This footwear company is a leading designer and distributor of women's footwear and accessories and ships to department stores, independent accounts, and its own retail outlets across North America out of a single distribution center (DC). Given the size of their distribution network, the company requires that this DC be reliable, efficient, and productive at all times.
Previously, the company shipped out of a modern distribution center that included an efficient flow-rack picking system; a rack reserve storage area of more than 15,000 pallet positions stacked six levels high in 31 aisles; and two separate shipping areas. An integrated conveyor system tied it all together, enabling the DC to smoothly and accurately ship in excess of 400,000 cartons a year. While the facility has always been able to support the company's shipping requirements, the DC was not operating at the level management wanted it to. Gravity conveyors in the pick areas were not well integrated with the powered units, which themselves were inadequate for a facility of its size and throughput requirements. In addition, there was too much manual movement and handling (not just of the orders, but also of the packing and corrugated material to be discarded) that resulted in errors and inefficiences.
Management recognized that it needed to address the situation. Working with a Hytrol integration partner, the company embarked on a major expansion and upgrade to the facility. The project included the following new components:
The installation went smoothly and quickly. Thanks to disciplined project management on behalf of the Hytrol integration partner and the close involvement of the company's management team, the DC was able to continue shipping and meet order demand all during the installation process.
Now, the order flow throughout the 275,000 square foot facility is streamlined with automated systems controls developed by the Hytrol partner. As a result, productivity increased as much as 50% in some picking lines!
The company's vice president reports that the new system has fully met his expectations.
"We selected Hytrol because we considered their conveyors to be the Mercedes-Benz of the industry in terms of reliability and productivity. We have not been disappointed."
And because the system is designed to handle significant increases in order volume, they can look forward to enjoying these benefits for years to come.
The facility incorporates a series of horizontal live roller and belt conveyors utilizing Hytrol's EZ Logic accumulation modules. The unique EZ Logic feature senses product presence and controls the accumulation and release of product from zone to zone.
Orders are picked in several locations in the multi-level facility. Shoes and handbags in the lower level pick module are picked to empty cartons, which are manually moved from zone to zone along horizontal gravity conveyor lines. When the order is completed, the picker places a strip of retro-direct reflective tape on the trailing edge of the last carton of the order. The cartons then are transferred to the horizontal accumulation conveyor feeding the incline belt conveyor that exits the pick module. The orders from this level are conveyed to the old shipping area.
The recently launched line of comfort footwear is picked on the upper level pick module. Orders are picked on gravity conveyors, applied with the reflective tape, and then placed on the powered takeaway conveyor. These merge with bulk pick orders, which are transported on an incline conveyor from the floor picking area to the upper level. A photo eye determines the flow of the orders from both levels through the merge by reading the reflective tape. These orders are conveyed to the new shipping area at the opposite end of the building from the existing shipping area. A switch was installed to route all cartons to the existing shipping area when volume is slow.
At both of the shipping locations, cartons are manually sorted to the various pack-out stations. Once pack-out is completed, they are scanned, metered, and fed through the carton sealer. UPS orders are transferred via overhead pusher and conveyed by horizontal transport conveyor to a dedicated UPS line. The other shipping lines are used for other parcel carriers as well as for LTL and full truckload shipments.