As a leader in the manufacture and distribution of PC printers, facsimiles, and accessories, this company is continually striving to upgrade all facets of its operation. A good example of this can be seen at the company's administrative and operations complex which also serves as headquarters.
The upgraded facility today features a streamlined order-flow system that efficiently moves product from the production area through to the shipping dock. But prior to the new installation becoming operational, that desired level of efficiency was not always being reached. The old system was a largely manual operation with a limited amount of conveyorization in place. Operators had to do an excessive amount of walking and handling to build the pallets by hand. On occasion, there were major backups and bottlenecks that needed to be addressed.
The company knew that to support a growing business it needed to upgrade its order-flow capabilities. Specifically, it needed higher efficiency, a more ergonomically friendly operation, and the capacity to accommodate both current demand and future growth. The company met those objectives with an integrated conveyor system featuring Hytrol equipment. The Hytrol Integration Partner, did the systems integration, including the computer controls.
The design process and subsequent installation went extremely well, reports the manager of manufacturing engineering. A big reason for that, he says, was an inclusive approach that sought input from all of the key stakeholders. "People from our production, engineering, and warehousing areas all worked closely with the Hytrol Integration Partner in the design effort. It was truly a team effort."
The operators who actually build the pallet loads participated in the process as well. Their involvement had two important benefits. "They gave us a lot of good input, plus their early involvement made them more comfortable with the system and gained their acceptance very quickly." In a short period of time, the engineering manager notes, the operators were performing at a high level of productivity.
The installation seamlessly integrates multiple conveyor types in a streamlined order flow. Cases of computer printers and fax machines move from the production area to the distribution center on live roller conveyors. They are inducted onto a re-circulation loop comprised of horizontal accumulating and belt conveyor segments. The accumulating conveyor (Model 190-ABEZ) includes Hytrol's exclusive EZ Logic feature. EZ Logic effectively controls the release of product from zone to zone, preventing back-ups and related problems.
"EZ Logic has done what we hoped it would do after making a couple of adjustments early on, we have been able to virtually eliminate any jamming in this area."
Belt-driven (SC) sorters divert the cases from the re-circulation loop down one of four lanes where the pallet loads are built. (Cases not read properly or being held for line changes remain on the loop.) The cases move off the re-circulation loop and down a belt conveyor that leads to a short gravity segment.
Operators take the cases off the gravity conveyor and proceed to build pallet loads on an adjacent drag chain conveyor. This model (DC-60) is specifically designed to handle pallets safely and efficiently. Equipped with the special accumulation module, the conveyor allows the pallets to accumulate with "zero-back pressure." This greatly reduces the possibility of collision that could result in product damage.
The completed pallet loads move off the drag chain conveyor onto a chain-driven roller conveyor (Model 25-CRR). This unit transfers the pallets to the main line — a chain-driven accumulation conveyor — that leads to the stretch wrapping stations. There are two automated stretch wrappers: a primary and an auxiliary wrapper.
Once the pallets are stretched wrapped, they are released onto gravity conveyors. Forklifts then transport the completed orders to the shipment-staging area or to storage. Product shipped from this facility serves customers in the eastern half of the United States.
For an installation with as many different conveyor types, the operation is actually quite simple and straightforward. It's also ergonomically sound, minimizing the amount of lifting and movement required of the operators.
The facility is forward looking, too. While today it is efficiently handling an order volume of approximately 2,000 cases a day, the design approach provides for easy expansion should future business needs dictate. "We could easily and cost-effectively expand the system by extending the re-circulation loop and adding two more lanes for pallet building." By doing this, the system could handle an estimated 25 percent increase in order volume.
Bottom line: the new installation is helping the company position itself for both today and tomorrow.
Multiple conveyor types are seamlessly integrated to move product though the 300,000 square-feet facility. Live roller units transport boxes of computer printers and fax machines from production to a recirculation loop in the distribution area. This conveyor segment incorporates EZ Logic, which controls accumulation of cases from zone to zone. Sorters divert the cases down one of four lanes for pallet building. Pallets are built on drag chain conveyors and then moved to a main line of chain-driven accumulating. After passing through an automated stretch wrapper, the completed orders are taken by forklift to shipment staging or storage. The facility handles about 2,000 cases a day