LifeNet - Tissue Distribution Company Uses VLMs to Cut Floor Space in Half With 12 Month ROI
LifeNet is the nation's largest not-for-profit tissue bank on the east coast
Application: Medical Distribution of Live Tissue
Equipment: Four Shuttle VLMs
Summary: LifeNet cut their floor space requirements by 50% with a 12 month ROI
“Implant surgery requires accurate, just-in-time delivery of necessary material. For this to be realized, a highly efficient and precise supply chain and delivery system is imperative,” as Fred Walker, Life
Net’s Distribution and Inventory Manager, points out. Walker makes sure that the tissue and bones that are received, processed and then stored at the company are
closely monitored, inventoried and shipped out to hospitals, dental offices and other customer sites around the country and world.
LifeNet is the nation's largest not-for-profit tissue bank on the east coast. LifeNet strives to improve the quality of human life by providing organs and tissues when and where needed and to provide educational and support services to enhance the donation process.
Then There Was Space
When the new building was being planned, the growth in bone graphs and packaging material orders required the company to increase the size of its warehouse to accommodate their customers. “The original warehouse space of 3,500 square feet was not adequate. We knew that we would need 7,000 square feet of storage and retrieval space using the existing wire racks and shelving systems. This meant doubling their floor space requirement that we currently used in the new building,” states Walker.
During the planning process, Walker discovered the Vertical Lift Module (VLM) in a trade journal. After conducting a little research and doing the math, he concluded that the VLM would not only store the same amount of inventory in half the space, but would also increase productivity and improve their inventory management processes. Keeping an eye on the 50% savings in floor space and Return On Investment (ROI), the company made the decision to purchase the Kardex Remstar Shuttle VLMs. “By using the KardexRemstar Shuttle VLMs instead of wire racks the company saved 50% of the floor space that would have otherwise been needed.” The VLMs were designed right into the new design of the LifeNet building. LifeNet was able to save on construction costs by building half the space while handling the increased inventory.
Inventory Control - The Bare Bones
If you ask Walker what really sold him on the KardexRemstar’s VLMs, he will tell you that it was the inventory management software package and having a local customer service team. Now LifeNet’s entire inventory is managed thru software which is interfaced to their host ERP system. Storage, retrieval and inventory count is as easy as a push of a button or a scan of the bar code reader, helping to make inventory control more efficient, accurate and accessible.
The recovered donor tissue and bones are received and processed at LifeNet by experienced technicians. The technicians cut and work the bones and tissue into surgery-ready pieces that doctors can use. This product is then stored in various areas of the warehouse; some at room temperature in the KardexRemstar Shuttle VLMs, and some in freezers and liquid nitrogen.
Once product is ready for storage, inventory data is entered into the ERP system so that it is available to customer service. When an order come through, the software checks into the ERP system and presents the data to the order pickers at the Shuttle VLMs. When an item is picked from the VLM, the order is confirmed. The software communicates this back to the ERP system so that inventory counts are always “Live.”
The distribution service representative scans the pick ticket and the item is brought to her from the VLM. She then takes the item, puts it in a bin, and sends it to the verification station. The verification station removes it from available inventory and ready for packing. The product is then packed and sent to shipping. The box is then scanned and the software tells the shipper what method of shipping to use based on the customer’s requirements. These requirements are often based on whether the order is going into inventory, being used in an upcoming surgery, or whether it is frozen or room temperature.
Walker and his employees are responsible for all outgoing shipments. Shipments are sent out continuously throughout the day, right up until the last UPS or FedEx pickup in the early evening. “This system allows LifeNet to extend our order cut-off time dramatically. We can now accept and process an order in 30 minutes prior to our last pickup time to meet our customers same day shipping requirement,” Walker stated. Working in two shifts daily fives days a week, and one shift on Saturday, LifeNet selects orders from a total of 400 active SKUs (Stock Keeping Units). Between 4,000 to 5000 items are picked per day over the two shift work period.
Replenishment of inventory is constantly done during both shifts. Double shift replenishing is a very important aspect for keeping customers supplied with the important items needed same or next day air. When the bone grafts are ready for storage, they are brought from the finished goods area. Each graft put in inventory is Quality Controlled checked.
Once items are checked and brought to the replenishing area, if the items are already set up in the system, then it is just a matter of scanning them and the Shuttle VLM automatically delivers to an ergonomic work height the first available storage cell. This process is repeated until the wave of replenishment is completed. The inventory management software automatically records every SKUs tray, tote and cell for future picking.
New employees can be trained to LifeNet’s system processes, task sign offs and the VLMs in less than 24 hours. The employees are trained how to pick orders, how to create the totes and how to store items. This has increased productivity and assured that new or even temporary workers, if the need ever arose, could be used and still be able to get the orders out efficiently and on time. “The ability to bring untrained workers up to speed is critical for our operation. The Shuttle VLMs and FastPic4 software are so easy to use that training is incredibly fast and the process assures that they work productively, accurately and safely,” concluded Walker. And with the systems’ 12 month ROI, that’s a statement to take to the bank.