Casebook 2011: Kennecott Utah Copper Company refines storage

Workers gain control and access to spare parts inventory with automated solution.

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Equipment downtime can be greatly reduced when spare parts are readily accessible. But if spare parts are spread across acres with no tracking system of any kind, finding the one a customer needs can be a chore. With an automated storage system, one company found a way to easily organize and retrieve parts, all in a smaller footprint.

At the Kennecott Utah Copper Company, spare parts ranging from small electronic components to heavy machine parts were previously located at 20 sites over many acres, both indoors and outdoors. In this arrangement, the quantity, location and condition of all inventory was virtually unknown. When parts were needed, employees had to walk the facility and search for items.

To improve the process, the company implemented a hybrid system using automated and conventional materials handling solutions.

Today, all spare parts in inventory are tracked using an enterprise resource planning system. Conventional racks were installed within a new 300,000-square-foot warehouse to hold and organize large items. Small spare parts are stored in 220-pound capacity metal pans in a two-aisle, single-deep mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) centrally located and easily accessible within the facility (Daifuku America, 801-359-9900, http://www.daifukuamerica.com).

Installed in less than three months, the 31-foot tall AS/RS uses vertical space and 2,000 square feet of floor space within the facility. The mini-load AS/RS holds a variety of parts stored in 3,312 rack locations, some with more than one part number per pan. The small AS/RS is a stand-alone piece of automation that integrates only with a U-shaped output conveyor where employees can manually pick items retrieved by the AS/RS and return items ready for storage.

A warehouse control system manages the operation of the storage/retrieval machines and tracks inventory quantity and location. The system communicates in real time with the company’s central planning system, and keeps logs and physical inventories.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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