"During the course of this project we developed an excellent working relationship with both our Integration Partner and Hytrol. That was a key factor in our completing the work within such a tight time frame."
- Director of Operations
Case Study Focus: Packaging And Shipping Sortation System
Key System Solutions: Warehouse Consolidation, WCS Interface
Product Handled: Books
This packaging & fulfillment company needed to get its new distribution center up and running fast. The company had just signed an agreement to run a dedicated distribution center. This company publishes the popular "Dummies" line of books (PCs for Dummies, The Internet for Dummies, and many more) as well as the Betty Crocker series of cookbooks, Cliff Notes, Frommers Travel, Weight Watchers, and Howell series among other publications.
They had been shipping out of four different warehouses across the U.S., but wanted to consolidate operations in one streamlined facility. The publisher also wanted a facility close to where a large portion of its books were printed. In addition to boosting productivity, a new facility would greatly reduce freight transportation costs for them.
They asked the packaging & fulfillment company to develop the new distribution center. The agreement was signed. The entire project needed to be completed by mid-September. A site was selected adjacent to the printing plant and the work began.
They met that strict timetable thanks to a collaborative effort on the part of many people. And nowhere was that collaborative spirit any more evident than in the conveyor equipment and related systems built into the new facility.
They worked closely with the company to identify their current and future business needs. And the company, in turn, worked hand-in-hand with a Hytrol Integration Partner to assure that those needs were met.
"During the course of this project we developed an excellent working relationship with both our Integration Partner and Hytrol," says the director of operations. "That was a key factor in our completing the work within such a tight time frame."
How tight? Complete installation of the conveyor system, including design, engineering, computer controls, equipment set-up and testing, was accomplished in a 16-week period. The facility began shipping product.
The modern distribution center incorporates a wide range of Hytrol conveyor equipment — all seamlessly integrated to maximize throughput and flexibility. The equipment includes belt conveyors, live rollers, and accumulating units with Hytrol's exclusive EZ Logic feature. Both skatewheel and roller gravity units are used extensively throughout. Sorters are strategically engineered into the system. And a series of overhead trash takeaway conveyors helps keep the 262,000 square-feet facility neat and clean.
Books arriving from the manufacturing plant go directly into bulk storage racks or to a bulk-staging area of gravity pallet-flow conveyors for fast-moving items. The facility has two principal induction lines —one for full-case picks (which make up the majority of orders), the other for broken-case quantities.
Full-case quantities are picked directly onto a live roller conveyor, which connects to a belt incline, and then to an accumulating conveyor with EZ Logic. The EZ Logic feature effectively controls the movement of cases from zone to zone. The cases pass through a "3-to-1" merge before being moved via a series of belt and curve conveyors to the ProSort sortation unit. Designed for high-speed sorting of products, the ProSort diverts the cases down one of the six shipping lanes dedicated to pallet shipments.
The remaining shipping lanes are reserved for the broken-case quantities, or less-than-case picks. In that section of the DC where these orders are picked, a belt-driven high-speed sortation conveyor (Model SC) moves totes off the main conveyor line and into the appropriate pick zone. Computer controls automatically route the totes to each picking zone until the order is completed. The finished orders are diverted to a packing station where they are checked and labeled for shipping.
The packed orders are conveyed up to a 3-to-1 merge and then onto the main sortation loop. As it does with the full-case picks, the ProSorter automatically diverts the less-than-case orders to the appropriate parcel-shipping lane, which are located at the end of the building. The sorter is presently set to handle 75 cartons a minute; it has the capacity to handle 120.
A computerized control system developed controls the flow of orders through the facility, effectively interacting with Logistics PRO (the warehouse management system purchased and installed by Intrepa). Therefore, orders can be batch picked for maximum efficiency in a "one-pass" type of operation. The computers communicate with the EZ Logic conveyor controls and the sortation units to assure that the batch picks for each order end up on the right shipping lane. "This approach maximizes the efficiency of both the picking and the sorting operations," says the Operations Manager.
Capacity for Expansion
The center now is handling more than 150,000 books a day on average — a level that has exceeded expectations. "In the first year of operation, we have already more than doubled what they thought this facility would do.".
As business continues to grow, the distribution center is well positioned to grow with it. The facility was designed to readily accommodate additional storage areas and shipping lanes. And the sorters have the capacity to handle a significant increase in order volume.
A quick start-up, seamless integration of equipment and systems, capacity for expansion... these qualities of the distribution center are keeping the packaging & fulfillment company on a steady growth path.
The Distribution Center
The order-fulfillment process begins in the two main picking areas — full case and broken case (less-than-case quantities). Full-case orders are moved through a 3-to-1 merge and onto the main sortation loop. ProSort sortation conveyor diverts the cases down the pallet shipping lanes. Less-than-case orders pass through a packing station enroute to the main sortation area. These orders are diverted down the parcel shipping lanes. The facility handles, on average, between 150,000 and 160,000 books a day.
- Facility Size: 262,000 square feet
- Employees: 100 (Approx.)
- Product Handled: Books
- Throughput: 150,000-160,000 books per day, on average
- Types of Conveyors: Belt, live rollers, accumulating (EZ Logic), gravity (skatewheel and roller), trash takeaway, sorters (ProSort and SC)