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Automatic guided carts help move furniture for Macy’s DC

Casebook 2012: Furniture warehouse cuts equipment inventory and improves worker comfort.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
October 17, 2011

A Macy’s distribution center in Industry, Calif., wanted to improve how products were moved in its 750,000-square-foot warehouse. With the old system, six associates used a tugger to manually move carts loaded with furniture product including sofas, chairs and mattresses to and from the dock doors. Today, this process is automated by an automatic guided cart (AGC) system.
“I really love the cart because it doesn’t call in sick, and it doesn’t take any breaks,” says Bill O’Malley, vice president of furniture and bedding operations at Macy’s.

The new system includes five AGCs designed to tow up to eight carts that are connected together like a train. Macy’s currently has 200 carts that are retrofitted to link with the AGC. With the old system, one of the biggest challenges was returning empty carts, a challenge partially met with dozens of surplus carts. With the new automated system, the company is able to work effectively with one third of the carts it used to have.

The AGCs are controlled by a computer system, which allows operators to direct a cart to one of six pick-up zones. After delivering a train of empty carts, the AGC automatically decouples and then picks up with a train of filled carts to bring to a drop zone.

While the cart is idle, it charges using a metal plate installed at three designated charge locations. When a cart reaches a charge location, spring-loaded shoes come in contact with the floor plates, allowing the cart to run continuously without a battery changing operation.

The carts travel along a path that is approximately 4,500 feet long, guided by magnetic tape. An in-floor magnetic bar is used in high traffic areas to avoid wear and tear. Magnetic tape offers increased flexibility because the path can be changed and installed quickly and easily.

O’Malley recommends the cart system to companies that are looking to improve their operations and bottom line. “We’ve reduced our processing overtime. We’re getting out on time daily,” he says. “We’re confident that the cart is providing us with the ROI we proposed on this project.”

Jervis B. Webb

More Fixed Path Coverage

More from Modern’s 2012 Casebook

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.

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