From the “Other Side” – Perspectives from a Systems Integration Rookie

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System rendering

‘Material Handling’ is not as large of a household term as many of us would like, but once you have product that needs to be handled, you must know certain levels about the industry. Coming into my role with Bastian Solutions, I was fortunate to have been exposed to the material handling industry with my previous employer. The company’s product is very large industrial equipment for the oil and gas industry. These units range in size from a small coffee table to a large platform, so they have quite the variety in sizes and dimensions of similar parts.

The First Project

The largest project I handled with said company was to design a layout for a 400,000 square foot distribution and order fulfillment facility located in Mount Vernon, Ohio. This facility would be set up to serve new unit builds as well as spare parts distribution all over the world. Quite the task after having little material handling experience, but I took the project on with pride. I figured that in order to learn about the industry and equipment we would need, I scheduled many visits to nearby manufacturing and distribution sites to see what type of systems they run for their business. I found out quickly about other conveyor companies and their capabilities while touring these other facilities. That led to the discovery of full scale system integrators, like ourselves, that are skilled in full turn-key solutions from Warehouse Management Systems to robotic work cell installation and programming.

Now, working from “the other side” as an integrator has really opened my eyes to the competition and that execution of large project builds is a difficult and timely feat. With this layout design, I had to deal with products needing storage that ranged from a centimeter long spring to a 6,000 pound forged steel cylinder, which needed many storage types and sizes. I decided to incorporate three long rows of Ridg-u-Rak pallet rack for the larger product on pallets, and a two story picking module with the use of RF picking out of bins for the smaller parts. These picking modules would have a 12’ section of powered roller conveyor inside the far end of the module for operators to put fully picked totes onto.

I also worked heavily with the Warehouse Management System interface, SAP, to properly slot and replenish the product in strategic locations. The fast moving products were to be slotted at the locations nearest the takeaway conveyor in the picking module, and slower moving parts were further down the line to create less travel for the operators picking. From the takeaway portion, the bins would then be diverted into a spiral conveyor and risen to a ceiling hung conveyor track where they were taken to one of six destinations, depending on their LPN (license plate number) and controls system. This included angled declines from the ceiling hung conveyor into a quad-divert transfer to four different work cells. These quad transfers started with “sub-assembly”, where partial assembly was completed for a portion of the unit. Secondly, “tool box build”, which consisted of all the tools required to assemble the entire unit. Third, was “large pack-out” for any spares order larger than 75lbs. And the last out of the quad divert was to the “quality assurance” cell. The last two work cells further down the line were to small pack out for orders less than 75lbs, and finally outbound shipping near the dock doors.

Lessons Learned

I was very fortunate to have had this experience in my previous career as it exposed me to multiple facets of the material handling industry. I was able to learn about many different processes and applications that require certain equipment and systems to run efficiently for a manufacturing company. I am now able to bring this knowledge into a company that provides these solutions for not only manufacturing, but anything that requires material handling from 3PL warehousing to automotive assembly.

I learned a great deal about the material handling industry working on this project that I did not know before, from proper equipment use to ergonomically slotting of products. Now that I am a part of a Top 20 Material Handling Systems Integrator with Bastian Solutions, I can say that I have seen this type of work from both sides, as a customer, and now as the system integrator. This is an ever-growing industry with unlimited possibilities, which keeps me intrigued day in and day out to see what comes next!

As a Field Application Engineer for Bastian Solutions, I conduct sales calls and site visits to meet the customer’s face to face to discover and uncover their material handling needs. I then create the solution to best increase their efficiencies or product flow. In doing so, I have met many great individuals both internally and externally be it vendors or customers. I have also served as Project Manager for the DHL Rodan & Fields new order fulfillment system in Columbus, Ohio. These experiences have taught me the trade to now expand the Columbus market for Bastian Solutions.

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