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Casebook 2011: Bus parts supplier retrieves parts on time

Automated storage prevents workers from going around and around.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
December 29, 2010

Thanks to North American Bus Industries, thousands of people throughout the nation get to work on time every day. The company distributes parts to more than 700 consumers, each of which counts on prompt delivery to get buses back on the road. With a new vertical lift module (VLM; KardexRemstar, 800-639-5805,, the company has created an ergonomic, efficient and speedy parts retrieval process.

Prior to installing the lift module in its 60,000-square-foot warehouse, the company used 6-foot high shelving stretched out over 13 bays, taking up more than 6,000 square feet of the warehouse. Employees took their pick tickets, found a scissor lift, and searched for the needed part.

The unit stores more than $900,000 worth of parts and 75% of the small parts inventory for the company. The new module is able to store the same amount of inventory—plus an 10% of additional inventory—in a 200-square-foot area, saving 96% of the previous floor space.

Picking and shipping processes have also improved, as have productivity and worker ergonomics. Bending and reaching for parts out of reach made for uncomfortable, inefficient and time-consuming picking. With the new system, the item is automatically delivered to the operator at an ergonomic height.

“We can pick 60% faster than the old system,” says John Hankins, operations manager for NABI. “There’s no extra equipment involved. The employee comes back to the lift module, types in the location, and the parts are easily retrieved.”

By eliminating the time spent walking and searching for parts, workers increased their productivity as well as accuracy. Not only is the VLM ergonomically efficient, reducing the risk of injury and creating a safer work environment, it has made it easy for new users to easily learn. Hankins estimates a new employee can become familiar with the system in half an hour.

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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