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Random House increases speed to market

Random House’s new picking methodology aggregates orders for faster turnaround times and speedier delivery to the market.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
October 01, 2011

Random House, Westminster, Md.
Size: 1.3 million square feet
Products handled: Books
SKUs: 45,000+
Throughput: 500,000 units per day
Employees: 450 with seasonal adjustments
Shifts/Days: 3 shifts/5 days

Receiving: Random House receives (1) full trailer load shipments on full, half or mixed pallets from the binderies. Pallets are unloaded to a staging area in the receiving area (2) where they are checked in against a production order in the warehouse management system (WMS). As product is checked in, the WMS creates a license plate bar code label for the pallet and assigns a putaway location in one of the reserve storage areas (3). 

Putaway: Once a pallet has been received in the WMS, a lift truck operator scans the license plate bar code label and is then directed to a drop off location for one of the storage areas (3). There, the load will be retrieved by a narrow-aisle, wire-guided turret truck. The turret truck operator scans and is directed by the WMS to a storage location. The operator confirms the putaway by scanning the storage location label. 

Picking: Orders are received in the WMS and batched into waves. Depending on what has to be picked and shipped during that shift, a wave may be created based on a variety of criteria including a customer, a carrier, carrier pick-up times and international orders. Picks are also grouped by full pallet picks, full carton picks and each picks.

  • Pallet picks: Pallet labels are distributed to the turret truck operators in the storage area (3). Once they scan a pallet label, the WMS directs them to a pick location. After the pallet is delivered to a staging station, it is picked up by another lift truck operator and delivered to the stretch wrapper if necessary and then to the shipping dock (4), where it is staged for loading.

  • Carton picks: A full carton contains 12 copies of one book title. For full carton picks, labels are printed in advance and divided into clusters of 60 cartons, the equivalent of a full pallet. Whenever possible, all 60 cartons will be picked from one aisle in the warehouse. Working from a pallet truck, the order selector is directed to a storage location after scanning a carton label.

The selector then applies the label to the carton, places it on the pallet and then repeats that process until the pallet is complete. The pallet is then delivered to an induction point where another associate loads the cartons onto the shipping conveyor (5). Once on the conveyor, the cartons are diverted to one of 16 shipping lanes by a sliding shoe sorter (6). At the end of the shipping lane (4), the cartons are palletized for delivery.

  • Piece picking: Individual items are selected from pick locations in the loose pick area (7). Associates in this area are directed by a voice-picking solution. To start the process, an order selector scans a label on a tote container and is directed to a pick location. The pick is confirmed by voice or by scanning a bar code. Once all the items for that tote have been picked, the order is closed by scanning the label on the tote and placing it on a conveyor (8). There it is transported to an induction point for the tilt-tray sortation system (9) on the mezzanine.

Packing: Just as orders are batched into waves for picking, tote containers accumulate at one of two induction points for the tilt-tray sorter (9) until the pack out stations (10) are ready for a wave. An associate empties the books in the totes onto an automatic feed conveyor. They are scanned as they are automatically placed on one of the tilt trays and then sorted to the correct pack out chute. Books accumulate until there are enough items for a carton. At that point, a blinking light alerts the packer to begin to pack the order. When the packer scans a location label at the chute, the WMS identifies the right size carton for that order, depending on the size of the books. Once the carton is complete, the packer scans the bar code label on the carton and places it on a take away conveyor. At that point, the packer is directed to the next chute ready for packing.

Shipping: From the packing station, the takeaway conveyor delivers cartons to a quality assurance weight check. After the scale, cartons are sealed and labeled and then conveyed by the shipping sorter (6) to the correct shipping lane (4). There, they will be married with any other cartons associated with that order. About 80% of all units will be palletized and shipped as either a full truckload or less-than-truckload shipment. The other 20% will ship as parcel shipments. Most of those will go directly from the conveyor into a parcel shipper’s truck. Some may be palletized and sent to a parcel shipping hub.

System suppliers
Tilt tray sortation and conveyor system and system integration: Intelligrated
Conveyor system: Automotion
Integrator:  TransTech Consulting
WMS: RedPrairie
Voice recognition technology: Dematic
Lift trucks: Raymond
Bar code scanning: Motorola Solutions
Overhead scanning: SICK
Full case rack: Ridg-U-Rak
Carton flow rack: Unarco
Stretch-wrapper: Lantech
Mezzanine: Unarco


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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