Shuttle XP VLMs Are The Heart Of The Parts Department
Uhlmann Packaging Systems, LP is one of the world’s leading systems suppliers for the packaging of pharmaceutical products in blisters and bottles. Offering a comprehensive range of machines, services and support measures to cover all steps of the pharmaceutical packaging process, Uhlmann has been a trendsetter for pharmaceutical packaging for 70 years.
Uhlmann Packaging Systems, LP in Towaco, New Jersey is home to the Global Rebuild Packaging Systems Center. By pooling all rebuild expertise into one central location, customers can be certain all rebuild work is carried out by highly qualified technicians, and only original parts are fitted. The Rebuild Packaging Systems Center buys back pre-owned machines and modernizes them either according to the specifications of the new owner or to the latest technical standards.
Modular Parts Storage
An early adopter of material handling technology, Uhlmann Packaging Systems, LP has been using automated storage and retrieval systems in their Parts Department for nearly 30 years. “The modularity and flexibility of the VLMs has allowed the system to move and expand with our business throughout the years,” said Bob Ladjack, Parts Supervisor.
With over $2 million dollars in parts inventory, the parts department supplies parts to the Rebuild Packaging Systems Center and the tool shop as well as ships spare parts to customers. At the heart of the parts department sit four Shuttle XP Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) from Kardex Remstar.
A recent upgrade in their parts department has provided the additional storage capacity. Uhlmann Packaging Systems, LP has replaced 8 older VLMs with 4 new Shuttle XP VLMs. “The new VLMs are wider and can hold twice as many parts in the same footprint,” said Ladjack. The old VLMs provided 3-inch tray spacing, while the new Shuttle XP VLMs provide 1-inch tray spacing allowing for more storage capacity within each unit. Overall, these new machines offer greater storage density within the same floor space.
In addition, the new wider trays speed the delivery of parts to the operator. Reducing the number of overall storage units from 8 to 4 reduces the quantity of trays that have to be delivered to the operator for picking. The less trays to retrieve, the faster the parts are delivered. “With wider trays and better part slotting, we can now pick parts twice as fast,” said Ladjack.
Semi-Automated Parts Picking
The parts department inventories just over 4,000 SKUs. Several hundred are heavy motors and assemblies that are held in shelving. All remaining SKUs are in one of the four VLMs.
Orders are entered into SAP and sent to the parts department for fulfillment. The parts department receives a pick ticket which indicates the location of each parts required for the order. Using the location information, they enter a tray number into the Shuttle XP controller. The VLM moves to retrieve the tray requested by the operator. “While we are currently using the VLMs in a semi-automated process, the VLMs give us the flexibility to transition to a fully automated picking solution in the future,” said Bob.
Parts are retrieved from the VLM tray presented, bagged and tagged by the worker and added to the correct order. Upon completion, job orders are delivered to the point of use in the rebuild department or tool shop and sales orders are shipped direct to end customers.
When parts reach the pre-determined minimum quantity, their highly advanced SAP system orders automatically. Orders are placed daily and are shipped every weekend for a Monday morning arrival to Towaco. If a part is needed to complete an upcoming order, it is held on a special set of trays within the VLMs dedicated to short-term storage. If the part is for inventory, it’s stored in the VLM as directed by SAP. SAP manages all part location and quantity information.
Flexibility is Key
With a variable order profile, the high density VLMs offer the flexibility Uhlmann Packaging Systems, LP needs. “We fill anywhere from 10 – 25 orders per day; some customer orders with only a few lines, and some rebuild job orders with over 100 lines,” said Ladjack, “it’s important to have a highly flexible system like the Shuttle VLMs to manage our variety of orders.”