Robots to the rescue
When peak season rolled around each year, workers at Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe's DC struggled to keep up with orders. Automated equipment and robotic pickers have changed all that.
Spikes in business activity presented a good news/bad news scenario for Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc. Although the maker of potato bread, hot dog rolls, and hamburger buns welcomed the added business created by seasonal demand for its products, the increased volume put a strain on the company's manual picking and fulfillment processes. Company leaders sought relief in the form of warehouse automation and are now reaping the benefits of a fully automated robotic material handling solution at the company's Chambersberg, Pa., distribution facility. Faster and more accurate order fulfillment, better space utilization, and a reduction in labor costs are some of the biggest rewards of the 2017 project to date.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe faced a host of challenges in managing a spike in demand during the summer months. Its completely manual process for order picking and fulfillment meant that workers had to plan and prep loads hours in advance of dispatch, which created problems when there were last-minute changes. The facility also struggled with space constraints and an increase in seasonal staff as it worked to get more products out the door. Managers grew increasingly concerned about employee safety while bending, lifting, and moving products around the warehouse, and they worried about errors in order fulfillment.
Company leaders turned to Cimcorp to solve those problems, settling on a combination of a high-density pallet storage and retrieval system along with Cimcorp's MultiPick robotic material handling solution in the warehouse. The new picking system has a storage capacity of 19,000 trays and 66 stock-keeping units (SKUs), from which MultiPick picks 21,000 trays per day. Westfalia Technologies Inc.'s automated pallet storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) replenishes the inventory under the MultiPick system.
The system works like this: Two MultiPick gantry robots move inventory, one stack at a time, to storage positions on the floor. Robots then pick the trays required for customer order pallets, forming mixed-SKU stacks, and place the stacks on an outbound conveyor, which transports them to an automated palletizer. After palletizing, the mixed-SKU pallets receive an RFID (radio-frequency identification) band before merging with full single-SKU pallets coming from the Westfalia AS/RS system. The pallets then move to a separate conveyor for sequencing and immediate loading onto trailers.
The new system uses 50 percent less space and requires 30 percent fewer man-hours than the previous setup—all while improving efficiency, order accuracy, and worker safety. Automation creates a more rapid flow of product, allowing Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe to schedule and prepare orders within an hour of a delivery truck's expected arrival, for instance. Robotic pickers reduce the inherent safety risks in personnel manually fulfilling orders, and less human intervention contributes to improved order accuracy.
"Manual warehouses and distribution centers in any industry can easily fall behind as they struggle to accommodate order spikes, rapidly increasing SKU quantities, and greater customer demands during peak periods," Rick Trigatti, president of Cimcorp North America, said in a statement, emphasizing the benefits of automated material handling solutions. "Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc. now experiences fewer picking errors, enhanced traceability of its products, and faster picking—during seasonal spikes and year round."
About the Author
Victoria Kickham started her career as a newspaper reporter in the Boston area before moving into B2B journalism. She has covered manufacturing, distribution and supply chain issues for a variety of publications in the industrial and electronics sectors, and now writes about everything from forklift batteries to omnichannel business trends for DC Velocity.
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