When this wine & spirits company recently purchased two distributorships it faced all of the challenges inherent in any such acquisition. One of the most pressing issues was to upgrade the existing warehousing and distribution capabilities. The four existing facilities were inadequate for current and projected customer demand. In three of those warehouses automation was non-existent. Product was moved manually with hand trucks and pull carts. In the fourth, there was just a single conveyor line.
As part of its market strategy, the company decided to consolidate the four existing warehouses into a modern, automated distribution center. With the help of an integration partner, Hytrol conveyors, and some advanced computer controls, the company successfully achieved that consolidation objective.
The "EZ" Solution - Hytrol EZLogic® Accumulation Conveyor
The company distributes a wide range of liquors, beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the state to customers including restaurants, bars, hotels, retail liquor stores, and airlines. It's a high-volume operation handling an estimated 1.5 million cases per year.
Goals for the new facility:
- Eliminate unnecessary manual handling at all points in the order fulfillment process.
- Increase throughput productivity.
- Provide the capability to expand operations with customer demand.
- Minimize product loss as a result of breakage - a costly problem in the wholesale wine and liquor business.
The streamlined conveyor system, custom designed by a Hytrol Integration Partner, responds to all of those needs. The design approach makes maximum use of Hytrol's EZLogic® Accumulation Modules. The EZLogic® system automatically senses product presence and controls accumulation and release of product from zone to zone. It's ideal for any system where breakage or product fragility is an issue.
Counting The Benefits
The new conveyor system installation went quickly and smoothly in a matter of months, just in time for the busy holiday season, and is helping the company handle more orders more efficiently, reports the Director of Operations. The conveyorized operation has brought a host of benefits.
- Increased Throughput. During peak holiday season, the company now moves more than 1,900 cases an hour — a volume that would have been impossible before without the addition of dozens of workers.
- Shipping & Delivery Efficiency. The heightened productivity, coupled with the consolidation of the warehouses into one modern facility, means more efficient scheduling and loading of the delivery trucks enabling the company to reduce its fleet from 54 trucks to 33.
- Reduced Product Loss. Thanks to the EZLogic® system, breakage has been reduced to about $2,000 a month, considered extremely low in this industry.
- System Longevity & Reduced Maintenance Costs. Another cost avoidance feature of the EZLogic® units is that they go to "sleep" when not in use. "This results in less wear and tear on the conveyor parts," says the Director of Operations, "which adds to the longevity of the equipment and reduces maintenance costs."
- System Scalability. Perhaps most important, the new system helps the company effectively respond to today's customer demands while positioning itself for the future. "We have the capacity to handle a significant increase in our business," says the Operations Director. "We're looking forward to doubling our throughput here."