Capital Candy

Capital Candy Case Study Header Image
Capital Candy Case Study Header Image


Capital Candy’s history dates to 1938, when a couple from Montpelier, Vermont, opened a penny candy operation from their home. Over time, the operation offered new product lines, became incorporated and expanded into new territories.

Today, Capital Candy operates six days a week, 24 hours a day to provide grocery and convenience store products to 3,000 customers across six states. “We pick, pack and deliver 55,000 packages a week. Our trucks make 33 trips every night,” says Jim Thibeault, Operations Manager.

The operation houses mostly perishable items, such as dry grocery products, frozen and refrigerated foods, and non-food items, such as tobacco products. As the demand and variety of SKUs increased in the tobacco category, Capital Candy decided to design a new addition to house all tobacco-related products. But to make room for an ever-growing and ever-changing line of inventory, the operation required optimal storage, picking and replenishment solutions. 


Growth is great for business, but it can put a squeeze on space at the warehouse—which is exactly what happened at the Capital Candy operation.

“We’ve been fortunate to have increased sales every year for the past 15 years. But when COVID hit, many restaurants shut down, and convenience stores got very busy, which meant our SKUs had to increase too,” says Jim. “At one point, we were over 140% full in two regions of our warehouse. We had to do something.”

Capital Candy had two options: Find another warehouse and move, or build onto the existing facility in Barre, Vermont, where the operation had serviced customers for nearly 50 years. Capital Candy chose option two and got approval from the town for a 60- by 100-foot addition measuring 26 feet high to the warehouse.


  • Maximize pick areas for fast movers
  • Deploy high-density storage for slow movers

System Specifications

  • 27-bay UNEX SpanTrack Wheel Bed
  • 196 slot, 2 bay UNEX SpeedCell
  • UNEX Gravity Conveyor
  • 287 sq. ft. steel work platform


Century Conveyor Systems utilized UNEX conveyor and equipment to integrate flawlessly with the exisiting UNEX roller rack, shelf track, and roller bed. Century installed 27 bays of SpanTrack Wheel Bed with four levels in each bay or 108 total levels of carton flow. 

“The Wheel Beds are great because they make picking and replenishing easy.  It will never be hard for them to re-slot the flow rack again,” says Dave Mydlowski; senior engineer from Century, who worked with Capital Candy and UNEX to design and implement carton flow solutions at the site. “And the quality of the product is excellent, durable, reliable.”

SpanTrack Wheel Beds drop easily into structures to create the ultimate flow rack system for full-case and each-case picking. The system is highly flexible, sturdy and provides carton flow for products of various sizes and weights. And because SpanTrack Wheel Beds provide 300% more product contact than plastic wheel rails, hang-ups are eliminated.

“With the new solution, efficiency was up immediately on day one—greater pick density, fewer steps, less climbing and better product storage,” says Jim.

Century also added two bays of SpeedCell and Gravity Conveyor in both downstairs and upstairs pick areas. SpeedCell provides high-density storage and can compress 200 feet of rack or shelving into 40 feet of highly organized space. More pick facings and greater SKU density mean less travel time and faster picks and restocking.


The Wheel Beds allowed Capital Candy to store 3,600 more cases of product in the location and enabled the operation to add 900 new items with room to spare. The density of the pick also reduced the number of pickers needed in the tobacco area. The same picks are now being done by 1.5 fewer pickers, which is a huge savings for Capital Candy and a win for workers too. Pickers are paid by the number of items they pick. And because the pick area is so dense, pickers can pick more items faster.

By implementing SpeedCell, Capital Candy was able to slot 196 slower-moving items into two eight-foot bays with each picking, saving the operation about 72 feet of shelf space. “We’ve used many UNEX solutions, but this was the first time using SpeedCell, and our intention is to add it to other areas of the operation,” says Jim. “The product has maximized our space, and it’s been a hit with pickers, stockers and our purchasing department.”

Why conveyors are the optimal automation solution for distribution centers

process of automating your warehouse 1

When it comes to increasing the efficiency of your distribution center, few solutions match the benefits of an automation system. But, therein lies the question of WHICH automation system. Between all the advances in material handling tech and how specialized automation has become, it can be a massive undertaking in finding the right system for your DC.

One solution does maintain a consistent presence in today’s modern distribution center- conveyors. Throughout the years, conveyor systems have been a staple automation choice for quick and stable movement of goods. The reason for its proliferation? Simplicity.  

At its core, a conveyor system is a continuously moving platform that transports an item from one location to another. Of course, various other systems can be integrated into a conveyor, and technological advancements have brought modern conveyors a long way from its first inception, but conveyors are a classic case of “if it works, don’t change it”.

This testament holds true today, even in the ever-changing industrial automation market. Conveyors are widely used for many applications and can be scaled exactly to what’s needed. Giants like Amazon, even with their fleet of proprietary robots, utilize conveyors in their many distribution centers. On the other end of the scale, small distribution centers can see positive benefits from just a single line.

For any distribution center looking to automate, a conveyor system has a few core functions that should place it in the running for serious consideration:

  • Rapid, Continuous Movement
  • Durability
  • Integration Capable
  • Accurate Distribution
  • Tailored Engineering

Let’s go through each:

Rapid, Continuous Movement

The #1 benefit of a conveyor system over anything else is its ability to quickly transport a continuous line of product across a distribution center. Conveyor systems can complete an array of material handling processes, including but not limited to:

  • Picking
  • Case forming and sealing
  • Print and apply
  • Palletizing and depalletizing
  • Sortation and distribution
  • EOL loading
  • WCS and WMS functions

….all within one singular system. This keeps items moving to their destination in the shortest time possible, with little manual interaction.

Conveyors are ideal for distribution centers that process a large amount of orders per day. In Century’s experience, a good starting throughput rate to justify the power of a conveyor system hovers around 1,000 cartons shipped a day. Some high-output operations, like those moving polybags, or crossdocking, can see daily output reach past 40,000 cartons shipped. If that’s the rate you’re looking to achieve at your distribution center, keep on reading.


Conveyors are famously durable, with the average lifespan typically hovering around 25 years. With routine maintenance, conveyors are extremely reliable, provided that the system is functioning as intended.

Aside from the initial startup, conveyors are extremely self-sufficient. A distribution center won’t have to hire a specific engineer to operate the system as some other solutions might require. Employees can be easily trained to work with the conveyor safely and efficiently. Maintenance can be completed by a conveyor service partner (like us!), or an internal repairman on-site with minimal downtime. In some situations, a manufacturer or servicer can remotely VPN into the controls platform of the conveyor and troubleshoot errors on the fly, without ever having to send a specialized technician.

The difference between a conveyor and any other solution is in its simplicity. AGVs, AMRs, ASRS’, and other robotic solutions heavily rely on the environment, and its programmed abilities. All its functions are contained within one singular system, whereas a conveyor combines multiple systems into a linear flow.

Conveyors are designed to be able to be easily repaired, while robotic systems are more advanced and may require a specialist. To use an analogy, imagine working on a naturally aspired vehicle made in 2002, vs. an electric car produced in 2022. The 2002 vehicle is much more accessible to repair and maintain, while the electric car has to be brought to the manufacturer to update systems and provide advanced high-voltage service. This isn’t to say that conveyors are “low-tech”, but not as complex in how it functions as some other systems.

Integration Capable

Conveyor systems are plenty customizable and have the ability to slot in with automation hardware and software with relative ease. It’s entirely feasible to install a conveyor system, and then implement additional systems afterward once it’s needed, or when the budget can be allocated.

Typically, a conveyor system can integrate most solutions, even robotics. If your distribution center has complex operations and a variety of different automation is used, for the most part, a conveyor system can infeed or outfeed to the machines that are operating.

conveyor for distribution center blog- integration example image

For example, a large distribution center has a conveyor system but wants to integrate a carton sealer after packing operations. Instead of having to remove an old system and re-install a new one, a section of the conveyor is torn out, and the case sealer is installed in its place.

In terms of software, depending on the manufacturer, a Warehouse Control System application can be implemented into your WMS. This enables expanded functionality, reporting, data collection, tracking, and error analysis. Century uses a proprietary platform called ConveyorWorks, but there exist plenty of other HMI software options.

For even MORE capabilities, real-time reporting software exists as a Human Machine Interface (HMI).

Essentially, an HMI will collate and report data from your systems on the fly and construct a process diagram detailing all events that are happening. Each screen in the program is specifically labeled and personalized for your facility. The 3D images, drawn to scale, will allow more accuracy in finding a problem in your system. Along with live statuses of your system, an alarm log, statistics page, and system information are provided.

Finishing no logo

If you’re thinking about software and hardware additions to a conveyor line, rest assured, there are plenty of effective solutions to customize your system precisely for your needs and goals.

Accurate Distribution

Divert conveyor systems are high-output machines that use a variety of methods to move product from one line to an outfeeding line. Downstream from printing and labeling solutions, before entering a divert section, the box passes through a scan tower and the shipping barcode is read. This tells the conveyor where to divert the box. If any packages go unread, or an error happens, they’ll typically be recirculated or put off onto a pick line for re-processing.

The only other solution that can match the throughput and divert rate of this type of conveyor are certain shuttle systems (which are more for picking rather than distribution). Enabling this sort of automation completes processing exponentially quicker than manual operations, and typically possesses a 1% error rate- impressively low

The main difference with sortation conveyors is the method of how the product is handled. Depending on the size of the carton, fragility, and direction it needs to be facing- a multitude of diverting functions are used.

Tailored Engineering

When a turnkey solution like a conveyor system is engineered for a distribution center, the conveyor system is designed specifically for your warehouse. While many solutions exist, they may follow more of a “one size fits all” approach. In reality, every distribution center varies drastically from one to another, and a general automation solution that works for some, may not work for others.

Conveyors are unique in the sense that they can be scaled precisely to what’s needed. Want to simply move cartons from one area to another? A straight section of powered conveyor would probably work out just fine. Need to fulfill orders and divert to multiple EOL loading bays? No problem.

In comparison to robotic fulfillment, the answer would be to deploy another AGV/AMR system to meet demand. It’ll most likely perform as needed, but it won’t be as carefully executed as a well-engineered conveyor system.

If your distribution center is researching automation that is flexible, durable, and rapid, consider how a conveyor could fit into your warehouse space and current operations. Century Conveyor Systems has been engineering efficient conveyor systems for over 40 years, and we’re more than capable to tackle your material handling automation needs.