Pipe supplier reduces aisle width, material handling

The Tube & Pipe Journal October/November 2009
October 26, 2009

Pipe-Valves Inc., a distributor of industrial pipes and valves in Columbus, Ohio, had a small facility and stored all of its products outdoors. The products were prone to weather damage and the storage layout required handling some products two or three times. A move to a bigger facility and the purchase of two Combilift sideloading industrial trucks have made the company approximately 30 percent more efficient.


Pipe-Valves Inc., Columbus, Ohio, opened its doors for business 46 years ago. A family-owned company, it employs 40 people and is an independent supplier of industrial pipe and tube and related products, such as valves, actuators, fittings, and gauges. It serves industrial accounts and mechanical contractors throughout the Midwest.

The company's previous facility was 35,000 sq. ft., and the entire pipe stock was stored outside in 20-ft.-wide aisles. All trailers were loaded and offloaded outside, and the forklift operators had to lift the pipes overhead to clear the trucks. Weather damage created unnecessary scrap, and handling damage was not uncommon; in some cases it was necessary to cut 6 in. from a damaged pipe. Furthermore, the company block-stacked pipe, resulting in double and triple handling of the product.

In 2007 the company implemented plans to expand its business, which included purchasing a building with more than four times the floor space at 144,000 sq. ft.

Company management approached Hy-Tek, an industrial truck dealer, for assistance with specifying material handling equipment to address three key requirements:
  1. Storing the entire inventory indoors
  2. Better access to A, B, and C product items
  3. Handling 21-ft. pipe lengths in the staging area


Based on the consultations, the company purchased two Combilift models, a C8000 and a C10000XL. Filling the roles of counterbalanced forklift, sideloader, and aisle truck, they lift loads of 8,000 and 10,000 lbs., respectively.

The company now not only has more space, but it uses the space efficiently.

The old building was small, and the company stored its inventory outdoors. Now it stores its entire stock indoors on cantilevered racks. This allows for better tracking and more efficient movement of A, B, and C material.

"The key of the Combilifts is their versatility," said Joe Jacob, the company president. "We can offload and maneuver products around our warehouse with just one type of forklift, reducing any double or triple handling."

Furthermore, the new trucks' versatility allowed the company to reduce its aisle width from 20 ft. to 12 ft.

The result is improved employee productivity, which is up about 30 percent,

according to the company. In the old facility the company used several operators to pull orders; now just one operator pulls orders from the warehouse to the staging area. The trucks are loaded faster and get out on the road sooner than before.

"In the morning, we now have one

operator pulling orders and staging loads ready for truck drivers to dispatch," said Tim Collins, vice president of operations. "Before we started storing pipe indoors, trucks were not getting on the road until 8:30 a.m., but [now] we can load trucks the night before," said Jacob. ";In the morning, the Combilifts can operate in the storage and staging area with 21-ft. pipes, which now allows us to get our trucks loaded in the afternoons so that [they] hit the road between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. the next morning."

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The Tube & Pipe Journal

The Tube & Pipe Journal became the first magazine dedicated to serving the metal tube and pipe industry in 1990. Today, it remains the only North American publication devoted to this industry and it has become the most trusted source of information for tube and pipe professionals.

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