Sortation helps speed growth

Double-density tilt tray sorter transforms order fulfillment for Oriental Trading Company.

By ·

Oriental Trading Company (OTC), one of the nation’s largest direct-to-consumer retailers and distributors of party supplies, needed high throughput in a compact system footprint to keep up with the exploding growth of orders and SKUs. So it was appropriate when the company built a new 750,000-square-foot distribution center in LaVista, Neb., that it used a new picking methodology that it refers to as “explode and assemble.”

One key component of the system is a tilt tray sorter (Beumer Group, beumergroup.com). The system feeds 600 packout stations and was configured to support an increase in OTC’s product offerings—to up to 50,000 SKUs—and improve productivity and order accuracy. In 2011, the DC picked and packed 79 million units, productivity increased by 45%, and order accuracy improved from 99.25% to 99.93%.

“The explode and assemble process enables our system to explode customer order items into large unit waves, and then reassemble these orders into packout locations utilizing a high-speed unit sorter,” said Deon Wagner, vice president of fulfillment center operations.

The double-density, split-tray design doubles the sorter system capacity and was designed to use the DC’s available space with optimal efficiency. And, the chute width at the packout stations was optimized to enable more stations in the same footprint, compared to industry standards.

Order processing works like this: To “explode” the orders, four picking and packing subwaves are created from the original wave coming; picking tasks are assigned to an induction location on the sorter, and orders are assigned to a chute leading to the packout locations.

For the “assemble” part of the orders, items for a single order are sent to a packout location. After an order is packed into a shipping container, it is scanned again. When the carton is 100% complete, it is sorted to an automated tape-sealing machine and the shipping sorter. Exceptions are conveyed to an exception handling station.

According to Wagner, the sorter has enabled OTC to sort more than 400,000 units during its peak day at an accuracy rate of 99.8%. Since the sorter can sort more than 43,000 units per hour, OTC is able to leverage wave size to increase pick density and reduce visits to pick locations to once per wave.


About the Author

Noel P. Bodenburg
Noël P. Bodenburg, executive managing editor, has been with Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News since 2006. She is a graduate of Boston University. Prior to joining the Supply Chain Group magazines, Noël worked as a production and managing editor at other industry business-to-business publications.

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
Totes keep produce fresh from field to store
A two-part reusable plastic tote features a frame that cradles produce in a recyclable, replaceable sleeve.
Download Today!
From the December 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
Confronting an aging materials handling system and new channels of business with new customer expectations, Rocky Brands installed a put-to-light and sortation system to ramp up fulfillment.
The Big Picture: Navigation Gets a Reboot for Automatic Vehicles
Top 20 3PL Warehouses 2017: Growth amid change
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The State of the DC Voice Market
A lot has changed in the last 10 years, especially in voice technology. This webinar will cover the state of the voice market, review two leading voice solutions and help you gain a better understanding of the options and capabilities available today.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
System Report: Rocky Brands Sees the Light
Confronting an aging materials handling system and new channels of business with new customer...
Top 20 industrial lift truck suppliers, 2017
The top lift truck suppliers list is changing with industry acquisitions causing a dramatic...

Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
In a new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business...
Rochester Drug Cooperative: Robots ready for work
It’s still early stages, but Rochester Drug Cooperative is proving that mobile robotic piece...