Vertical Storage Solutions for Lean Manufacturing: Part 2

Guest blog from MHI Member Company Modula

While processes differ between factories and warehouses, the typical types of waste found are quite similar and always involve inefficient use of time and money. Lean manufacturing is based on identifying and eliminating waste. In lean manufacturing, waste is any expense or effort which doesn’t generate a product or a service that a potential client is willing to pay for. We’ve identified 8 different areas where a VLM can help create more lean manufacturing.

This is part 2 of a two-part series on vertical storage solutions for lean manufacturing. Read part 1 here.

5. Waiting

Waiting waste is often the outcome of unbalanced processes causing a delay in the flow, as one process takes longer than the next one. This leaves operators standing idle waiting for the previous process’s bottlenecks to be cleared out or for the products to be delivered where they are needed.
When production stalls, no value is being produced, but the cost of overhead operations continues to grow. This type of waste is also a result of a lack of information in the process which may cause production staff to wait for instructions from other departments, or to know which product is required to be run next.

Lean manufacturing aims to ensure a steady flow in the production that prevents interruptions or slowdowns. Vertical storage solutions significantly help reduce the time spent on order processing. Operators can process even complex orders in the shortest possible time, with the highest quality level, even during peak workload times as they don`t have to wait between jobs or to retrieve parts.

As stated, vertical lift modules automatically deliver items to the operator with a simple touch on the copilot console or a scan of a barcode. This feature drastically reduces handling times both in picking and replenishing as there is no walking back and forth through the warehouse to find and retrieve ordered goods. Furthermore, thanks to the simple inventory management software and the visual picking aids, operators can quickly and easily identify the items needed, reducing picking errors that could cause interruptions in the operations flow.

6. Inventory

Inventory is a manufacturing waste because it is value that, by being held, generates additional costs including capital, storage space, inventory service, inventory risk and stock out/shortage costs.

For example, “storage space costs” generate building and facility maintenance expenses, “inventory services costs” are tied to insurance fees and “inventory risk costs” involves the possibility that items might fall in value, be damaged, or lost over the period they are stored.

Some inventory costs — like the capital/financial costs — are unavoidable, but VLMs can significantly reduce the costs of storage space, inventory services and inventory risk. Reducing the necessary size of inventory storage space by up to 90% can lower building and maintenance costs. Thanks to a height detection system, the height of each tray is measured as the tray is put away, allowing for the densest storage location to be determined in real time, maximizing the storage density within the unit.

VLMs can also reduce the costs of physical labor and the associated human resource expenses, and decrease the costs associated with inventory risks by increasing inventory security.

The units can be configured to admit only authorized operators, and WMS can keep track of SKUs stored in the unit. This means no more missing parts taking up inventory space until they’re hunted down manually.

7. Transportation

Moving product costs money. Often manufacturing and warehouse areas are not optimized, and a lot of space is wasted. A functional layout and an efficient use of the available space can help companies to operate in an efficient manner, while eliminating the high cost of moving products around with no value being added.

Thanks to the enclosed system of vertically arranged trays, VLMs utilize the available room height from floor to ceiling, allowing for items to be stored up to 46 ft. high in a safe and secure unit. Manufacturers can save valuable floor space and concentrate operations in a smaller footprint, eliminating motion and transportation wastes, because resources don’t need to move products without generating value.

Following the parts to picker’s principle, these automated storage systems deliver the items to the fixed operator’s location where the picking or replenishment operations take place. This reduces the movements of goods and the cost of potential damages during the transportation.

8. Motion

Motion waste is typically generated by employees moving around without adding value to the product, service or process. This is typically caused by poor process design as well as wrong workstation and shop layout.

The implementation of vertical storage solutions can easily solve this problem as they automatically deliver parts to the picker, rather than having the picker go and locate the parts within long aisles of shelving and cabinets.

Walking time for parts retrieval is reduced up to 70%, when compared to static shelving. Consequently, nonproductive indirect labor is replaced by more productive direct labor and productivity can be increased by approximately 2.5 times.

Motion can also result in physical injury to employees which may incur even greater costs to the business. Vertical storage solutions not only minimize significantly the risk of injury from motion, but also offer maximum safety for personnel in even the most demanding working conditions. Inventory is delivered directly to employees without exposing them to moving parts or requiring them to use heavy machinery. Products and tools are removed from the floor, eliminating tripping hazards and many safety features including security light curtains to prevent injuries for operators.