Vertical storage gives distributor some breathing room

Shuttle vertical lift module increases productivity, accuracy and safety with the same headcount.

By ·

Maine Oxy is a leading distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hard goods including welding and cutting equipment, supplies and accessories. The company was struggling to find room for expansion within 6,500-square-foot central warehouse in Auburn, Maine. After installing a vertical lift module (VLM), the company freed up 2,000 square feet of space.
Previously, with hard goods stored in standard rack and shelving, workers would travel throughout the shelving and up and down ladders collecting the parts they needed to fill an order.

“It was a space-consuming, time-intensive process,” says Brian Painchaud, inventory control manager at Maine Oxy. “Since the implementation of the shuttle VLM, orders have increased by 40%, and the VLM has allowed us to support this growth without additional labor.”

The new shuttle VLM (Kardex Remstar, houses nearly half of the hard goods inventory. The space saved in the warehouse allowed Maine Oxy to establish one of the largest specialty gas laboratories in New England. The hard goods central warehouse still requires three workers to pick and pack orders, but they have increased the stores they support from 10 to 15 and their customer base has grown.

“The VLM consolidated our 1,700 small parts SKUs, opening up 2,000 square feet for the SpecAir laboratory, saving us the expense of a brick-and-mortar building expansion,” Painchaud says.

The VLM delivers items to the worker at an ergonomic pick window. Previously, picking smaller parts from the shelving often required a worker to climb a ladder to the item location and then pick a small quantity from the bulk inventory. “Picking and counting while on a ladder wasn’t ideal,” said Painchaud. “Workers are safer and more efficient picking items from the VLM.”

Although the VLM was originally purchased to free up floor space and avoid a building expansion, the productivity and ergonomic benefits have allowed the central hard goods warehouse to manage growth. “Without the VLM, I’m not sure how we would have keep up with our recent growth,” Painchaud says. “As we continue to expand our business, we would surely consider additional VLMs to further increase our efficiencies.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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