National Beef Packaging Co./Diamond Phoenix
Recently, National Beef, a major beef processor in Dodge City, KY, was looking to expand its boxed beef operation. One of the goals of the expansion was to get orders out its doors quicker in order to improve both efficiency and customer service.
"They process these case boxes after a cow is slaughtered. Every case is unique-it has a different weight size, cut and date stamp on it," says Larry Strayhorn, president of Diamond Phoenix, a Lewiston, ME-based provider of material handling solutions.
Because of this lack of uniformity, any new system that was going to be installed had to be able to handle a large range of box sizes and be able to sequence the boxes to palletizers for mixed load deliveries.
The company contracted with Diamond Phoenix to build and install a carousel storage and retrieval system in their temperature-controlled facility. The system they installed consisted of 54 Diamond Horizontal Carousels and 18 MaxTractor Automatic Inserter/Extractors. The 40-foot tall carousels are triple-stacked, with one inserter/extractor per stack. The system is interfaced on 3 levels by a conveyor and a high speed shoe sorter.
All inbound cases move along a conveyor and are directed to a carousel stack by the shoe shorter. Each box is read by a bar code scanner just before moving onto the inserter/extractor. The carousel's software verifies the box ID and selects an open carousel bin, based on the most time efficient location. The inserter/extractor moves into position and the box is automatically moved onto the inserter/extractor bed. At the same time, the carousel is moving into the correct position. The inserter/extractor then moves up-or-down into the correct position to store the box in the assigned bin location.
"By storing cases individually, they're allowed to cool down properly," notes Strayhorn. "The spinning of the carousels keeps air flowing in the room, adding to the cooling process, whereas if you were to palletize it, the center core of the pallet would take a lot longer to get down to a cold temperature."
Orders are sent to the carousel system via the network and the software optimizes the order of the boxes based on the fastest carousel travel times.
National Beef makes up custom loads with mixed SKUs for every customer order, as opposed to shipping out full pallets of a common SKU. Because of this, one of their goals was to have 100 percent access to all of their SKUs at any given time, in order to create custom loads that best fit sales profiles. The system Diamond Phoenix installed was able to give National Beef total case selectivity across their entire inventory.
The carousel spins to the correct location, the inserter/extractor picks the required box and the box is then moved onto one of three outbound conveyors in sequence, so that workers can either palletize them in sequence or load them right onto the truck in sequence. Outbound box IDs are communicated to the host computer as each transaction occurs.
The sequence of picks and stores is dynamically determined by the software as the system is running, so that picking and storing take place simultaneously.
"It's very high speed," says Strayhorn. "We're moving four to five cases in-and-out per inserter/extractor per minute. Multiply that by 18 times and that's a lot of boxes moving." -B.S.