6 Principles of an Effective Spare Parts Stocking Program

service_MG_4965After you’ve invested in an automated material handling solution—whether that includes conveyor, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), or a combination of the two—you’re only 1/2 way there. Implementing a solid equipment maintenance program is key to ensuring that your system is always running at its peak. While there may be a variety of options for maintenance providers, in our experience establishing and maintaining an effective spare parts stocking program is mandatory.

Why? Because, with just a little advance analysis and planning to determine which components are most likely to need replacement in the event of a failure, you can ensure that your operation’s key equipment continues to operate with minimal downtime. Here are 6 principles to follow when developing an effective spare parts stocking program for your automated warehouse operation. [Read more…]

Simplify Automated Storage System Connectivity, Control with an Experienced SAP EWM or WM Integrator

For operations with multiple subordinate automation systems—including automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) such as vertical lift modules (VLMs), horizontal carousels and vertical carousels—connecting both their control and communications to warehouse management and material flow systems can be challenging.

That’s why more companies are taking a closer look at implementing SAP Supply Chain Execution (SCE) Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) or SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Warehouse Management (WM) in their automated and/or conventional warehouses. Either choice can be customized to connect administrative functions to warehouse management to material flow to automation (and back). [Read more…]

About the Author Harouna Mohamadou

Harouna Mohamadou is Director SAP Consulting at viastore SYSTEMS, and is responsible for launching the company’s SAP consulting initiative, which will allow viastore to offer the full spectrum of supply chain execution software solutions.

Missed MODEX live? Or, Didn’t Make It to the Incremental Approach to Automation Installation, Investment Seminar? Catch It Here.


At MODEX 2016, viastore presented a free, on-floor educational session exploring “What Level of Automation Makes Sense — An Incremental Approach” to debunk the concept that automating your warehouse means you’ll be exclusively incorporating expensive, complex, high-speed, highly mechanized equipment that runs 24/7, lights out, without any human intervention.

Yet, in reality, there are actually four levels of automation, and very few installations in the U.S. are at that highest level. The majority of facilities have instead invested in a more affordable level of automation to achieve process improvements in a few select areas that were previously not delivering value to their operations. The resulting automation solution yields better throughput and productivity.

If you missed the ‘live’ MODEX, or missed the ‘live’ session, you can view a recording of the presentation and listen to the accompanying audio here. In the seminar, I covered the four levels of warehouse automation, divided into groupings based on increasing degrees of complexity and cost. They include…

Level 1: Conventional picking with process improvements delivered via warehouse management system (WMS), order picking system such as radio-frequency (RF) or voice-directed picking, and/or a labor management system (LMS).

Level 2: Mechanized solutions that automate horizontal movement and reduce non-value added activities (like walking), such as conveyor, pick modules, stretch wrap applicators, label print-and-apply, and layer picking equipment.

Level 3: Semi-automated equipment that improves storage efficiency and further minimizes travel and manual handling with storage carousels, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), conveyor and sortation, and warehouse control software (WCS) to direct equipment operation in line with the WMS.

Level 4: Fully automated, high-speed (and yes, potentially “lights out”), greenfield installations that include a combination of high-density AS/RS, extensive conveyor and sortation, automated layer picking, case palletizing, WCS and WMS.

During each level of automation, the relating common factors for the ROI for each were discussed. These are covered in the presentation.

In the session, I also explained how to plan each level of automation investment in order to build upon the previous step in a planned, predictable way. For that reason, it’s key to partner with a supplier or systems integrator who can help you develop and map a solution that grows—flexibly and scalably—in lock-step with your operations. That way you can be sure that previous technology investments can be maximized and your existing equipment and processes are properly leveraged.

Want to learn more? Call viastore at 616.977.3950 to chat about which level of automation makes sense for your operation with one of our warehouse planning specialists.

Modern Materials Handling Names viastore’s Installation at Grob Winner of 2016 Productivity Achievement Award

MMH_1015coverModern Materials Handling magazine’s Productivity Achievement Award for Manufacturing has been awarded to Grob-Werke GmbH & Co. KG’s new logistics center in Mindelheim, Germany. The family-owned maker of machines and assembly systems for manufacturing operations worked with viastore to design, supply and install a high-density automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) with goods-to-person picking to streamline packaging of kitted materials. The kits are then used to replenish assembly stations in Grob’s adjacent manufacturing plant. The facility was featured on the October 2015 cover in an article entitled, “Grob: Getting the goods to the person.”

The finalists were judged by a panel of three highly-respected supply chain experts: John Hill, director at St. Onge Co., a supply chain strategy and logistics consulting firm; James A. Tompkins, chairman and CEO of Tompkins International, a supply chain consulting and implementation firm; and Jeff Woroniecki, chief operating officer at MHI. [Read more…]

Boost Efficiency, Throughput with Blended Manual and Automated Handling Solutions: Get Details in Free MODEX 2016 ASG Seminar

It’s a myth that automating your warehouse is an “all-in” commitment. In reality, some of the most cost-effective installations blend both manual and automated material handling solutions to achieve scalable efficiency and throughput in a variety of processes, including picking, packing, shipping, assembly and component handling.

modex125x125It’s a topic to be covered in more detail—twice!—during MODEX 2016 (April 4-7 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta), as part of show-sponsor MHI’s Automation Solutions Group (ASG)‘s FREE on-floor seminar, “Latest and Greatest Advances in Automated Handling.” The session will initially be held on Tuesday, April 5 from 11:15 a.m. to noon in Theater B. It repeats for a second time on Thursday, April 7 from noon to 12:45 p.m. in Theater A. (viastore is one of 40 different industry leading companies representing the automation software, hardware and services that support a fully integrated supply chain who participate in the ASG. The group’s members routinely collaborate on solutions worldwide, and in every major manufacturing, warehousing and distribution sector.) [Read more…]

Evaluating AS/RS Total Cost of Ownership Versus Other Technologies: Learn How at FREE Industry Group Seminar at MODEX 2016

modex125x125When it comes to an investment in pallet, tote and tray automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), justifying the costs to the chief financial officer (CFO) is critical. That’s why, if you’re in the market for one of these installations—and you’re at MODEX 2016 (April 4-7 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta)—you won’t want to miss the FREE on-floor seminar presented by show-sponsor MHI’s AS/RS (Fixed Aisle) Industry Group (viastore is one of 21 member companies that participates in the group, whose mission is to educate, promote, develop and grow the use of AS/RS in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution). [Read more…]

6 Key Motor Driven Roller Conveyor Features That Make Setup and Configuration Easy, Flexible

Picture17When it comes to moving products through a facility, sometimes you just need a little more.

When it comes to automated conveyor—while lineshaft, chain and belt driven motor conveyors have historically been the mainstay solutions—over the last several years 24-volt DC motor driven roller (MDR) has been gaining ground.

[Read more…]

viastore 2016 Survey on Material Handling System Choices-compare yourself to others

Everybody wants to know how they stack up. Are you as fast as the other guy? Do you work harder than a coworker? (Of course the answer to both is ‘yes’.) When it comes to material handling, and comparing what your company is doing compared to others and knowing how your company stacks up to the rest of the industry is important as well.

For the 2nd year in a row, viastore is compiling annual information on the key issues facing industry executives today. This anonymous survey allows you to compare your company and how you go about making the decisions you make in regards to material handling automation compared to others.

For example, in last year’s survey, we found that 88% of respondents said they wanted their supply chain project to deliver within budget, the leading reason (and no real big surprise there). Click on the infographic to see what the other top-ranking responses were. What WAS interesting was that when it came to who was best-suited to design a material handling system, 63% of respondents felt it should be an outside resource. To see the complete results from last year, you can download the 2015 survey results whitepaper.

What will the numbers be like this year? We won’t know unless you participate. We value your opinion and hope you’ll take just a few minutes to participate in this annual survey. [Read more…]

Take an Incremental Approach to Automation Installation, Investment

Warehouse automation. The term calls to mind expensive, complex, high-speed, highly mechanized equipment operating in the dark, with nary a human in sight. Yet—if reading this blog achieves nothing else—let your takeaway be that there are actually four levels of automation (generally speaking), and that only a handful of facilities in the U.S. house installations of that highest level. The rest have invested in a more affordable degree of automation that delivers process improvements in key areas to enhance productivity.

automation scaleAutomating your warehouse breaks down into the following four levels of increasing sophistication and investment: [Read more…]

7 Ways to Avoid a “Box of Chocolates” Automation and/or Software Implementation Scenario

“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” – Forrest Gump

Prevent unwelcome and unpleasant surprises in a new installation or upgrade that can cause setbacks in your schedule and budget.

Depending on your taste, it might be nice to discover a hunk of caramel hiding under that chocolate from the heart-shaped Valentine’s Day candy box—or not. But when it comes to an automation and/or software implementation in your warehouse or distribution center, the majority of surprises are unwelcome and unpleasant.

[Read more…]