Automated warehouse requires no human touch after receiving

Retrofit boosts storage 30%, builds dense store-ready pallets 8 feet high.

By ·

C&S Wholesale Grocers is a New Hampshire-based company whose Newburgh, N.Y., facility distributes to 146 Stop & Shop supermarkets across New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 2010, it faced many challenges to lower materials handling costs and optimize logistics. The facility wanted to maintain high throughput and accuracy amid increasing SKU variability and space constraints. This resulted in increased labor costs, transportation costs and fulfillment time. After a series of robots and automated solutions transformed the conventional facility into a fully automated one, storage increased 30%.

The company worked closely with a supplier (Symbotic, formerly CasePick Systems, symbotic.com) specializing in the use of mobile autonomous robots (or rovers) to quickly sequence product from manufacturer to store shelf. Together they developed the concepts of applying robotics technology leveraging “massive parallel processing” of data to optimize storage and retrieval. The result was a successful operational system in a C&S warehouse processing millions of cases a year.

The facility now features a fully automated system for case storage, selection, de-palletizing, and palletizing of mixed-SKU orders. The system is configured to receive inbound vendor pallets comprised of single SKUs, or rainbow pallets with SKUs in layers. It also coordinates selection of cases to fulfill customer orders, which are robotically assembled into mixed SKU pallets, wrapped and labeled for truck delivery.

The facility uses a three-dimensional storage structure to use the full available cubic space of the warehouse. Cases are stored directly on shelves without trays or totes that increase cost and reduce storage density. The very high-capacity storage system uses no fixed storage locations. Instead, case storage operates like a computer disc drive by using every available space suited to each case size.

High-speed mobile robots capable of autonomous navigation throughout the storage structure use onboard sensors and mechanisms for direct handling of cases, unlike conventional tugs.

Proprietary system software automatically determines the storage and picking locations that optimize throughput rate and storage density. A key feature is the ability to maintain high throughput with cases in a desired sequence, without the need for a separate mechanical system for sorting. Exact sequencing is needed for mixed-case palletizing by robots and the loading of carts or trucks for store delivery.

Palletizing software breaks down each customer order into pallets for robotic assembly. The system prepares store-ready pallets, accounts for fragility and pallet stability, and automatically maximizes pallet density to reduce transportation costs.Unlike many traditional large-scale automation solutions, the new system is a modular and flexible storage structure that can be retrofit into any existing building. More than 200,000 cases are now stored, a more than 30% increase in the same space. The system handles up to 6,000 SKUs and up to 6,000 cases per hour between inbound and outbound. Once installed, the no-touch operation requires minimal support.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Is Your DC Ready for E-commerce Growth? Here’s How to Handle More SKUs and Inventory Turns
The rise of e-commerce and multi-channel fulfillment has caused distribution centers (DCs) to experience ever-growing numbers of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and more inventory turns, up to an average of nine in 2015.
Download Today!
From the August 2016 Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
5 Emerging Technologies Enabling Competitive Advantage for Distribution
Come hear about the latest in each-picking robotics, co-bots, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, sensors, drones and droids that are enabling competitive advantage for distribution.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...
Destination Maternity: Destination Automation
Running short of space in its old facility, Destination Maternity Corp. built a new, highly...

Hibbett Sports: Faster, Flexible and Efficient
A high-speed conveyor and sortation system at Hibbett Sports’ Alabama distribution center speeds...
Necessity is the mother of invention at Quiet Logistics
Faced with the loss of a robotic pick solution, Quiet Logistics invented its own robots. Are they...