making room for growth
A leading distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases along with quality hardgoods such as welding and cutting equipment was in the development of a new gas manufacturing laboratory but was struggling to find room for it in their 6,500 square foot central warehouse. Instead of a building expansion, the gas service distributor decided to install shuttle vertical lift modules (VLMs) to maximize their available floorspace so they could keep their same building size.
Within the warehouse, hardgoods were store in standard racks and shelving, making workers travel throughout the static systems and up and down ladders collecting the parts they needed to fulfill an order. It was space-consuming, time-intensive, and increased risks of worker injury. One shuttle VLM was able to house nearly half of their hardgoods inventory and consolidate space for their small parts, opening up 2,000 square feet for the new specialty laboratory. Click here to learn more about automated storage systems.
productivity, space, ergonomics
In addition to the saved floor space, the distributor is now able to fill more orders due to the increased productivity that the VLM brings. The hardgoods central warehouse still requires three workers to pick and assemble orders, but they have increased their store support from 10 to 15 and increased their customer base. Since the VLM has increased orders by 40%, the shuttles have allowed them to support this growth without having to add additional labor.
The VLM has also reduced the need for ladders, since it delivers items directly to workers at an ergonomic picking window. Workers stand firmly on the ground while counting the number of items needed to fulfill an order instead of having to do it while balancing on a ladder. Workers are now both safer and more efficient.
The order fulfillment process itself hasn’t changed significantly, but delivering the parts to the worker has increased the speed of picking exponentially. Orders are received from a store or through the sales department and entered into their inventory management system. A pick ticket prints where in the warehouse one of the workers fills the order. The VLM holds smaller parts (1,700 SKUs) while the larger items are stored on shelving (2,000 SKUs). Each SKU is marked with a specific bin location. The worker first visits the VLM and types in the tray number identified on the pick ticket using the keypad controller, and the VLM delivers the tray to the worker. The worker then uses the pick ticket to identify where on the tray the needed item is located. Then the worker picks the rest of the items from the shelving. Although the VLM was originally installed to free up floor space and avoid expansion, the additional productivity and ergonomic benefits have allowed the company to manage their growth effectively.
contact us for shuttle VLMs
If your business is growing but a building expansion isn’t realistic, we can help. Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for shuttle VLMs to help maximize available floor space while improving productivity and ergonomics. We will even provide a free consultation to determine your exact needs before the design process begins. To learn more or to speak with a specialist, call us at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.