"The conveyor system has been performing reliably from the very beginning, we’ve stayed on our maintenance program and have had a very good experience with it so far."
- Vice President of Operations
Case Study Focus: Fulfillment Center For Fashion Accessories
Key System Solutions: Order Picking, Sortation & Trash Handling
Product Handled: Apparel, Accessories, Shoes
This Fulfillment Center is dedicated to ensuring that the consumer’s direct shopping experience for online and other products is a positive one. The center was designed so that product can move smoothly, efficiently, and quickly. In fact, their firm commitment is to fill, check, and ship orders to the customer within 24 hours of receipt.
The center fulfills online and telephone orders for apparel and accessories, as well as for other websites. The center incorporates the latest in scanning, control, and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). The link that holds it all together is a conveyor system from Hytrol. That integrated system incorporates two types of sorters, gravity lines, a trash takeaway unit, and more than 6,500 feet of powered conveyor. The Systems integrator and Hytrol Integration Partner worked closely with the company in the system’s design and installation. The goal was to create an order-fulfillment operation that could hit the ground running—with no problems or downtime and high productivity. The state-of-the-art order fulfillment center has achieved all of those objectives and more.
Efficiency In & Out
The system is designed for maximum efficiency—both inbound and outbound. Incoming merchandise is taken off the trucks and placed on extendible conveyors that connect with a powered takeaway Hytrol unit. That segment leads to an incline belt conveyor that elevates the incoming products to the mezzanine level where they are scanned for putaway.
The incoming merchandise is conveyed to a SC sorter. This belt-driven sortation system from Hytrol swiftly diverts the incoming products down one of three lines based on putaway destination: (1) the main pick modules, where merchandise goes for immediate replenishment; (2) a reserve stocking area, where full case loads are stored for later replenishment; and (3) a quality assurance area, where a percentage of all incoming orders is sent to assure that merchandise meets their high quality standards. The process is just as streamlined on the outbound side. The main picking operations take place in two 2-level pick modules, each of which is more than 300 feet in length. Orders are picked out of flow racks and placed into totes resting on gravity lines on either side of a powered takeaway unit. After the picks on the first level are completed, the totes move on incline conveyor up to the second level of the module for any additional picks.
Completed orders exit the picking module on a single line and are conveyed the length of the fulfillment center. As they approach the end of the building, they are diverted onto one of four lanes by a SC belt sorter and then consolidated onto a single line by a 4:1 sawtooth merge.
A zero-pressure accumulating conveyor with Hytrol’s unique EZ Logic feature then controls the release of the totes as they move through a Pro-Sort sortation system and toward a tilt-tray sorter. At this point, the orders are manually sorted by order type—single, multi, or gift-wrapped—and then placed into individual packing chutes.
After the packing and inspection operations are done, the orders from the different packing areas are placed on takeaway conveyor and transported on belt incline back up to the tilt-tray sorter. There they are inducted down a series of shipping lanes according to the shipping method selected by the customer. The main shipping options are FedEx or U.S. Postal service.
Reliable From The Start
The streamlined operation is helping the company meet its strict service commitment to customers. “The conveyor system has been performing reliably from the very beginning,” says the senior vice president of operations/customer service. “We’ve stayed on our maintenance program and have had a very good experience with it so far.”
He adds that the new system is quiet. This not only creates a more pleasant work environment, he explains, but also a more productive one.
The Fulfillment Center currently handles between 4,000 and 6,000 orders a day, depending on the season. With the solid materials-handling infrastructure in place, management believes it could handle significant additional volume, if and when called upon. Most importantly, the fulfillment center will be able to do this with absolutely no reduction in customer service level.
The Fullfillment Center
Inbound merchandise moves onto a powered takeaway line and is elevated by belt conveyor to the mezzanine level. The goods then travel to a SC belt sorter where they are diverted down one of three lanes based on putaway destination. From the main pick modules, orders are picked into totes and conveyed through a belt sorter and to a 4:1 sawtooth merge. They are manually inducted into a tilt-tray sorter and sent to the packing area. After packing and inspection, the orders move on takeaway conveyor back through the sorter and down the appropriate shipping lane.
- Facility Size: 260,000 square feet
- Employees: Approx. 60 (90 peak season)
- Product Handled: Polo.com apparel, accessories, shoes. NBC.com and ShopNBC.com products and apparel
- Throughput: 4,000-6,000 orders a day
- Types of Conveyors: Horizontal power (190-ACC), belt (190-RB), zero-pressure accumulating (190-ABEZ), sorters (SC and Pro-Sort), gravity, trash takeaway (TH)