfully-crafted customer experience at Whole Foods primes you for the higher price points on those apples or that block of gruyere.

Similarly, high-end retailers use beautiful, high-quality lighting to showcase their products. The color rendering of such lighting tends to be better in advanced lighting, allowing the true colors of the product to come across more fully. Under that kind of lighting, a $1,000 sofa or a $300 chair or a $10,000 dining room set doesn’t look out of place. Your subconscious is ready for those pricetags, thanks in part to the lighting.

Lighting matters, and not just when a store goes dark. The way your brand is perceived and the experience your customers have, even your bottom line, depends on the bulbs overhead.

 

 

Jef Spencer

HFA Operations

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Using Portable Ladders Safely

For any professional or retail organization, the use of portable ladders will eventually come into play on the showroom floor or out in the warehouse. Whether it’s an A-Frame or an extension ladder, we take for granted that they’re the safest way to do our jobs which may not be the case.  Ladders could be unstable, especially if they’re not being used properly.  While there are other solutions that most furniture retailers are not aware of or simply can’t make the investment in, so ladders continue to permeate our job sites.  Therefore, it is important workers know how to properly and safely use portable ladders.

Angles

The proper angle is key, for both extension and straight ladders, in order to keep them from tipping back.  This angle is a 4:1 ratio.  In other words, for every 4 feet in height from the ground to the point the ladder makes contact with the structure, the base must be a foot away from the structure.  Nobody is busting out a measuring tape, let’s be realistic.  However, there a simple way to tell if you’re at the proper angle.  Stand at the base of the ladder so that your toes are touching it.  Extend your arm at a 90-degree angle from your body.  If your hand touches a ring or a side-rail, you are approximately at a 4:1 angle.

Securing the Ladder

Most people are concerned about a ladder tipping backwards, but it’s much more likely it will actually shift laterally(Sideways).  Therefore, it is important that you secure the ladder, near the top, to the structure to prevent it from shifting.  Do not use the ladder’s adjustment rope to secure it to the structure.  Ensure that somebody is holding the ladder in place during the initial setup.

Proper Height

Your ladder must extend 3’ above the level to which you are climbing, or there must be a grab rail that extends 3’ up.  While this is important when dismounting the ladder, it is even more important when mounting the ladder from the top.  The last thing you want is somebody walking to the edge of a building or platform and having to lean down to grab the ladder.  One moment of light-headedness could end in disaster.  To see if your ladder is properly extended, count the rungs.  There is approximately one foot between rungs.

Setup

The ladder will never be a safe tool if it’s not set up in a safe location, to begin with.  Make sure your ladder is on firm, level ground and that the safety feet are in place.  If you need to kick the feet up to dig into the surface material, that’s what they’re there for.  For an A-Frame ladder, ensure you’ve fully opened the ladder and locked it into place.  No A-Frame should ever be used while folded or partially closed.  This is not what the ladder is designed for and not how it’s tested.

Maximum Height

Your A-Frame ladder has a maximum working height.  You’ll notice a label that says “Do Not Sit or Stand On Or Above This Step.”  Pay special attention to the “On or Above” part.  Most people look at that and think that they can step on that step but not above it.  This is not the case.  And definitely, don’t ever straddle the ladder or sit on top of it.  In addition, the label on the side of the ladder contains a maximum working height in case you’re unsure.  If you can’t read the labels, that’s a whole different problem and you need new ladders.

Labels and Paint

Labels on the ladder must be legible.  If they are worn off or painted over, then you cannot use the ladder.  (NOTE: You do not need to destroy or throw away ladders because the label is illegible. Instead, call the manufacturer to get a new label shipped to you.) In addition, you must be able to inspect your ladder for cracks, defects, and damage.  Painting ladders with an opaque paint may prevent you from doing so, therefore do not paint your ladders.

Safe Use

You’ve set up your ladder safely, but are you using it in a manner that invites injury? Always maintain three points of contact when climbing a ladder.  This means two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot.  When done properly this precludes you from carrying tools or materials in your hands, which is a good thing.  While working aloft, your tools should be at the very least in a tool belt or tool vest.  At best, they should be tethered to you.  Also, maintain your center of gravity between the side rails – no leaning off to one side or another.  Keep your eyes out for other hazards or unsafe conditions.  Finally, only use ladders as intended.  Do not separate parts if they’re not intended to be separated.  Do not lash sections together.  Do not climb both sides of an A-Frame unless it is specifically designed for that function.

Inspecting

Ladders are a tool, so you need to treat them like one.  Just with any other tool, you need to inspect your ladder prior to use and remove it from service if anything is wrong with it.  A new ladder is a better option than risking injury to your staff.

Training

Don’t believe that just because we use ladders at home that your employees know how to use them safely.  People use ladders wrong ALL THE TIME.  It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that your employees are properly trained in the safe use of ladders and that you are designating a safety manager to train and inspect your equipment.  This person must be knowledgeable enough to recognize a hazard and most importantly, have the authority to correct it.

Ladders are a very familiar and very useful tool, but as such, people tend to become complacent when working with them.  Unfortunately, complacency can be safety’s mortal enemy.  Make sure that if you are going to choose ladders as the proper means for your workers to complete their work tasks that they are fully aware how to use them safely. Ladders are cheap.  People are not.

 

 

 

                               Jef Spencer

                              HFA Operations

 

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Top 5 Warehouse Tools Every Furniture Operations Needs

There’s something exciting about outfitting a warehouse. Maybe it’s the prospect of creating an efficient workspace buzzing with activity. Or maybe it’s the idea of keeping your staff “stoked” and stocked with the equipment that makes their job easier and safer. Whatever the reason, your warehouse is a sacred place, so you want to do right by it.   Filling your warehouse with high-quality equipment and tools is the first step to take toward honoring your place of work. That’s why we’ve designed this Must-Have Equipment Guide to make sure you have everything you need to be working at peak efficiency. Look it over and make sure you aren’t missing something essential for your warehouse’s everyday operations.

Keepin it Moving

#1 – Hand Truck. For boxed, tall or ridged items having a hand truck on hand makes relocation a snap. Moving items from one location to another is as simple as slide the nose underneath, tip and roll. With a few hand trucks stationed at key locations around the warehouse, relocating boxes, case goods and appliances become an efficient operation. Not to mention that hand trucks are a back saver by almost eliminating the need to lift heavy items manually.

#2 – Dollies, specifically the low 4 wheel dollies. Like hand trucks these are indispensable for moving large items around the warehouse, touch up area and loading dock. While larger items may require a two-person team to lift and position the dolly underneath, once on the dolly items can be pushed with ease. In the touch-up or inspection areas, items on dollies can be spun in place for easy viewing and access to areas needing repair. Having a good supply of dollies in your delivery staging area is beneficial when you can leave product on dollies, ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

Equipment Tip: Having issues with hand trucks/dollies disappearing from the warehouse? Maybe your delivery staff is reallocating them to their trucks. Grab a can of bright spray paint like hot pink or fluorescent green to mark your equipment. It will discourage “borrowing” as the equipment for the warehouse will be easily identifiable when spotted where it should not be.

Keepin it Together

#3 – Stretch Wrap & Dispenser. This versatile supply that every warehouse should has so many uses you’ll be glad to have it around. While wrapping up furniture is not that exciting, the benefits of eliminating possible damage is well worth the effort. Stretch wrap can be used to hold furniture pads in place, keeping doors and drawers shut, bundling cushions with upholstered pieces and so much more! All of this while providing a barrier to moisture during deliveries in inclement weather and helping to reduce damage from abrasion, punctures, and scratches. In some cases, a wrapped piece is easier to handle by providing hand holds on otherwise slick finished surfaces. In some operations, staff easily knows what pieces are ready to head out the door and which pieces need attention. Wrapped and ready or naked and needs attention.

#4 – Packing Tape & Tape Gun. Three words to sum up why every warehouse needs packing tape on hand. In-Dis-Pensible….. Like stretch wrap, tape has many uses and it can be guaranteed that having a few stocked tape dispensers around the warehouse will speed up your operation. Securing boxes, taping down wrap or pads, applying paperwork, labeling boxes or rack locations are just a few of the hundreds of uses your staff will find for this stuff. Again, not that exciting of a supply to have, but you will miss it when it’s not around.

Keepin it Pristine

#5 Touch Up Pens. Let’s face it. No matter how careful, safe and aware the staff is, accidents happen. With delicately finished surfaces on furniture pieces being moved around on concrete, near metal racks, over loading docks, and between other merchandise, bumps and scratches will happen. Having a set of touch up markers on hand for quick repairs and touch ups will keep your deliveries moving out the door on time. Idle furniture pieces waiting for a repair in the middle of your loading dock or warehouse are just screaming to get bumped into again.

 

While there are literally thousands of gadgets, tools, and accessories available for use around the warehouse, these basics will be the most utilized daily. In sticky situations, the best warehouse tool will be the one that is readily available. Make sure that you have the right and most versatile tools on hand so that errors and damage created by “improvising” is not a source of inefficiency.

Digital Links:

Touch Up Pens – https://youtu.be/rxiiyXbduUo
Hand Truck – https://youtu.be/5S7FMtx1yqo
Stretch Wrap – https://youtu.be/nZG-pd_fBLw

For more information, call (800) 422-3778, Option 2.

Jef Spencer
HFA Operations

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Delivery Truck Road Safety

Regardless of time of year, millions of Americans hit the road every day. Sharing the road requires motorists to exercise caution and good judgment and common courtesy. Unfortunately, in the real world this is not the case and truck drivers need to be proactive in practicing road safety.

This is particularly important for delivery truck drivers during the summer and on holiday weekends. During these times, out of town visitors are driving on roads that are less familiar to them.  It’s important to pay attention, put your phone down and as always, buckle up.

The best defense is a good understanding of how motorists SHOULD behave, but sometimes don’t. Tips and tactics that motorists are urged to heed are:

  • Buckle up: Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45% and are a simple way to increase your safety on the road.
  • Slow Down: With the extra highway congestion during holiday travel, speeding becomes even more dangerous. Allow plenty of space between you and other vehicles and reduce your speed.
  • Don’t drive impaired: The holidays are often a time for merriment, but if you’ve had too much to drink, don’t get behind the wheel.
  • Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
  • Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can’t see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can’t see you.
  • Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance before you leave your home can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road. 
  • Be aware of the vehicle in front of you: Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.
  • Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
  • Leave early and avoid risks: Leave early so you won’t be anxious about arriving late and to accommodate delays. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.

While there are organizations with highway safety outreach programs to educate the public, truck drivers need to be on point and aware of the situation around them at all times. Knowing the rules of the road is one thing. Being aware that not everyone on the road follows the rules all of the time is another. Be safe out there!

Jef Spencer
HFA Operations