Hard-pressed manufacturing and assembly firms are understandably focusing attention on their core activities to manage costs, improve ­performance and stay competitive. Couzens Storage Solutions ­presents a case that taking a hard look at the often neglected area of ­storage and handling could provide almost immediate cost savings, improved productivity – and a safer working environment.

Unlike warehousing and distribution companies where efficient storage and handling operations are crucial to business success, manufacturing and assembly companies have traditionally concentrated on aspects such as engineering, research and production technologies rather than storage. Conversely, the function responsible for holding and supplying raw materials and components, work-in-progress, tools and jigs to the manufacturing or assembly process is often neglected.

In more than 20 years visiting factories and engineering businesses, the adverse effects of inadequate storage have been only too evident. Raw materials on the floor or up against the wall with overhead space unused, boxes and pallets with no clear organisation or discipline, little or no security – and too much stock of the wrong materials.  The end result continues to be production delays, quality issues, labour-intensive storage and handling – and sadly unsafe and potentially dangerous handling practices.

That’s not to underestimate the problem. While the distribution sector stores mainly uniform, standardised items such as parcels, boxes and palletised goods that lend themselves to efficient storage and handling, production facilities routinely need to cope with a wider variety of shapes, sizes, weights and awkward items. They can range from metal stock items weighing several tons, through jigs and tools, to small, high value electronic components, requiring a more complex and often bespoke solution.

Such systems are in growing demand across all sectors of industry, as they are able to reduce necessary floor space by up to 80 per cent, improve pick rates to make timely, accurate deliveries to the production line, provide efficient and sophisticated stock management systems integrated with established manufacturing software. Just as importantly they enable companies to make far more productive use of labour and provide a safe and secure working environment.  When any item is called up by the operative, typically using a PC screen for instructions, it is presented in seconds at a comfortable working height for immediate picking and dispatch.

TowerMat is an example of the kind of compact storage and picking systems conceived to meet the diverse demands of the engineering and manufacturing environment. A vertical lift system designed for the heaviest, toughest and ugliest of storage tasks, including metal sheet, bar, profiles, jigs, machine tools and heavy, bulky components, TowerMat is able to bring a wide range of materials together in a single, space-saving and secure unit.  Each storage cassette can hold up to 5,000kg with dimensions up to 10.0m long x 2.0m wide. Units come up to 18m high and with modular design, there is no practical weight limit.

Goods are presented for handling via a powered cart, able to exit the TowerMat unit from the front, rear or sides or all faces, for delivering to a workstation or any other location away from the machine. Alternatively the load can be taken away by forklift, overhead crane or other automated handling machinery, avoiding the need for manual handling and practices that would not meet today’s health and safety standards.

The rewards of investing can be immense. Aluminium profile building systems company SAPA is using two Modula storage systems from Couzens Storage Solutions to store an estimated 153,000 items in 1,258 lines including fixings, seals, handles, brackets and other components for its Gloucester- based replacement window and conservatory business. They are being used to hold small and medium parts to support production, providing nearly 400m2 of storage space on a footprint of only 28.5m2, and a total combined capacity of over 120,000kg.

Power Engineering Services, E.ON’s turbine repair and service facility uses a heavy duty TowerMat vertical lift storage unit to store high value metal bar. It can hold up to 140,000kg of stock on a footprint of only 30m², and uses advanced software to manage and use expensive materials in the most efficient manner. The project is expected to release around 250m² of workshop space and provide the opportunity to consolidate stocks from other locations, saving space, overheads and stocking costs.

German building products manufacturer GEDA is using a TowerMat linked directly to a Trumpf laser cutting machine handling sheet metal stock in trays up to 9.8m wide, vividly illustrating how machines can be integrated as part of a total processing and manufacturing system.

While any such decision involves considerable capital investment, the days where doing nothing was a realistic option for many companies are past. More efficient modern storage systems such as vertical lifts and carousels have the potential to achieve such significant improvements that the payback period can be very short, while the benefits in terms of improved productivity, lower stock levels and more productive use of labour will endure for years to come.”

Couzens Storage Solutions

T: 01442 250010