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Publication Date: 03/1/2010
Archive >  March 2010 Issue >  Production > 

Horizontal Carousels Boost Productivity with Short ROI

Saia Burgess is a manufacturer of a wide range of motion control solutions at its Vandalia, Ohio manufacturing facility. Motion control solutions, such as solenoids and switches, are used in a wide range of products globally including: ATMs, security monitoring systems, medical devices and military systems.

Nine manufacturing departments require keeping just over 10,000 SKUs on hand, previously stored on shelving. "It became apparent we were doing a lot of very redundant activity through the day," said Materials Manager Tim O'Brien. "Sometimes going to the same spot 10 or 12 times a day to pick the same part, just for a different work order."

In a lean effort to do more with less, the company replaced stockroom shelving with four KardexRemstar horizontal carousels integrated with pick-to-light technology and FastPic inventory management software. Seventy percent of all parts (6,800 SKUs) are now stored in the new carousel system, with bulk SKUs remaining on the shelving. "We reduced the number of people required, cycle count accuracy is higher and we are able to pick orders faster and more efficiently; it was a very successful lean effort," said O'Brien.

Prior to introducing automation into the stockroom, workers had a one-on-one relationship with an order, each worker focusing on picking one order at a time. Pick tickets were generated daily and workers would walk throughout the shelving searching for all the parts they needed to complete the order. When the order was complete, they would deliver it to the correct department and return to the stockroom to pick the next order in the pile of pick tickets. Workers often visited fast moving part locations several times a day, creating redundant activity.

The KardexRemstar system dramatically changed the way orders were processed. One worker can now batch pick up to six orders simultaneously without walking or searching for parts. Eight assembly department group leaders print material packets indicating the parts they require. When the material packets are printed, the order is downloaded from the Material Requirements Planning (MRP) Movex software to the FastPic inventory management software. Part orders can be entered days before the material is required. The department manager delivers the materials packet and a cart to the stockroom, indicating the order is ready to be picked.

The carousel operator initiates six orders at a time using the FastPic inventory management software. Each order is assigned a separate position on the batch station. The carousels then rotate for the first pick, using pick lights to direct the operator to the exact location of the first pick. The operator picks the quantity indicated by the pick light and turns to the batch station to distribute the parts among the six orders as directed by the put lights. As the operator is distributing the parts from the first pick, the other carousels are rotating to present the next pick, virtually eliminating operator dwell time. This process repeats until the six orders in the batch are filled. Each order is then placed on the cart provided by the department manager.

Any parts required for an order that are physically stored off the carousel are flagged at the beginning of the batch. Another stockroom picker will retrieve these parts from the shelving and then match them up with the orders on the department carts. All orders are filled and delivered to the correct manufacturing department within 24 hours. The stockroom processes an average of 220 orders per week, each averaging about eight lines per order. Small percentages (about 10 percent) of orders are shipped directly to customers, with no value added manufacturing required. These orders are processed in the same way; the cart is simply delivered to the shipping department for shipment directly to the customer. The previous system required five people to pick orders manually from shelving. The stockroom now requires three people for picking, one to pick from the carousel, one to pick from bulk storage and one to replenish the carousels on second shift. That's a 40 percent labor savings.

In addition to the labor reduction, Saia Burgess was able to recover floor space and get its parts all back under one roof. Previously, the 7,000 square foot on site stockroom was over capacity, forcing slow moving items to be stored off site in an additional 1,600 square foot space. All parts are now stored onsite in a 5,000 square foot automated stock room, saving 42 percent floor space and eliminating a $4,000 off site monthly storage charge. Of the 2,000 square feet that was recovered on site, a portion has been used to expand manufacturing (value added operations) and a portion was used to expand the shipping department.

In manufacturing environments, hot picks are inevitable and occur when parts are needed in manufacturing immediately due to scrapped or lost pieces. When a manufacturing operator identifies the need for a hot pick, he fills out a materials request form and heads to the stockroom. With the push of a button the carousel operator is able to interrupt the batch orders they are picking, retrieve the hot pick, and then easily return to picking the batch of orders. Saia Burgess did an extensive ROI analysis before leaning its stockroom operations. Coincidentally, three pickers in the stockroom were planning to retire in the next few months. Not replacing their positions and adding their saved salaries along with the gained efficiencies created an easy ROI of 18 months.

Contact: KardexRemstar, 41 Eisenhower Dr., Westbrook, ME 04092 800-639-5805 or 207-854-1861 fax: 207-854-1610 Web:

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