Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) is essential to just about every type of manufacturing facility—with responsibilities that usually involve both facilities maintenance, and machine repair and maintenance. An organized, smooth-running MRO department can keep a company operating efficiently, while an MRO department that is disorganized, inefficient, and ineffective can have negative effects that touch just about every aspect of a business—from overall productivity to employee safety to the bottom line.
Disorganization means employees can’t find the items they need, when they need them. It is also a direct link to inaccurate inventories, unscheduled downtime, unexpected stockouts, overcrowded or inefficient use of space, and malfunctioning or nonfunctioning machinery.
If disorganization is the illness from which an MRO department is suffering, an improved storage system is a likely cure.
Storage system options
In general, a storeroom manager can consider three types of storage systems: conventional, automated, and high density.
Conventional storage. Conventional storage, with principal components that include shelving, racks, bins, or some variation of these elements, is most appropriate for large bulky items and items that are slower moving. Large quantities of products that do not need daily access or are stored and distributed in bulk are well suited for conventional storage. Pallet racks are used for items that are delivered on pallets or are very heavy and need to be moved by a forklift truck.
Automated storage and retrieval systems. This category includes horizontal and vertical carousel and lift systems, and control software. These systems store a lot of items in a moderately small footprint, particularly the vertical systems. Vertical systems also offer remarkable security access and so are well suited for the storage of valuable and limited access items. But vertical systems are expensive up front and can have a high maintenance price tag. Because they have moving parts and require a precisely balanced weight flow, they have potential to break down. Also, they can slow down stocking and retrieval, as they also only allow access to one operator at a time.
High-density storage. This is the best solution for storing medium- to small-sized items. This category includes modular drawer storage cabinets, mobile cabinets, and other systems that feature sub-dividable drawers as their centerpiece. High-density storage can cure an MRO department’s disorganization because it offers benefits that conventional storage cannot—from complete use of cubic space to load capacity. High-density storage is also more inexpensive than automated systems. In short, it is the most efficient and cost-effective selection.
Storage configuration options
Both high-density and conventional storage can be stacked or used in mezzanines to take advantage of a room’s full height while making maximum use of floor space. However, this can be a fairly expensive alternative to building an additional floor. Both can also be mounted onto a mobile aisle system, which includes rolling rows of storage product with only one aisle accessible at any time. These space-saving systems remove wasted aisle space but are not the best solutions for quick-moving inventory.
Mobile modular drawer storage cabinets offer all the flexibility and organized storage of high-density cabinets, while adding the advantage of convenience. With these mobile units, tools and parts can be rolled out straight to the job where they can be easily accessible to maintenance and repair personnel. These mobile workstations-on-wheels can be customized with the particular tool sets used by each craft. Repairs are completed more quickly and downtime is greatly reduced.
All of these systems, from conventional shelving to the most advanced high-density system, are most effective when joint with an integrated software system. Today’s software does a remarkable job of managing inventory levels and determining key performance indicators, helping to prevent future breakdowns and aid in predicting future needs.
Get it right from the start
It is important to set up a storage system correctly at the outset. Even the most complex software and inventory systems are based on the principle of knowing where an item can be found and returned. Space planning is an important first step, whether coordinated by your own staff or with the assistance of storage consultants or the manufacturers. Taking advantage of free design planning surveys by the manufacturer or its representatives can be a real cost-saver.
Adapted from maintenanceworld.com
Written by John Alfieri