Behind the scenes of GS: Open Sesame!

The section in the GS-IS Group responsible for running the CERN Stores processes hundreds of orders per day, checks the quality of each and every product and is responsible for warehousing thousands of items available in a richly-stocked catalogue.


Sprawling across several buildings (73, 128 and 129), a total surface area of 3640 m2, and providing 28,300 cubic metres of storage space, the equivalent of 330 semi-trailers, the CERN stores are a veritable treasure trove! The products on offer range from office stationery and computer hardware to fire extinguishers, cables, steel and chemicals.

The new (above) and old storage system for the CERN stores.

The CERN Stores catalogue contains nearly 48,000 referenced items, 12,000 of which are available on site. Goods arrive at either Building 194 (Meyrin) or Building 904 (Prévessin) and are then forwarded to the central stores in Building 73. “Every item that arrives here undergoes a strict quality control,” says Manuel Sanchez Suarez, who is responsible for the Stores within the GS-IS Group. “If it satisfies CERN’s requirements, it’s taken to a dedicated location for storage.”

Since 2010, that “dedicated location” has been getting a face-lift – every year over the past four years, each of the seven industrial shelving systems which have served the Stores since 1977 (see adjacent photo) has been replaced by state-of-the-art equipment. Five of these distributors, which are a bit like 11-metre high vending machines, have already been installed in the Central Stores. “These new storage devices are mainly used for warehousing small-volume articles, from high-tech components such as connectors and electronic parts to more conventional items such as nuts, bolts and screws, ID cards, pens and other articles of stationery,” explains Stores Operations Supervisor, Dominique Perez. ”The goods are placed on mobile trays which are then activated by a dedicated programme once the desired reference has been keyed in.”

For the launch of LS1 in 2013, a Safety section was specially created to enable teams working in the tunnels to acquire their safety equipment at short notice. Over the course of the year, some 1,457 pairs of safety shoes were sourced from the Stores. Over the same period, the Stores received more than 12,700 orders for cabling (for 5 MCHF) and 9,000 orders for connector components (for 2 MCHF). The CERN Stores are also responsible for distributing and checking self-rescue masks, which are obligatory for people working in the tunnels; every year, the Stores experts carry out safety checks on all 1,400 masks and replace any that need replacing.

One of 13 industrial cutting machines in the raw material store. It can cut all types of materials with a precision of up to 100 microns, using a jet of water and sand under pressure.

Seventeen permanent staff are required to keep this behemoth in working order, controlling stocks, managing the warehouse and processing orders. Five of these run the raw material store. “Since CERN is an industrial-type site, we basically supply raw materials such as steel, stainless steel and wood, which we then cut down to size according to the customers' requirements,” explains Manuel Sanchez Suarez. ”For this we have 13 industrial cutting machines, some of which can reach a precision of 100 microns.”

With 400 orders per day on average and an “urgency window” catering for up to 500 people per week, the CERN Stores are present at the start of all the Laboratory’s activities, from the installation of superconducting cables in the LHC to the adjustment of the seat-back on your office arm-chair.

by Anaïs Schaeffer