When production equipment breaks down, every minute it takes to get back up and running can cost thousands of dollars in lost production and idle labor. While technicians strive to reduce downtime, if they spend precious minutes searching for the right replacement parts in inefficient parts storage then, despite their best efforts, many thousands of dollars in production and labor will be lost.
Whether a company manufactures machinery or food products, whether it drills for offshore oil, refines petrochemicals, processes wastewater, or produces electricity, to stay competitive production must be extremely efficient and minimize downtime. Yet traditional, inflexible, restricted parts storage space can increase downtime and negatively impact production, operations, and maintenance efficiency.
Too often parts storage and maintenance capacity does not evolve, even as new part sizes, shapes, weights, quantities, and configurations are introduced. The challenge increases when multiple generations of products or equipment must be manufactured or promptly
Fortunately, a new flexible type of storage system that starts from raw shelving and evolves as needed is allowing parts managers to create denser, more space and labor-efficient parts storage capacity as market, budget, or storage needs change.
While traditional modular drawer cabinets on casters are fine for some applications, their main drawback is that they are essentially unchangeable steel boxes, unable to efficiently accommodate changing part sizes, shapes, weights, quantities, or configurations. Once the size of the drawers and box frame is set, modular drawer cabinets have virtually no future adaptability. As storage needs change, for instance, storing washer-sized parts in 6” drawers wastes a lot of storage space.
Traditional storage shelves offer more space than modular drawer cabinets, but a tremendous amount of storage space can be wasted if, for example, 3”-high parts are stored on 24”-high shelves. Because moving a shelf to create more storage space often requires removing and reassembling 10 or more nuts and bolts, this is practically never done on a large scale.
When parts storage capacity lags behind the need, clutter results with parts too often stored on the floor, on top of cabinets, and stacked in boxes—which can lower productivity if parts are not easy to store and retrieve.
“The goal in maintenance is to strive for zero production downtime, but that depends on getting the right parts into the hands of technicians for needed repairs as soon as possible,” says Jeremy Miller, a DC Maintenance Foreman for JBS USA LLC’s Marshalltown, Iowa facility, a subsidiary of JBS, the largest animal protein processing company in the world. “Delay in locating the right parts in storage translates into unnecessary downtime.”
The Marshalltown facility carried a production parts inventory of over $1 million, mostly in a central parts area, with parts ranging from tiny nuts, bolts, and screws to gears, sprockets, and cabling to motors, chain drives, and sensitive electronic boards.
While the facility had initially used an open rack, cabinet, and bin storage system for parts storage, Miller knew there was room for improvement.
“We felt trapped by our old system of parts storage because it forced us to adapt to it,” says Miller. “The shelves on our open rack were essentially fixed. So too were the cabinets and bins. Because nothing would fit the storage space exactly, we constantly had to search for a spot to put the items. If the parts didn’t fit, we had to store the items in multiple locations, or buy entire new racks when all we may have wanted was a larger drawer to keep related parts together.”