Daimler Trucks Components & Logistics’ facility in Gastonia, N.C., currently runs 24/7, as it rapidly fulfills orders, along with the sub-assembly of thousands of parts, which are used to build commercial trucks and buses.
“We have an excessive amount of work and multiple activities going on at once,” says Rodney Honeycutt, materials supervisor at Daimler. “Space, speed and accuracy are very important at our facility.”
The Daimler facility was originally designed as a distribution center, but, due to the company’s growth, along with a full-scale truck manufacturing plant nearby, the facility quickly added a sub-assembly area as well. The site includes 4,000 square feet where 2,600 small truck parts are picked, such as bolts, nuts and other fasteners; 800 square feet of lineside assembly space; and areas for pressing and stamping operations.
Bulky cardboard boxes on pallets were initially used in the small-parts picking area. People used box cutters to open cartons and pick out what they needed. It was very messy, as stray screws and empty boxes were scattered everywhere. The cumbersome setup also created a major speed bump for the pickers who are responsible for delivering the fasteners to lineside. It also boxed in the space, which was an issue. As a result, the site needed to quadruple the number of parts coming in—an impossible goal to achieve with the old racking system in place.
Daimler needed a solution to address the space issue and establish an orderly, efficient and safe pick environment. The solution was a grocery store-type setup, using carton flow racks with 6-inch-wide roller lanes. In fact, the pick area for fasteners now includes 2,600 roller lanes, which comprise one-third less space than the old system, while also allowing Daimler to acquire a lot more products in the same footprint.
“The racks are really durable, and we can count on them to hold the weight. [They also] provide high visibility and accessibility,” Rodney says. “Everything is labeled and coded, so the pickers know they are getting the right part. It’s a quick and accurate pick point.”
In the lineside assembly area, Daimler workers assemble doors, windshield brackets, tire frames and other components, which are shipped to plants that are building the complete truck or bus. Therefore, Daimler also needed lineside storage solutions that were strong, serviceable, clean and lightweight.
Today, pickers from the fastener area deliver totes full of various fasteners to carton flow rack workstations (40 in all), where lineside workers pick the exact screws and bolts they need to assemble an item. Consequently, productivity at lineside has jumped, as workers no longer need to leave their station and waste up to an hour walking 300 feet to sort through the parts they need.
In addition, the carton flow rack workstations have increased space utilization by up to 50% and boosted production efficiency by 30%, as parts angle toward the picker now, thereby improving picking speed. This upturn in efficiency has been especially critical—although its Gastonia facility is busier than ever, Daimler has kept up with its orders.