Case History Feature
Case history feature on Litton Applied Technology
for Remstar International, written by Richard Stewart
Vertical Carousel Storage
Helps Defense Contractor
Continue Fast Growth
The "Big Squeeze" is how managers at Litton Applied Technology
remember their merger two years ago. It turned the company, a
defense electronics division of Litton Industries, into the world's
largest supplier of threat-warning systems for military aircraft —
and a master at maximizing storage space.
The firm was catapulted into the fast track during the late '60s,
when its threat- detection system was adopted by the U.S. military
for use in Vietnam. But the growing pains experienced then were
nothing compared to what lay in store two decades later when
faced with the prospect of acquiring another company, Dalmo-
Victor General Instruments.
The planned acquisition hinged largely on Litton's ability to bring
the other firm's personnel and equipment into its own modern
headquarters and manufacturing facility in San Jose, Calif. —
without incurring the expense of additional bricks and mortar.
Accomplishing that would take more than downsizing existing
office spaces, Litton's facility planners knew.
Bins, metal shelving and banks of padlocked four-drawer file
cabinets were scattered throughout the Litton facility for the
storage of system components, test instruments, software,
computer media and documents. Dedicated storage cubicles
took up valuable floor space that was needed to accommodate
the additional personnel.
"It was like trying to put four feet into two shoes," says Dean
McWilliams, president of Office Systems International (OSI) in
Dublin, Calif., who was brought in to consult with Litton
managers. OSI assessed the volume of materials, equipment
and documents being stored both at the Litton facility and at
Maximizing storage was the key to creating enough space to
handle the move, McWilliams indicated in a comprehensive
report of his findings. Automated vertical carousel storage — an
enclosed system of rotating shelves that move on a track — was
recommended. The carousels could be extended up through the
facility's nine-foot drop ceilings, to use the building's full 12-
and 14-foot ceiling height.
Carousels produced by Remstar International Inc., headquartered
in Westbrook, Maine, were chosen because of the broad range
of models offered by the company, a more competitive pricing
structure, and Remstar's excellent reputation for product support.
Four different Remstar models were selected to handle Litton's
diverse storage requirements.
OSI installed Model 105 Slimline units (with a front-to-back
footprint of only 36 inches and 12-inch-deep shelves) in lab areas
where space was extremely confined. Model 110 and 120 units,
with wider footprints and deeper carriers, handle large equipment
and components. Model 181 units were used for heavy items.
Gary Wiley, a Litton facilities planner, clearly recalls the challenge
facing the company at the time. He concurred with McWilliams'
recommendation to replace the shelving and file cabinets with the
automated carousels. OSI had installed several Remstar units in the
Litton facility five years earlier, resulting in significant space savings.
Other benefits included reduced time and effort for storage and
retrieval, not insignificant, either, notes Wiley.
"With the carousels, we were able to get rid of the dedicated file
cubicles that took up so much floor space, and now use that space
for office cubicles," Wiley says. "We got at least 19 file cabinets
worth of storage into one of the Remstar units — 19 cabinets that
used to be spread out over three office-sized cubicles."
The carousels also allowed Litton to consolidate files, materials and
equipment in areas where they were needed, rather than having
them spread around the facility as space dictated. Today, the
materials stored in the company's 35 vertical carousels, if lined up
side by side, would extend about a mile, McWilliams estimates.
"Being a defense contractor, Litton has a need for tight security
and access control," the OSI president says, "and the vertical
carousels are ideal for their purposes. We configured one of the
units to meet Department of Defense certification for secure storage,
which eliminated the need for a separate vault."
At Litton, each user group has its own electronically indexed
operating system for its carousels, which provides another measure
of security for stored materials and documents. All of Remstar's
models are designed to interface with computers, and product-
specific inventory management software is available. An internal
survey conducted by Litton shows that the Remstar carousels score
high marks in user satisfaction. Response time and professionalism
of service personnel also earn excellent ratings, Wiley reports.
The cost savings that resulted from the installation of automated
storage at the facility was significant. The space savings enabled
the company to expand without physically enlarging the facility.
Litton's entire San Jose facility was reconfigured. New office
cubicles were created in place of fixed storage cabinetry. The quiet
whirring of the carousels' rotating shelves now replaces the
slamming of metal doors and file drawers. And the neat, modern
appearance of the color-coordinated carousel units is much more
appropriate for such a space-age operation — one that does not
look at all squeezed for space.