The reduction of wait time is a key consideration in Lean manufacturing. Static storage systems require employees to spend up to 70 percent of their time traveling aisles searching for items and only 30 percent actually retrieving items. Typically, with automated storage and retrieval systems, an employee's walk and search time is reversed from that of conventional systems to 70 percent item retrieval and only 30 percent dwell time. In some operations, productivity can increase by more than 400 percent as a result.
Redundant or non-essential handling can also be reduced with automated systems, especially in applications requiring frequent reuse of stored items. Since automated storage and retrieval systems can integrate software controls that can restrict and track part usage to specific individuals, departments or shifts. The time saved also results in less operating cost and improved operating efficiency.
Automated storage and retrieval systems can be easily configured to accommodate physical changes in stored items, allowing companies to keep on hand only what they need, effectively reducing overstocking.
Automated storage and retrieval systems can be equipped with microprocessor controls, position indicators and information displays to further increase the speed at which specific items are located and retrieved in the system. Labor costs are reduced due to the system's shortened retrieval times.
Companies looking to reduce the impact of the slower economy should consider simple automation as an easy way to reduce costs, improve overall storage and retrieval efficiency and make the best use of existing facilities. Simple automation also has the potential to become a solid foundation for future programs designed to meet sustainability and Lean manufacturing initiatives.
About the Author: Ed Romaine is vice president of Marketing at Remstar International Inc., a provider of automated storage and retrieval systems for manufacturing, distribution and warehousing applications. For information visit www.Remstar.com.