Warehousing Storage Solutions for Manufacturer’s Service Parts
A manufacturer of high-end machines that maintain, straighten and strengthen existing railroads and transit systems needed more space for production and finished goods warehousing. The company’s options were to build a new production building or tighten up storage in the warehouse. Production wanted to consume some of the service parts storage space rather than build. The storage space targeted for reduction used a mezzanine with bin shelving and conventional static racking to house spare parts. The manufacturer believed there was a better way to store the material than the static system they were currently using. They opted for a combined system using Vertical Lift Modules and Compact Mobile Shelving to solve their space problem. In addition to solving their space needs, the Vertical Lift Modules and Compact Mobile Shelving were able to provide the company with labor reductions, increased picking accuracy, improved ergonomics, and better environmental controls. (view images of Vertical Lift Modules and Compact Mobile Shelving)
How the Vertical Lift Modules & Compact Mobile Shelving Solved the Company’s Space Problem
One of the areas targeted for space reduction was a 35,000-square-foot stock room that held 18,000 SKUs. About two-thirds of the SKUs were stored in a two-story mezzanine with 19,000 square feet of bin shelving that occupied 4,875 square feet of floor space. Seals, small parts, and electronics were stored on the upper level, and bushings, bearings, valves, and machined parts on the lower level. The remaining 5,000 SKUs, comprised of the largest and bulkiest parts, were stored in a bulk storage area that took up 18,000 square feet in the stock room.
The solution was to replace the mezzanine bin system with eight Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) that hold 13,000 of the 18,000 SKUs. Each VLM unit measures just more than 9 feet wide and 10 feet deep. In all, VLM spare parts storage now occupies just 1,440 square feet of floor space—a 70% savings in floor space.
For the remaining open floor space, the company chose Compact Mobile Shelving that can handle large, heavy-duty parts. The system includes seven mobile carriages: each carriage is 8 feet wide, 32 feet deep, and up to 18 feet tall with the ability to carry 16,000 pounds per upright. The carriage aisles can expand like an accordion to accommodate an order selector or a lift truck and then contract afterward for high-capacity storage. Once the installation of the VLMs and Compact Mobile Shelving was finished, the warehouse was able to release approximately 10,000 square feet of floor space to production.
Vertical Lift Modules Improve Productivity, Ergonomics, and Accuracy
In the old configuration, picking was highly manual. Using a list of printed labels, an order selector walked through the mezzanine to each part location to collect the required parts. Generally, one worker picked one order at a time but larger orders could be picked by two people by simply dividing up the labels. In that case, one worker picked the small parts and another picked the large parts. They combined the parts into one order in shipping. As part of the process, employees had to bend down low or reach up high to access parts. If a part was stored on the second level of the mezzanine, they had to carry them down to the first floor to fill an order.
The combination of goods-to-person delivery of parts and light-directed software improved the picking productivity, ergonomics, and accuracy. In the new storage system, parts are labeled during the receiving process with a bar code that identifies the part and receipt numbers. When an order is ready for fulfillment, pick labels are delivered to both the VLM area and the bulk area. When the VLM operator initiates a pick, the VLMs move to retrieve the parts required for that order. Using a cart, the operator travels from VLM to VLM. At each unit, the operator is directed to the exact location of the part by lights that display the part number and quantity to be picked. Pick labels are attached to each part as it is picked and added to the order. When complete, the order waits at the VLM area for any additional parts from the bulk area before it is picked up by shipping or production. Since order selectors no longer walk to pick locations, picking labor has been reduced by 20% and order pick accuracy has increased to 99.7%. Click here to learn more about vertical lift modules.
Vertical Lift Module Environmental Controls Reduce Labor Costs
To combat high humidity, machined and electronic parts were stored in anti-rust bags or coated with a preservative that had to be cleaned off before the parts could be put into use. That process resulted in additional labor costs.
To address environmental concerns, the company brought in a local HVAC contractor to install dehumidifiers to control the air within each VLM unit and create positive pressure. When the shutter doors open to deliver a tray to an order selector, clean air blows out of the unit and prevents dirty air from entering. Most of the anti-rust bags and preservatives have been eliminated, which has extended the life of the materials inside the VLMs.
Contact Us for Warehousing Storage Solutions
This manufacturer was able to improve operations with the Vertical Lift Modules and Compact Mobile Shelving and use it as a selling tool. Customers now see a clean, compact storage area using automated technologies, barcoding, and pick-to-light that gives them the confidence that the company can support their service requirements. If you would like to learn more about this warehousing storage solution, give us a call at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message. We will put you in touch with the material handling storage specialist in your area.