An order is retrieved from the huge warehouse of the main stores.
Today we go through the square window into the wonderful world of CERN stores. We investigate what the people who work in the stores does, and in particular, what can they do for you?
Here at CERN, we have a main store, two self service stores, a raw materials store, a chemical products store, and (to make the physicists feel at home!) a virtual store. These facilities form an important part of the Logistics Group of SPL Division. Their philosophy, explains Group Leader Lennart Jirden, is based on the simple mathematical principle that one large order costs less in terms of money, time and manpower than many small orders. The stores provide any item, which is used often and repetitively at CERN, and negotiate bulk contracts with the suppliers. They sell the items on to CERN users at cost price - all you need is a budget code, and your group is charged directly.
Exactly how it all works depends on some clever computer systems, and on which store you want to use. If you want a small amount of something, say a few screws, bolts, capacitors or resistors...then head down to CERN's version of your local supermarket, the self-service stores. Just pick what you want and hand over your budget code. For larger amounts, or for heavier items, your best bet is the main stores. This time you don't even have to leave your favourite chair. Simply peruse the stores catalogue on the web, click on the items you require, and the order will be delivered to your door within 24 hours. The hardest part may well be choosing from the vast number of articles that are available!
Workers in the raw materials store use specialist machines to cut the precise amounts of material that are required.
Denis Emmenegger and his team at the main store receive the goods from the suppliers, check them, repackage them, code them, and file them in the huge warehouse where they work. Each item has its place, and if you make an order on the web, it will appear immediately on a computer screen at the end of the appropriate aisle. Twice a day, one of the store workers makes a 'picking'. He gets into a little robot car at the end of the aisle, flies up and along the shelves until he reaches your specified item, and retrieves it. The next morning, your order will be delivered to you.
The raw materials store and the chemical products store are smaller, but they work in a similar way. Order over the web and your request will be delivered. The virtual store, unfortunately, is not a ghostly building, popping in and out of existence - but is a system where the items are held with the suppliers before being delivered. The Logistics Group is hoping to expand the virtual store, because it offers joint benefits of quick delivery, advantageous contracts with the suppliers, and unlimited capacity, since the items do not have to be physically stocked at CERN.
If you have any particular needs or suggestions, here's who to contact!
From left to right:
Henri Piney (Materials management), Pascal Droux (Chemical products), Maryse Moskofian (Furniture, stationery), Christian Saint-Jal (Raw materials), Roger Colmagne (Tools) and Jean-Pierre Lyonne (Electronics).
Between them the stores hold over 16000 different kinds of items. So there's another mystery - which decides what goes into the CERN stores? And how do they know what you want? Luckily Henri Piney, head of Materials Management, is on hand to explain. 'For each group of goods there is a Product Manager, who has responsibility for the content of the stores,' he says. Each category of items is continuously reviewed by a technical group, who look into the future needs of CERN users and make recommendations to the Logistics Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from every Division. The Product manager then implements the recommendations - updating the catalogue by bringing in new technologies and negotiating new contracts.
Next time you want to order something, think first of your own CERN stores. To do anything else, in the words of Jirden, 'is just not rational!'