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No more chasing parts

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By Katy Korkos

As the design for Airport Basin nears the 60-percent phase, and the next value engineering session approaches, the county staff who will use the space have been paring down space needs and refining processes to create the most efficient use of space and employee time at the new facility.The collaborators have already found a way to eliminate a second floor from the early plans, and that in turn eliminates the need for hallways, stairs and an elevator.Procurement and Risk Administrator Jim Roth is the project manager working with his counterparts and colleagues in the materials support area of county and school operations. Roth said this week that he sees great opportunities for saving time and taxpayer money when the county and schools move their materials management (warehousing) to the new facility to be built at Airport Basin.“Material available for ready use with a minimum of waiting, ability to build and store bills of material for projects, and just in time delivery play major parts in increasing service while reducing space requirements,” Roth said.Roth said that the county would be better able to take advantage of innovations in storage, handling, and delivery with the new facility, when county and schools functions are combined, saving the taxpayers money both in the construction and operation of the new facilities.Currently, parts and supplies are stored in the high-ceilinged warehouse at the  County Annex. The county’s warehouse holds everything from hardhats to anemometer parts for the airport, and literally everything in between, with gas valves, fire hydrant parts, light bulbs, cleaning supplies and pipe fittings all stocked on the original shelves the county inherited from the Atomic Energy Commission. Larger items sit on pallet racks called “standard Navy pallet racks,” which are another obsolete storage aid. The new storage systems will include customized bins and drawers instead of open shelving, and the storage will be appropriate for the items being stored.Materials handling will be improved with an overhead system to move objects, replacing the forklifts, which require a lot of turnaround space, Roth said.He sees the new warehouse operation as a combination of the “just in time” with the “just in case” model. “Just in time” means that some items will only be ordered and delivered to the various divisions as they are needed, while “just in case” items will be on hand in case of emergency.“Material available for ready use with a minimum of waiting, ability to build and store bills of material for projects and just-in-time delivery play major parts in increasing service while reducing space requirements,” he said.Roth said that the space for storage at Airport Basin can be reduced because the supplies each group needs will be in its own area, for a “grab and go approach.” Roth said that it is to the county’s advantage to be located near Los Alamos National Laboratory, because the vendors are in the county daily to deliver to the laboratory. “We can get good prices from the vendors who have to come up here anyway.”“People think, ‘oh, this (material support) is just a small part of the county budget,’ but nobody can work without it,” Roth said. “We’re here to support the guys who are out there doing their job.”He said that having parts and supplies available is what determines whether people can get any work done. “The tail wags the dog,” Roth said. “If the technicians are spending a lot of time chasing parts, they can’t work.”He added that the old system of having people wait at a counter in the warehouse for their orders to be filled should be completely eliminated in the new processes planned for Airport Basin. He said that he expects it to take about 18 months from the time the project is approved by council for the facility to be ready for occupancy.“Instead of paying teachers to teach and plumbers to plumb, we would be paying them to act as procurement specialists, parts chasers, document runners and so forth,” Roth said. “This erodes their time available for core services. Not accumulating non-essential items in the first place is at the core of Roth’s philosophy for the new space. “Our plan approaches this with the precept that not building a $1 million worth of space for a few thousand dollars worth of items we could otherwise dispose of or didn’t need in the first place is a good, and expected, approach,” he said. “Good planning means you don’t build a building just to store things.”