Casebook 2011: Grocery chain implements comprehensive order picking system
Recent advances in data tracking have enabled warehouses and distribution facilities to monitor inventory at retail points of sale in real time. However, even the most accurate and timely information can’t help an out-of-date order picking process. With new automated package monitoring software and hardware, one grocery store distributor increased efficiency while boosting the accuracy and timeliness of its shipments.
During the order picking process, goods are placed on pallets and verified before being shipped. To help improve the efficiency of this process, one major U.S.-based grocery store chain—with more than 2,500 stores nationwide—implemented an order-picking system. In search of a comprehensive solution, the company chose a provider (Witron, 847-385-6000, http://www.witron.com; SICK, 800-325-7425, http://www.sickusa.com) that plans, designs and implements entire logistics and material flow systems. The company installed a pallet verification system for all in-house supply chain processes, from receiving to shipping. The core technology, the case order machine, allows fully automated and branch-specific preparation of 205,000 commercial units on order pallets per day.
Due to variations in product size and shape, verifying pallets of different heights often requires two separate photoelectric sensors, effectively doubling the price of hardware. In this case, the provider was able to install a single scanner able to reliably detect objects that vary in orientation or height, independent of their position. The sensor can even identify objects up to a distance of 4.5 meters, or nearly 15 feet.
In addition to a large light array, the system requires only one sensor, one connection for the power supply, and one reflector, minimizing installation and commissioning costs. The laser eye itself is equipped with technology that allows increased intervals between cleanings. The switching threshold, which typically decreases due to dust accumulation, maintains a near-constant level.
The system provided quick and easy installation that enabled the grocery store distribution center to save time and money associated with pallet verification.