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warehouse design and automationsystem integrator, to define and implement a scalable automation solution that would meet and exceed hisbusiness requirements. “I liked theirbusiness model of being an independent system integrator with thein-house process design engineersand software expertise, and their 35-year history of delivering automationsolutions to the warehouse industry,”stated Greenberg.
Meeting the Next DayDelivery Demand
Same-day order delivery of urgentmedically necessary supplies was acritical requirement for NorthShore’snew operation. “We needed a solutionthat reduced touches, excess labor,and ensured customer shipmentsmade the parcel carrier cut-off times,”stated Greenberg. Today, an averageorder is three to four picks with a$100 value, consisting of a large carton of diapers and a smaller box withtwo to four trial sample items to try.
With Amazon in mind, the com-
pany partnered with FedEx to de-
velop services that could compete
with the online retail giant. Like
Amazon, Greenberg put in pro-
cesses so orders could be packed
and shipped the same day as they
come to them. Greenberg followed
up with weekend pickups and then
seven-day-a-week deliveries from
one central US distribution center.
Orders can be a mix of large bulkycases, customer samples, cleansingwipes, and accessories which addedto the challenges. In the original facility, associates had to pick each customer order discretely.
This picking process was slowand demanding, requiring walkingthroughout the DC and using a smallcart to pick the order. Then the operators returned to a manual pack station, re-checking the order content,and packing the contents into discretecartons, a very labor-intense process.
“The old processes just weren’t scalable to keep up with our 30% growthstrategy in 2020,” recalls Greenberg. Thegoal was to manage the growing ordervolume in a single shift with a more efficient pick and pack process that wouldtake out 50% of the pickers’ extra walktime and match at the same time theincrease in productivity across the packand ship order fulfillment operation.
Traditional Material HandlingSystem Versus AutonomousMobile Robots (AMRs)
The Numina Group’s design studyoccurred parallel to the new building search and selection phase overseveral months. The joint Numi-na-NorthShore Team first looked ata conventional two to three-level pickmodule using a pick to conveyor system during the study.
They ruled this system out and thenanalyzed the use of a small fleet of 25-30 AMRs. But again, due to their limitation of handling only 150-lb. loadsand a projected pick rate of 75 linesper picker, the productivity boost wasnot high enough due to the small orderpicking capacity. There were also concerns with the bottleneck of the AMRand tote un-load/load at the packingoperation as the business grew.
The ultimate design analysis hasshown that a smaller fleet of large-ca-pacity AMRs transporting a large batchorder capacity of 20 or more ordersper cart was more efficient and cost-effective, leading to the selection ofWaypoint Robotics with their 700-lb.capacity AMR. In addition, Wayfair’srugged, high-capacity AMRs included
After the associate loads a case onto the cart, the bar code is scanned to validate picking.
Photo courtesy of NorthShore Care Supply.