A major manufacturer of construction and mining equipment looked for a solution to improve storage efficiency and inventory control within its 700,000-sq.-ft. master parts distribution center. The distribution center is responsible for providing parts and responsive customer service to its many customers worldwide. The site operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year to keep up with demand.
One of the biggest hindrances to the efficiency of the operation was the 150,000-sq.-ft. small parts storage area. This area utilized a variety of steel shelving, drawers, corrugate containers, wooden boxes and pigeonhole cubbies that created a less-than-adequate environment for efficiency and neatness. The heavy equipment manufacturer looked for a solution to provide the facility with a more organized, clean and efficient storage space.
‘Cardboard Doesn’t Cut It’
Working closely with a local dealer, the Akro-Mils sales team visited the facility to determine what solution would work best to suit the distribution center’s needs. At the time, the facility was utilizing a disjointed variety of storage options with many of its SKUs contained on shelves in cardboard boxes. The corrugated boxes posed several problems for the manufacturer. The boxes were dusty, and in their humid climate became soggy and weak. Not able to be cleaned, the boxes left the area looking dirty and ragged. Labels tended to peel off, making it difficult for the company’s order pickers to identify parts. Possibly the biggest issue was the great variety of box sizes — there was a vast amount of wasted space.
A New System Found
After a thorough evaluation and discussions with the factory floor supervisors and key management decision makers, Akro-Mils provided a variety of plastic storage bin samples to test and determine what solution would work best.
While this project was met with significant competition from several competing storage bin manufacturers, it was the ability to provide a wide range of samples and the unique design of Akro-Mils’ System Bins™ that proved to be the winning solution. The one-piece design of the 6-compartment System Bin provided the clean and organized look the heavy equipment manufacturer hoped to achieve. The manufacturer liked the look of the one-piece molded part and how it gave uniformity to the storage space. A combination of 12” deep and 18” deep System Bins were utilized for the variety of part sizes.
For larger parts, Akro-Mils’ Super-Size AkroBins® were selected due to their sturdy construction and large storage capacity. Another major benefit of the System Bins was the enormous savings in freight vs. standard bins. The shipment of Systems Bins required 7-1/2 truckloads to fulfill. This would have required 14 truckloads for a comparable single-compartment bin. Akro-Mils was able to begin shipping this order 8 days after it was received.
With the decision made, the heavy equipment manufacturer began the process of utilizing nearly 33,000 System Bins and 33,000 Super-Size AkroBins. Existing shelving units were removed and replaced with uniform shelving packed with neatly labeled and organized blue bins. The formerly 150,000 sq. ft. of storage space had been consolidated and reduced to roughly 75,000 sq. ft.
The travel time for pickers has been greatly reduced due to the consolidated storage area. Now, order pickers have much shorter distances to travel when picking orders, which saves time and boosts their efficiency. The new bar coding system implemented with the new bins also allows them to locate parts faster within the smaller footprint. The reduction of the space required for storage opened up extra capacity, which is being used for additional racking to store larger parts.
Everyone at the distribution center is satisfied with the results brought by their new bin system. The quality of the bins and the ease of picking with the Akro-Mils products has been a major improvement over the previous system. The site is more organized, clean and efficient. The new system is an impressive part of the many plant tours given monthly at the facility!