Inventory Control System Frees Resources for Growth

We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our quality, speed and efficiency to give better value to our customers. A recent growth in business encouraged us to take a look at our logistics functions, specifically our inventory control system. Aisles filled with storage racks were cutting into the square footage that could be assigned to manufacturing, and picking parts with the old system involved workers who could otherwise be allocated to parts production.

Inventory Review
We conducted an analysis to establish what types of parts we typically hold in storage, including their size, dimensions and how long they are stored. We then performed time studies to establish how long it takes us to move the parts. The building itself was also a consideration.

The Carousel Solution
Because going vertical was impractical, we ultimately selected four horizontal automated storage and retrieval carousels (AS/R) built by White Systems. Originally a manufacturer of carousels for dry-cleaning and garment handling, the business soon expanded into carousels for industrial applications. The manufacturing system works in a similar fashion, with shelves of bins rotating instead of garments. For longer items, the bins are removed and the parts are placed vertically and held with a proprietary restraining device to keep them from shifting. Each shelf holds up to 1,200 pounds with 44 shelves per unit.

Automated Picking
Inventory operations are now condensed in one area as opposed to being spread out across rows and rows of shelving. Instead of the operator walking or driving a forklift down multiple aisles to pick parts, the carousel spins to bring the exact bin needed to the picker. The carousel can be programmed to pick up five or six parts in sequence with software from Warehouse Control Systems (WCS).

The WCS software and programming is integrated into our Electronic Resource Planning (ERP) system. The ERP holds all the inventory and inventory transactions, but the WCS controls specific locations of the inventory and the picks themselves.

Mission Accomplished
Our inventory used to take up about 26,000 square feet. Now the number of aisles is greatly reduced. The carousels only take up 1,200 square feet. The automated system will ultimately reduce our inventory footprint by close to 70%. The space saved will be turned into additional manufacturing areas to keep up with the growing demand for our services.

With our old system we would need roughly 20 operator hours to pick 225 orders. The same operation can be done by one operator in one hour using the carousel, all while simultaneously reducing picking errors.

The best part of our new automated inventory control system is we have more manufacturing space to handle upcoming jobs. If you would like to discuss your particular fabrication project, please contact us.