Industry: Beer Distribution Center in Texas City TX
Challenge: Improve order fulfillment times to meet demand
Solution: Increase processing speed with beer handling conveyor and automation
Ensuring faster processing, faster palletizing, and faster deliveries – because O’ Beer Thirty can come at any time in Texas City TX.
Americans love beer. In a 2018 Gallup poll, out of 63% of Americans who drink alcohol, 42% say they most often choose beer making it the adult beverage of choice for 11 years straight (and most of the years before that).
In terms of pure volume, that’s a LOT of cans and bottles moving around the country from brewer to distributor and distributor to restaurants, bars, stores and homes.
Our Beer Distribution client, headquartered out of Texas City TX, knows a lot about moving large volumes of beer. In business since 1910, they deliver more than 10 million cases of beer annually for over 30 suppliers from giants like Anheiser-Busch to craft beers like Goose Island, handling approximately 2,500 SKUs. In short, they’re the experts at getting beer from Point A (in their warehouse) to Point B (to clients).
Looking to increase performance to meet greater demand, they partnered with Encompass Technologies, the fastest growing designers for beverage distribution in the United States.
With Encompass designing the software, AEC was brought in to focus on the conveyor. Specialists in conveyor systems, AEC knows how to get beer from Point A (from picking) to Point B (to palletizing).
“When we all came in to evaluate this system, we knew there had to be a better way,” said Charlie Williamson, conveyor systems specialist with Advanced Equipment Company (AEC).
Challenge – More beer drinkers mean greater demand.
Increase speed needed to meet demand – we’ll exceed it.
The specific challenge in this case was to improve the time it takes to process an order within our client’s warehouse. With their existing system, to pick an order for one single location, a person working alone, armed with a headset and a pallet jack, moved around the warehouse to pick cases.
With a facility their size, they might have to travel up to 6 miles just to find all the specific products within a single order. To get one pallet ready for shipping took about 20 minutes.
Encompass and AEC combined their knowledge and expertise to design a system that would take time and cost out of their beer distribution process.
Solution – Can you watch my beer?
Automated Pick-to-Light system to track cases, batch orders, and reduce processing time.
The heart of their brand new order fulfillment process was a Pick-to-Light system; a visual organization system that uses lights to guide pickers on the most efficient pick route. The lights show the picker which cases are next and how many to grab. This means employees can pick for multiple customers at a time by following the lights and placing the cases on powered roller conveyor that run in between rows of storage rack.
How does it work?
Each case of beer is outfitted with a barcode. After the picker has placed the case on the roller conveyor, it’s routed through a barcode scanner so the system tracks where that specific case is at all times. When it comes down the line, the sortation conveyor sorts it onto the correct lane. Then the batch order is delivered directly to the employee preparing the order for palletization and shipping.
Not only is the process now fully automated, but the zone control includes an external photo eye for a sensor to monitor when the chute is full and therefore, no need for an additional and costly PLC (programmable logic controller).
Success – A round for everyone!
Increased processing speed by 400%.
By using the Pick-to-Light system integrated with Hytrol conveyors (designed and installed by AEC), our client went from 1 pallet in 20 min to 5 pallets ready to ship in 20 min. That’s a 400% increase in their order fulfillment operation.
- Decreased distance walked by employees filling orders
- Decreased overall time spent picking orders
- Decreased training and learning time for new hires
- Decreased overtime
- Increased order pick accuracy
- Increased productivity
When asked how the customer likes the results, Charlie admitted, “They love it. In fact, they continue to place orders with us for new systems.”
Charlie Williamson is a Material Handling and Conveyor Specialist for AEC, providing solutions since 1996. Prior to AEC, he spent an additional sixteen years in the material handling industry. Charlie invests his time and ingenuity into every project as well as gains a real sense of fulfillment to see all projects through to final working solution.
As an Integrated Systems Specialist, he welcomes the opportunity to be of service for solutions involving single conveyors, complex turnkey systems and everything in between.
Talk to Charlie about finding a solution that fits your application. 704-527-3141.