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Join Date: May 2007
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Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/13/2011 1:21 AM

Dear Friends,

Back on the forum after a long time.

I am currently working on a task of giving suggestions on handling inventory at our company. It's basically a cross functional initiative to get fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. I have thought about what we could do to make storage and retrieval easier at our place.

We have a lot of inventory, mostly hardware, plastic and metal components. Each of them have their system codes but most of the time proper storage is becoming difficult as per those codes. Moreover, if the shopfloor guy forgets where he put a particular part, we end up searching for it. As of now, it is not a very serious prob but down the line it is bound to be.

So, I was thinking of a radio tagging or such simple mechanisms which can be used to make lives simpler down there. ASRS or other robotic systems are not needed as per my observation. Some low/ moderate cost system with a bit of manual involvement should be OK.

So, if I can get any hints of simple yet effective mechanisms, I probably can start looking for suitable vendors. I am preparing a full fledged solution along with capacity planning, so any idea will help

Talaus

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Guru

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#1

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/13/2011 11:06 AM

You don't necessarily need a new system, but better discipline.

I never consider a process to be a process if it relies on a human to remember.

What your experience might be telling you though is that instead of some very logical and ordered system, the actual experience and volumes of parts that are "churned" give you some 'hot spots.'

Prior to looking at any system, I would identify the 20% of the items that are 80 % of the volume, (A items) and then by default, you would know the 80% of the inventory that is slower moving and 20 % of the volume (C items).

The system that I would create would optimize and facilitate the movement and replenishment of the A items. it may in fact be different than the system used for the C items. Do a time study and spaghetti diagram of the A's and B's and get out some paper to draw a floor plan.

Figure out the cost per step for your retrieval peronnel. Then minimize distance travelled on your A items.

This isn't really a technology problem. It is a system/ suboptimum process problem. Fix that first.

Milo

Then I would create systems for the

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Guru
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#2

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/13/2011 3:44 PM

As they say in the property business "LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!".

Put simply even simple low-tech solutions work well as long as the inventory structure is setup and maintained. Think of it as trying to find a specific file on a computer, it is easier to find if the files are filed into directories rather than just thrown together. The same goes for stock inventory, part numbers are important but so are stock location numbers that help identify where the part is stored (building/isle/shelf).

This can be as simple as designating areas for similar parts/different customers or jobs/part type, etc to make storing and retrieving quicker and easier with the locations and stock levels stored on a computer.

In the end the system is only going to be as good as the people maintaining the system. High tech stock monitoring solutions won't work if the staff put, say, the RFID tags on the wrong stock or enter the wrong data into a computer stock location and monitoring system.

In the end it is all about finding the weakest links. Insufficient processes or existing processes that cannot coupe with increasing demand are one, but don't forget about the staff and how easy they will be able to use and maintain the accuracy of any system you think to implement.

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Guru

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#3

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/14/2011 9:36 AM

If you were making a department whose sole purpose is to identify components anyway, then hire a person to be the warehouse manager. The warehousing and marking of components should be the warehouse managers ONLY job. Then you can mark your components with lasers, felt tip pens, rfid's or bar codes or anything else which you might think is suitable.

This is a low tech solution, but it has the advantage of being easily scaled up, and easily moved to a second location, and easy to implement. You could be up and running with this solution within a week. I presume you are using this method at this time. One wonders why it is not working as well as you would like.

RFID stuff is very sexy...and expensive. But RFID's can come off, be misplaced, are not tolerant of extremes of temperature or of being knocked about. They work really well with books and anti-theft tags in retail environments. Bar codes might be the way to go.

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#4

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/14/2011 10:11 AM

there are numerous inventory control programs out there. choose one that lets you assign a unique record keeping number to each item. toggled with a label printer you can have the RK#,O.E.# bin location and date rect. on each label. most systems will generate 1 label per item upon rect of orders coming in. I've used many systems and they all do the above with great ease and success.

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Guru

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#5

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/14/2011 11:51 AM

I would expect barcoding would be the simplest and least expensive solution.

I'd just print pages of paired barcodes (with human readables, similar to UPC codes).

To put it in inventory, slap one on the part (or container), and the matching one on the paperwork. Have you watched the grocery store personnel set up your "frequent shopper card? It's often done this way. They peel a barcode label off the plastic card and place it on your application paperwork. Easy peasy and error-free.

When you put it on the shelf, scan the barcode on the part/container and scan the barcode at the location you are storing it. (Did I forget to say, barcode your shelves? but use a different style or prefix, so you know what codes are items and what are locations)

You might consider printing the last two digits of the human readable, (on both the shelves and the items) in large font to facilitate visually locating the container later, once you get the shelf location from your database.

If you move the box, scan the item number, and the new shelf location.

This could be kept in a simple spreadsheet.

Part Paperwork -> Part Barcode -> Shelf Barcode -> Warehouse Map -> get part.

and in the Science (not-so-) Fiction department:

I predict one day there'll be "Augmented Reality" glasses that could scan the barcodes on the boxes and show you a picture of what was inside them without opening them. (I already have augmented reality apps on my iPhone. Cool Stuff.)

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Commentator

Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Barrie ontario canada
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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Inventory Storage and Retrieval

04/17/2011 5:50 PM

This is the same inventory controll system we use at walmart it works great but if your moving high volume products your inventory should be scanned often ( as some people just remove products without scanning the box and it leads to quite a bit of confusion when u go to get somthing that says its there but its out of stock employee responsibility is a major assett )

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