To remain competitive, manufacturers continually strive for shorter production lead times and reduced inventory, a trend that makes efficient equipment utilization important to the bottom line. One company that has stepped up to this challenge is machine tool builder Mazak, which recently automated its North American parts center in Florence, Kentucky with a parts storage and retrieval system from KardexRemstar (Westbrook, Maine). The system handles 39,000 different part numbers with less labor and improved speed compared to the previous method.
Until recently, the company’s stockroom consisted of pallet racks and small, manually operated vertical lift modules (VLMs). The company might take as many as 1,200 part orders per day, orders that typically arrive during the afternoon. These orders have to be turned around for same-day delivery in a 6-hour window, which, using the manual VLMs, led to a significant investment in time and manpower.
To automate the facility, KardexRemstar installed 13 shuttle VLMs grouped in four pods arranged in pick-and-pass workstations. The system incorporates parts identification with bar coding, pick-to-light, inventory management software and computerized order monitoring and tracking. As a result, productivity has increased 80 percent, labor requirements have been reduced by 44 percent and part numbers picked have increased by 70 percent. Additionally, storage capacity in the facility increased by 95 percent due to the denser storage capabilities of the new shuttle VLMs.
“Prior to this system, we were in the 95-plus percent range of shipping orders same-day,” says Steve Trammel, national parts manager with Mazak. “Now we’re at 97.5 percent. Same-day shipping is no longer an issue, and that has been a big improvement.”