Maintenance Bay: Sorting out storage

Manager: Bruce Donatelli
Title: Supervisor, Office of Fleet Management
Fleet: City of Philadelphia
Operation: Municipality responsible for the acquisition, assignment and maintenance of about 6,300 vehicles and related equipment.

Problem: Efficiency and productivity are watchwords in any fleet operation. But when you are tasked with supporting 43 different departments operating over 6,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment involved in everything from snow removal, trash collection, and roadway paving to police, fire, rescue, and runway support operations at the nearby international airport, those two words are often the difference between success and failure.

That’s particularly true when it comes to dealing with the many varied parts required to keep such a diverse fleet up and running. “Manufacturers make a lot of changes to part design and shape from year to year,” notes Bruce Donatelli, a supervisor with the city of Philadelphia’s Office of Fleet Management (OFM). “To improve productivity, we sought to consolidate most of our parts storage from bulky, traditional shelves on our third floor down to more flexible, space-efficient shelves in our first floor service bays, where the work actually gets done.”

The cramped spaces in OFM’s 16 shops alongside the continual introduction of new vehicles and parts make efficient parts management difficult when using the traditional (and often inflexible) storage methods commonly seen in the maintenance and repair shops of most municipalities.

Solution: Philadelphia’s OFM decided to experiment with a flexible type of storage system developed by Tatany, PA-based Equipto called V-Grip. Donatelli said OFM liked what it saw. “The option to add or adjust shelves, drawers, or other accessories as needed helps us maximize storage density where it is needed most, next to the service bays—even if part sizes or configurations change,” he says.

He explained that the main drawback of traditional modular drawer cabinets on casters is that they are essentially unchangeable steel boxes, unable to efficiently accommodate changing part sizes, shapes, weights, quantities, or configurations. As needs change, for instance, storing washer-sized parts in 6-in. drawers could waste a large amount of space, as could stashing 3-in.-high parts on a 24-in.-high shelf. Also, as fixed parts storage capacity often lags behind need, clutter results with parts too often stored on the floor, on top of cabinets, and stacked in boxes.

That’s where Donatelli said the V-Grip helped out. “We at least doubled our storage in a limited space,” he noted. “We added vertical storage with a deck over the mezzanine above our shelves with stair access. This gave us the room we needed for bulky items such as doors, hoods, fenders, and body panels.”

V-Grip is designed to allow parts managers to adapt and create denser storage capacity as it can be interchanged in the shelf cavity as business dictates. Since each shelf, drawer, or accessory is individually mounted to upright posts using a proprietary bracket system, they are individually adjustable and can be added at any time without disassembling the unit, Donatelli said.

The system features shelves with up to 400 lbs. capacity that can be adjusted at 3-in. increments for storage of bulk items and items of different sizes. For small- to medium-sized parts, drawers in 3-in. increments can be added, along with drawer or shelf dividers to keep small parts from mixing. Locking and see-through doors in various combinations can also be added for more security along with visibility.

To lock down the entire system, the mobile aisles are rolled together and locked down with a single key, improving shop floor productivity. “Maximizing our storage space allowed us to consolidate most of our upstairs parts operation downstairs in a much smaller space,” Donatelli said. “Now our technicians have fast part access right in the service bay. We’re more productive, and it won’t be long before we achieve a return on our investment.”

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