|At a Glance|
For maintenance facilities short on space, there are storage solutions available:
● Tire carousels
● Parts carousels
● Vertical lift modules
● Mobile parts shelving.
When faced with space constraints at maintenance facilities, many fleets turn to devices that help maximize use of the space they have. Whether renovating a facility, undergoing new construction, or facing fleet expansion, there are storage solutions available that will help with space constraints at the facility — and they come with a few other benefits as well.
Beverly Hills: Tire Carousel Eases Technician Strain
When the City of Beverly Hills, Calif., was constructing its new maintenance facility in 2008, fleet staff found out the overall size of the new facility would be smaller than the previous one. Fleet management put in a request for a building of a specific size, but after the City negotiated with the contractor, the size was reduced both because the City wanted to reduce costs and because for a city encompassing only 5.7 square miles, there just wasn’t enough space to ask for more.
Craig Crowder, currently fleet manager for Beverly Hills, helped oversee the construction of the new facility in 2008, when he was fleet operations supervisor. One of the results of this facility size reduction was that the tire storage room, where staff stored tires ready for use, became much smaller. He explained the previous facility had wall racking for the tires and also held tire changers and maintenance tools.
“We put our tire racks in [the new room], and we thought, ‘Wow, we’re really hurting for space,’ ” Crowder said.
Fleet management thought a tire carousel it saw at a local dealership, if it could be constructed to fit the dimensions of the tire storage room, would be a solution to its problems.
After getting quotes from various companies, Crowder found J&D Associates. Crowder sent the company the room dimensions and received a $20,000 quote that included shipping and installation.
The tire carousel measures 13 feet, 10 inches high; 14 feet wide; and 6 feet, 6 inches deep. It has six carriers and holds tires up to 33 inches in diameter. Up to 138 tires will fit in the carousel, Crowder said. Traditional wall racks are still mounted in the room, holding bigger tires. To use the carousel, a technician inputs a code in the control pad and uses a switch to move the carriers up or down. Tires are grouped by size and marked by vehicle number, so the technician can find the tire quickly, move that carrier to the 7-foot high opening, and roll the tire out.
Crowder explained that new tire inventory is at another location farther from the parts room and repair bays. When technicians replace the tires that have been used, they take them from the other location, mount them, and charge them out before placing them in the tire room. This decreases downtime for the technician while completing a job, Crowder said.
In the five years the carousel has been in operation, Crowder said there haven’t been any problems. There have been, however, many benefits. Because the fleet can fit all the tires it regularly needs in the room, it increases productivity as technicians or parts personnel don’t have to get tires from the location farther away. It also reduces strain for technicians because they can roll out the tires in the carousel instead of lifting them off (and on) the wall racks. Of course, the biggest problem the carousel solved was the initial space issue.
“It allows us to store a [certain] amount of tires in a smaller footprint and still allow working space around that apparatus,” Crowder said.
For safety considerations, the opening in the front of the carousel is seven feet high but covered above that. Yellow caution tape in front of the opening reminds technicians to move out of the way if it’s in operation. Staff members lubricate the bearings about quarterly, when they clean up the tire room. Crowder said it hasn’t failed yet but if it ever does, an electrician in the facilities division could probably fix the issue.
Scottsdale: Parts Room Renovation & Mobile Shelving Unit Increase Productivity
The City of Scottsdale, Ariz., also encountered an issue with space, but in its parts room. Mel Galbraith, PCFM, now fleet director, was parts supervisor in 2007. The parts room at the time was inefficient, with interior walls that made everything inconvenient for personnel, Galbraith said.
“For every part, large or small, fast-moving or dead stock, personnel had to get around walls,” Galbraith said.
Looking to improve efficiency, he proposed removing the interior walls, installing mobile shelving, and placing them so that the openings faced the parts counter. His goal was to allow parts personnel to take only a few steps in order to get to the controls to open the shelving and enter directly into the aisle needed.
The mobile shelving unit the fleet eventually bought from Concert Architectural Interiors consisted of 12 rows of shelves and cost approximately $80,600. The City purchased the unit by piggybacking from a Maricopa County (Ariz.) Community Colleges contract. Galbraith said these mobile shelves are more often used for books.
He expressed his concern about weight when the company came out to take measurements. Company representatives took weight specifications and made sure the shelves would be able to hold heavy truck starters, about 300 lbs. per shelf, Galbraith said.
For safety, when an aisle is open, a light flashes. Parts personnel have to check the open aisle to make sure no one is in there. After he or she ensures it’s clear, the person pushes a button, and the light turns green, allowing him or her to open any other aisle and closing the aisle that was previously open. In case someone is in an open aisle, a light strip near the floor in each row (similar to those found in garage doors) will stop the shelves from moving if it recognizes something in its way, such as a foot.
The benefits from the overall renovation have been numerous. By changing up the parts room and adding 300 square feet (by removing interior walls and using some vacant office space), adding the mobile shelving, and reorienting the shelves, the fleet was able to increase the storage capacity by 230%, Galbraith said. The 12 rows of shelves consist of 124 shelving sections, which replaced the parts room’s prior 54 shelving sections.
“In addition to space savings, the parts personnel have parts more accessible, reduced wasted steps, [and it’s] much cleaner and neater,” Galbraith said. He added since shelving lights only illuminate over the open aisle and all other lights are off, the lighting is where it’s needed, which can reduce electrical waste.
While this happens rarely, there is a feature that allows staff to override the control box in case it stops working. The City’s contract includes maintenance in case something does come up that staff can’t easily fix. Galbraith said there have been no safety-related incidents with the unit.
Montgomery County: Vertical Lift Module Allows for Parts Storage Up to 14 Feet
Montgomery County, Md., opened its new heavy equipment and transit fleet facility in early October. Similar to the situation at Beverly Hills, staff found out the parts room would be smaller than it was in the original facility. The staff previously worked in a parts room measuring 9,800 square feet — this was reduced to 5,800 square feet in the new facility.
“The plan they used had more bay space but less storage for parts,” Keith Powers, program manager II, Division of Fleet Management, explained.
Staff took the opportunity to reduce some of its inventory, then purchased two Kardex Remstar vertical lift modules (VLMs) that rise to 14 feet and use an automated elevator-like system to bring down parts.
The two Shuttle XP 500 vertical lift modules sit side by side at the new facility, controlled by one main computer, Powers said. The units take up a 112-inch by 112-inch area. Inside each unit, two sections of racks face each other, with an extractor in the middle. Once personnel enters the parts number he or she needs into the computer, the extractor collects the tray with this part number and pulls it down into the access opening for parts personnel, displaying the part number, location, and description in an LED sign. It later puts it back in place. Kardex Remstar’s software records how many units of each part there is remaining in the machine, and the software also integrates with the fleet management information system, FASTER.
Montgomery County fleet stores smaller items in the VLM, limiting parts to those less than 12 inches by 36 inches by 6 inches. While the VLM will take larger items, limiting size allows the fleet to store more items. Weight is limited to 800 lbs. for each tray. Heavier or larger items are placed on regular fixed shelves, Powers said. Of the fleet’s 6,000 parts numbers, about 3,200 of them are stored in the VLMs.
For safety, a laser detects if a hand is in the access area when the machine’s parts are about to move, stopping the VLM until the operator goes back to the computer and lets it know it’s clear. The County has a two-year warranty with the company, and service is scheduled for every six months for maintenance. After the two-year period, Powers said the fleet could choose to buy an extended warranty.
The two VLMs cost the fleet $275,000 including installation, but it solved the major space problem. In addition, Powers said the VLM’s accuracy and speed during restocking is beneficial. Once personnel scans the barcode, the machine will automatically bring down trays and tell personnel what to put in which tray.
At the time of publication, the fleet had been in its facility less than one month. Powers said staff is still being trained on how to input new items in the VLM.
“It was a necessity for us and I’d definitely tell anybody — if you’re expanding, carrying more equipment, have more mechanics, or need more parts, and you don’t have any more room to expand, this is best way to do that,” Powers said.
Stanley Vidmar Parts Carousel
Stanley Vidmar provides a motorized parts carousel for facilities, which allows fleets to store parts vertically to maximize floor space. The operator rotates shelves, locates the desired inventory item, stops the carousel in the proper position at the opening, and removes the product.
● Craig Crowder, fleet manager, City of Beverly Hills, Calif.
● Mel Galbraith, PCFM, fleet director, City of Scottsdale, Ariz.
● Keith Powers, program manager II, Division of Fleet Management, Montgomery County, Md.