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Consolidating facilities, inventory and personnel improves bottom line

Friday September 14, 2001 Written by  Ed Romaine
Material flow in a typical manufacturing and distribution operation can account for almost 90 percent of a facility's operating time, and the movement and storage of inventory can represent more than half of the cost of production. In a time of economic uncertainty, the efficiency of production operations becomes critical to the success of any company. You can make significant improvements in efficiency by consolidating your storage and retrieval operations. One solution is the installation of vertical automated storage and retrieval systems. These systems, which take advantage of unused overhead space to create a new storage and retrieval dimension, can solve many of the problems associated with poor floor space utilization, productivity, centralized stockrooms, information and inventory management, and quick-response/just-in-time (JIT) disciplines. Conventional static storage systems, like shelving, require workers to spend the majority of their time traveling aisles searching for items. Vertical storage and retrieval systems allow quick access to goods by delivering the inventory to the operator. In some applications, employee productivity can increase by more than 2.5 times. Redundant or non-essential product-handling can be reduced with automated vertical systems, especially in work-in-process applications where stock is prone to relocation due to changing space needs. Saved time means less operating cost and improved customer service. Labour costs are reduced due to the vertical carousel's quick retrieval times and the capability to meet varying throughput requirements while not being bound by thresholds imposed by limited-access systems. Typically, an operator's walk and search-time is reversed from that of conventional systems to 70 percent picking and only 30 percent dwell time. Another reason for considering a vertical carousel is the improved space utilization it offers. Depending on usable building interior heights, up to 75 percent of a conventional storage system's occupied floor space can be recovered. By taking advantage of unused overhead space, vertical storage and retrieval systems maximize the vertical cube availability of any facility, creating storage space where none existed. The small unit footprint makes vertical carousels especially valuable for point-of-use storage and JIT applications. Improved space utilization can also extend the useful life of existing facilities, eliminating the need for expensive brick and mortar expansion to meet growth requirements. Since automated vertical storage systems are totally enclosed and lockable to protect products from external hazards and reduce product damage and pilfering, inventories can be reduced in many operations. Stock rotation can be improved by using computerized picking controls. Ed Romaine is the director of market and e-commerce business development for Remstar International. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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