This company believes that one of the best ways to stay ahead in the fast-paced retail industry is to streamline your distribution system. Toward that end, five years ago they created a logistics and operation unit. The stated mission of this business unit is to drastically cut both costs and processing time in merchandise distribution for the retail stores.
This mission is being carried out quite successfully at the company's Distribution Center thanks in large part to a recently installed conveyor system from Hytrol. The 520,000 square-feet facility replenishes the stores located in a five-state region in the Northwest.
The distribution center now effortlessly processes more than 15,000 cartons a day and up to 25,000 during peak periods. It operates in a cross-dock mode, which means there's very little warehousing. Merchandise is unloaded from trailers and containers at the receiving docks and flowed directly to shipping for store delivery.
Virtually all (98%) of the merchandise moves through the facility with no manual handling, a big factor in the high productivity and throughput levels now being achieved. That wasn't always the case, though. Prior to installation of the new conveyor equipment at the start of this year, about 20 percent of the cartons could not be placed on the existing conveyors because of size constraints. These larger boxes had to be handled and moved throughout the facility manually, adding time and cost to the D.C.'s operation.
The company wanted a new system that would address the carton size problem while at the same time realizing the following objectives:
All of these objectives-and more-have been accomplished with the installation of the new conveyor units. They include a zero-pressure horizontal live roller with the exclusive EZ Logic feature (190-ABEZ); a roller bed belt conveyor (190-RB); and a horizontal sawtooth merge (190-LR). Throughout the equipment-selection and installation process, they worked closely with a systems integrator and a Hytrol Integration Partner.
"We're now able to efficiently handle larger box sizes up to 42-inches wide," reports the director of maintenance and engineering at the facility. "The Hytrol zero-pressure system has improved throughput dramatically. Our productivity levels are way up."
The cross-dock operation is smooth and efficient, enabling the company to achieve high merchandise velocity. As soon as the trailers and containers arrive at the receiving docks, the cartons are unloaded onto an incline belt that carries them up to four ceiling-supported zero-pressure conveyors. Inside these cartons are apparel, small appliances, cookware, and a variety of other items sold in the stores.
The cartons then travel down the zero-pressure lines toward a high-speed, 250 feet-per-minute sawtooth merge with three merge spurs. The speed and reliability of the sawtooth merge helps keep merchandise from backing up in the receiving area.
The cartons then are transported on a takeaway conveyor to the shipping side of the facility where they are sorted by store location. After sortation, high-speed pushers send the merchandise onto zero-pressure lines in the shipping area, which discharge onto a chute and then onto extendable belt conveyors. These extendable units are brought right to the trailer for rapid loading to each store location.
From receiving to shipping, the flow is fast, simple, and direct-all attributes that support the company and operations mission. The system has also been highly reliable and trouble free, a positive factor in reducing maintenance costs.
"We particularly appreciate the system's EZ Logic features," adds Maintenance & Engineering manager. "The photoeye keep big cartons from damaging the smaller ones. And we're able to do singulation release of the boxes. I would recommend this system to anyone."
The distribution center is designed as a cross-dock operation emphasizing flow, not storage. Cartons are unloaded from trailers and containers and placed on incline belts that carry them up to four ceiling-supported zero-pressure conveyors. They then travel down the zero-pressure lines toward a high-speed sawtooth merge, which helps keep the merchandise from backing up in receiving. A takeaway conveyor transports the cartons to the shipping side of the facility where they are sorted by store location. After sortation, high-speed pushers send the merchandise onto zero-pressure lines, which discharge onto a chute and then onto extendable belt conveyors. These extendable units are brought right to the trailer for rapid loading to each store location.