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VLM reduces strain on employees, space and productivity

Manufacturer cuts process footprint while enabling custom-built products to ship in 24 hours.
By Josh Bond, Associate Editor
October 01, 2012

Christie is a global visual technologies company with more than 100,000 projection systems installed worldwide, including solutions for cinema, business presentations, education, media and government. With production at capacity and limited room for expansion, the company installed two shuttle vertical lift modules (VLMs) in its manufacturing facility. The new system (Kardex Remstar, kardexremstar.com) recovered 70% of the floor space required by the previous system—doubling capacity and cutting labor requirements in half.

According to Philip Hibberd, senior manufacturing engineer at Christie, the company previously maintained an inventory of 100 sub-assembled projectors, each stored on a 2-foot by 3-foot cart. To double inventory with that system, the company would have had to expand the area to make more room for 200 carts on the floor, then buy more carts and hire more people.

Instead, two shuttle VLMs each currently hold 100 sub-assembled projectors. Both have room for more capacity, and each occupies 180 square feet, compared to 600 square feet in the previous system. The recovered floor space allowed the sub-assembly process to grow from six assembly stations to nine.

Each projector weighs about 52 pounds, and lifting them put employees at risk of injury and projectors at risk of damage. Before the new system, projectors were stored on carts that employees pulled around. And, even though hoists were available to move projectors from a station to a cart, not all employees used them. With the new system, each VLM is equipped with automatic tray extraction and a hoist is mounted at the access point.

Working on a first in, first out basis, it used to take each of the four workers 15 to 20 minutes to locate the right projector. “The sub-assembled projectors all look the same, so the operator would need to check each serial number until they found the correct one,” said Hibberd. With the VLMs, only two workers are needed and the required projector is delivered to the worker in less than a minute. Christie is retrieving the projectors more than 90% faster with half the labor.

“The VLMs fit nicely into the lean flow in our facility,” says Hibberd. “From sub-assembly to testing to storage to configuration to verification testing to shipping, the new system cuts wasted time and effort from the process.”

About the Author

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Josh Bond
Associate Editor

Josh Bond is an associate editor to Modern. Josh was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and contributing editor, has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce.


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