Vertical lift module offers design flexibility for the storage and picking of small parts

By Packaging Digest Staff in Automation on May 21, 2014

Today, the vast majority of small parts inventory in manufacturing facilities, large and small, utilize a person-to-goods model for fulfillment, many operating on a manual paper-based system to prepare assembly line kitting requests, ship spare parts, and store finished orders in their warehouse. In such a traditional inventory model, pickers walk or move a floor truck to the rack and floor locations to manually pick parts or finished goods. This mainstay person-to-goods order picking paradigm has been used for decades by manufacturers with an obvious level of success. But as the quantity of parts has continued to increase, coupled with the growing push to streamline manufacturing costs, the traditional person-to-goods inventory model has come under serious challenge. 

Where once considered acceptable for a picker to spend 60 percent of the time traveling and 40 percent of the time picking, as is typical in a person-to-goods model, manufacturing executives are increasingly looking for more efficient solutions to minimize the amount of wasted time between picks and increase the number of orders processed per picker. Manual picking is a highly labor-intensive function, and can provide significant cost-savings when automated. Not surprisingly, many manufacturing executives are embracing a goods-to-person fulfillment approach as a solution to achieve more efficiency in their picking processes – moving the inventory to the picker who is comparatively more stationary, utilizing advanced technology to facilitate the inventory storage and movement. 

One such automated system is the LogiMat vertical lift module (VLM), manufactured by SSI SCHAEFER. This goods-to-person concept is simple: Incoming goods are put into the high-density, automated, carousel storage VLM. As orders for parts, or for shipping are required to be filled, the items are automatically retrieved from the storage system and brought to the picker at an ergonomic receipt station, where items are then picked from partitioned drawers. Since the picker does not have to walk, the focus at the pick station is on ergonomics and high productivity.

Most versatile vertical lift module

LogiMat is the most advanced and versatile VLM available, providing a suite of capabilities that deliver a six- to ten-fold increase in order picking speeds, reduced picking errors, and a compact footprint.  Its unique features include…

Rack & pinion drive: Used for movement of the elevator and extractor, rack and pinion provides a more positive movement, better tray stability and less servicing compared to chain- and belt-driven designs.

Ergonomics: The opening height adjusts to the worker to ensure an ergonomically correct operating height, while a tilt mechanism allows for a reduction of reach depth, facilitating the ergonomic removal of goods.

Laser pointer: The LogiPointer laser pointer system, assisted by a centrally located touchscreen, identifi­es the location in the drawer of the part to be picked, making the picking of orders clear and easy.

Security: An electrically-driven locking door provides security for storing valuable goods.  Light barriers can be employed to protect the operating opening. Restricted accesses are possible with password protected login.  All system events and errors are logged and can be viewed for maintenance.

Scalable controls software: From a basic controls design enabling storage and retrieval of the trays by identi­fication numbers, to a full inventory control solution supporting multiple zones. Capable of support shelves, pallets, goods reception, consolidation and shipments.

Optimized tray positioning and batch order picking: The smart placement algorithm finds the optimal position for each tray, and always finds the most streamlined picking sequence to optimize the pick process.

Flexible tray & compartment options: Variable tray dimensions (length, width and height), and weight capacities from 550 to 1,980 lbs. Virtually limitless choice of compartment accessories available from SSI SCHAEFER’S extensive plastic container portfolio.

24/7/365 worldwide service & support: Maximizes operational reliability and uptime of the system.

LogiMat streamlines inventory picking at Volvo Construction Equipment

Volvo Construction Equipment’s plant operations located in Shippensburg, PA, has been experiencing growth in its product lines, and the volume of product that is flowing through its facility. This has put the plant on the path of figuring out better ways of storing material in its warehousing operation, while trying to increase the number of inventory turns.

“Our previous strategy involved racking for all of our small, point-of-use parts to be consumed on our assembly line producing Volvo wheeled front-end loaders--500 linear ft of 28-ft-high racks with 16 levels,” says Dante Candelaria, industrial engineer in the Manufacturing Engineering Department at Volvo. “We wanted to condense those racks into a smaller form factor that was more dense, then utilize the remaining square footage for larger, palletized parts.”

“In December, 2012, we installed two LogiMat VLMs, each 12-ft in length and 6-ft deep,” explains Candelaria. “Combined, these units are now holding 5,000 small part numbers, and are a total of 24 linear ft wide leaving us 476 linear ft that we converted from tote racking to 1,600 new pallet racking locations. We have gone from four pickers previously, now to only one, while handling the same volume of orders, if not more. We are able to handle 80 picks per hour, per VLM, with multiple quantities per pick. Needless to say, we are very pleased with the system.”

KNF Neuberger relies on LogiMat

Needing to expand floor space for more production facility, the KNF Neuberger plant in Trenton, NJ, which manufactures compressors and pumps for use with gases and liquids, opted to install two LogiMat VLMs in August, 2012 into its finished goods warehouse. 6,000 finished pumps and compressors, held in floor racking, were transferred into the VLMs which occupied 144 sq ft combined, opening up 500 sq ft of floor space for production. A third LogiMat was installed into the plant’s small parts inventory area for assembly line kitting, to help store a growing 20,000-part inventory, and flanking two existing VLMs, previously installed.

“When you have a lot of parts, and your system goes down, you have to stop your production because you cannot get parts out of the VLM,” says Juergen Strauss, director of operations for KNF Neuberger. “Chains and belts stretch, which impacts the VLM’s operation, increasing downtime and servicing. So, we wanted to take the most secure route that we could go, and opted for the VLM with rack and pinion drive. That was a key consideration that resulted in us getting interested in LogiMat.” 

“We also liked the LogiMat laser pointer system that pinpoints exactly where the parts are in the drawer, giving a color mark display on the HMI screen,” explains Strauss. “Our picking of wrong parts went down to zero. We have since installed LogiMats in four other plants.”

Patrick Roberts writes on advances in logistics and material handling.

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