Innovative, Straightforward Solutions

Kardex Remstar

Efficiently using the space in a warehouse involves maximizing storage density while maintaining access to inventory as directly and quickly as possible. Since 1873, Kardex Remstar has become a leading supplier of innovative products that meet this challenge.

Kardex Remstar has successfully installed more than 140,000 systems in manufacturing, distribution, warehouse, office and retail spaces. Initially starting out by introducing the card index system to the United States, the company’s product range and capabilities have evolved over the years.

The company has been a division of Zurich-based Kardex AG since 1987. The U.S. division is headquartered in Westbrook, Maine and its systems are manufactured in its factories in Bellheim and Neuburg, Germany.

“We believe in building strong relationships and strive to keep our customers for life,” Marketing Communications Manager Christina Dube says about Kardex Remstar’s success. “We build our products to be easy to use and durable.” Encouraged by the company to embrace its spirit of innovation and creativity, Kardex Remstar’s team develops and manufactures automated storage and retrieval solutions to improve material flow processes and to reduce costs for manufacturers and distributors around the world.

The pressure on manufacturers today to increase production capacities combined with the large investment required in production line automation has made the maintenance stockroom a critical part of manufacturing. To address this issue, the company has integrated its products into maintenance stockrooms, allowing manufacturers to keep maintenance parts onsite with quick and direct access, reducing production downtime.

Similarly, Kansas City based American Crane & Tractor Company uses Kardex Remstar’s equipment to help manage their spare parts distribution. With double stacked horizontal carousels, integrated with inventory management software and ‘pick to light’ technology, American Crane & Tractor has improved its picking efficiencies and accuracy rates to shorten turnaround time. Before installing the carousels, American Crane & Tractor used manual methods, such as pick carts and paper tickets, to fill orders; order pickers would walk around the warehouse, moving from storage location to storage location, searching for parts to fill an order. When the order was complete, they would bring it to shipping and start on another order, often retracing their steps over and over. With Kardex Remstar’s new system, workers can pick spare parts for up to eight orders at a time. This helps reduce labor costs and increases the efficiency of the warehouse.

Kardex Remstar has also made inroads in the airline industry by making those operations more efficient. Using two Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) (a vertical system of storage compartments that bring the desired compartment directly to the operator), Toronto based Jazz Aviation has increased productivity and reduced floor space. When an airplane needs maintenance, it is sent to a hangar and a technician orders the parts needed in order to make repairs. At Jazz’s operational base in Toronto, employees are responsible for maintenance and repair operations for 125 airplanes, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The largest of six line bases – the maintenance stockroom – supplies maintenance and repair parts to technicians on site as well as the other five line bases.

This 6,900 square foot facility had limited space and needed a supply chain solution that wouldn’t force it to relocate. Kardex Remstar consolidated about 1,196 square feet of shelving into two of its Shuttle VLMs, occupying only 184 square feet – a seventy-one percent savings in floor space. The two VLMs are controlled by inventory management software that is integrated with existing TRAX software (software for handling engineering information technology and maintenance requirements for airline fleets). Additionally, pick to light technology and label printers add inventory control and increased accuracy.

Jazz was able to use the recovered floor space for storage of bulk inventory, so all inventory is now securely stored in the stockroom, providing increased inventory control.

In the old shelving area, it took four to seven minutes per pick, producing about fifteen picks per hour. With the VLMs, parts are now delivered to the operator for picking, eliminating the walking and search time that technicians would previously have had to do. The maintenance department enters orders into the system, and Kardex Remstar’s pick to light technology directs the operator to the exact pick location, the part number and the quantity to be picked.

When an operator fulfills an order, he or she scans the barcode on the TRAX pick list to populate the order in the inventory management software. The VLMs move to retrieve the first SKU required and deliver it to the operator. Using pick to light technology, the transaction information center (TIC) located on the front of each VLM directs the operator to the exact location and displays the quantity that needs to be picked. The operator picks the quantity and scans each SKU’s barcode to verify the batch number before distributing the SKUs among the four orders on the batch station. Wait time for operators is eliminated because while he or she is distributing the first SKU among the orders, the second VLM is positioning for the next pick. After the SKUs are distributed among the orders, the next pick is ready and waiting for the operator.

Using the VLMs, pick time has been reduced to an average of one minute per pick, about sixty picks per hour, a productivity increase of seventy-seven percent. Just over half of the 20,000 stock keeping units (SKU) in Jazz Aviation’s inventory were consolidated into the two VLMs.

Jazz Aviation is such a fan of the system, in fact, that it plans to order a third VLM from Kardex Remstar for its Toronto base. Jazz’s other bases are now looking to adding VLMs to increase efficiency of operations.

The challenges of the recession have left many manufacturers and distributors trying to figure out how they can operate more efficiently, with fewer people. “Organizations throughout North America have had to learn how to handle growth without getting themselves in the same situation as the previous decade,” explains Ms. Dube. “They don’t want to hire a bunch of people just to have to lay them off a few years down the road. Our goal is help organizations automate their picking, resulting in higher throughput and greater accuracy, without having to make a major labor investment.” The company’s equipment helps operations grow without adding labor.

Kardex Remstar’s distributor network is the face of the company, so building strong relationships with distributor salespeople has always been very important. “We believe that people buy from people,” says Ms. Dube, and the customer relationships our distributor salespeople have are the backbone of the company’s success. “Our distributor salespeople talk with potential customers every day and it’s important to our success that they convey trust, confidence and friendliness. Customers are going to spend the money with the people they like and trust. A solid product offering is one piece, but customer relationships, service and follow-up are the keys to repeat purchases.”

Along with corporate marketing including tradeshows and national advertising, the company prides itself on customer references and recommendations. “Happy customers create new customers,” says Ms. Dube.

In the upcoming year, Kardex Remstar will make cost justification a central message. “We don’t want to just sell product, we want customers to buy the efficiencies our products provide,” Ms. Dube says. She wants customers to buy the product because of the floor space that would be freed or the productivity that would be gained and says that the company’s conversations in 2014 will emphasise a return on investment as the products help customers increase profit and bottom line. “We want our products in places that make a difference and help improve a customer’s overall process,” she says.

“Our biggest concern is our customers,” she adds, emphasizing that Kardex Remstar’s philosophy is innovative, straightforward and fair. “We continually strive to innovate the material handling industry and to be straightforward and fair with our customers, distributors and employees.”

June 24, 2018, 2:49 AM EDT

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