Automating Parts Storage for Transportation Maintenance

In April of this year, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, America’s public transportation systems would be receiving a total of $25 billion in recovery funds. These funds are designed to help cover operating and related expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entrusted with this funding, it’s important for cities to put the money to good use. And one area that’s worth the investment is the maintenance facilities.

Disorganized and inefficient parts storage hinders productivity, delays maintenance time, and drains a city’s finances. Equipped with extra resources thanks to the CARES Act, it’s a good time for public transportation systems to look at upgrading their maintenance parts storage.

vertical lift modules parts storage

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) recently took this step, automating their maintenance parts storage by installing vertical lift modules and high-density shelving systems. These automated storage systems provide DART’s maintenance facility with improved space utilization, increased productivity, better employee safety, and higher security of materials. And since all of this amounts to more efficient operations and financial savings, the automated systems are definitely worth the investment.

Vertical Lift Modules

As part of upgrading their maintenance parts storage, DART had vertical lift modules, or VLMs, installed in their facility. VLMs enhance maintenance operations by providing automated parts storage in a compact footprint and making it easier for maintenance personnel to access the parts they need.

maintenance parts storage vlm

This automated storage and retrieval system consists of an enclosed, software-controlled system of vertically-arranged storage trays. These systems make use of overhead warehouse space and can save up to 85% of floor space compared with traditional storage methods. When an employee needs to retrieve a part, the mechanism removes the appropriate tray from its storage slot and delivers it to the access counter quickly and efficiently. The entire process requires minimal effort on the part of the worker.

 With their compact footprint, VLMs are ideal for facilities with limited floor space, freeing up room for productivity or extra stock. The system provides secure storage for parts, with access control options to ensure only authorized employees can access stored items. And by delivering the specified part directly to the worker, the VLM cuts down the time it takes to locate and retrieve parts, enabling faster and safer parts retrieval. This in turn results in shorter maintenance times and, since time is money, financial savings. Read more about vertical lift modules here.

High-Density Storage Systems

DART also chose to employ a high-density storage system to save space in their maintenance facility. High-density mobile storage consists of shelving units or pallet racks mounted on carriages that slide on floor tracks. The storage units compact together, eliminating all but a single movable access aisle.

high density storage system parts storage

The primary benefit of these compact systems is space savings. By converting your stationary shelving or pallet racks to a high-density system, you can nearly double your storage capacity in the same footprint, or free up almost 50% of the floor space for more productive activities.

The automated system also gives you the ability to control access to valuable materials, with PIN code or other access required to open an aisle to retrieve a specific part. Read more about high-density storage systems here.

Other Efficient Parts Storage Solutions

DART chose to upgrade their maintenance facility with VLMs and high-density storage systems, but these are not the only options for storing your parts more securely and efficiently.

mro parts storage solution industrial vending machines

You might consider investing in industrial vending machines, a popular solution for dispensing MRO tools and parts. These versatile machines efficiently store parts of various sizes and dispense the needed part when an authorized employee selects the desired item from a touchscreen console. The industrial vending machines track inventory levels and usage as well as allowing access only to the specified part and only by authorized users. This adds up to quicker, more accurate parts retrieval which in turn results in higher productivity and less maintenance delays.

Horizontal carousels are another automated storage and retrieval system well-suited for parts storage. A savvier solution for facilities with extensive storage needs and limited overhead space, these systems consist of hanging bins that rotate on a motorized overhead track. Thanks to software capabilities, the carousel rotates to bring the correct bin directly to the operator, as well as monitoring inventory and controlling access.

You can learn more about industrial vending machines, horizontal carousels, and the rest of our material handling solutions here.

Contact Us for Automated Parts Storage Solutions

Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for automated parts storage solutions to a variety of industries including public transportation. We will also provide you with a free consultation to determine your exact needs and specifications before the design process begins. To learn more or to speak with a specialist, call us at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.

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