In honor of World Book Day, Twitter hosted a curated collection of beautiful photo images of libraries around the world. These architectural gems are inspirational examples of design, paying homage to the written word even in the midst of the Digital Age. If you look closely at the photographs, however, it becomes apparent that the shelves are very crowded. Book publishers are printing more books than ever, and librarians are hard-pressed to house their collections.
Adding to the challenge is the changing nature of the library itself. No longer are libraries just a place to check out books or do research. More and more, they are centers for community activities, providing space for everything from internet cafes to classrooms to yoga studios. Flexible space utilization is a must, and librarians are constantly juggling the multiple demands of book space and activity space, without the option of increasing the building’s footprint.
However, storage technology is coming to the rescue, reports Audrey Barbakoff in Library Journal. Creative products condense collections in a number of ways:
- High-density shelving systems increase storage space while reducing the storage footprint, and the finishes can be customized to suit a library’s design aesthetic.
- Powered by AS/RS, “book bots” operate in floor-to-ceiling shelving spaces with narrow aisles too small for humans. They are entertaining for library patrons to watch, and have the added benefit of eliminating safety concerns about ladders and overhead lifting.
- Shared storage spreads the cost of storage space and inventory management among several libraries, as well as letting them share the contents of their collections and reduce excess duplicates.
Adaptive furnishings such as Swiftspace workstations can also boost libraries’ flexible space utilization, shifting from study carrel to collaborative workstation to small conference area. These workstations let libraries reconfigure their space for a variety of needs, and they fold up for compact storage.
The mission of librarians is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities,” according to library expert David Lankes. With the support of the right furnishing and storage systems, librarians can turn their attention to their primary mission.
Photo © deberrar / Adobe Stock
Continuous improvement – it’s a principle of Kaizen, or lean management, which encourages constant incremental advancements and uses past performance to suggest changes for future improvements. The coming new year is always a good time to reflect on the previous twelve months and look for new opportunities for improvement. With that in mind, here’s a recap of our informational offerings which we hope will help you achieve your goals for next year.
This year has seen remarkable changes, and one of the key elements to successful change management is flexibility. In February, we discussed how adaptability allowed ancient man to survive in hostile climates, and how it makes it possible for today’s facilities managers to handle the changing spatial needs of businesses and institutions. From telecommuting (August) to staffing fluctuations and workspace repurposing (January), adaptive furnishings are a good fit for agile organizations.
A proactive approach is one of the building blocks of continuous improvement, as well as a cost-effective way to manage change. Innovations in automation (February) help facilities and logistics managers monitor inventories and usage in real time, allowing them to respond to unexpected changes without any loss of throughput. A sound disaster recovery plan (September), including storage systems and inventory records that reduce or prevent loss, is the kind of forward-facing planning that supports business continuity and continuous improvement.
More efficient use of resources, whether it’s space, time, or finances, always results in better productivity – the ultimate goal of continuous improvement. When your facility can reclaim 50% of storage floor space with a mobile storage system or a vertical carousel system (October), that extra space can be utilized for more productive activities. RFID inventory management (August) lets retailers and logistics managers respond to unexpected demand with efficient JIT supply chains (July), with a resulting increase in sales productivity.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. A clear-sighted look at your organization’s productivity during the past year will show areas where you’re achieving continuous improvement, and areas where you can add flexibility, efficiency, and proactive management to take your processes to a new level in the new year.
Photo © gustavofrazao/Fotolia.com
The just-in-time (JIT) inventory strategy has been the darling of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for 20+ years. But there’s an inherent danger for retailers who use JIT.
JIT is at the heart of the nimble business model, allowing businesses to be flexible and responsive to new market conditions. It reduces investment in inventory, it reduces inventory obsolescence, and it reduces inventory storage needs – major benefits to retailers whose margins are squeezed every day. So what’s the downside?
Communication and speed are the vital components of successful JIT. The JIT cycle begins with a “pull” event. A pull event can be an alert that stored inventory has reached a pre-set level of depletion, or it can be something as simple as a single sale. The pull event triggers a message that more product is required in order to maintain a retailer’s inventory at the optimal level.
The message may initiate more production or it may request a transfer of inventory from warehouse to store. When the pull event message is triggered, manufacturing and logistics must move swiftly to deliver fresh inventory.
As long as the pull event message is received, and the inventory can be re-filled quickly, JIT is an undeniable winner. Retailers get all the benefits of low inventory costs. But if there’s a breakdown at any point – an unforeseen surge in demand, a communications delay, a diverted shipment – retailers are left with empty shelves and lost sales.
Every retail operation has a sweet spot that balances the cost of warehousing inventory against the risks of a JIT breakdown. Retail is a gamble in itself, but you can hedge your JIT bets by using automated vertical storage. These space-efficient vertical carousels can increase storage capacity by 50%, allowing a risk-averse retailer to keep an inventory cushion on hand for unanticipated demands, without the additional cost of extra storage space. For those retailers who are comfortable gambling with somewhat lower inventory on hand, a vertical storage system can reduce their storage footprints by as much as 75%, yielding a substantial financial cushion to offset potential JIT breakdowns.
JIT is a well-tested and well-proven strategy for managing inventory efficiently, productively, and profitably – as long as the system works smoothly and speedily. Mitigate the JIT risks with a vertical storage system, and you can bet safely on JIT.
Image © F8studio / Fotolia.com
Square footage is ever more precious as our urban areas grow ever more crowded. Cities with naturally occuring geographical restrictions – San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York (Manhattan) – learned long ago that when you can’t go out, you have to go up. Land is too valuable to devote to the single-level use of green space, and except for a few famous parks, the concrete canyons of the world’s major cities are almost completely lacking in greenery. That is, unless Spanish biologist/designer Ignacio Solano has been at work.
From childhood, Solano studied the symbiotic relationships among plants, fungi, and bacteria. In 2007 he developed a successful method of gardening vertically using the natural interdependence of the botanical ecosystem. Patented in 2010, Solano’s vertical gardens were immediately commissioned by forward-thinking architects in Europe and South America. One of his most notable installations covers the surface of a high-rise building in Bogota, Columbia, as seen in this photo. A model of efficiency and automation, the garden utilizes grey water from the apartments combined with a system of sensors that monitor moisture, and distribute and recycle water.
Crowded urban spaces aren’t the only beneficiaries of a vertical solution. Businesses, too, can expand into unused overhead space within their offices or warehouses by installing a vertical storage system. These ingenious automated carousel systems increase storage capacity while conserving expensive floor space. And because there are no ladders or manual overhead lifting, a vertical carousel system actually improves employee safety. All these features add up to significant savings.
By utilizing the space overhead, you’re really decreasing another kind of overhead – the kind that contributes to your bottom line. Get in touch with a storage consultant to see if vertical is the direction your business should be looking.
Photo © Vita Vilcina
In general, we all crave stability. Change is as unwelcome in our work life as it is in our personal life. But change is inevitable. No one knows this better than facilities managers who deal with constant change.
Whether you’re managing the seasonal changes at a university, the administrative changes within a government agency, or the ups and downs of the business world, proactive planning will always ease the discomfort of change. Consider the plight of a hospital administrator who spent six figures on a lab just last year, and today has to scrap all the expensive built-in cabinetry because the lab’s function has changed. That big budget hit would have been softened by proactively purchasing modular cabinetry last year. Much of the millwork could have been reconfigured and re-used. Instead of dealing with a budget crisis, there’s a smooth and inexpensive transition to the new lab.
Reactive crisis management was the standard in the old days when we had nothing but pencil-and-paper records, supplemented by two-way radios and wired telephones. In the networked e-world of the 21st century, automation tools allow you to be proactive in ways you never could before. Climate control, access, and maintenance updates can all be monitored, and usage can be planned in advance to give you control over expenditures.
Similarly, RFID and AS/RS systems give you control over your inventory and your staff resources. Automation reduces your head count, and lets you plan purchases at optimal times in advance of shortages. Imagine a scenario in which your automated inventory system reports that you have a 7-day supply of a critical part which is shipped by truck. You re-order the part, knowing you’ll receive it in 3 days. The day after you order it, a major order causes a ramp-up in production. You would have been caught short if you had relied on an inaccurate time-consuming manual inventory. Your proactive re-order keeps your operation running smoothly, thanks to automation.
We can let change manage us, or we can make the choice to manage change. Use automation and adaptive furnishings to become proactive, and manage your facility’s changes to your advantage.
Photo © masuti/Fotolia.com
It happens every year around this time – the season for end-of-year tax deductions. The Section 179 tax rule gives businesses an opportunity to write off as much as $500,000 in new and used equipment costs. Equipment or software purchased and put into service by December 31st is deducted from your business’s gross income – it’s as simple as that. And depreciation boosts the total tax reduction even more.
The tax experts at Section179.org provide in-depth information on this valuable tax strategy, and the calculator from Crest Capital shows the savings.
The key phrase in Section 179 is “put into service.” With only a month left in 2016, many kinds of business equipment simply can’t be delivered and put into service before the end of the year. The good news: There’s a wide variety of high density storage, RFID systems, and modular furnishings on a quick-order program. Talk to your tax advisor, then talk to your local storage professional to find out which new and efficient storage systems can help your business qualify for this attractive deduction. Don’t waste a minute!
Photo © russiandoll64 – Fotolia