Archive for the ‘Industrial Storage Equipment’ Category

How to Maximize Warehouse Space Without Expanding

It’s not uncommon for warehouses to quickly run out of space due to the rapid growth during seasonal peaks or even from a slow sales period. There are generally three types of warehouse space inefficiencies that can be addressed to maximize warehouse space without having to overhaul your existing storage or spend resources on relocation or expansion.

Inefficiency #1:  Too much overstock

When warehouses don’t have an efficient inventory management system, they often overstock frequently-used items so they are always readily available. However, a warehouse with too much overstock will typically operate below productivity and safety standards. Pallets of overstock are often stored in aisles, stacked in walkway or dock areas, placed on rack endcaps, or with multiple SKUs of items mixed into single bins. This creates safety hazards for workers and drastically reduces visibility, which in turn leads to difficulty in locating inventory and decreased productivity. Inventory peaks need to be handled with extra labor.maximize warehouse storage space

Inefficiency #2: Too much undemanded product

Too much product that isn’t moving through the warehouse usually indicates that the warehouse isn’t managing inventory levels or outdated product properly. Obsolete inventory remains untouched for months or years. Remember that out-of-date inventory brings no value to the open market and just eats up space.

Inefficiency #3: Poorly used existing space

This inefficiency is a common and inevitable occurrence in warehouses caused by growth or changing storage and service requirements, but it should only be an occasional problem that is quickly fixed by inventory re-evaluations. Warehouses often incur long-term penalties to accomplish short-term goals that end up taking valuable floor space and labor from principal warehouse functions. Other forms of poor space utilization include little vertical space utilization, wide aisles, multiple products in single bin locations (as often occurs with overstocks), and partial units being stored in full unit locations.

Using Your Existing Space

maximize warehouse space with WMSWhen expansion or relocation isn’t an option, try to maximize warehouse space in one or more of the following ways: 1) Outside or temporary storage, 2) Redesigning your warehouse, and 3) Improving your inventory management.

Outside Storage

Overstock can occur when warehouses prepare for seasonal peaks or new products. In these cases, overstocking can be unavoidable, but temporary measures can help handle inventory peaks. Using third party warehousing can store excess inventory or ship items to customers. However, premiums are often charged for short-term contracts as opposed to year-round deals. Products could also be stored on trailers for short-term periods, but this method can also be very expensive. Developing a partnership with a dedicated carrier can reduce these costs.

Warehouse Redesign

The best way to prepare your warehouse for redesign is to first measure your existing space that you have to work with. After that, define your fixed obstacles such as walls, doors, columns, and clearances.  Define storage condition zones, the product’s throughput and replenishment requirements, and the unit handling loads. Establish your material’s flow paths, and from here you can start generating ideas and evaluating your alternatives, making sure that you’re within safety and regulatory compliance.

Another method for consideration is automated storage. Vertical lift modules, vertical carousels, and horizontal carousels can be used to streamline the picking process by bringing stored items directly to the oeprator. These systems can maximize warehouse space by providing more storage density in about 85% less space than shelving, which often require extra space for wide aisles. Many automated storage solutions can also be purchased with software that will integrate with your existing warehouse management system. High density shelving systems can also be installed instead of or to work in tandem with automated storage.

Improved Inventory Managementwarehouse picking management

Speaking of warehouse management, if you don’t have a real-time warehouse management system (WMS), you should probably think about getting one. A WMS is the best way to properly manage your inventory, providing real-time and on-demand information at all levels of the supply chain. A cycle counting program can be implemented to track inventory and ensure obsolete product isn’t taking up space in the warehouse. This way, you can also eliminate your tedious annual physical inventory by doing a little bit of cycle counting every day. A good WMS can also direct products to the best storage location.

After implementing these changes, it’s important to review and analyze your storage and space frequently. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it to have a more productive, organized, and overall more profitable business.

Where To Start

If all of this seems overwhelming, Southwest Solutions Group® can help.  We can help you develop a plan to maximize warehouse space and provide you with storage solutions that will help you do it, even those nifty automated shuttles and carousels we mentioned earlier. We will also provide you with a free consultation to determine your exact needs. For more information, give us a call at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.


Advantages of Using Vertical Lifts in Your Supply Chain

The concept of LEAN is simple: eliminate waste. And if you can eliminate waste in your supply chain, it will improve every other area in your facility. Vertical lifts are designed to automate storage and retrieval of all types of parts, tools, supplies, and inventory. This automation leads to many advantages. Check out the slide show below to see what you can gain from using vertical lifts in your supply chain.

Contact Us for More Information on Vertical Lifts

Southwest Solutions Group® offers design, installation, relocation, and maintenance services for vertical lifts. Contact us today to learn how automating storage and retrieval in your facility will reduce waste in your supply chain.


How to Reduce Mispicks & Improve Accuracy

Pick-to-Light -blog-2-image-1In part 1 of this post, we talked about what even just a 1% mispick rate is really costing you (a possible $1,560,000 per year in lost revenue). Here we will provide some helpful information, technology, and strategies you can use to eliminate human error and reduce the number of mispicks in your picking process as much as possible.

Previously, we mentioned the use of light-directed solutions and automated storage and retrieval systems to boost picking accuracy. The automated systems equipped with pick-to-light technology negate human error by helping operators with four basic functions:

  1. Picking a specific or active item.
  2. Putting the item in an active order or specific location.
  3. Communicating the quantity or description of the item.
  4. Completing the pick and moving to the next one.

Pick-to-light technology has evolved into complete message centers that can communicate multiple variables to the operator: the precise location within the carrier of the item to be picked, where it can then pinpoint the exact location and direct picking or storage of the item, and indicate the required quantity of the item being picked. Less picking mistakes mean happier customers.

Types of Picking Technologies

This technology can help boost your picking accuracy up to 99.9%. The following includes the types of light-directed technologies that can be added to automated storage and retrieval systems:

Transaction Information Centers are for vertical carousels and vertical lift modules (VLMs). This is a dynamic pick-to-light system that displays item identification in 1/10 inch increments, descriptions, quantities, and other messages to help an operator pick the correct item and amount for order fulfillment.

Light pointers are used with VLMs and deploy an LED or laser light that is mounted on a slider. The sliders move horizontally on a guiding system within the opening of the VLM. The light pointer, which is software-driven, swivels to project a light beam into point to the position of the item to be picked within the storage tray. The light identifies the precise location of the item to be picked or restocked.

picking lightsPosition indicator light bars are incorporated into the access openings of VLMs and vertical carousels. The LED lights illuminate in alignment with the position of the required item within the storage tray to be picked.

Light towers can be integrated with horizontal carousels to house picking display models on extruded upright towers. The displays indicate to the operator the carousel, shelf level, tray location, and quantity to pick. A single software-driven light tower can serve two horizontal carousels within a picking pod.

Put/batch lights can be used with both horizontal and vertical carousels as well as VLMs to direct an operator to put or store items in a specific location when restocking items. They can also be used for order consolidation, batch picking, and batch sorting at workstations.

In addition, AS/RS systems can also be incorporated with radio-frequency (RF) scanners for quick barcode verification of picked items, voice-directed picking modules that verbally direct operators to the pick in a head-set, or scales that automatically verify the correct number of small parts based on their weight.

Increasing picking accuracy by just one percent can lead to dramatic improvements in your operations. Not only will it result less picking mistakes, but it will also lead to exceptional cost savings per year and even per day, and increase customer satisfaction. For a production line at 250 lines per hour averaging 3 SKUs per order during an eight hour shift, a 0.1% mispick rate from a 1% rate reduces revenue lost per year from $1,560,000 to $1,404,000—a 90% yield in cost savings. For even greater accuracy, inventory management software with AS/RS systems is an efficient and easy way to keep track of your inventory and monitor stock levels in real time.

Contact Us for More Information About Reducing Mispicks

Convinced that you need to start reducing your mispick rate? Southwest Solutions Group can help. Our dedicated and experienced team can help you get the technology and techniques you need so your company can save money, enhance productivity, and increase your valued customers’ satisfaction. To prove our dedication to you, we will even provide you with a free consultation. To learn more, call us at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.


Warehouse Management Software for Optimizing & Streamlining Production

Optimize Your Warehouse Storage with Warehouse Management Software

warehouse-management-softwareAutomated storage systems have been designed to meet the storage needs of a wide variety of operations. When combined with warehouse management software (WMS), streamlining production in your warehouse becomes even easier, more efficient, and can save you thousands of dollars per year on storage and ergonomics.

Streamlining Production Levels with WMS Integration

In order to ensure optimized production levels most effectively, measures must be taken to properly integrate your WMS into new or existing software. Ideally, you will be able to integrate with little downtime and more cost-effectively than traditional, software-less warehouse management. Warehouse management software not only reduces time spent managing your warehouse, but it also reduces human error and provides automatic configuration for tasks such as inventory management and tracking, batch picking, shipping labeling, receiving, material handling, storing materials in the least amount of space possible, and more.

Factors to consider before WMS integration

Before choosing a WMS system for your warehouse, you should first consider whether you want a specific best-of-brand package to integrate into your existing system or to implement a new overall system. WMS-ERP integrated systems are recommended since the software can integrate seamlessly with other existing system activities and processes. An integrated system also helps avoid the difficulties and costs associated with implementing standalone warehouse management software into an existing system.

Benefits of Warehouse management software integration

There are many benefits of integrating warehouse management software into ERP to optimize production levels that goes beyond ease of integration, including:optimize-production-levels

  • Improved supply chain visibility
  • Unified data structures and consistent user interfaces that help greatly reduce the amount of time spent training employees
  • Improved automated functionality that allows employees to maximize productive time
  • Gradual transition to WMS for traditional warehouse systems
  • Incremental shutdown capabilities to protect data
  • Automated inventory tracking and monitoring
  • Integrated technology and software for AS/RS storage systems

Contact Us About Warehouse Management Software

Navigating the many different types of warehouse management software can be intimidating. Southwest Solutions Group® provides design, consultation, and implementation services to a wide variety of business sectors, including retail, manufacturing, industrial, and warehouse operations. Whether you’re looking to update or replace your current WMS system or manage additional warehouses, SSG can help you find the right software depending on your specific needs and get you on your way to enhancing your production levels and increase your ROI. For more information or to speak with a warehouse management specialist, call us at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.


How to Apply LEAN Practices in Your Warehousing Facility

Apply LEAN Practices in Your Warehousing FacilityLEAN practices are all about reducing waste; however in the past, LEAN practices typically only applied to the production and manufacturing of standardized products. Warehousing and distribution, on the other hand, are service industries that are very far from standardized because the customer is able to choose from thousands of items. With this view, how can the same LEAN practices used in manufacturing apply to your warehousing facility?

8 Types of Waste Found in Warehousing & Distribution

When you look at the waste found in manufacturing, you will see similar types of waste in warehousing and distribution. According to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), “Since warehousing is nothing more than managing space and time, reducing waste starts with identifying the poor use of both.” In NAW’s book Lean Warehousing they describe 8 types of waste found in warehousing,

  1. Overproduction in manufacturing results in wasted materials. In warehousing, an excess of inventory has the same result.
  2. Waiting is a waste of time. This is as true in warehouse operations as it is in production.
  3. Unnecessary movement of cargo is a major source of waste in materials handling.
  4. Over processing is a waste in production – in warehousing it is over checking.
  5. Poor inventory control represents waste, particularly when stock-outs are frequent.
  6. Movement is a waste when it involves hunting for tools, or stored items that cannot be located.
  7. Defective parts waste production; in warehousing, errors result in waste.
  8. Unused employee creativity represents a waste of human resources.

Once you have identified the causes of waste in your facility, you can move forward and apply LEAN practices.

Equipment to Help Facilitate LEAN Practices for Warehousing

Goods-to-Person Storage and Retrieval Equipment for WarehousingManaging space, time, and inventory to reduce waste is a large task. That’s why investing in the right equipment solutions will help you facilitate LEAN practices. Depending on your particular needs, there are a variety of equipment solutions including,

  • Vertical lift modules (VLM): The vertical lift modules store small, medium, and large parts in the least amount of floor space possible.
  • Vertical Carousels: The vertical carousels maximize the storage of small parts in bins.
  • Horizontal carousels: The horizontal carousels increase picking efficiency by allowing for batch picking.

Each of these machines operates on the goods-to-person principle: delivering stored items directly to the user. This eliminates the time workers spend searching for items. In addition, the VLM and vertical carousels have an ergonomically positioned work counter that helps to reduce injuries related to bending, twisting, and reaching for stored items.

Other equipment designed to maximize the use of space in your warehouse includes,

  • Compact pallet racks: The compact pallet racks condense the floor space required for storage by 50% while maintaining accessibility.
  • Mezzanines: The mezzanines use vertical space to add another level of floor space to your warehouse.
  • Specialty vertical carousels: The specialty vertical carousels store items like rolls of textiles, tires, hanging garments, wire spools, and print cylinders.Contact Us for Help with LEAN Practices

Contact the Storage Experts at Southwest Solutions Group for Help

Applying LEAN practices and investing in the right equipment starts with first identifying the areas of your warehouse that are creating the most waste. Southwest Solutions Group’s material handling experts can help. We offer a variety of equipment solutions that will help your warehouse and distribution center become more efficient and sustainable. Contact us by phone at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message.

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