Casebook 2011: Bus parts supplier retrieves parts on time

Automated storage prevents workers from going around and around.

By ·

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.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Solving the Labor Shortage Crisis: The Four Benefits of an Automated Warehouse
Not enough warehouse staff? Finding it difficult to keep up with orders during peak periods?
Download Today!
From the March 2018 Modern Materials Handling Issue
Here’s how one of the world’s largest 3PLs is looking to tomorrow’s innovative technologies, including heads-up display and robotics, to transform its operations today.
Conveyors & sortation: Carrying the e-commerce burden
2018 Productivity Achievement Awards
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Emerging Technologies for Your Distribution Center
Come get an insider's view of the latest technologies for inside your Distribution Center. You'll learn which technologies are being piloted, which are having success and moving from concept to implementation and into production on the maturity scale, and what's coming on the horizon.
Register Today!
NextGen Supply Chain at DHL
Here’s how one of the world’s largest 3PLs is looking to tomorrow’s innovative technologies,...
Trinchero Family Estates: Pallet handling in the vineyard
The second-largest family-owned wine company in the world turns to automated pallet handling and...

System Report: Rocky Brands Sees the Light
Confronting an aging materials handling system and new channels of business with new customer...
Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
In a new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business...