Automated storage supports manufacturer’s growth
The warehouse is now filling twice the orders and has doubled capacity with the same footprint and labor requirements.
Since 1953, Park Industries in St. Cloud, Minn., has manufactured stoneworking machines that cut, polish and edge stone into slabs for commercial and home use. After experiencing rapid growth over the last five years, the warehouse was straining to keep up with its paper-based picking process and next-day delivery guarantee. New vertical lift modules (VLM) have enabled the company to fill twice the number of orders while doubling capacity in the same footprint.
Previously, the warehouse’s manual picking process saw associates pushing picking carts up and down aisles of shelving while fulfilling orders from an assortment of more than 5,000 unique machine parts.
“It was very messy. The aisles were so crowded with parts it was difficult to maneuver the carts down the aisles, and when the aisle was clear finding parts was still tough,” says Elaine Ohman, inventory control manager. “We were bursting at the seams.”
The company began a search for an automated solution that would meet six criteria:
- Use the vertical height in the facility to create additional capacity.
- Deliver parts to the worker automatically to eliminate wasted walk time.
- Easily expanded to handle future growth.
- Integrate and communicate with the current enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
- Provide easy access to data and reporting.
- User friendly.
The solution (Kardex Remstar) includes four VLMs with pick-to-light technology and integrated inventory management software. The installation occurred in stages, starting with two VLMs, adding a third VLM two years later, and a fourth VLM recently. In the same footprint and using the same labor requirements, the warehouse now fills twice the number of orders and has doubled inventory capacity. Inventory accuracy has increased from 90% to 98%.
The warehouse receives two types of orders. Roughly half are service orders for repair parts to be shipped to customers while the other half are work orders to be delivered to support the production line. Work orders are fulfilled a day ahead of production while service orders are filled on the same day. Some larger bulk items are held in a separate pallet rack zone within the warehouse. When an order requires parts from the pallet rack, these parts are picked and combined with the parts from the VLM zone before the order is delivered to production or shipping.
“We have introduced five new product lines since installing the first VLMs,” said Ohman, “we couldn’t have done it without an investment in technology that was critical to supporting our growth.”