Southern Expands With Automation

Southern Wine and Spirits of America Inc., one of the nation's largest liquor distributors, was feeling growing pains. Sales were booming for the Miami-based firm, so it decided to expand its distribution centers-as well as install state-of-the-art...


The highest capacity sortation that Southern had achieved before it built the Lakeland DC was 6,000 cases-per-hour. The company determined that to get a higher capacity of cases through the building would require a much more high-speed sortation system. With the Dematic sorter there are 16 spurs coming off of the sorter which are going to twelve truck lanes for shipping. The system capability can easily be expanded to twenty chutes.

The new sortation system has had a direct impact on the picking process. "In the old paper process when we were reading a sheet of paper to put a case on the line, we would shoot for maybe 180 cases per-man-hour for a good picker," says Burg. "Now, our minimum on a pick line is 250 cases per man-hour, a 40 percent productivity increase."

The sorter is capable of handling a product volume of 10,000 cases an hour, and an additional 12,000 bottles in split cases per hour. Before, the company averaged about 150 cases per-man-hour for the entire DC, now it is handling 225 cases per-man-hour. In terms of shipping accuracy Southern was averaging one percent error out the door before, now it averages 0.2 percent error, a 60 percent reduction.

"A five-sided scan tunnel at the end of the sorter provides for the verification of all the SCC codes (Source Classification Code) to the shipping links," says Burg.

"This a technical customization that we did using point-camera technology to read the bar codes on the cases, and compare that to the shipping labels. That ensures that they have the right shipping label applied to the right case, and the customer will get what they ordered. This is a new development for Southern, it has been very successful in achieving a high rate of accuracy."

The success of the first three DCs for Southern has prompted the company to continue its upgrade of even more of its distribution centers into its "New Generation" format. Currently, there are several DCs under construction throughout the U.S. With demonstrable improvements in productivity, increased accuracy and streamlined efficiency, the company is surely in an enviable position to capture more market share, and provide even better service to its customers.

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