Walk into The Glenmore Distillery's new $45 million distribution center in Owensboro, Ky., and you'll find something not often found in a bottling operation: a large-scale automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). Although these machines are used in a wide range of industries, they have yet to make major inroads in this sector. Glenmore is one of the few spirits suppliers to use an AS/RS, according to Westfalia Technologies, which provided the equipment.
The high-bay AS/RS at the Owensboro facility occupies just over 60 percent of the 223,000-square-foot DC. Together with Westfalia's Savanna.NET warehouse execution system, it enables the operation to store, retrieve, and manage pallets of finished goods with high efficiency. The system also has the capacity to support further growth.
It's a big change from Glenmore's previous distribution operation, which relied on manual paper-based processes, lacked a warehouse management system, and had only rudimentary software that was used strictly for location control.
"The automation provides the needed efficiency, throughput potential, and expansion capability, as well as the [capacity] to grow dynamically with the company," says Craig Cunningham, distribution manager at The Glenmore Distillery.
Glenmore's new AS/RS contains four storage aisles, each equipped with a storage/retrieval machine (SRM). Pallets are stored on seven levels. The two outside rows hold pallets up to eight deep, while the middle rows hold pallets up to 10 deep. Each SRM can induct/output 90 pallets of finished goods per hour.
Among other advantages, the equipment has all but eliminated handling-related product breakage. "The AS/RS has absolutely reduced warehouse-created damage," says Cunningham. "Since pallets are conveyed from the moment they leave the palletizer equipment until they are loaded on a truck, product is damage free from forklifts and other incidental contact."
The AS/RS also contains 52 pallet-staging lanes that are capable of holding 416 pallets and an automated layer picking system from Cimcorp. The system can move 150 layers per hour and stores 255 SKUs (stock-keeping units).
"We want to provide flexible ordering solutions to our wholesalers, and a large number of our orders are less-than-pallet quantities," Cunningham notes. "Performing this work manually is time consuming and not cost-effective."
In the new facility, this type of picking no longer has to be done by hand. Nowadays, the Cimcorp system integrates with the Westfalia warehouse system to handle just-in-time fulfillment for layer-quantity orders. "From a software perspective, Cimcorp and Westfalia have teamed up to provide a solution that has minimal interaction required from a warehouse operator, further improving system efficiency," Cunningham says.
As for how it's all working out, Cunningham says the new facility is just now hitting its stride. "We're essentially four months into being fully operational in the new warehouse. We have begun to see our original expectations and visions for this system [fulfilled]. Now, we have transformed into one of the most state-of-the-art warehouses in the country," he says.
A version of this article appears in our August 2016 print edition under the title: "Raising their spirits."