An interview with Phil Lessard, Modula’s Engineering Manager
For years, warehouse managers relied on the Diamond Phoenix horizontal carousel, the most robust horizontal carousel solution on the market. When Modula acquired Diamond Phoenix in 2009 and its Lewiston, Maine, factory, the company set out to build on the famous Diamond Phoenix by integrating new designs, technology, and software. The result is the new Modula HC, combining the experience of Diamond Phoenix with the latest engineering, design, technology, and software from Modula.
To learn more, Modula sat down with engineering manager Phil Lessard, who had worked on the original Diamond Phoenix and oversaw the new horizontal carousel.
Modula: As you and your team began this project, what were the main criteria for the modernized version of the Diamond Phoenix carousel?
Phil: When Modula acquired the Lewiston factory and the Diamond Phoenix product, we inherited what I think was the most robust carousel on the market in terms of the competition. On top of that, they got a lot of experienced people in the group that have worked with horizontal carousels for a long time.
Modula invested heavily in this plant. We have a lot of new technologies and equipment on the floor that we didn’t have when we were Diamond Phoenix.
Modula: So that allowed you to offer a carousel you couldn’t have made before Modula bought the plant?
Phil: Definitely. These improvements in the factory allowed us to streamline the manufacturing process to keep the costs down. When we sold the Diamond Phoenix carousels, we ended up doing a lot of customization for different customers. But we found that a streamlined number of options were suitable for most situations. So that also helped us bring to market a competitively priced set of offerings.
On the controls side, the Diamond Phoenix controls were getting a bit dated. So we revamped them to bring them in line with the other Modula products. The new HC is controlled by Modula WMS, the same software used to operate our vertical storage solutions, but modified for the horizontal application specifically.”
Modula: Any other important improvements on the Diamond Phoenix carousel?
Phil Lessard: We’ve carried forward those things that have worked for us in the past such as perimeter fencing, but we added automated door systems in front of our carousels. That certainly increases the product’s safety.
We’d already reached maximum rotation speed with the Diamond Phoenix, just due to physics, and the HC matches that speed. But with the modernization of the controls, we can increase order picking efficiency. We can minimize operator movement and position the carousels so they present the product more efficiently.
Also, we offer pods in which the carousels can be grouped to further enhance the throughput. Two or more HCs deliver parts simultaneously to the pod, which really ramps up productivity. A customer can have as few as 18 trays or 100 if needed – whatever works for them.
Modula: With advances in automated storage and retrieval systems, is there a role for a horizontal carousel in the market today?
Phil Lessard: Definitely. First, they’re a very effective solution for high-speed batch-picking applications. You get very high throughput rates. They’re also cost-effective. So are our VLMs, of course, but you don’t always have the capability of putting a 25-foot-tall vertical lift in a place. You might have a 12-foot ceiling or other physical constraints that will make a horizontal carousel more attractive.
They’re also great for distribution or batch-picking operations in which productivity is the key. And we have had customers who like carousels in low pick-rate situations because the customer is focused mainly on the storage function and the density of the product.
Modula: What would you say to someone who’s had Diamond Phoenix carousels in the past and is now considering the Modula HC?
Phil Lessard: I’d say that they’re going to like what they see. These are very durable carousels, still made in the United States and offering all the best features of the Diamond Phoenix line. But we’ve added these major improvements and additional functions, such as safety enhancements and computerization updates, that make what was a great product even better.