Empire Merchants overhaul prepares company for future growth
Empire Merchants, a leading distributor of wine and spirits in metro New York, was facing growing order fulfillment and maintenance problems with a 35-year-old paper-based, manual console-merge system. Managers knew they needed to invest in a new warehouse control system that would allow them to be more competitive and better meet customer delivery schedules. A comprehensive wave-pick overhaul included new conveyors and scanners, and has contributed to a manifold increase in cases per hour.
“Our entire system was simply antiquated,” says John Magliocco, chairman for Empire Merchants. “We were struggling to keep up with the volume demands and service levels that were being dictated by our customers.”
The 500,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility consists of five contiguous buildings, which have multiple floor elevations and roof lines. System installation required substantial building rework including the building of a new shipping dock and the installation of a concrete mezzanine.
Much of the system’s nearly 5 miles of conveyor is accumulation conveyor, which provides a buffer for optimal operations. As the cases leave the picking, photo-eye sensor accumulators are utilized in all of the key merge areas to allow for maximum release efficiency, speed and gap control.
The new wave-picking system coordinates order and shipping details for 16 separate pick lines. The operators affix a bar code to each case, which is scanned before a case exits each module. On the split-case pick line, completed cases are also shrink-wrapped before being transferred to a different area. Cases are scanned, photographed and verified at least six times from the pick station to the dock doors. These steps increase accuracy and reduce problems downstream.
An empty carton monorail travels through the pick area and is equipped with an automatic trash blow off device that automatically feeds an outside trash compactor. Reusable empty cartons are circulated on the monorail for future orders.
Multiple waves are on the conveyor system at any given time throughout the night shift and they are processed sequentially and fluidly, achieving rates of 10,000 cases per hour during peak demand. Both system breakage and non-conveyable cases have virtually been eliminated.
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