The speed at which Pallet Runner allows Frozen Assets to load high volume movers contributes to its ability to thoroughly check every load and assure accuracy in all product shipped, Wick notes.
“It also contributes to less damage, because there’s less handling of product, and you don’t have forktruck operators driving into the racking.” he comments.
Frozen Assets ships an average of 95,000 cases weekly for Alpha Baking with a crew that numbers just 16 men over three shifts.
“All of our receiving is done at night by just four workers and one lead man. We also have a crew of two picking at night. During the day we have five men picking and four loading, plus myself as lead,” Wick explains. “Without Pallet Runner, it’s inconceivable we could come anywhere near matching this level of productivity. We’d have to increase our staff by at least 25 to 30 percent.”
PLANNING THE LAYOUT
To design the facility, the team started by closely analyzing item movement patterns.
“We determined that case pick averages 27 percent of the operation, while 73 percent is full pallet pick,” Wick notes.
Pallet Runner is used only for the fastest of the full pallet movers—SKUs whose velocity averages at least a full truckload daily. The Pallet Runner lanes are 24 pallets deep, i.e. a full truckload’s worth. Each truckload received is put away into a single lane, and during selection, lanes are emptied in FIFO order. No new product is put away in a lane until that lane has been fully emptied, notes Baurenschmidt.
Frozen Assets’ RF-equipped warehouse management system incorporates directed put away and preprinted pallet license plates. The system directs workers where to put each pallet that is unloaded, whether in the Pallet Runner deep rack section or into other Konstant rack sections for slower moving pallet loads and case pick SKUs.
“When planning the system, one concern we had was the amount of honeycombing that could take place,” notes McGuire. “But in fact, it turned out to be less of a challenge than we thought, because all the items that go into the Pallet Runner tunnels are so fast moving that it hasn’t become an issue.”
In all, the Pallet Runner deep rack area holds 4,080 pallets—nearly half the facility’s total pallet positions, in less than 15,000 square feet of space. The remaining 26,000 square feet of frozen storage consists primarily of Konstant push back rack, used for SKUs that move in full pallet quantities of less than a truckload daily, plus case pick items and reserve storage to feed the case pick slots.
In addition, notes Wick, “We have a staging area running the entire length of the facility along the wall that separates the dock from the freezer, with push back rack that provides almost 400 pallet positions used for staged items.”
This allows Frozen Assets to prepick and stage approximately 70 percent of orders at night. The fast moving pallets come directly out of the Pallet Runner tunnels. Those fast moving SKUs travel directly from the 24 pallet deep racking to the loading dock only after trucks have pulled up for loading.
“This enables us to handle product as few times as possible,” Wick points out. “One of the challenges of the site was that to accommodate the pallet positions we needed, the dock could measure only 31 feet, minus the six-foot dock plates. The speed we get from Pallet Runner, and the ability to move pallets so quickly directly from the tunnels to the trucks, allows us to work with a short dock, that is in reality much smaller than would normally be required.”
LOW MAINTENANCE, FAST TURNAROUND
Other advantages of Pallet Runner are simplicity and ease of use.
“The Pallet Runner carts are very simple and easy machines to work with. The training required was minimal, and everyone was comfortable with the system in three weeks,” says Wick.
This included acclimating not just to Pallet Runner, but also to the new high lift fork trucks brought in to feed and retrieve pallets and the Pallet Runner carts to and from the end points of the deep rack tunnels. The facilities five-pallet-high design requires lifts that reach as high as 38 feet, Meehan notes.