To reduce downtime in servicing new and existing vehicles in auto, truck, and farm equipment parts rooms, maintaining efficient parts availabilityfrom tiny screws to bulky fenders to heavy engine blocksis critical. But cramped spaces and the continual introduction of new vehicles and parts, along with new part sizes, shapes, weights, quantities, and configurations can make efficient parts management difficult if traditional inflexible storage methods are used.
Now a new flexible type of storage system, that starts from raw shelving and evolves as one’s business does, is allowing parts managers to create denser, more space and labor-efficient parts storage capacity as business, budget, or storage needs change.
While traditional modular drawer cabinets on casters are fine for mechanics to roll around the shop, their main drawback for parts storage is that they are essentially unchangeable steel boxes, unable to efficiently accommodate changing part sizes, shapes, weights, quantities, or configurations.
Once the size of the drawers and box frame is set, modular drawer cabinets have virtually no future adaptability, as different size drawers are not typically swapped out to better meet changing part size or shape. As storage needs change, for instance, storing washer-sized parts in 6” drawers could waste a large amount of storage space.
Though traditional storage shelves offer more space than modular drawer cabinets, a tremendous amount of storage space can also be wasted if, for instance, 3”-high parts are stored on 24”-high shelves. Because moving a shelf to create denser storage space can often require removing and reassembling 10 or more nuts and bolts, this is practically never done on a large scale.
When parts storage capacity lags behind the need, clutter results with parts too often stored on the floor, on top of cabinets, and stacked in boxeswhich can lower productivity if parts are not quick and easy to store and retrieve.
“Manufacturers make a lot of changes to part design and shape from year-to-year,” says Bruce Donatelli, a City of Philadelphia, Office of Fleet Management supervisor. “To improve productivity, we sought to consolidate most of our parts storage from bulky, traditional shelves on our third floor down to more flexible, space efficient shelves in our first floor service bays, where the work actually gets done.”
Donatelli turned to a flexible modular storage system called V-Grip by Equipto, a Tatamy, PA-based supplier of industrial storage designs and solutions.
What makes the V-Grip storage system unique is that it starts as raw shelving and allows parts managers to adapt and create denser and denser storage capacity as business, budget, or storage needs change. The modular storage system is more flexible than modular drawer cabinets or traditional shelves because it is designed so shelves, drawers, and other accessories can be interchanged in the shelf cavity. Since each shelf, drawer, or accessory is individually mounted to upright posts using a proprietary bracket system, they are individually adjustable and can be added at any time without disassembly of the unit.
The modular storage system begins with heavy-duty uprights, and top, bottom, back, and side panels. Shelves with up to 400 lbs. capacity can be added and adjusted at 3” increments for storage of bulk items and items of different sizes. For more efficient storage of small to medium sized parts, drawers in 3” increments can be added, along with drawer or shelf dividers to keep small parts from mixing. For more security along with visibility, locking and see-through doors in various combinations can be added.
“The option to add or adjust shelves, drawers, or other accessories as needed should help us maximize storage density where it’s needed most, next to the service bays, even if part sizes or configurations change,” says Donatelli.
While multiple rows of adjustable shelving accommodated the bulbs, fuses, hoses, filters, brake pads and other small to mid-sized automotive items Donatelli wanted to house near the first floor service bays, he needed more space to store larger items. So he went up.
“With the V-Grip storage system, we at least doubled our storage in a limited space,” says Donatelli. “We added vertical storage with a deckover mezzanine above our shelves with stair access. This gave us the room we needed for bulky items such as doors, hoods, fenders, and body panels.”
Adding vertical storage with a freestanding or deckover mezzanine is straightforward, if adequate vertical space is available. No bracing is needed. The storage just needs to be reconfigured to put a second floor right on top of the shelving.
For auto parts facilities that lack enough vertical space to add mezzanine storage above shelving, but still need to maximize their storage density, another option is to put existing shelves on carriages and platforms to create a mobile aisle system. Mobile aisle systems move the shelves toward each other to eliminate unnecessary aisle space. Reducing the number of access aisles can save as much as 50% of floor space, or double existing storage capacity. When needed, a mechanical assist drive system means only 1 lb. of effort is required to move 10,000 lbs. of mobile aisle load on a system such V-Grip’s.
Another advantage of mobile aisle systems is how easily they provide additional layers of storage security for high value items. To lock the entire system down, just roll the mobile aisles together and lock the end carriage. Since such a lockdown can be accomplished with a single key, the system is quick to lockdown and quick to get back in use for higher productivity on the shop floor. An additional layer of security can also be added with optional lockable doors in the shelving.
“Maximizing our storage space allowed us to consolidate most of our upstairs parts operation downstairs in a much smaller space,” concludes Donatelli. “Now our technicians have fast part access right in the service bay. They no longer have to travel three floors up and three floors down to get a part. We’re more productive, and it won’t be long before we achieve ROI.”
Companies such as BMW, Toyota, and Harley-Davidson have used Equipto’s V-Grip system for flexible modular parts storage.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California