Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

August 2014    |    Volume: 46    |    Number: 8

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial Engineers

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Emerging Technologies

Innovative tools of the trade 

Space invaders

A good small parts storage system will allow a growing company to store up, not out. Lauyans and Co.’s latest line of vertical storage solutions takes advantage of verticality above the floor to optimize space and increase productivity.

A single, fully enclosed Vertical Lift Module (VLM) occupies a mere 47 square feet of actual floor space but extends upward 25 feet to provide a total of 800 cubic feet for storage. Inventory is stored in stacked trays on shelves within the VLM’s two towers. To retrieve items from the module, an operator uses a PC-style keyboard interface to select the desired tray or part. An extractor lift platform automatically travels along a center shaft between the towers and removes the tray from the module, bringing it to the operator.

The VLM boasts many operational benefits beyond the obvious improvement of space utilization. Whereas traditional parts retrieval often involves first searching for the part’s location in a storage area, then retrieving a lift truck to remove pallets off dusty storage racks, the VLM is much simpler. Its encased storage racks keep parts free from dust and debris, parts selection is done via a computer interface, and no additional material handling devices are required. Another noteworthy cost savings comes from labor productivity. According to Lauyans and Co., in environments with traditional shelving, employees spend approximately 65 percent of their time retrieving product, walking aisles, scanning shelves, climbing ladders and scaling mezzanines.

In addition to the storage towers, the VLM houses an ergonomic workstation where the operator physically handles the inventory. The height and depth of the workstation is designed to work for operators who range in size from the shortest to the tallest.

The VLM makes use of the unused vertical storage space, while Wireway Husky Corp.’s products help companies create versatile storage solutions. Its EZ-Matrix Wire Partition System features a modular construction of eight-gauge steel wire to provide storage that is secure, attractive, versatile and affordable.

The EZ-Matrix comes with pre-hung sliding or hinged doors and wire panels reinforced with in-line folded flutes for added rigidity, and it can be installed quickly into slots in the tubular posts without tools. Panel hardware is only accessible from the inside for maximum security, and all painted surfaces are finished with a durable polyurethane coating.

The wire partitions can be cut to fit a variety of needs and space constraints. Additional panels may be added to the existing matrix as storage needs change and/or expand. Numerous options are available for electronic locking systems, and all products come with a one-year warranty.

Jessica Jeppsson holds bachelor's degrees in industrial engineering and in operations and supply chain from North Carolina State University. She currently is employed as a solution engineer for Plataine, a software company.