System Report: PDS gets it right

The 3PL's new system moves cartons and mixed pallets in a lean and efficient solution.

<p>Prime Distribution Systems, Plainfield, Ind.</p><ul><li>Size: 1.2 million square feet</li><li>Products and services: Third-party logistics, including warehousing and distribution and LTL freight consolidation of products for the retail food industry</li><li>SKUs: 10,000 SKUs for some 200 customers</li><li>Throughput: Approx. 800 million pounds of freight per year</li><li>Employees: 240</li><li>Shifts: 5 days a week, 2 shifts per day</li></ul>

Prime Distribution Systems, Plainfield, Ind.

  • Size: 1.2 million square feet
  • Products and services: Third-party logistics, including warehousing and distribution and LTL freight consolidation of products for the retail food industry
  • SKUs: 10,000 SKUs for some 200 customers
  • Throughput: Approx. 800 million pounds of freight per year
  • Employees: 240
  • Shifts: 5 days a week, 2 shifts per day

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PDS, a third-party logistics provider, implemented a warehouse management system, conveyor, sortation and two pick modules to expand its retail case picking capabilities.

Receiving: The receiving process begins at the gatehouse, where a guard verifies a driver’s paperwork. Using that information, a yard management and warehouse management system (WMS) creates a dock assignment. When the trailer is unloaded in the receiving area 1, product is received in the WMS against a pre-receipt already in the system. At that time, any lot or expiration date information is also captured and entered in the system. The WMS creates a pallet label and chooses a putaway location in the bulk storage area 2.


Putaway and replenishment: Once a putaway location has been chosen, a lift truck operator is directed to a floor or pallet rack location in the bulk storage area 2. The product is now available for full pallet picking from bulk storage, or to replenish a pick face in one of the two pick modules 3. Replenishment operators are logged into a pick zone. Whenever a pallet is consumed, the WMS generates an order to replenish that pick face. The system directs the operator to pull a pallet from the bulk storage area 2 and to replenish that pick face 3. Replenishment operators may also be directed to build mixed pallets from the bulk storage area that will be used to replenish picking locations in the carton flow rack with one to 10 cases, based on predetermined replenishment points. Operators confirm the completion of a replenishment operation by scanning a bar code.

Picking: Customers may place orders for full pallets, mixed pallets or a combination of the two. PDS’s WMS releases the orders and directs the picking to create a consolidated load. Mixed and full pallets for that order will be delivered to a shipping lane assigned for that load.

Full pallet picking: Full pallets are picked by a lift truck operator working in the bulk storage area 2 and delivered first to the pack verification area 4. Once the order is verified, the system generates a shipping label that is applied to the pallet. It is then delivered to the shipping lane 5 assigned to that order. 

Mixed pallet picking: Orders for mixed pallets are delivered to one of the two pick modules 3. Operators are directed by the system to pick the required number of cases from each pick location for that order. Cases are placed onto a conveyor 6. After a carton passes through a scan tunnel, it is sorted 7 to a packing lane 4 where a pallet is being built. Once the pallet is complete, it is stretch wrapped 8 and then delivered to the packing station 4 for verification. It’s then delivered to the shipping lane 5 assigned to that order.

Shipping: Whether they are handling full or mixed pallets, operators scan a pallet to a shipping lane 5 when they drop them off. Once the system determines that all the pallets for an order are in a lane, a lift truck operator is tasked with loading a trailer according to a plan that maximizes the load. The operator scans the pallet bar code label and a trailer ID label next to the dock door to associate that pallet with that trailer. Once the trailer is loaded, it’s staged in the yard and the traffic department routes an outbound carrier for delivery.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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