Unique Challenges in High-Ceilinged DC
By Erich Gebhardt
My most memorable installation was for FILA, the sports apparel and footwear company. It was a lot of conveyor—nearly three miles! We installed 15,000 linear feet of conveyor from Bushman Conveyor and Stewart Glapat Corporation to move cases of tennis shoes through the warehouse. The installation also included 169,834 square feet of 40-foot-high rack supplied by Interlake Material Handling Solutions. Adding to the unusual setup was that all of the conveyor had to hang from a 50-foot ceiling.
This project taught me a valuable lesson on how to better deal with the various contractors involved in such a large installation. The best advice I can give is to treat people the way you want to be treated.
The 427,080-square-foot building included two pick modules that had three levels and two mezzanines with conveyor belts on them. Our team also had to integrate the conveyor with a tilt tray sorter. We didn’t install the sorter, but we had to feed it and take the product away from it.
It was a challenging installation because all the conveyors were hanging from the ceiling. One area of the conveyor ran between an air handling unit and a wall, which made it very difficult to reach.
Another challenge came because the conveyor wasn’t always delivered in the order that it needed to be installed. If I started from a corner and worked my way out building the conveyor, I would always get the outer conveyor first. What I needed first, I would get last. But we made the best of the situation and worked with what was available at the time.With all the challenges presented to us, working closely with a team of professionals required clear lines of communication and monitoring of progress.
Erich Gebhardt, 42, is installation manager for Conveyor Handling Company Inc. in Elkridge, MD.
Robotic Palletizing Ups Efficiency
By Eric Cameron
My first big installation with ASAP Automation, the sister company to Bastian Material Handling Corporation, came when I was fresh out of grad school at the University of Louisville. The installation was at Tone’s Spices in Iowa and helped the company’s full-case picking become more efficient by using robotics.
Before the robots were installed, Tone’s had employees going through pallet racks, picking things off the cart by hand, and then rehandling the product to palletize it correctly, label it, and send it out the door.
With an installation of this magnitude, open lines of communication are very important. Something this highly automated requires a good working relationship with the manufacturers, especially when the team is working out the design kinks. It wasn’t just, “We’re buying this from you, now leave.” It was, “We’re partnering with you on this, now let’s work together to do it.”
We worked together with Bastian and with Tone’s design team to turn a purely manual operation into an automated operation. As a result, we cut manpower by two-thirds, utilizing pick-to-light technology, sortation and intelligent-waving algorithms for grouping of orders for shipment.
The system used pick-to-light technology from ASAP Automation and 6,500 linear feet of conveyor from Hytrol Conveyor Company. There also were omni-directional scan tunnels from Datalogic and robotic palletizing from FANUC Robotics.
One challenge was integrating the robotic palletizing with manual palletizing. We ran a simulation on the orders to look at what percentages were able to be robotically palletized based upon certain criteria, including case size variability.
I was involved in a number of aspects of the installation, including design, pricing, sale, sourcing—all the way to the go-live support. It was a good installation.
Eric Cameron, 27, is a sales consultant for ASAP Automation in Louisville, KY.
Odd-Sized Materials Need Out-of-the-Box Thinking
By Bob Frye
I’ve been working with a large online retailer for a couple of years. My favorite project involved two models in large, highly automated distribution centers in Kansas and Kentucky. The first was a system using conveyor and a rack-supported pick module to provide more pick locations for the customer’s SKUs. The system handles small portable items, such as books and CDs, and provides more pick bases for these SKUs. This project involved a number of pallet racks. Some were 40 ft. x 420 ft. and others were 60 ft. x 450 ft. Each consisted of three floors of shelving picking areas. All told, there were more than 70,000 linear feet of static shelving and 11,000 feet of conveyor.
Be diligent when dealing with local permitting authorities. These DCs went in all over the country, and there are different rules in every municipality. To assume it’s the same in Phoenix as in Cincinnati as in Philadelphia is a bad assumption.
The second model handles traditionally non-conveyable product, like a barbecue grill. We designed a low-tech conveyor system that allows for pick, pack, ship, manifest, label and loading of trucks.
The project involved 450 feet of power conveyor, 800 feet of gravity conveyor and 14 extendible, flexible conveyors. Each model used Interlake rack and conveyor from HK Systems and Ermanco. The distribution centers were designed, procured and installed in less than two months.
A systems integrator, Peach State is a full-service distributor. We have a full staff of engineers that we draw upon to come up with the final concepts and solutions, so we delivered to our clients a fully engineered solution done in-house.
Bob Frye, 44, is solution development manager at Peach State Integrated Technologies Inc. in Norcross, GA.