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
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.
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
“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
Facility: Distribution Center
Location: Edison, NJ
Size: 123,000 square feet
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