|Order picking made easy with vertical lift storage system that uses rack-and-pinion drives for maximum reliability. |
Electronic product manufacturers must constantly wrestle with conflicting requirements for improved performance, reduced picking costs, and more consolidated floor space for their small parts inventory. Many facilities apply a person-to-goods model for small parts fulfillment, using a manual, paper-based approach to prepare assembly-line parts kits, maintain spare parts, and even store finished orders in a warehouse. According to such a traditional model, pickers walk or move a truck to different locations to pick parts or find finished goods. This approach has been successfully applied for decades but, with the needs to manage increasing parts and also streamline manufacturing costs, it may be time to explore alternative ways to manage electronic inventory.
Manual parts picking is very labor-intensive. Higher efficiency and cost savings are possible through automation. Traditional "person-to-goods" electronic inventory models have considered it acceptable for a picker to spend 60 percent of the time traveling to the various inventory locations and 40 percent of the time picking the inventory needed for manufacturing assembly. But manufacturers are increasingly seeking more efficient inventory management solutions, minimizing wasted time between picking different parts to increase the number of parts orders processed per picker.
The flexible inventory management system includes scalable control software that supports a wide range of functions, from storage and retrieval of parts trays by identification numbers to a full inventory control solution across multiple zones.
To achieve greater efficiency in their picking processes, many manufacturers are embracing a "goods-to-person" fulfillment approach that moves inventory to a more stationary picker and automates parts inventory storage and movement. The LogiMat® Vertical Lift Module (VLM) from SSI SCHAEFER (www.ssi-schaefer.us) is an example of one such automated inventory solution that speeds the movement of small electronic parts with efficient use of storage space. It uses a rack-and-pinion drive and scalable controls architecture with ergonomic picking design.
In operation, incoming parts are stored within the high-density LogiMat VLM system. As parts are needed, the items are automatically retrieved from the storage system and brought to a picker at an ergonomic receipt station, where items are then picked from partitioned trays. Since the picker does not have to walk, the focus at the pick station is on ergonomics and high productivity.
Most Versatile VLM
The LogiMat VLM system offers a number of unique features designed to provide a sixfold to tenfold increase in order picking speeds with reduced picking errors within a compact footprint on manufacturing facility floor. It employs a rack-and-pinion drive for movement of its elevator and extractor, with improved tray stability and less servicing required compared to chain-driven or belt-driven VLM systems. The system's opening height adjusts to a particular worker, to ensure an ergonomically correct operating height. A tilt mechanism allows for reduction of reach depth to facilitate ergonomic removal of parts.
The LogiMat VLM system is powered by the LogiPointer® laser pointer system. This laser pointer, assisted by a centrally located touch screen, identifies the location in the tray of a part to be picked, simplifying the picking of orders. An electrically driven locking door on the VLM system provides security for storing valuable goods. Light barriers can be employed to protect the operating opening. Password-protected login procedures can be used to restrict access to each system. All system events and errors are logged and can be viewed for maintenance.
The flexible inventory management system includes scalable control software that supports a wide range of functions, from storage and retrieval of parts trays by identification numbers to a full inventory control solution across multiple zones. The software can organize shelves, pallets, reception of new goods, consolidation of existing parts, and product shipments. Each LogiMat VLM system is guided by a smart placement algorithm to find the optimal position for each parts tray. The algorithm will always find the most streamlined sequence to optimize the picking process. The system is complemented by a wide range of tray and compartment options and accessories with different tray dimensions available and weight capacities extending from 550 to 1,650 lbs and worldwide, full-year support and service.
LogiMat Streamlines Volvo
Volvo Construction Equipment's Shippensburg, Pennsylvania plant has experienced recent growth in its product lines. As a result, the plant has set about finding better ways of storing material in its warehousing operation, while trying to increase the number of inventory turns. Dante Candelaria, Industrial Engineer in Volvo's Manufacturing Engineering Department, details his company's earlier approach of having small parts spread across a production line: "Our previous strategy involved racking for all of our small, point-of-use parts to be consumed on our assembly line producing Volvo wheeled front-end loaders — 500 linear ft. of 28-ft.-high racks with 16 levels." He added that the firm sought a more compact means of maintaining those small parts: "We wanted to condense those racks into a smaller form factor that was more dense, and then utilize the remaining square footage for larger, palletized parts."
Candelaria explains: "In December, 2012, we installed two LogiMat VLMs, each 12-ft. in length and 6-ft. deep. Combined, these units now hold 5,000 small part numbers, and are a total of 24 linear ft. wide leaving us 476 linear ft. that we converted from tote racking to 1,600 new pallet racking locations. We have gone from four pickers previously, now to only one, while handling the same volume of orders, if not more. We are able to handle 80 picks per hour, per VLM, with multiple quantities per pick. Needless to say, we are very pleased with the system."
Increasing Production at KNF Neuberger
Needing to expand floor space for increased production capability, the KNF Neuberger plant in Trenton, New Jersey, which manufactures compressors and pumps for use with gases and liquids, opted to install two LogiMat VLMs in August, 2012 into its finished goods warehouse. A total of 6,000 finished pumps and compressors, held in floor racking, were transferred into the two VLMs which occupied 144 ft.2 combined floor space, opening up 500 ft.2 floor space for production. Flanking these two VLMs, a third LogiMat VLM was installed in the plant's small parts inventory area for assembly line kitting and to help store a growing 20,000-part inventory.
Juergen Strauss, Director of Operations for KNF Neuberger, pointed out the need for storage system reliability: "When you have a lot of parts, and your system goes down, you have to stop your production because you cannot get parts out of the VLM. Chains and belts stretch, which impacts the VLM's operation, increasing downtime and servicing. So, we wanted to take the most secure route that we could go, and opted for the VLM with rack-and-pinion drive. That was a key consideration that resulted in us getting interested in LogiMat." Strauss also noted: "We also liked the LogiMat laser pointer system that pinpoints exactly where the parts are in the tray, giving a color mark display on the HMI screen. Our picking of wrong parts went down to zero. We have since installed LogiMats in four other plants."
Contact: SSI Schaefer Systems International, Inc., Materials Handling Div., 10021 Westlake Dr., Charlotte, NC 28273 704-944-4500 x 3571 E-mail: email@example.com Web: http://www.ssi-schaefer.us