Clockwork Production For Warehouses

ASRS systems deliver zesty zing to warehouse environments in the food industry.


Ergonomic and temperature-acceptable picking stations are located on either the back or front end of an ASRS installation. The system examines the demand for each SKU associated with a particular order and those pallets are routed to the workstation. "The operator is presented with each donor pallet and picks the appropriate quantities to an order pallet based on either an RF, light, or voice system—or a computer screen," explains Khodl. The integrating technologies driving the cranes, conveyors and WMS make it all happen.

Joe Maas, vice president of production and operations at JTM Food Group in Harrison OH, says his Dematic ASRS installation is outstanding. "The improvements to our overall business have been remarkable in terms of production and no errors."

JTM, with $64 million in sales, services institutional and retail customers, with the bulk of business targeted at the national school lunch program. The cold storage facility, 90 feet tall, 70 feet wide by 180 feet long, holds 9,000 pallets and operates 24/seven at a temperature of minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The Dematic crane, a satellite system capable of carrying two pallets at a time, operates in a five-foot aisle with eight-deep racks on one side and four-deep on the other side.

Workers unload incoming trucks, putting pallets on one of two induction conveyors and inputting lot number, quantity and item numbers. Then pallets are scanned to ensure they meet system specifications regarding height, length, width, and weight and then the crane stores them away.

The ASRS diverts less-than-pallet orders to a manual picking area. Once there, it instructs workers what and how many to pick from a pallet. Workers instruct the system when the order is picked and the ASRS puts the remainder pallet away, correcting inventory on that pallet.

"This system requires only two dock workers who load and unload all my trucks," explains Maas. Before installing the ASRS, JTM was doing significantly less business, yet needed six dock workers. "My workers are much happier not having to work in the freezer and I have no turnover anymore." The integrated system uses a marquee display instructing dockworkers which customers for what particular pallets and on which truck to load them.

"Our inventory is nearly 100-percent correct all the time using this system," notes Maas, adding the manual method sometimes misplaced items so inventory was not always correct. "Our order fulfillment is nearly 100 percent, which increases customer satisfaction. We have no pallet rack damage in the freezer. Employee safety is enhanced because they are not working at extreme heights or with heavy loads."

The freezer's cubic area is well-utilized, filled almost 100 percent, Maas notes. "The doors through which the pallets go in and out of the facility are only large enough to allow a pallet to pass through. We also built ante rooms that act as temperature locks. We have few lights in the freezer so we don't introduce heat there. My refrigeration engineer was shocked at the load reduction and feels a similar-size freezer would use three times the energy."

Look, Ma, No Lift Trucks

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) commissioned Swisslog to plan and construct an automated bulk warehouse and distribution center, which will begin operation by mid-2008 in Northmead, Australia, on the same site as CCA's bottling plant. CCA is Coca-Cola's largest bottler in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thirteen automated stacker cranes capable of carrying two pallets at a time will serve the facility, which will house a double-deep racking system over 30 meters high, with 55,000 pallet locations and automated loading docks. Pallet conveyor systems and a monorail system will connect various areas of the facility.

Pallet conveyors will introduce pallet loads to the system and the monorail system will deliver pallets to the aisle selected by the Swisslog WMS. Pallets will be stored in pairs. Pallets from outside production facilities will be unloaded manually and put onto a conveyor and automatically stored. Loads destined to large customers or to CCA's new distribution center nearby in Eastern Creek will be loaded automatically into designated trucks. Smaller deliveries will be buffered in a large expedition area on conveyors, and then manually loaded into side-load trucks.

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