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Installing efficient vertical storage improves material flow

Aug 30, 2023

Vertical racking offer manufacturers a number of benefits to build on their efforts for continuous improvement in the shop. Photo courtesy of Ross Technology.

In metal manufacturing facilities, it's not uncommon to find heavy raw materials simply stacked on the floor as they wait to be moved to another location in the plant for machining.

Aside from posing safety hazards, this antiquated storage practice adversely affects profitability because it can lead to damaged material, machine downtime, and an inefficient use of both labour and space. Eliminating these inefficiencies often begins with a simple question: How does our current storage system affect manufacturing efficiency?

It's a fundamental question that sometimes gets overlooked.

As a racking manufacturer, we always ask our customers what they want to accomplish and explore how they process their inventory, right down to the orientation of the raw material when it's initially received.

The best storage system is designed based on the answers to these questions, and it's always fun to see a customer's excitement when they realize that even their heavy materials can easily be stored vertically and transported with a stacker crane system or narrow-aisle side-loader.

Many manufacturers didn't choose the floor storage option; they simply weren't aware that a significantly safer, more efficient system was available for their application in the first place.

While every manufacturer would like to grow, this advancement also intensifies operational pressure and exposes inefficiencies. A company's ability to meet order commitments can quickly become jeopardized, for example, if production equipment sits idle while employees look for the correct raw materials.

As demand increases and machine capacities are stretched, more and more companies are placing a priority on keeping the "continuous" in continuous improvement. Manufacturers are looking for ways to minimize machine downtime, streamline material flow, and optimize just-in-time practices to meet production schedules and remain competitive.

Part of that mission includes safely getting the right material to the right place at the right time, a goal that starts with knowing exactly where and how those products are going to be stored, even before they reach the plant.

Companies that want to thrive rethink manufacturing processes all the way back to material handling. Older infrastructure also is getting a second look and being more closely evaluated thanks to new products that offer improved throughput and safety.

Material handling includes safely getting the right material to the right place at the right time, a goal that starts with knowing exactly where and how it is stored. Photo courtesy of Ross Technology.

Buying more land and building plants is expensive. Maximizing existing floor space and creating an efficient facility are as important as ever. Industrial manufacturers can now turn to vertical storage and material handling systems capable of working smoothly even in heavy-duty applications.

To increase their competitive position, industrial companies can invest in modern storage systems that store all types of metals and equipment, including coils, sheets, tubing, pipe, bar stock, tooling, dies, and moulds.

Because rack manufacturers design their systems using various engineering methods and materials, buyers should understand how these differences affect durability, loading capacity, and safety.

Material handling is another key consideration, given that standard bridge cranes have limitations when it comes to interfacing with racks designed for certain products, such as coils and dies.

Vertical racks offer manufacturers a number of tangible benefits to build on their efforts for continuous improvement, including:

Some storage systems are specifically designed for heavy-duty industrial storage applications; therefore, they are manufactured with wide flange beams to offer significantly higher load capacities and improved durability compared to roll formed steel.

These industrial storage products include coil racks, tool and die racks, and cantilever rack systems that can handle loads exceeding 80,000 lbs. per shelf and 20,000 lbs. per individual cantilevered arm.

For companies that want to increase revenues and reduce accidents, the first step is to conduct a thorough safety inspection, assess current storage techniques, explore what's being stored where, and talk to facility supervisors about how much time they spend walking around and looking for equipment and products.

Only then can manufacturers know where they truly stand regarding safe and efficient material handling and storage.

Tracy Buck is Industrial Storage Sales Engineer at Ross Technology,