Restoration companies continue to expand and enhance their contents processing division. The goals of a successful, profitable division are to expand their capabilities to be able to restore more items in-house, increase productivity, and increase volume processing while minimizing liabilities and increasing profitability. Admittedly, it’s a lot to accomplish simultaneously.

With that said, it is vital to be aware of potential pack-out pitfalls and implement procedures to avoid them.

Common Pack Out Challenges

I polled 45 companies in the U.S. and Canada with annual revenues range from $1.5 to $25 million. They listed their most common pack out challenges – 40 all together. In “Avoiding Pack-out Pitfalls” in the summer 2008 issue of R&R, I addressed four areas of concern. Today we’ll look a single but crucial issue: the contents processing facility.

The Challenge: Low productivity and marginal profitability when cleaning and processing contents at your warehouse.

The Cause: Inefficient facility layout. Not enough floor space allotted for proper flow of contents through the processing center.

The Solution: Focus on the four core functions:
  1. Processing
    • Boxed contents – Items such as dishes, knick-knacks, books, etc.
    • Large items processing - Hard furniture, appliances, upholstered furniture and area rugs.
  2. Drying
  3. Deodorizing
  4. Storage

The ideal path through the facility is for contents to go from storage to processing area to drying and deodorizing and back to storage. All contents may not need to be dried and deodorized; the path should be as direct as possible.

Transferring Contents through the Facility

To minimize handling and increase productivity, transfer multiples boxes of contents to be processed rather carrying one box at a time. One way is to use stainless steel rolling racks. It is recommended to use two at each processing area, one for the dirty contents to be processed and one for the clean contents once they are re-boxed. When assembling the rolling racks, space the first shelf to accommodate medium size (3.0 cubic feet) boxes and the remainder of the shelves to fit small (1.5 cubic feet) boxes.

Take a cart to your storage area and load it with nine to 12 boxes of dirty contents to be cleaned at the appropriate cleaning station. For example, select boxes with contents which will be hand-washed at your sink area, and a separate rack loaded with boxes to be cleaned at the ultrasonic cleaning station or document processing area. As contents are cleaned and packed into clean boxes, transfer them to an empty rolling rack to be transferred to the next processing area – whether it is the deodorizing room, drying room, or back to storage.

Processing Areas
Boxed contents include items such as dishes, knick-knacks, books, antiques, electronics, etc. Options for cleaning boxed contents include :
  • Hand-washing area with a U-Shaped cleaning station with a triple bowl sink and goose neck sprayer.
  • Electronics processing area with an aqueous spray cabinet or nitrogen-based process.
  • Ultrasonics cleaning area for cleaning a wide variety of contents. On many projects, as much as 70-80% of wet washable contents can be processed in an ultrasonic tank.
  • Dry processing area for processing books, documents, files, artwork on paper, etc. consists of tables and rolling carts.

A wash bay can be constructed with one to three waterproof walls and a drain. With one waterproof wall, simply hang a surround-style shower curtain to contain the overspray. It is supplied with hot and cold water along with de-ionized water. Large items like lawn furniture, motorcycles, lawn mowers, appliances, electronics and chandeliers can be easily and safely processed vs. cleaning them manually with a bucket of water and brushes.

Upholstered Furniture and Area Rugs
Upholstery and area rugs can be cleaned with a truckmount unit in an area designated near an overhead exterior door, or you can choose to use a portable upholstery machine. If you are cleaning area rugs you will need to build overhead rug racks to dry the rugs.

Drying Room
A drying room is used for contents from water loss jobs, such as wet furniture, clothing and documents. It is also used for drying contents processed in bulk in the ultrasonic tank, select soft goods and sporting equipment, and upholstered items such as sofas and mattresses. If using for electronics drying it needs to maintain a temperature of about 120-degrees F for an 8-hour cycle. To dry wet documents, place the books and documents on the rolling racks for circulation.

Deodorizing Room
A deodorizing room can be set up to deodorize contents with several different technologies. Ozone has been a popular way to deodorize contents, but it may cause accelerated aging on many types of surfaces. Experiment with several types of deodorization techniques. Units that use essential oils, such as Vaportek machines, are a viable option. Start with the least aggressive means to deodorize and then work up. Ozone should be considered an aggressive method that has the potential to bleach wet fabrics and cause brittleness in rubber and vinyl.

Storage Area
To maximize the floor space and height of a facility, wooden vaults or crates allow you to condense storage capacity. The most common dimension of vaults is 7’ x 5’ x 7.5’. Commercial open shelving is useful for proper storage of sofas, appliances, and other odd-shaped items.

Boxed contents can be stored in wooden storage vaults or crates and they may be palletized and stretch-wrapped. Hard furniture can be wrapped and stored in vaults, on pallets, or on open shelving. Upholstered furniture should be wrapped in sofa bags, or wrapped in clean moving pads and stretch wrapped so that air-borne dust does not resettle on furniture. Recommended storage methods are either placement on a pallet for storing on open shelving, or in a sofa vault with interior shelves.

It is not recommended to store upholstered furniture in 7-foot high vaults, because nothing can be placed on top of the pieces. Stacking boxes on upholstered furniture will permanently crush and distort cushions. For appliances, open shelving can be constructed with 7-foot high floor level sections that will accommodate refrigerators. High-value contents require a locked room or a series of individual lockers be constructed for storage of artwork, antiques, high-ticket electronics or fragile items.

Planning for Future Growth

As you expand your contents processing capabilities, decisions will need to be made as to whether you will modify your current facility, or build or lease a warehouse. As you make your plans, consider developing a footprint that will allow for future growth; you want to avoid unnecessary retrofitting. Planning now for growth will save you money and time in the future.

Be realistic with your budget and set goals as to what you want to accomplish in the next 6 months, a year or 5 years. Be assured that modifications for a more efficient facility layout will pay off.