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Oil & Gas Company Leans Warehouse Using Vertical Lift Modules

10-07-2010 10:49 AM CET | Logistics & Transport

Press release from: KardexRemstar Inc

National Oilwell Varco is dedicated to providing the highest quality oilfield products and services. For more than 140 years, National Oilwell Varco has been providing customers everything from spare parts to comprehensive drilling systems; including rig equipment, integrated systems, downhole tools and supply chain solutions.

Committed to improving their customer’s performance, the National Oilwell Varco-Sam Houston Parkway Facility (SHP) was continually developing new and innovative products. As plant capacity increased to meet customer needs, so did the number or parts required in warehouse inventory. Keeping the warehouse organized and stocked with the right parts was becoming a challenge, and National Oilwell Varco SHP implemented the Lean 5 S Program. To maximize efficiency, the warehouse was redesigned to include three Shuttle Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) from KardexRemstar. The National Oilwell Varco-SHP Facility is now picking orders 44% faster using less labor while recovering 70% of previously occupied shelving space. Since the project has been completed, Brenda Esman, Warehouse Manager, has taken the task of maintaining and implementing processes to ensure the warehouse maximizes its new efficiencies.

Timing is Everything
“Before installing the VLMs, we did a time study. Workers were averaging 4.72 minutes per pick,” said Brenda Esman. Now, about half of the parts for an order are picked from the Shuttle VLMs and the other half from the shelving. The Shuttle VLMs average 1.85 minutes per pick, and because parts were able to be relocated to more accessible shelves, the shelving time has been reduced to 3.43 minutes per pick. Esman continues, “Our average picking time has been reduced to 2.64, that’s a 44% increase in productivity.”

Flexibility in Labor
Typically, the new system requires two people, one to pick from shelving and one to pick from the VLMs. “When order volume is high, usually near the end of the month, we have the flexibility to add an additional person to the shelving area to keep up with the VLM area,” said Esman. With the previous system requiring eleven people being responsible for all transactions, SHP has cut their department labor requirements to eight people while remaining flexible to adjust labor to meet order volume.
Before redesigning the warehouse, all parts were stored on standard rack and shelving that was 20 feet tall. Warehouse workers would grab a paper pick ticket from a stack would walk up and down the aisles and use ladders to collect the parts required for an order. After completed, the order was brought to a staging area adjacent to the warehouse and held for pickup by the requestor.
Now, a warehouse coordinator prioritizes the work orders by their requested date and prints labels for each part within a work order. Labels are delivered to the shelving area to be manually picked and to the warehouse to be picked from the VLMs. Once the VLM operator receives the labels, the work order is imported into the FastPic inventory management software that drives the VLMs. With the click of a button the VLMs retrieve the parts which are then delivered to the workstation and the TiC (transaction information center) displays where and what to pick. The operator picks the part and bags it and tags it with the preprinted label. The operator moves back and forth between the three VLMs with little dwell time until all of the parts required for the order have been picked.

Increasing Density
The warehouse is responsible for about half of the 18,000 parts in National Oilwell Varco-SHP Facility. With about 3,000 of those parts in the Shuttle VLMs already, the goal is to get all of the high usage parts (about 5,000 parts) into the VLMs. “As we move more parts into the VLMs and a greater percentage of parts for an order are picked from the VLMs we expect to see the productivity numbers increase even more,” says Esman.
The parts that have been relocated to the Shuttle VLMs occupied 2,654 square feet of floor space when previously stored in shelving. The new Shuttle VLMs occupy only 797 square feet; opening up 70% (or 1,857 square feet) of shelving space. “We chose to leave a portion of the shelving in place and were able to move parts that were previously stored outside and prone to damage onto shelving inside,” says Esman.

Leaning Toward 5 S
Along with the implementation of the Shuttle VLMs National Oilwell Varco-SHP Facility integrated a Lean 5 S program into the warehouse. The program is based on continual improvement and focuses on visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization. “The Shuttle VLMs turned out to be a nice compliment to our Lean 5S Program, helping us sort though our parts and organize them for maximum efficiency,” said Esman.

KardexRemstar Inc., a company of the Kardex AG Group is a leading provider of automated storage and retrieval systems for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, office and institutions. For information about KardexRemstar call 800-639-5805 or visit the KardexRemstar web site at

41 Eisenhower Drive
Westbrook, ME 04092

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