Many manufacturers employ sophisticated CNC lathes, CNC machining centers, fiber lasers, robotics and measuring devices yet still store their parts, components and jigs on racks or on the floor. The costs of doing so are clear, but what’s the solution?
The solution: Think vertical
Vertical lift modules (VLM) are fully enclosed automated storage units containing trays accessed by a lifting platform with an inserter/extractor. The trays are delivered to operators at an ergonomic height for easy access.
Product heights and tray weights are measured automatically by the module’s on-board sensors each time a tray is returned to the system. The tray is then assigned an optimal storage location based on the height of its contents.
Manufacturers can recover up to 90 per cent of their floor space by installing VLMs to reach just a few inches from the ceiling. For example, Modula’s LIFT series of VLMs offer up to 70 000kg of gross unit load capacity, shrinking 840m² of traditional storage to a mere 14m².
The LIFT series uses adjustable storage trays in a vertical axis lifting design driven by two steel-reinforced belts. The lifting system is guided by eight high-density polyethylene (HDPE) rollers for each side of the elevator. Each tray has a net payload capacity of up to 750kg and the entire unit has a throughput of up to 120 trays per hour, depending on its configuration.
Modula’s Warehouse Management Software (WMS) further enhances productivity by enabling repetitive tasks to be automated and reducing picking and replenishment errors. The inventory optimisation feature continually searches for optimal locations to squeeze space and reduce inventory.
More importantly, the LIFT’s operating system is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, even for lower skilled operators. This reduces the necessary training time as well as dependence on those veteran operators.
Some inventory costs like capital and financial costs are unavoidable. Nevertheless, 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 per cent can lower building and maintenance costs. In addition, the compact design of VLMs means a much higher inventory saturation point.
VLMs can also reduce the costs of physical handling and the associated human resource expenses. Companies that have installed VLMs have applauded their usability, with operators working comfortably on the units within the first day of their installation.
Optional combinations of LED displays, laser pointers and put-to-light solutions can ensure fast and accurate inventory processing, even from novice or low skill operators.
By minimising walking and climbing distances, VLMs also improve ergonomics and productivity, as well as reducing the risk of lost time accidents due to slips, trips and falls.
Finally, VLMs can reduce the costs associated with inventory risks by increasing inventory security. The units can be configured to admit only authorised operators, and WMS can keep track of every part stored in the unit. This means no more missing parts taking up inventory space until they’re hunted down manually.
Maintaining an inventory is expensive, especially considering all the hidden costs. If your inventory seems to be costing more than it’s worth, it might be time to consider installing vertical lift modules.