Optimizing with Lineside Storage

Streamline your material handling by moving parts to the production line

Most electronics manufacturing operations use a kitting process where parts are stored in a stockroom with whole work orders being picked into kits. These kits, typically just bins filled with parts in no particular order, are prepared in advance and stored until required for production. While this is the most common material handling process, it presents many challenges and inefficiencies. 

Traditional Material Handling Challenges

First, a typical stockroom is outfitted with rack-and-bin storage which, on its own, leads to a number of headaches including misplaced parts, time-consuming picking and verification processes, and huge amounts of wasted space. It's common to pick parts into separate physical kits, and store them in some WIP location until they are actually needed for production. This puts a (potentially large) number of component packages out into the "black hole" of WIP, where it can be difficult to track the exact location and quantity of any particular part number. The black hole of WIP grows larger and larger the further in advance parts are picked, compounding inventory uncertainty over time.

The Shift to Lineside Storage

Lineside storage offers a compelling alternative, storing electronic components directly at or near the point of use on the production line. This approach minimizes the movement and handling of parts, significantly reducing the time they spend in WIP. By keeping materials in known locations right until they are needed, lineside storage enhances visibility and traceability, which are crucial for efficient manufacturing operations.

Some manufacturers are able to store the majority of their SMT parts right at the production line, eliminating stockroom space and kitting processes altogether. Some manufacturers will store their most commonly used parts on the line, such that the parts they are picking the most are already right where they are needed in production. With a modern smart storage system, other manufacturers can manage a fluid Kanban-like system, in which parts are added and removed from lineside storage according to current and upcoming production needs.

Benefits of Modern Smart Storage Systems

LS700-1-M PNGModern smart storage systems are key to enabling effective lineside storage. These systems offer extremely dense storage solutions that maximize space and accessibility without sacrificing speed or efficiency. By utilizing smart storage, parts can be picked directly from storage into feeders at the precise moment they are needed, bringing manufacturers closer to just-in-time principles without the need for extensive planning and picking logistics. Smart storage systems can also keep other systems, and even your suppliers, aware of your real time inventory levels to keep you confident of exactly what you have on hand at any time. This not only keeps inventory levels lean but also reduces the errors and labor involved in traditional picking and verification processes.

Integration with Manufacturing Systems

Integrating lineside storage systems with pick-and-place machines and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) can further streamline production. This integration allows for automated signals that dictate when parts need to be picked, either for feeder setup or replenishment during production runs. Such automation ensures that the right components are available at the right time, dramatically enhancing accuracy and eliminating the labor-intensive manual kitting process.

Final Thoughts

The adoption of lineside storage in electronics manufacturing represents a significant leap forward in terms of efficiency and operational effectiveness. By rethinking material handling and storage with smarter, integrated solutions, manufacturers can achieve faster turnaround times, better inventory management, and a more responsive manufacturing process. As the industry continues to evolve, lineside storage stands out as a practical and innovative strategy that can lead to substantial productivity gains.

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