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Publication Date: 03/1/2012
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Automation Optimizes Parts Inventory at M/D Totco
Space- and time-saving vertical lift storage and retrieval module.

For M/D Totco, the need for more manufacturing space was critical. After 25 years in the same location its 250,000-ft.2 and distribution facility in Cedar Park, Texas, it was running out of space. The leading supplier of control, instrumentation and well data systems for drilling activities worldwide, the company has been introducing a broader product line, necessitating increased space for manufacturing, as well as requiring more space for servicing its leased and rented equipment which constitutes a sizable and growing segment of its business. Expanding the building horizontally was not an option.

After a review of its facilities to determine options for space optimization, M/D Totco decided to upgrade several areas of its plant — its main parts warehouse, manufacturing tool crib and electronics center warehouse.

The new system, designed, built and installed by Kardex Remstar, not only solved the space problem, it also increased inventory accuracy and cut inventory labor hours, allowing workers to be redeployed to other areas of the plant.

Wholesales, Manufactures, Rents
M/D Totco wholesales, leases and rents oilfield equipment, and manufactures non-laboratory scales and balances, electronic coils and transformers, process control instruments and oil/gas field machinery.

M/D Totco maintains a fully-integrated manufacturing facility with machining, fabrication, welding and laser capabilities for the production of electronic, mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic assemblies, as well as specialty sensors and CVD (control vertical drift) equipment for down-hole azimuth and direction drilling. Its business is split between direct equipment sales to oil and drilling companies, and equipment rentals. Consequently, the rental equipment eventually comes back into the plant to be serviced.

Manual Inventory Process
Supporting the plant is a 10,000-SKU, 50,000-ft.2 parts warehouse that is dedicated just to inventory, 80 percent of which is used for kitting work orders in manufacturing and 20 percent for replacement parts shipped to its customers. Circuit boards, electronic modules, media discs, rubber gaskets, epoxies, O-rings and PLCs are some of the $23 million in inventory that the warehouse manages. The plant's inventory is extremely comprehensive; it still stocks products from the 1950s and 60s — hydraulic and pneumatic technologies used in oil wells.

Until recently, these parts were inventoried on shelved racking. When a part or kit order was received on a paper printout, the worker would pick by location with the aid of a ladder or cherry picker and load the part onto a cart. When the order was complete, the cart was taken to the manufacturing cell or to a staging area for shipping. This was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process for a warehouse that handles 30,000 individual part picks per month. Another inventory area is the manufacturing tool crib located on the plant floor, handling thousands of tools and consumables needed for manufacturing, such as carbide drill bits, tool fixtures, safety equipment and gauges. This 2,000-ft.2 area was operated manually, and experienced a huge problem with poor tracking of tools, which cost the company many thousands of dollars annually in lost equipment.

The third inventory area of the plant is the electronics center warehouse, also on the plant floor, which services the electronics assembly manufacturing cells. This 800-ft.2 area inventories spools of wire, approximately 75 part numbers, some spools as large as two feet in diameter and thousands of linear feet long. Wire was inventoried on rack shelving and the area was unmanned. When an order required wire, workers would need to sift through piles of wire spools to get to the items they needed, typically requiring 30 minutes to fill an order.

Going Vertical
"The VLMs contain a vertical series of shuttled trays — each 34-in. deep x 8 feet wide — within a 30-foot-high vertical housing," explained Wilton Hockaday, Inventory Control & Warehouse Manager for the facility. "The units reach almost to the 32-foot ceiling of the plant. Each tray can hold up to 1,100 pounds of parts. The VLMs have a much denser storage capacity than our shelving racks." The shuttled vertical lift modules are equipped with the latest put-to-light and pick-to-light technology, and a unique Transaction Information Center (TIC). The TIC is a light bar that runs across the front of the unit and directs the operator to the exact location of the part to be picked, and displays the quantity to be picked as well as the part number.

The TIC assists the VLM operators with four basic functions: a) putting an item in the VLM shuttle location; b) picking a specific or active item; c) communicating a message such as a quantity and description; and d) completing the task and moving on to the next. The VLM in the tool crib area is used to store, check-in and check-out tools for the manufacturing floor. This system is interfaced with CribMaster software, and the two provide a powerful system for inventory control.

Workers submit requests for tools to the crib attendant, who then pulls the tools from the VLM and delivers them to the manufacturing cell. The returned items are then checked back in by the tool crib worker when they are returned by the cell.

Similarly, in the electronics center warehouse, all of the wire spools have been organized within the VLM, for better control of inventory and streamlining accessibility of the wire.

Reduced Footprint
The tool crib's area has been reduced from 2,000-ft.2 down to a total of 300-ft.2 by using the VLM, for an 85 percent reduction in warehouse space, freeing up over 1,700-ft.2 for manufacturing use.

The electronics center warehouse has also reduced its footprint because of the VLM, going from 800-ft.2 down to 72-ft.2. Combined, all three areas have given up more than 18,000-ft.2 to manufacturing.

Contact: Kardex Remstar, Inc., 41 Eisenhower Drive, Westbrook, ME 04092 800-639-5805 fax: 207-854-1610 Web:

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