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, Senior 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
Buying or leasing lift trucks this year? Download the full 2017 Lift Truck Acquisition & Usage Study
If you are planning to buy or lease a lift truck in the near future, you’re not alone. 2017 Lift Truck Acquisition & Usage Study
Download Today!
From the August 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
For all the advances in lift truck technology and fleet management, operators will always be the heart and soul of a fleet. As manufacturers and equipment purchasers place more value on that piece, the role of the operator extends from design to daily use.
Reader survey: Lift trucks keep on truckin’
Top 20 industrial lift truck suppliers, 2017
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Warehouse Execution Systems (WES): The Pathway to Same-Day Fulfillment
This webinar explores the processes and technologies enabling same-day, same-hour order fulfillment using intelligent supply chain software.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Lift truck operators: Drivers of change
For all the advances in lift truck technology and fleet management, operators will always be the...
Top 20 industrial lift truck suppliers, 2017
The top lift truck suppliers list is changing with industry acquisitions causing a dramatic...

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits: Designed to Last
On Long Island, the country’s premier distributor of wine and spirits turned to shuttle and case...
GE Healthcare System Report: Lean repairs
Self-driving mobile robots improve cycle times and reduce floor space at GE Healthcare’s new...