Bauer Compressors needed a way to more effectively manage its growing parts inventory and add floor space at its assembly plant.

Bauer Compressors Inc. has been manufacturing high-pressure compressors for more than 50 years. The company specializes in markets such as breathing air, industrial air, plastics technology, natural gas and inert gas compression.

To help accommodate growth, Bauer needed a way to more effectively manage its growing parts inventory and add more floor space at its assembly plant in Norfolk, VA.

“At the rate our business was growing, our inventory count was increasing daily and we were running out of places to put parts,” says Joseph Stark, operations manager. The parts department used more than 100 sections of shelving, occupying a 50 by 90 foot area of the plant. The company had no room to expand its production floor to accommodate new demand.

By installing three shuttle vertical lift modules (VLMs) from KardexRemstar, Bauer was able to reduce the size of its parts department from 4,500 square feet to 395 square feet, and recover 91 percent of previously used floor space. The company used the extra space to add more workcells and increase the number of parts in inventory.

By utilizing overhead space, Bauer increased the number of parts in inventory by 50 percent. More efficient use of space, however, was only one part of the challenge facing engineers at Bauer Compressors. Improved parts retrieval efficiency was the other. As in many companies, the parts department has two types of customers-external customers that need spare parts shipped to their location and internal customers on the plant floor that need parts to build new compressors.

To meet those customer needs, Bauer integrated its host ERP system with FastPic inventory management and control software from FastPic Systems. The company also installed a batch picking station that allows operators to pick multiple orders simultaneously.

The order entry department now enters customer requests into the host ERP system. The orders are held in queue until the department is ready to begin filling orders. Operators select up to eight orders to be picked simultaneously, creating a batch.

“Picking multiple orders at one time has increased our pick efficiency tremendously,” claims Gunter Rennhofer, planning manager. The batch station has a put light indicator in front of eight positions (one for each order). The operator places a tote in front of each put light and the software automatically looks for SKU commonality within the batch and associates each tote with an order.

FastPic software directs the shuttle VLMs to retrieve the trays required. As each tray is presented in the ergonomically positioned pick window, a pick light indicates which SKU to pick and the quantity is displayed on the unit’s display screen.

The operator picks the required quantity out of the VLM and turns around to the batch station to distribute the product among the orders. Put lights indicate what quantity to put in each tote. This process is repeated until all orders are complete. Picking out of the old shelving system required two people, each picking only one order at a time. With the new system, only one person is needed to do all of the order picking.

If there is an immediate need for a part on the floor during batch pick, the operator performs a hot pick. A hot pick is a pause command in the software that suspends the batch picking process to allow the operator to pull a part, or multiple parts, from the shuttle VLMs. When the hot pick is completed, the operator directs the software to continue batch picking where it left off.

Bauer Compressors has also incorporated a bagging and tagging process to handle quantities of small parts, such as bolts, screws and washers. When parts are picked form the VLM tray, FastPic software automatically prints a label with part name and SKU number. Each part is counted, sealed in a plastic bag and labeled before being placed in the order bin on the batch station.

“Before this system, we had part numbers handwritten on some parts and not at all on others,” says Stark. “It made it difficult to find parts when picking an order and it was a nightmare for restocking unused or returned parts.

“Now, each part is individually labeled and bagged, giving our customers clean and clearly labeled parts,” adds Stark. “Our main reasons for purchasing this system were storage density, improved picking speed and greater inventory control. It has given us all of that, plus improved accuracy and better employee ergonomics.”

For more on parts picking software, call 800-897-8379 or