Dental supplies distributor streamlines order fulfillment
October 02, 2012 - MMH Editorial
Benco Dental’s network of five DCs handles two million packages per year, offers a same-day ship solution, and achieves one-day shipping time to more than 80% of its customers. The central DC in Pittston, Pa., is also the largest. And, it can receive, store, pick, pack and ship approximately 41,000 unique SKUs including pieces, cases, dental equipment and dental furniture. By coupling warehouse control software with a zone route conveyor network, the company cut order-processing time in half.
A smart convey and sort system drives the order fulfillment of pieces and cases. Piece picking, case picking and replenishment are accomplished simultaneously in one shift. For the piece-pick operation, typical order size ranges from four to six line items, and picking accuracy is more than 99.99%. In a typical day, the DC will pick, pack and ship approximately 2,500 to 3,000 customer orders.
Pickers only access inventory in a small area, which eliminates the need to travel through the entire warehouse. This configuration reduces picker travel time to each pick face. There are 12 pick zones where order totes can be routed. A typical order may only need to travel to three zones. Slow-moving inventory is staged furthest away from the pickers in the flow and shelf areas. Faster-moving inventory is stocked in or near the pick face nearest the picker depending on item velocity.
A discrete order picking method uses standard plastic totes to gather all the SKUs in an order. The warehouse management system (WMS) interfaces to the warehouse control system (WCS) software and orders are downloaded throughout the shift. The WCS manages the routing of each tote throughout the warehouse, starting with the order induct station.
First, a bar code on the tote is married to each customer order. Once the tote bar code and shipping manifest bar code are scanned, the software takes over and controls the tote on the zone route conveyor network. Each tote only travels to zones where there are items to pick, minimizing the travel distance, congestion, and time required to process each order.
Workers at one of 24 pack stations provide a quality control check while packing the items into a cardboard shipping container. The shipping container moves from the pack station module to the void fill and case-sealing zone before it is scanned, weighed and sorted for shipping.
A four-level case pick module accommodates all the full case SKUs. The zone route conveyor network also provides the reverse logistics method to bring returned items back to the pick face.
Read more from the 2013 Casebook.