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Tognum America brings goods to the person

Tognum’s mini-load automated storage and retrieval and warehouse management systems are the primary engines behind order fulfillment in the Brownstown DC.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
July 01, 2012

Tognum America
Brownstown, Mich.
Size: 350,000 square feet
Products: Heavy duty diesel engine parts
Stock keeping units: 40,000 SKUs with capability to expand to 80,000
Throughput: Designed to handle up to 4,000 lines filled per day
Employees: 100 employees
Shifts/Days: 2 shifts/5 days per week

Receiving: Most inbound product is shipped from overseas in shipping containers. Prior to shipment, Tognum America receives an advanced ship notification (ASN) from the freight forwarder that aggregates the shipments. Domestic suppliers provide a notification through electronic data interchange (EDI). Regularly scheduled deliveries by specific trucks are created in the warehouse management system (WMS). As soon as Tognum receives a bill of lading and packing slips for a load, that delivery is assigned to one of the trucks scheduled in the system. That allows them to post the delivery as soon as it is unloaded from the truck in the receiving area (1). Once the load is counted and inspected in the staging area (2), the receipt is confirmed and the product can be prepared for putaway.

Preparation for storage: Prior to putaway, inventory is prepared for storage. A significant amount of material is removed from its transport packaging and repacked in a pre-packing area (3) according to how it will be handled in the future. For instance, an item that is sold as an individual part will be packed in its final packaging before putaway. Other products may be kitted with companion items before they go into storage. Small parts are stored on carts that can be rolled to an induction point for the AS/RS. Larger parts are palletized. Once all the parts have been counted, accepted and are ready for storage, an associate places a green cone on the material. That is a visual cue that the product is ready for storage.

Putaway/replenishment: Once a cone is on product that is ready for putaway, an associate will scan a bar code on a pallet or cart. The system will then direct the materials handler to a storage location. As much inventory as possible will be directed to the automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) (4). At the induction station, an associate scans a bar code label on a cart holding multiple parts. The scan releases all the necessary trays from storage to the station. When the tray arrives in the station, an operator scans the parts and a light system identifies the slot on the tray for that part. Once all the parts have been loaded, the operator releases the tray. It travels through an automated weight and height check station. This verifies that the weight and ensures that no parts are hanging over the tray that may get caught in the automated system. The tray is automatically putaway into the correct storage location.

The rest of the material will go into one of several reserve storage areas. Large parts are stored in racks in a large parts area (5) or on the floor in a bulk storage area (6). Medium size parts are stored in racks in a special area (7). A lift truck operator is directed by the WMS to a putaway location in the right reserve storage area. The operator scans the location bar code on the rack to confirm the putaway.

Picking: Nearly 85% of orders are picked at one of five goods-to-person picking stations located at the AS/RS (8). When an order selector logs on to their station, they choose an order that is available to pick. The AS/RS then begins to deliver trays for that order to their workstation. A pick-to-light system identifies the part to be picked from the tray. The order selector confirms the pick by scanning a bar code label on the part and then places it in a cart. Once the order is complete, the order selector scans the cart, which is then delivered to an outbound staging and packing area (9) where it is married to any other parts for that order. Parts may also be picked and sent to a kitting area (12). Examples may include all of the parts for an engine overhaul. Once kitting is complete, it is returned to a storage location according to its size.

Packing and shipping: Tognum uses a series of colored lights as visual cues in the packing area (9). Each packer has a monitor that displays the available orders for that station. A yellow light indicates that some of the items for an order are available for packing. A green light that all of the items are available for that order. Once the packer decides to begin packing an order, parts belonging to that order are pulled from the staging area. Items are packed in a shipping carton and placed on a pallet or cart. Once the order is complete, a materials handler delivers it to the appropriate outbound staging lane (10) based on planned mode of transportation. There, a shipping coordinator verifies that the right items and the right quantity have been prepared for shipment, and the required paperwork/labeling has been attached. Once the quality check is complete, the order is loaded onto an outbound truck or a shipping container at the shipping docks (11). Once the truck or container is fully loaded, the order is closed and the inventory is removed in the WMS. 

System suppliers
i+o Industry Planning + Organization,
AS/RS and conveyor: TGW Systems,
Lift trucks: Crown Equipment Corp.,
Bar code scanning: Motorola Solutions,
Rack system: Pallet rack, Ridg-U-Rak,; Cantilever rack, Unarco Material Handling,
Metal containers: Tiffin Metal Products,


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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