Everyone's had the unhappy experience. The repair shop had promised your car would be ready on Tuesday. But the necessary part still hasn't arrived yet. So now you'll have to wait until the end of the week... or maybe even longer.
This company is doing everything it can to make this all-too-common scenario a thing of the past. This nationwide distributor of automotive parts for imported vehicles has streamlined its entire operation to ensure that the parts reach the repair shop when promised. Their modern, 123,000 square-foot distribution center is a key part of that effort.
They are a company on the move, having recently acquired the an auto parts distributor. The company operates two distribution centers. One of the facilities ships to 31 branch replenishment offices as well as to individual repair shops around the country. About 60 percent of the parts handled are sourced domestically; the remainder come from overseas.
As part of its commitment to speedy delivery, the distribution center will ship orders received by 7 P.M. the very next morning. A big factor in that demanding performance level is a new conveyor system from Hytrol. It has enabled the distributor to consistently meet customer commitments-while at the same time handling a record volume of orders.
Prior to installation of the new system, order-fulfillment was a largely manual operation, says the company's director of distribution. "The people moved through the facility, not the order," he recalls, adding that today it's the other way around.
The new operation boasts a simple and streamlined order-flow that all but eliminates manual handling and movement. The system integrates several of Hytrol's most popular units: live roller, gravity, and heavy-duty incline. His staff worked closely with a Hytrol Integration Partner in the design and installation.
The new system is fast, flexible, and responsive. It's been designed to swiftly handle different sizes of totes as well as corrugated boxes. In addition, oversize parts like tailpipes can move unimpeded throughout the distribution center.
There are basically two types of orders: those going to the branches and those going direct to repair shops. Picking for both types starts in the zones on the ground floor. Items are picked into totes and placed on one of two incline conveyors for transport up to the picking stations on the mezzanine. Computer-generated reflective tapes guide the consumer-direct totes through the picking process. The totes for the larger branch replenishment orders are color-coded.
The main conveyor line on the mezzanine is a horizontal live-roller unit (SPEZ model) with Hytrol's unique EZ Logic accumulation feature. EZ Logic automatically senses product presence and effectively controls the accumulation and release of product through the four picking zones.
Pop-up transfers automatically move the totes onto gravity conveyors at the picking stations. After all items have been picked at one station, the operator places the tote back on the powered conveyor for movement to the next station if further picking is required. Computer controls built into the system ensure that orders involving multiple totes stay together.
The completed orders move back out on the takeaway conveyor, travel around a curve segment, and then head down the incline to the shipment-preparation area. Branch replenishment orders go directly to a separate section of the distribution center. There, the operators build pallet loads, which will be delivered by company trucks.
The customer-direct orders are diverted onto a powered conveyor line that takes them through packing and manifesting. These orders are handled by express carriers for next-day delivery.
"The totes go through the system flawlessly, they go through quickly, too. A customer-direct order can be picked, checked, packaged, and manifested in as little as 20 minutes." The distribution center now is processing more than 1,000 of these orders a day.
In addition to the speed and responsiveness, shipment accuracy has increased, too. Plus there's one more benefit: The systems integrator is located only a few miles away. "If there's a question or a problem, I know that our Hytrol Integration Partner can get here right away."
In the end, the biggest beneficiaries of the streamlined operation may be the end-consumers. Their cars are ready when promised-and they get on with their lives.
The order-fulfillment process begins at the picking stations on the ground level. Items are picked into totes and placed on incline conveyors for transport up to the picking stations on the mezzanine level. Totes rest on gravity conveyors here as operators pick from one station before moving totes on to the next. Completed orders are placed back on takeaway and then travel down incline to packing and manifesting area. Branch replenishment orders go to a separate section where they are built into pallet loads for delivery by company trucks. Customer-direct totes move through packing, manifesting, and shipping stations. These orders are handled by express carriers.