Barnes & Noble (retail/ecommerce)

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble, a Fortune 500 company, is the world’s largest bookseller. In addition to extensive Internet sales, they operate at the time of writing they operated approximately 800 stores in 50 states. The logistics of timely store replenishment and rapid, accurate fulfillment of Internet orders presents an enormous challenge at this level of business.

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In 2003 the Barnes & Noble design team, senior members of their Operations and IT groups, under the direction of William F. Duffy,  ( former ) Executive Vice President of Distribution and Logistics, engaged the services of the consulting group Kurt Salmon Associates. Together, B&N and KSA began to define all of the capacity and performance requirements of a new mega East Coast Distribution Center to be constructed in Monroe, New Jersey.

Century Conveyor Systems, Inc., a New Jersey-based Hytrol systems integrator, was awarded the contract for integration and supply of the carton and tote materials handling system. The design team, now joined by Century Conveyor Systems, Inc., finalized the operational details and implementation plan for the new system. At the same time, the construction of the 1.2 million square foot facility was underway and on target for a December 2004 completion.

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The distribution center houses over 1 million book titles in quantities ranging from multiple trailer loads of popular titles to one or two volumes of very obscure books. Accordingly, inventory storage media varies from high-rise, narrow aisle pallet rack to flow rack and finally to acres of multi-level shelving.

Virtually all aspects of the distribution process are automated. Tracking labels are generated and automatically applied to cartons at receiving. Multiple sortation systems deliver inventory to storage and picking locations. Batch picking is directed by RF interface and routed through zones by scanner directed diverters. Book orders are simultaneously assembled from each picking batch by tilt tray sorters.

Over 13 miles of Hytrol conveyor carries cartons and totes through all of the distribution processes, from receiving to shipping. The entire system is monitored from a central control room equipped with displays that indicate the status of all areas of operation.

Receiving

For receipts of less than pallet load quantities, inbound cartons are conveyed to a mezzanine above the receiving dock where they are scanned and matched to a database of purchases. A 380-foot long Hytrol Prosort shoe sorter directs cartons to a series of receipt processing and audit stations. After processing, cartons are reintroduced into the receiving sorter for routing to pick locations, cross-dock, or active order fulfillment. Sortation is performed at rates up to 140 cartons per minute.

Inventory Replenishment

Forward pick locations and shelving mezzanines are supplied by a series of conveyors and sorters that deliver replenishment inventory. Cartons arriving from either bulk storage or the receiving subsystem are sorted to the three levels, and then by specific zone within each module for put-away to dynamic primary pick locations.

Picking

Each of the eight picking modules in the system is three levels high. Order selectors are given location and quantity instructions through scanner equipped radio frequency devices. Within each level, a series of scanners and diverters automatically direct cartons to only those zones where picks are required. Orders that can be completed within a single 3-tier pick module are conveyed directly to carton sealing and labeling stations. Batch picked cartons and totes containing books needed to fill multiple orders are conveyed to the packing sorter.

Order Consolidation

The packing sortation system is a tilt tray design. Individual books are placed on belts at induction stations and are sorted to chutes that each represents a single order. Indicator lights at the discharge of the chutes direct packers to remove the chute contents for packing as orders are completed. Chutes are reassigned to new orders as subsequent batches or waves arrive at the tilt tray induct stations.

Packing

Open cartons, containing completed orders, are conveyed to a series of taping and print & apply stations. Cartons are sealed, weighed, and labeled before they are automatically inducted into the shipping system. Single book orders, selected by batch into totes, are sorted to specially equipped packaging stations for quality inspection, packaging, and labeling before being sent to manifesting and shipping lines.

Shipping

The shipping sorter is a single loop tilt tray design, capable of sorting up to 170 cartons per. minute to shipping doors and small package Gaylord positions. Shipping door positions are equipped with flexible, extendible conveyors for truck loading.

The Result

“Barnes & Noble had previous experience with Hytrol and Century Conveyor Systems, Inc. and we knew Hytrol produced a quality and reliable conveyor. This previous experience was always very positive. Century and Hytrol stood behind their products and services and had become good partners through the years.”

“We had visited the Hytrol plant several years before when we were just starting the project. Meeting the Hytrol team that was going to be working with us on the system gave us a good comfort level.”

“Hytrol and Century made good on all their promises. The product was delivered when we needed it and it all worked out very well timewise. There have been so many advantages to the new system in place. The accuracy, the speed, and the throughput Hytrol affords us has improved our services to our customers. We are very happy with Hytrol.”

-William Duffy, ( Former) Executive Vice President of Distribution and Logistics, Barnes & Noble

AmerisourceBergen (healthcare/pharma)

Amerisource – Pharma and health care products

Acheiving 99.9% Order Accuracy
New picking technology combines with integrated conveyor system to help AmeriSource distribution center reach new levels of productivity and order accuracy.

New picking technology combines with integrated conveyor system to help AmeriSource distribution center reach new levels of productivity and order accuracy.

When you’re in the business that AmeriSource Corporation is in, you have to be fast, efficient, and accurate.

This Malvern, Pennsylvania-based company is one of the country’s largest wholesale distributors of pharmaceuticals and related healthcare products and services.

From a network that includes 19 distribution centers around the country, AmeriSource ships these critical products to hospitals, healthcare facilities, and retail outlets that range from independent drug stores to the big mass merchandisers.

One of these centers-the regional D.C. in Thorofare, N.J., near Philadelphia-recently underwent a major expansion and upgrade to ensure the needed productivity and accuracy. A new conveyor system at the facility, coupled with some advanced automated picking equipment, has led to record performance levels. The distribution center now can handle up to 3,000 totes and 2,300 cases a day with an order accuracy of 99.9 percent!

“The new system has been operating great from the beginning,”says Bob Fillman, manager of systems at the distribution center.”It’s done everything we wanted it to do-and more.” Fillman and his colleagues at the Thorofare facility worked closely with S.I. Handling Systems, Inc. of Eastern Pennsylvania and Century Conveyor Service, Inc. of South Plainfield, N.J., in designing the system. Century is an experienced systems integrator and distributor of Hytrol Conveyor Equipment.

Streamlining the Flow

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The new distribution center actually is a 156,000 square-foot expansion to an existing warehouse. That original facility, now used as a replenishment and full-case storage area, was a largely manual operation. But with AmeriSource’s business growing steadily, it had been struggling to keep pace with order demand.

In creating the new distribution center, management wanted to automate a large portion of the picking process and at the same time streamline order flow. Those objectives were accomplished through the combination of advanced computer controls, automated picking equipment, and a network of Hytrol conveyors that feature the EZ Logic accumulation system.

The order-fulfillment process begins in the order origination area where operators scan the packing slips and select one of three types of totes depending on order size. Each tote carries a permanent bar-coded license plate that will direct it throughout the order-fulfillment process.

The totes are inducted into the system on a powered conveyor where a shipping label is generated. After scanning, the totes travel on a belt conveyor to a deflector arm that moves them to one of three accumulation conveyer lines (Model 190-SPEZ). These units have the EZ Logic feature, which senses product presence and controls the accumulation and release of product from zone to zone. The three lines provide the ability to segregate the totes by order size, manual or machine pick, replenishment priority, and so forth.

The totes then merge onto another accumulation conveyor prior to being sent to one of two picking areas in the main building. Totes containing orders to be picked manually travel on a powered takeaway unit for entry into the manual pick area. Totes with orders for machine-pick are diverted to the left by a pneumatic pusher and travel onto an accumulating conveyor to the “A-Frame” automated picker.

The manual picking area consists of a loop of powered conveyor that directs the totes to the right picking zones. Each of the eight zones consists of a series of flow rack and shelving units housing a variety of SKUs.

Once the manual picking is completed, the totes move onto an accumulation conveyer and head toward the machine picking area. A scanner identifies which orders are complete and which need further picking in the A-Frame. Completed orders are diverted by pneumatic pusher toward the weighing and strapping machines. The remaining totes travel straight ahead onto an accumulation conveyor where they enter a queue triggering the selection process in the A-Frame.

All completed orders pass through automated weighing and strapping stations. Once the totes are secured, they move on an elevated belt conveyor en route to the shipping sortation area.

The shipping system consists of a re-circulating loop of elevated power conveyors and a series of nine powered and gravity dispatch lines. The main live roller unit has nine high-speed diverts that direct the orders down the shipping lines. One important feature of the shipping area is the full-line sensing photo-cell. If a dispatch line becomes too full, the photo-cell automatically senses this and directs the order to the recirculation conveyor until the congestion eases up.

In addition to the two main picking areas, the AmeriSource facility includes a replenishment and full-case line picking section in the adjacent original warehouse. A powered roller conveyor brings these items through an opening in the wall and on to either the replenishment areas or to shipping. These cases accumulate in the shipping section where they can be merged with the tote orders.

The operation is not only streamlined and accurate, it’s also clean. An overhead trash takeaway conveyor from Hytrol (TH model) runs through the picking and replenishment areas efficiently removing corrugated and packing material from the work areas.

Big Benefits, Fast Payback

Thanks to the advanced picking technology and the smooth-running conveyor operations, the Thorofare distribution center has been able to keep on top of the steadily growing order volume ever since it went into operation in late 1997. This high growth pattern is not expected to change anytime soon. But as systems manager Fillman points out, that should not pose any problems.

“This operation could easily handle double the current volume,” he says. “We have the system and controls in place. It would mostly be a matter of adding some additional people.”

In addition to being well positioned for the future-and performing at that 99.9 percent order-accuracy level right now-AmeriSource has enjoyed another benefit. Payback on the new distribution center has been realized in a short 15 months.

The AmeriSource Distribution Facility

Order-fulfillment in the main 156,000 square-foot center begins at the order origination area. The scanned totes move through a series of powered conveyors either to the manual or the automated picking areas. Once the orders are completed, they travel through weighing and strapping stations on to shipping. The shipping area has a re-circulating loop of elevated power conveyors and nine high-speed diverts that direct the orders down the shipping lines. Full-case and replenishment merchandise also is transported by conveyor from the adjacent building and integrated into the storage and shipping operations. An overhead trash takeaway conveyor runs through the picking areas. Throughput is currently at 3,000 totes and 2,300 cases a day.

A Closer Look At The Distribution Warehouse 

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Company: AmeriSource Corp.
Facility: Distribution Center
Location: Thorofare, NJ
Size: 156,000 square feet
Employees: 168 (three shifts)
Systems Manager: Bob Fillman
Product Handled: Pharmaceuticals and health care products
Throughput: 3,000 totes; 2,300 cases a day
Shipment Method: Primarily LTL
Types of conveyors: Live roller and accumulating
Conveyor Supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Inc., Jonesboro, AR
Systems Integrator: Century Conveyor Service, Inc., South Plainfield, NJ

F Schumacher & Co (mfr/wholesale)

F. Schumacher & Sons

Low Maintenance, Reduced Manual Lifting
Utilization of work stations and multiple conveyor systems produce a system of operation ergonomically safer and more cost-efficient.

Three and a half years ago, F. Schumacher & Co., a distributor of renowned Waverly fabrics, Schumacher fabrics and wallcovering, and manufacturer of high-quality home fashion decorating accessories decided to upgrade and automate their production operations. Mr. Bud Randall, Corporate Facilities Manager responsible for overseeing this entire project from concept to completion, contacted Century Conveyor, Inc., a Hytrol sales & service center based in South Plainfield, New Jersey.

Based on past projects Century had completed, F. Schumacher & Co., was very confident that Century Conveyor Service, Inc. working with Mr. Randall could provide them with assistance in the design and layout of a conveyor system which would be cost-effective and efficient. Schumacher & Co. elected to construct a new 526,000 sq. ft. distribution facility in Richburg, South Carolina. The objective was the consolidation and relocation of their distribution operations for several of their facilities located in various parts of the country.

A primary concern of F. Schumacher & Co. was the automation of the material handling portion of their product line. This included handling of fabrics, wallcoverings, bedspreads, curtains, and pillows. Before the installation of the system, the majority of their production operations were handled manually, involving a great deal of lifting, and moving of products by carts.

Through the utilization of work stations and five individualized conveyor systems, Century and Hytrol greatly reduced the manual lifting requirements and produced a system of operation which was ergonomically safer and cost-efficient.

Integrating a variety of HYTROL conveyors, five independent systems were created:

  • SYSTEM 1 – Transporting of “ready to ship” cases from the home fashion production areas to a staging area for shipping
  • SYSTEM 2 – Three packing lines for conveying rolls of fabrics
  • SYSTEM 3 – Wallcovering packing line
  • SYSTEM 4 – Heavy freight line
  • SYSTEM 5 – Shipping line for sample books of fabric and wallcoverings

Since its installation, the system has run perfectly. F. Schumacher & Co. has been very pleased with the system’s reliability and low maintenance, and Mr. Randall highly recommends the use of Hytrol equipment.

Application Data

The nature of products here required the use of a variety of conveyors. In some cases, the live roller was used for general transportation of boxes. In other areas, belt conveyors were used for transporting unboxed items. These slider bed units are also quieter. Heavy-duty 20-CR and 2514-CRA were used for conveying and accumulating heavier loads. Finally, boxes waiting for shipment are moved by an ABA zero pressure unit or in some cases a gravity unit.

System #1 starts in the sample manufacturing area. It uses a Hytrol Model SP. Items packaged in the home fashion area or showroom samples, using a special container, travel via an incline and ABA to the shipping area. LRC curves are also used and, to avoid accumulation in these curves, a photo-eye senses when the conveyor is full and shuts the unit down.

System #2 consists of three packing lines for fabrics. Fabric orders are picked from static shelving, placed in a cart, and pushed to a cutting station. There, the fabric is cut according to the order and placed on a roller bed belt unit which takes it to the packing station. The packer can control or feed items as needed to that station. After packing, they are placed on another roller bed conveyor which takes them to a scale area. Roller bed conveyor was preferred here because of the potentially higher loads. Some of the RB conveyors used a TW type frame which was more eye-pleasing and had no protruding edges. At the end of the packing conveyor are a scale and an operator who weighs the roll. The operator pushes the roll off the scale onto a conveyor with a flipper. The roll is then moved on a 5 ft. wide cleated belt which takes it to a rack. This rack travels to UPS and is returned after emptied.

System #3 is the wallpaper line. Wallpaper is picked from storage rack and placed near the packers who put the rolls of paper in boxes. Boxes are then placed on the conveyor. There are two slider bed Hytrol TL units side by side with work stations on one side. These belt conveyors end at a wide 20-CR (chain roller). The chain roller has a plow mounted to it controlled by the scale operators. These operators move the plow the direction necessary to get work in process. The 20-CR was used to provide good traction for diverting the heavy boxes. After the 20-CR, boxes accumulate on an ABA zero pressure waiting for shipping.

System #4 is the heavy-duty line for boxes of fabric weighing up to 400 lbs. Again, rolls of fabric are brought to the packing stations next to the conveyor, a 20-CR, used to best convey heavy boxes. At the workstation table, boxes are loaded and sealed. When finished, a set of rollers extending from the table to the 20-CR can be lifted by a foot-operated pedal. Boxed are then pushed onto the 20-CR. When the rollers are lowered, the box travels to the scale and strapping area. A break belt is located before the scale. When the operator calls for it, the box transfers to the scale is weighed and then sent to the binder. The binder bands it in one direction transfers it at 90 degrees with a heavy-duty push-off, bands it in the other direction then conveys it to a gravity line for removal by a lift truck.

System #5 is used for processing sample books of fabric and paper. Samples are staged on a gravity conveyor, transferred to a short Hytrol 1.9-SP then to an ABA via a special pop up o-ring transfer. Samples not boxed travel through a shrink wrap machine before shipping.

Recycle Ink- Full function industrial container management

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Conveyor System Upgrade Increases Throughput
Faster order-picking and increased flexibility improve order-filling accuracy.  

Full-function industrial container management

Conveyor system automates container handling operation

When Recycle Inc. had the opportunity to design a new container processing plant from the ground up, an automated conveyor system was high on the list of priorities. Company managers wanted to replace a largely manual handling operation with a conveyor-based approach that would be both more efficient and safer.

Based on the new facility’s first few months of operation, they were right. Employee productivity climbed 20% just in the first week of start-up. Throughput projections predict that the new plant will process four times as much material as the old plant did in the same amount of time and with the same number of employees.

Jeffrey Bey, President of Recycle Inc., cites several reasons behind his company’s decision to switch to automated handling. “Essentially what we are is a manufacturing operation,” Bey explains. “We use one process to wash and prepare containers that will be reused, and another process to shred or granulate containers that are to be destroyed.

“Our incoming ‘raw materials’ are the containers themselves. These containers — especially the larger ones — tend to be unwieldy, and some of them are fairly heavy. In the past, we handled the containers manually at several points during processing. Given our throughput requirements, we had the potential for accidents, and our approach wasn’t very efficient. As the demand for our services escalated, we knew that we needed to come up with a completely new way of handling containers — one that would take advantage of the benefits offered by automation.”

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After the company located a suitable building for a new facility in South Plainfield, New Jersey, Bey assembled a project team to study new materials handling methods. The team contacted several nearby conveyor distributors for design ideas. According to Bey, some distributors balked at the idea of getting involved in up-front design work without first being assured that they would get the job.

“We were looking for ideas,” says Bey, “and we were also looking for a distributor and a conveyor manufacturer that would partner with us on this project.” Fortunately, the local Hytrol Conveyor distributor, South Plainfield-based Century Conveyor, didn’t hesitate to tackle the project.

Working closely with the project team, representatives from Century Conveyor, from Hytrol, and a nearby automation firm designed a conveyor system that combines powered conveyors with smart sensors and custom software. At every decision-point in the system, sensors supply feedback to the control program on the movement of individual containers, on the performance of the conveyors, and even on the maintenance requirements of the sensors themselves.

A Whole New Approach

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At the company’s old processing facility, employees did a lot of the handling of incoming containers. The plant did have a conveyor system in place, but it was a single straight-line design that simply transported the containers from one workstation to the next. The old conveyor system did not include any powered transfers or spurs.

The design of the new conveyor system at the South Plainfield facility greatly reduces the amount of manual handling by relying on automated conveyors to move the containers.

The new plant inspects and cleans 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) for reuse. Also, it provides certified destruction of 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers, and of IBCs.

Incoming containers are transferred from trucks to one of four takeaway conveyor lines. Based on their composition, disposition and on whether they will be prepared for reuse, the containers are carried by the conveyors to several possible destinations.

Containers that are to be reused are conveyed to an inspection loop where employees evaluate their condition. Powered roller conveyors then carry the containers that have passed inspection to one of three fully-automated washing stations. After washing and another inspection, the containers are ready to be returned to their owners for reuse. All of these containers are captive within a closed-loop system between their owners, customers, and the South Plainfield plant.

Containers that are slated to be destroyed are conveyed to other workstations within the building for processing. In this part of its operation, the facility handles containers made of steel, polyethylene, or fiber.

Conveyors carry steel containers to a shredder; the scrap metal that is generated goes to electric mini-mills to be made into reinforcing rods for use in concrete construction projects. Polyethylene containers are ground into pellets which are then sold to be made into various corrugated plastic products including plastic drums. The fiber containers are conveyed to a workstation where they are broken down before being supplied to a paper mill for recycling.

Except for the belt conveyors that carry materials to waiting trailers, nearly all of the conveyors used in the new system are powered roller. Strategically-placed accumulation sections control the grouping of the containers before being transferred to workstation infeed conveyors. At two points, powered turntables rotate the containers 180 degrees (see drawing).

“This new system is enabling us to process 80,000 containers per month with almost no manual handling,” notes Bey, “and it can handle a lot more. So in addition to being far more efficient and having a much greater throughput capacity, we now also have a facility that’s substantially safer for our employees.”

Recycle Inc.’s new 86,500 sq. ft. processing center

Incoming containers are loaded onto four takeaway conveyors in the receiving area. The containers are conveyed either to inspection and washing or to shredding or granulating. The containers that are to be reused are delivered to their owners after being washed; materials from destroyed containers are hauled to recyclers to be made into other products.

The new facility at a glance

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Company: Recycle Inc.
Location: South Plainfield, N.J.
Nature of operation: full-function industrial container management
Services provided: container inspection, cleaning, dedicated reuse, certified destruction
Total square feet: 86,500
Number of employees: 70 (company-wide)
Types of containers handled: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers; intermediate bulk containers (IBCs)
Types of containers destroyed: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers; IBCs
Number of containers processed per month: 80,000
Design conveyor throughput rate: 10 drums per minute
Maximum daily throughput: 6,000 Accumulation sections: Chain driven live roller
Conveyor supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Company, Inc.-Jonesboro, Arkansas
Equipment distributor: Century Conveyor Service, Inc.-South Plainfield, N.J.

Johnson & Johnson (healthcare/pharma)

Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals

Throughput Increases 35-40%


Conveyor system in new distribution center increases throughput with less manual labor.

when the need to consolidate operations came up, Johnson & Johnson realized that efficiencies could be upgraded as well. The company recently consolidated one of its major product lines from the Dallas and New Jersey warehouses into one Distribution center. The facility distributes operating room equipment, orthopedic equipment, catheters, and other similar products.

The original system in this building consisted of mostly gravity conveyor used in picking orders. Growth and consolidation necessitated changes. The company wanted to be able to move completed goods through the system more quickly and automatically sort them by destination in the shipping area.

When a Johnson & Johnson company official was asked if he noticed any immediate results, he answered, “Absolutely. 

The technicians have already informed us that they are pushing fewer boxes physically along the gravity conveyor because now the completed ones have been removed from the system. And then we’ve noticed that our throughput has increased by about 35 to 40 percent in terms of the number of boxes in an eight-hour period. Before this new conveyor system, we were able to move about nine hundred to a thousand boxes throughout the system just pushing them manually in eight hours. Now, we can move about 1350 almost 1400 boxes using the conveyor system.”

Consolidating the suture product line into one warehouse allows the company to use the system at its peak efficiency, with no increase in labor. Payback on this system will be about 1.5 years. Much of this cost reduction will come from the cut in inventory.

Much of the conveyor system has been designed for split case picking. Items are picked from gravity rack and placed into boxes. The boxes are moved along the gravity conveyor which is mounted on the rack. They serpentine through the system until filled. If orders are filled before reaching the end, they can be placed on one of three TKF vertical lifts. These take the completed orders to an overhead line consisting of zero-pressure ABA conveyor. If boxes reach the end of the line, they move up an incline to the ABA, or, they can be pushed onto an international shipping line.

From the overhead line, boxes drop down to the QS-1 8-lane sorter. They are sorted here by destination. Two Accu-Sort scanners located on the decline read labels on the top or side. Boxes which are misread, are UPS, or destined for a full line go to one of two overflow lines. All lines after the sorter are ACC minimum pressure accumulating conveyors.

From this warehouse, items are shipped to the entire United States, and some foreign countries. Shipments are mostly by truck, but some go by UPS. UPS packing stations are located on the UPS/overflow lines. Boxes going to the sort lines are palletized by hand.

When asked about Century’s involvement, Johnson & Johnson was most positive; “They’ve done a tremendous job in terms of meeting the schedule given the time frame that we had. The system is just great. It is very quiet, smooth, and it works very well and seems to be very consistent. The real challenge was giving us what we needed in the amount of space we needed. Jim Baxter from Century was able to do much of the layout and planning during his first visit. They were not able to encroach on the full case side of the system, and with the help of Jim and Ray Roberts, they were able to put in a good system in a small amount of space.”

This is only one of many buildings owned by Johnson & Johnson, a large medical supply company. 85 employees on three shifts work in the 235,000 sq. ft. building.

Simon & Schuster (publishing/ecommerce)

Simon & Schuster

Due to the Internet and today’s fast-paced environment, Simon & Schuster is challenged to get it’s product out in the market quicker. With a volume surge in 2002-2003, they collaborated with Century Conveyor Service, Inc. of South Plainfield, NJ to develop a two-phase operation to meet this challenge. The two-phased upgrade met the goals of Simon & Schuster with absolutely minimal downtime.

Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS Corporation, is one of the largest book publishers in the United States of America. Beginning as a “Mom and Pop” operation in 1924, the first book they published was a crossword puzzle book. Since then, they have published many bestsellers and even Pulitzer prize-winning titles, becoming a significant force in publishing today.

The Riverside, NJ Distribution Center is one of two DCs, and services all of North America and caters to an international arena as well. Due to the Internet and today’s fast-paced environment, Simon & Schuster is challenged to get its product out in the market quicker. With a volume surge in 2002-2003, they collaborated with Century Conveyor of South Plainfield, NJ to develop a two-phase operation to meet this challenge. Century is a distributor and systems integrator for Hytrol Conveyor Co., Inc. of Jonesboro, AR.

Dave Schaeffer, Vice President of Distribution and Fulfillment for Simon & Schuster commented on the decision to use Hytrol, “We had some Hytrol in before we did our recent revamp, and we decided to go with Hytrol again based on how well the equipment has performed for us.”

The first phase, implemented in July of 2007, overhauled the shipping system. The shipping sorter was replaced and put in the air, which doubled the speed and tripled the dock spots to meet the demands of the market. The second phase, completed in June of 2008, gave the picking system a much needed upgrade, adding sortation to the split case picking system.The two-phased upgrade meets the goals of Simon & Schuster. “We did not add any man power to the operation…and cut our cycle time in half…[and] we’ve increased our accuracy,” said Schaeffer.The need for dependability, as well as speed and accuracy, is also a crucial factor in this demanding operation. The conveyor runs at least 16 hours a day; much more during peak seasons.

“…It keeps working and it works very well for us, very dependably,” commented Schaeffer, “It works dependably, it’s reasonably priced, mechanically it’s simple enough to maintain, and it gets the job done. It’s hard to explain, but in this world of operations, being able to depend on something – to depend on something that works well and flawlessly everyday for a reasonable price is a big thing.”

“So often, cheap is expensive,” said Lee Kartsaklis, Vice President of Facilities for Simon Schuster, “Dollar to value, I believe Hytrol is the best material handling equipment out there today. If not, I wouldn’t be purchasing it.” Lee has been in the business for 40 years. “Predominantly, almost every stick of conveyor I’ve been purchasing…in the last 14 years has been Hytrol,” he said, “I’ve…developed quite a relationship with Hytrol, and [that] is something that we enjoy.”

Kartsaklis also noted in his decision to utilize Hytrol conveyor, “price is far from the major reason…just the dependability and reliability.”

A unique feature with the Simon & Schuster system is the fact that Lee Kartsaklis and his team provided the installation.

“The total installation was done by ourselves in-house, which is quite strange. We worked with Century, where they did our low level controls, but as far as the mechanical and electrical installation, we did that entirely ourselves in-house…” said Kartsaklis.

Chuck Gritschke, Sales Engineer for Century Conveyor, commented on the process, “We provided the engineering package, the material, and the controls…the people at Simon & Schuster, Lee and his group, actually, physically did all the turning of the wrenches and the wiring in the system. We came in at the end and really just assisted them in tuning and testing and bringing the systems online…these people are dynamite people to work with, and also very knowledgeable about material handling systems.”

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“They stand behind their product”

“The people at Hytrol are great to work with, and the people at Simon & Schuster are great to work with. I think the three of us have a very good team that has done successful projects here at Simon & Schuster,” said Gritschke.

“I believe in partnerships,” said Kartsaklis, “and at this point I believe I’m partnered with Hytrol like I am with Century. I know that many times I’ve spoken with Hytrol and Hytrol is there…they are going to do anything it takes to get it done and done right, and that is what you need in business today. They stand behind their product.”

Worldpac/Advanced Auto Parts (retail/ecommerce)

Worldpac Automotive Parts

Conveyors Keep Auto Parts Moving
New system helps Worldpac distribution center expedite customer orders fast and flawlessly

Conveyors Keep Auto Parts Moving

The new system helps WORLDPAC distribution center expedite customer orders fast and flawlessly.

Everyone’s had an unhappy experience. The repair shop had promised your car would be ready on Tuesday. But the necessary part still hasn’t arrived yet. So now you’ll have to wait until the end of the week… .or maybe even longer.

WORLDPAC is doing everything it can to make this all-too-common scenario a thing of the past. This nationwide distributor of automotive parts for imported vehicles has streamlined its entire operation to ensure that the parts reach the repair shop when promised. WORLDPAC’s modern, 123,000 square-foot distribution center in Edison, N.J. is a key part of that effort.

WORLDPAC is a company on the move, having recently acquired the auto parts distributor Metrix. The company operates two distribution centers-one in Newark, Calif., the other in Edison, New Jersey. The Edison facility, which opened in July of 1998, ships to 31 branch replenishment offices as well as to individual repair shops around the country. About 60 percent of the parts handled are sourced domestically; the remainder comes from overseas.

As part of its commitment to speedy delivery, the Edison distribution center will ship orders received by 7 P.M. the very next morning. A big factor in that demanding performance level is a new conveyor system from Hytrol. It has enabled the distributor to consistently meet customer commitments-while at the same time handling a record volume of orders.

Smoother Order Flow

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Before installation of the new system, order-fulfillment was a largely manual operation, says Patrick J. Healy, the company’s director of distribution. “The people moved through the facility, not the order,” Healy recalls, adding that today it’s the other way around.

The new operation boasts a simple and streamlined order-flow that all but eliminates manual handling and movement. The system integrates several of Hytrol’s most popular units: live roller, gravity, and heavy-duty incline. Healy and his staff worked closely with Century Conveyor, Inc. in the design and installation. Century Conveyor, also based in Edison, is a systems integrator and Hytrol distributor.

The new system is fast, flexible, and responsive. It’s been designed to swiftly handle different sizes of totes as well as corrugated boxes. Also, oversized parts like tailpipes can move unimpeded throughout the distribution center.

There are two types of orders: those going to the branches and those going direct to repair shops. Picking for both types starts in the zones on the ground floor. Items are packed into totes and placed on one of two incline conveyors for transport up to the picking stations on the mezzanine. Computer-generated reflective tapes guide the consumer-direct totes through the picking process. The totes for the larger branch replenishment orders are color-coded.

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The main conveyor line on the mezzanine is a horizontal live-roller unit (SPEZ model) with Hytrol’s unique EZ Logic accumulation feature. EZ Logic automatically senses product presence and effectively controls the accumulation and release of product through the four picking zones.

Pop-up transfers automatically move the totes onto gravity conveyors at the picking stations. After all, items have been picked at one station, the operator places the tote back on the powered conveyor for movement to the next station if further picking is required. The computer controls built into the system ensure that orders involving multiple totes stay together.

The completed orders move back out on the takeaway conveyor, travel around a curve segment, and then head down the incline to the shipment-preparation area. Branch replenishment orders go directly to a separate section of the distribution center. There, the operators build pallet loads, which will be delivered by company trucks.

The customer-direct orders are diverted onto a powered conveyor line that takes them through packing and manifesting. These orders are handled by express carriers for next-day delivery.

Speed and Responsiveness

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“The totes go through the system flawlessly,” sums up Healy. “They go through quickly, too. A customer-direct order can be picked, checked, packaged, and manifested in as little as 20 minutes.” The Edison distribution center now is processing more than 1,000 of these orders a day.

In addition to the speed and responsiveness, shipment accuracy has increased, too. Plus there’s one more benefit: The systems integrator is located only a few miles away. “If there’s a question or a problem,” says Healy, “I know that Century Conveyor can get here right away.”

In the end, the biggest beneficiaries of the streamlined Edison operation may be the end-consumers. Their cars are ready when promised-and they get on with their lives.

The WORLDPAC Distribution Center

The order-fulfillment process begins at the picking stations on the ground level. Items are packed into totes and placed on incline conveyors for transport up to the picking stations on the mezzanine level. Totes rest on gravity conveyors here as operators pick from one station before moving totes on to the next. Completed orders are placed back on takeaway and then travel down an incline to packing and manifesting area. Branch replenishment orders go to a separate section where they are built into pallet loads for delivery by company trucks. Customer-direct totes move through packing, manifesting, and shipping stations. These orders are handled by express carriers.

Facts and Figures on the Distribution Center

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Company: WORLDPAC
Facility: Distribution Center
Location: Edison, NJ
Size: 123,000 square feet
Employees: 160
Director of Distribution: Patrick J. Healy
Product handled: Automotive parts (36,000 SKUs)
Throughput: 1,000 orders per day (customer direct)
Types of conveyors: Live roller (EZ-Logic), heavy-duty incline, gravity
Shipment method: Express carrier, company trucks
Conveyor supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Inc., Jonesboro, AR
Systems Integrator: Century Conveyor Service, Inc., South Plainfield, NJ  

HD Smith/AmerisourceBergen (healthcare/pharma)

H.D. Smith

HD Smith Increases Productivity with Hytrol System
The new system increases primary pick locations, worker productivity, and shortens cycle time.

H.D. Smith Increases Productivity With Hytrol System

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Before the implementation of the Hytrol conveyor system, H. D. Smith had only two separate pick lines, one for over-the-counter products and one for Prescription products. The total conveyor system then was only about 100 feet of powered conveyor and 300 feet of gravity. In implementing the new Hytrol system, the company’s main objectives were to increase primary pick locations from 15,000 to 30,000, increase worker productivity, and shorten cycle time.

Product Flow:
RECEIVING: All receiving is done at the north end of the building. The product is received and brought by pallet to the receiving stations and scanned into the system. Products are removed from every carton and placed into a barcoded tote. All corrugate is deposited into an overhead trash conveyor (Hytrol Model TH) which carries it to an automatic baler located outside the building. The product is then married to the tote. The mainframe computer communicates with the conveyor control system (CCS) and tells the CCS which zone to send the tote. The totes are then conveyed across the building to the pick module, sorted to the correct zone, and placed into the correct pick location.

View of the Shipping Area

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PICKING: Orders are printed in waves at the order induction station. Each order has its barcode denoting an order identification number. The pick sheet is then married to a barcoded (license plate) pick tote. The host system then communicates to the CCS which pick zone or zones the tote must be sent. The tote is then routed only to the required pick zone(s).

CHECKING: Once an order is complete, the tote is conveyed to the checking area. The checkers remove the tote from the Hytrol zero-pressure accumulating conveyor (Model 190-ABEZ) and scan the pick ticket. Each item is then scanned and placed into a shipping tote. When the order has been confirmed complete and correct, a lid is placed on the tote. The tote is then placed onto the conveyor and moved to the shipping sortation conveyor (Hytrol Model SC). The computer communicates the license plate and its assigned sortation lane to the CCS.

SHIPPING: The totes are conveyed to and through an automatic strapper. The strapped totes are then inducted into the sortation system, the license plate is scanned, the appropriate sortation line determined, and the tote is sorted out.

EMPTY REPLENISHMENT TOTES: Once the replenishment totes are empty, they are placed on the line with the pick totes. On each pick level, there is a divert location where the empty replenishment totes are diverted off and conveyed back to the receiving station to be reused.

Benefits Realized:

hd1 Before the installation of this system, the average lines shipped per DC worker was 40 per hour. With the new system, the average is currently 104 lines per hour. Pickers are picking 250-300 lines per hour. Checkers are checking 350-400 lines per hour. In the past year, the volume has increased by 50%.

Recycle Ink- Full function industrial container management

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Conveyor System Upgrade Increases Throughput
Faster order-picking and increased flexibility improve order-filling accuracy. 

Full-function industrial container management

Conveyor system automates container handling operation

When Recycle Inc. had the opportunity to design a new container processing plant from the ground up, an automated conveyor system was high on the list of priorities. Company managers wanted to replace a largely manual handling operation with a conveyor-based approach that would be both more efficient and safer.

Based on the new facility’s first few months of operation, they were right. Employee productivity climbed 20% just in the first week of start-up. Throughput projections predict that the new plant will process four times as much material as the old plant did in the same amount of time and with the same number of employees.

Jeffrey Bey, President of Recycle Inc., cites several reasons behind his company’s decision to switch to automated handling. “Essentially what we are is a manufacturing operation,” Bey explains. “We use one process to wash and prepare containers that will be reused, and another process to shred or granulate containers that are to be destroyed.

“Our incoming ‘raw materials’ are the containers themselves. These containers — especially the larger ones — tend to be unwieldy, and some of them are fairly heavy. In the past, we handled the containers manually at several points during processing. Given our throughput requirements, we had the potential for accidents, and our approach wasn’t very efficient. As the demand for our services escalated, we knew that we needed to come up with a completely new way of handling containers — one that would take advantage of the benefits offered by automation.”

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After the company located a suitable building for a new facility in South Plainfield, New Jersey, Bey assembled a project team to study new materials handling methods. The team contacted several nearby conveyor distributors for design ideas. According to Bey, some distributors balked at the idea of getting involved in up-front design work without first being assured that they would get the job.

“We were looking for ideas,” says Bey, “and we were also looking for a distributor and a conveyor manufacturer that would partner with us on this project.” Fortunately, the local Hytrol Conveyor distributor, South Plainfield-based Century Conveyor, didn’t hesitate to tackle the project.

Working closely with the project team, representatives from Century Conveyor, from Hytrol, and a nearby automation firm designed a conveyor system that combines powered conveyors with smart sensors and custom software. At every decision-point in the system, sensors supply feedback to the control program on the movement of individual containers, on the performance of the conveyors, and even on the maintenance requirements of the sensors themselves.

A Whole New Approach

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At the company’s old processing facility, employees did a lot of the handling of incoming containers. The plant did have a conveyor system in place, but it was a single straight-line design that simply transported the containers from one workstation to the next. The old conveyor system did not include any powered transfers or spurs.

The design of the new conveyor system at the South Plainfield facility greatly reduces the amount of manual handling by relying on automated conveyors to move the containers.

The new plant inspects and cleans 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) for reuse. Also, it provides certified destruction of 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers, and of IBCs.

Incoming containers are transferred from trucks to one of four takeaway conveyor lines. Based on their composition, disposition and on whether they will be prepared for reuse, the containers are carried by the conveyors to several possible destinations.

Containers that are to be reused are conveyed to an inspection loop where employees evaluate their condition. Powered roller conveyors then carry the containers that have passed inspection to one of three fully-automated washing stations. After washing and another inspection, the containers are ready to be returned to their owners for reuse. All of these containers are captive within a closed-loop system between their owners, customers, and the South Plainfield plant.

Containers that are slated to be destroyed are conveyed to other workstations within the building for processing. In this part of its operation, the facility handles containers made of steel, polyethylene, or fiber.

Conveyors carry steel containers to a shredder; the scrap metal that is generated goes to electric mini-mills to be made into reinforcing rods for use in concrete construction projects. Polyethylene containers are ground into pellets which are then sold to be made into various corrugated plastic products including plastic drums. The fiber containers are conveyed to a workstation where they are broken down before being supplied to a paper mill for recycling.

Except for the belt conveyors that carry materials to waiting trailers, nearly all of the conveyors used in the new system are powered roller. Strategically-placed accumulation sections control the grouping of the containers before being transferred to workstation infeed conveyors. At two points, powered turntables rotate the containers 180 degrees (see drawing).

“This new system is enabling us to process 80,000 containers per month with almost no manual handling,” notes Bey, “and it can handle a lot more. So in addition to being far more efficient and having a much greater throughput capacity, we now also have a facility that’s substantially safer for our employees.”

Recycle Inc.’s new 86,500 sq. ft. processing center

Incoming containers are loaded onto four takeaway conveyors in the receiving area. The containers are conveyed either to inspection and washing or to shredding or granulating. The containers that are to be reused are delivered to their owners after being washed; materials from destroyed containers are hauled to recyclers to be made into other products.

The new facility at a glance

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Company: Recycle Inc.
Location: South Plainfield, N.J.
Nature of operation: full-function industrial container management
Services provided: container inspection, cleaning, dedicated reuse, certified destruction
Total square feet: 86,500
Number of employees: 70 (company-wide)
Types of containers handled: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers; intermediate bulk containers (IBCs)
Types of containers destroyed: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers; IBCs
Number of containers processed per month: 80,000
Design conveyor throughput rate: 10 drums per minute
Maximum daily throughput: 6,000 Accumulation sections: Chain driven live roller
Conveyor supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Company, Inc.-Jonesboro, Arkansas
Equipment distributor: Century Conveyor Service, Inc.-South Plainfield, N.J.