Tysinger Motor Company uses drawer storage to hold irregularly shaped items.

STORE: Drawers Make Open and Shut Case for Efficiencies

April 15, 2013
Drawer storage cabinets help two companies save labor and cut enough space to reduce facility footprints.

One of the most important considerations when designing a storage environment is whether to opt for drawer storage cabinets or traditional industrial shelving. Bulky items are well served by standard industrial shelves. High density drawer storage cabinets are more suitable for small-to-medium size items of irregular shape and size.

See Also: Warehousing & Distribution Management

The best high-density drawers provide easy, direct access to stored items and offer full-height sidewalls and full-extension capabilities. This enables access to the entire three-dimensional drawer space—front-to-back, side-to-side, and top-to-bottom. The drawers should be able to handle a lot of weight even at 100 percent full extension. Some offer a 440 lb. load capacity. 

Drawers should be sub-dividable and allow easy identification of compartment contents, including bar code labeling. The ability to feed the information encoded in that labeling into an inventory management system is also important. 

Better Lighting and Cube Utilization

Drawer cabinets keep stored items out of sight until the drawer is open, and their dimensions allow for a well-lit storage area and improved ventilation. They also make full use of the available cubic space, particularly if small-to-medium size items of irregular shape and size are being stored. Drawer cabinets allow storage in right-height drawers that can be filled to the top.

This maximizes overall available floor space, reducing needed square footage by 100-400 percent.  

For example, Tysinger Motor Company of Hampton, Va, used high density parts storage to lop off about 5,000 square feet in the parts department area, bringing construction costs for a new addition down to an acceptable level.  To make the new facility work, more than a week was spent inventorying the parts on hand so the facility could be laid out accurately and equipped with cabinets of the proper height, drawer depth, and size.

While the original goal of installing high density storage was to be able to carry more parts in a smaller building footprint, an additional benefit turned out to be increased productivity with the same manpower, due to faster part retrieval time.

Ergonomics and Efficiency

With modular drawer storage, just as there is no reaching high for items on upper shelves, access to items stored near the floor is also easier. Inventorying items also becomes easier, contributing to accuracy. Within a highly organized modular drawer, each individual item has its own compartment and items are less likely to get lost or mis-identified. Also, as items can be viewed from the front of the drawer to the farthest back corners, visual accounting is easy. And order picking takes much less time as well.

For added organization and easier inventory management, some manufacturers' drawers have built-in label holders, and each compartment can be labeled with SKUs, text, illustrations or barcodes. 

Ahearn Equipment, Inc., a busy outdoor equipment dealership located in central Massachusetts, tripled in size and ran out of space to stock the inventory it needs to support the rapidly increasing number of lines it carries. In addition to being cramped for space, the existing storage system was inefficient and unorganized. 

"We frequently were losing parts that would fall out of the bins or were of odd sizes and would not fit well into the bins," said Jeremy Ahearn, general manager of the dealership. The shelves were 36 inches (3 feet) wide by a foot deep and spaced about 12 inches apart vertically, leaving unused space between the top of the bin and the shelf above it.

Drawers organize and store small parts and tools at Tysinger Motor.

Ahearn wanted to reduce the square footage of its parts department and become more efficient at finding parts so it could reduce its lost sale numbers due to missing parts. 

"We had been plagued by the fact that a customer would come in, our inventory system would indicate that we had a particular part, but we couldn't find it when we went in the back to look," he said. "It may have fallen out of one bin and ended up in a different one, and we really wanted to eliminate this issue." 

The company opted to replace 300 existing storage shelves with 14 new high density drawer storage units, allowing it to reduce its parts department footprint by 50 percent, while increasing the number of parts stored. The freed up space allowed Ahearn to expand display and showroom space to accommodate their continually expanding inventory, without adding new buildings.

Improved Protection and Security

Modular drawer storage cabinets protect valuable tools, parts and other assets from environmental wear and tear. They are available with a range of locking options for added security. Even within a locked storage room, additional locking systems on drawers can improve security and reduce shrinkage.

From space and cost savings to security, inventory control, lighting and aesthetics, drawer storage cabinets are an efficient and productive option for storing small and medium sized items. 

John Alfieri is vice president of sales and marketing for Stanley Black & Decker (www.stanleyblackanddecker.com), which merged with Lista North America last year.