"Another factor in the project's timeliness (it was actually completed in under eight weeks) was the installation approach. The Hytrol Integration Partner was able to do its work largely on weekends and off-hours. The end result: They experienced hardly any downtime during the installation period."
- Vice President
Case Study Focus: Value Added Services For The Electronics Industry
Key System Solutions: Pallet Put-Away, Picking, Packing, Sortation
Product Handled: Electronic Components and Computer Parts
Over the past few years, this "value-added" distributor of electronic components and computer products has gone through a series of mergers and consolidations. Through this period of change, the company needed a distribution center that could handle existing order-fulfillment demands, and also would be able to effectively address any future requirements. Flexibility was the key to their success.
They were able to meet those objectives with their modern logistics distribution center. Opened in the mid-1990s, the 250,000 square-foot facility fills orders for customers both nationwide and around the globe. Motorola, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq are just some of the brand names distributed through the center.
The distribution center relies on high technology coupled with an integrated conveyor system to smoothly process an average of 2,000 orders a day. A sophisticated Warehouse Management System (WMS) directs the flow and storage of product throughout the center and an integrated network of Hytrol conveyors — over a mile and a half in total — assures that these products get to the right place at the right time.
"It's a real nice system that we have in place here," says the center's technical maintenance supervisor.
Growing With Business
Creation of the distribution center was part of a consolidation strategy to combine three smaller warehouses into one modern facility. In addition to serving customers more effectively out of one distribution center, they wanted to be able to accommodate any additional volume demands that might be necessitated by future acquisitions.
When the company decided to close down a warehouse in California and fold it into the current operation that is exactly what happened. To accommodate the added volume, they added a mezzanine to the new distribution center. The company worked closely with a systems integrator and Hytrol integration partner to design the addition. The Hytrol integration partner also did the computer controls for the entire facility.
Installation of the mezzanine went quickly and smoothly thanks to a number of factors. First, the conveyor equipment installed in the mezzanine — live roller accumulating conveyor — was fully compatible with the other Hytrol conveyor units already in place making installation and start-up run smoothly. These new conveyors feature the "EZ Logic" technology, which senses product presence and controls accumulation and release of product from zone to zone. This feature is ideal for the kinds of high-value products they handle.
Another factor in the project's timeliness (it was actually completed in under eight weeks) was the installation approach. The Hytrol integration partner was able to do its work largely on weekends and off-hours. The end result: they experienced hardly any downtime during the installation period.
An Integrated System
The new mezzanine is an integral part of the operation — an operation where product is computer controlled and efficiently moved on conveyor from the time it is received to the point of customer shipment. The distribution center integrates a broad range of Hytrol conveyor equipment. In addition to the EZ Logic accumulation conveyors in the mezzanine and throughout the ground level, the D.C. has live roller units, pallet conveyors, gravity lanes, and a series of incline/decline belt conveyors. There's also an overhead trash takeaway conveyor in the receiving area and a special shoe sorter in packing that can divert orders either to the right or the left.
The center was designed for optimum flow efficiency. Inbound product, which is mostly palletized, is placed on pallet conveyors in the receiving area. The WMS determines where in the distribution center that product should be stored — typically in the ground and upper level (mezzanine) bin-shelving areas. All orders are filled into totes in these pick areas and sent through the conveyor network enroute to their final destination in shipping.
Approximately 90 percent of the orders go from the pick areas to a detailed processing area on the ground floor before moving on to the packing stations. Working off of gravity conveyors, operators in the detailed processing section perform a quality control check on the orders and take care of any special labeling requirements. The remaining 10 percent of the totes move directly from picking to the packing stations.
A special double-sided shoe sorter from Hytrol diverts the totes to packing stations on either the left or right of the main takeaway unit. At the packing stations operators perform all of the necessary bar coding, weighing, and taping prior to shipping.
The completed orders are moved from gravity conveyors in packing onto the takeaway powered unit leading to the shipping area. There are five shipping lanes as well as a "911" lane for totes that get "lost" or have other identification problems. By segregating these totes into a special lane, operators can more easily identify and resolve any problem.
Predicting the future can be risky. But if the distribution center is required to take on more volume because of acquisitions or consolidations — or any other reason, for that matter — management is confident they can respond. "The system is in great shape," says the center's technical maintenance supervisor. "Right now we could easily handle more than 3,000 orders a day."
That's the kind of flexibility they hoped for and are receiving from the distribution center.
The Distribution Center
An advanced warehouse management system and an integrated network of conveyors combine to efficiently move inbound product and outbound orders throughout the 250,000 square-feet logistics distribution center. Inbound material is transported on pallet conveyors from the receiving docks to the appropriate storage locations, as determined by the WMS. The order-fulfillment process begins in the bin-shelving pick areas on the mezzanine and ground levels. Orders move in totes from picking to a detailed processing area, then to packing stations, and finally to the shipping lanes. The D.C. incorporates a range of powered and gravity conveyors as well as a special shoe sorter that can divert either to the left or the right.
- Facility Size: 250,000 square feet
- Employees: 175
- Product Handled: Electronic components and computer products
- Throughput: 2,000 orders a day (3,000 capacity)
- Types of Conveyors: "EZ Logic" accumulation (190-SPEZ), live roller, pallet conveyors, incline/decline, gravity, trash takeaway, and double-sided shoe sorter (QS-1).