Planning your move crucial in parts management upgrades

Review inventory, assess space and customer needs before making changes.


Moving from an open-bin warehousing system to a drawer system requires pre-planning and a look at existing organizational structures to see if improvements are possible. (Images courtesy of Vidmar)As Premier Equipment Ltd. prepared to move into its new 55,000-sq-ft warehouse in Elmira, Ont., last year, it gave everyone a chance to take a fresh look at how to improve operations. That included the parts crib, which managed everything from a small O-ring to a large combine for the John Deere agricultural and landscaping distributor. "It gave us the chance to start fresh and do things the way we wanted to," said Leon Brubacher, the parts lead at Premier. The Elmira location is the hub for 10 centers throughout the area, which serves an agricultural community growing corn, wheat, and soybeans as well as a thriving landscaping region about 75 miles west of Toronto.

One of the first decisions was to scrap the legacy bin system and replace the bins with drawers and cabinets to store all of the smaller parts. That allowed Premier not just to better organize the space, but to do it in about two-thirds of the footprint of the previous location. "We didn't want to spend more on square footage than we needed," said Brubacher.

"We found the cabinet route was beneficial as we were consolidating into a smaller space."

By going from smaller bins to deeper drawers and cabinets, they were able to reconfigure not just the space the parts were in, but also the aisles around the parts. "The main change was really that we had a lot more cabinets," Brubacher said. "We purchased 56 cabinets and had the shelving on top of cabinets. The big gain was less aisles. All of our little parts had been in 12-in.-deep bins, and now they were in drawers that were about 30 in. deep. That meant a lot fewer aisles with deeper cabinets. It's very neat and tidy, less walking."

The logistics of the process is important, because Premier is both a parts distribution and repair center. That means it has both internal and external customers looking for parts. "We have quite a bit of walk-in traffic as well as shipping out to customers," said "Brubacher. "We also have various people picking for own service department. We just get a printout from our business system with the bin number and fill orders."

The company had implemented a new back-end management system in January 2014, so workers had to learn both the new bin system and the new order system at the same time. "I'm glad it's all behind us," Brubacher said with a small laugh.

Another key to success is including barcoding and labeling on all drawers to ensure delivery of the proper parts, but also to assist in replenishing inventory.Planning is crucial

One key reason the process went relatively smoothly, Brubacher noted, was the emphasis on pre-planning. "We don't have too many regrets after the move, but it took of planning," he said. "You've got to plan aisle widths, bin labeling. It's easy to just push that out and worry about it later."

And rather than wait for the move to switch from the bin system to the cabinets, Premier decided to start the moving process well before the actual moving day. "A huge things for us, and we're glad we did it this way, is that we set up all cabinets at the old location and then filled them before the move," he said. "We actually filled all the bins with the parts at the old location. It was a tight squeeze for a while. We had to find room for our existing bins and then fill 56 cabinets. We worked three-quarters of the year having one to two people gradually fill cabinets. Then when moving day came, we just moved all the cabinets in an evening and we were ready to go the next day.

"We were filling orders in the old space, but we had all the new aisles laid out," Brubacher said. "We had the new bin locations even in the old building. The guys learned the bin system and when we got into the new location, it was just in different physical spot."

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