Effective storage boosts productivity, uptime, and inventory control

Curing your department's storage ills improves uptime, productivity and inventory control

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An organized, smooth-running MRO department can keep your entire company operating efficiently, whereas one that is disorganized, inefficient and ineffective can have negative ramifications that touch just about every aspect of your business , from overall productivity to employee safety to the bottom line.

Maximizing uptime requires both preventive and predictive maintenance, and both rely on having parts and materials on-hand and readily accessible. Disorganization means employees can't find the items they need when they need them. It is also a direct link to inaccurate inventories, unscheduled downtime, unexpected stock-outs, overcrowded or inefficient use of space, and mal- or non-functioning machinery.

If disorganization is a disease in your MRO department, an improved storage system is a likely cure. The benefits of implementing an advanced hardware and software storage system are many.

Zap it, map it, put it in a drawer

Storage systems are most effective when combined with software to manage inventory levels and measure key performance indicators. The records can help prevent breakdowns and predict future needs.

Consider stock options

In general, there are three types of storage systems to consider: conventional, automated and high-density.

Conventional storage, with principle components that include shelving, racks or bins, is most appropriate for bulky and/or slower-moving items. Pallet racks are used for items that are delivered on pallets or are heavy and must be moved by a forklift.

Automated storage and retrieval systems include horizontal and vertical carousel and lift systems, controls and software. These systems store a lot of items in a relatively small footprint, particularly the vertical systems. Vertical systems also offer exceptional security access, and so are well suited for the storage of valuable and/or limited access items, but are expensive and can require maintenance. They can slow down stocking and retrieval because they allow access by only one operator at a time.

High-density storage is well-suited for storing medium- to small-sized items. It includes modular drawer storage cabinets, mobile cabinets and other systems that feature sub-dividable drawers as their centerpiece. It offers benefits from complete use of cubic space to load capacity, and is typically more affordable than automated systems.

All these systems are most effective when combined with software to manage inventory levels and measure key performance indicators, which can help prevent breakdowns and predict future needs.


Where to put it all

It is important to set up a storage system correctly at the outset. Even the most sophisticated software and inventory systems are based on the principle of knowing where an item can be found and subsequently returned. Space planning is an essential first step, whether it's coordinated by your own staff, with the assistance of storage consultants or the manufacturers themselves. Taking advantage of free design-planning surveys from a manufacturer or its representatives can be a real cost-saver.

Both high-density and conventional storage can be stacked or used in mezzanines to take advantage of a room's full height and make maximum use of floor space. This can be a relatively inexpensive alternative to building an additional floor. Both can also be mounted onto a mobile aisle system, which is comprised of rolling rows of storage product with only one aisle accessible at any time. These space-saving systems eliminate wasteful aisles, but are not the best solutions for fast-moving inventory.

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