Picking Stations Promote Lean Manufacturing

July 1, 2008
This case history about Android Industries comes courtesy of Unex. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and

This case history about Android Industries comes courtesy of Unex. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

One of the most basic areas to apply lean manufacturing principles is the storage mediums used for assembly and parts picking. Automotive supplier Android Industries (Shreveport LA) is applying these principles in its production process and is meeting and exceeding critical production targets.

The storage mediums central to this effort are fully stocked mobile Flow Cell® Workstations from UNEX Manufacturing (Jackson, NJ). The Flow Cell units are stored with assembly components allowing assembly-line operators to pick quickly and easily.

A properly designed Dynamic Storage Unit can improve space utilization by 50% and increase pick rates up to 30%. “We can put 4 days worth of material on the Flow Cell and not have to replace material,” says Mark Greer, Lead Engineer at Android Industries. Additionally Greer knew that he did not want to be saddled with the ubiquitous “pipe type” structures with plastic wheels. “Bolt boxes don’t go down wheels very well,” he says. “The Span-Track® full length roller sections in the Flow Cell is what we needed.”

In manufacturing operations Flow Cells are typically used ‘line’ side to maintain a ready supply of components, with high visibility for picking. The vertical orientation of the UNEX Flow Cell consists of engineered designed levels that angle the parts within reach of the picker to promote ergonomic safety. Workers can efficiently replenish the workstation without interrupting ongoing production. The Flow Cell units are easy to assemble with simple hand tools and can be quickly reconfigured to accommodate product and process change.

Dynamic storage units should be modular built around the specific needs of an operation to satisfy the following criteria:
• Reconfigurable - so units provide maximum flexibility to accommodate line and process change. Configure units to hold enough product for at least one shift.
• Storage structures that are durable showing clear sight lines to withstand warehouse traffic
• Apply ergonomic principles in the structure design to minimize reach distances, increase pick access and angle parts towards picker.
• Replenishment of a workstation should not interfere with the process or operation, and utilize return lanes to keep boxes/totes off factory floor.
• Choose the right Carton Flow equipment where the key performance criteria is ‘restart’ - ensuring all product in the lane moves forward when the front product is picked.

Android Industries turned to their supplier Nelson Equipment. “They counted on us to bring in a quality product that would help speed along their operations and Flow Cell® was the appropriate choice,” says Mark Nelson. Greer agreed, “It does what it’s supposed to do and doesn’t take up a lot of floor space. You spec it for what you need. We ordered 22 Flow Cell® units and they all went together in one day. It probably took about 30 minutes to set up each Flow Cell® and everybody that assembled the units were production line employees.”

MHMonline.com welcomes relevant, exclusive case histories that explain in specific detail the business benefits that new software and material-handling equipment has provided to specific users. Send submissions to Clyde Witt([email protected]), MHM Editor-in-Chief. All submissions will be edited for clarity, content and style.