By Bob Trebilcock ·
September 14, 2020
NorthShore’s unique order and product profiles required an equally unique solution. In this case, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) transport carts large enough to handle full carton picks.
About half of incoming product is received on pallets (1) from U.S. manufacturers. The other half is floor loaded in containers (2) shipped from Europe and Asia. At receiving, palletized product is unloaded by lift trucks. Cartons are manually unloaded onto telescoping conveyor and palletized in the receiving area. In both instances, the warehouse management system (WMS) generates license plate bar code labels for directed putaway.
Most newly received product will be stored in double deep pallet rack in the reserve storage area (3). Lift truck operators on standup reach trucks are system directed to a storage location. The pallet location and pallet are scanned to confirm putaway.
NorthShore Care Supply’s pick module features floor-mounted pallet flow rack (4), especially for fast-moving A and B items (5), as well as some shelving and case flow rack in the sample storage area (6). As order selectors fulfill orders they also create a list of items that need to be replenished. When an associate notifies the warehouse management system (WMS) that they are available for a replenishment task, the system directs them to a retrieval location and then to a putaway location.
Orders are dropped from the warehouse management system to the warehouse control system, which creates tasks for the autonomous mobile robots. The WCS groups orders by travel time and pick density and dispatches the robots. An available robot picks up a cart and travels toward its first pick location; at the same time, the voice system directs the nearest available order selector to the pick location. The order selector picks a carton to one of the pick locations and validates the pick with a ring scanner. Once all of the picks in an area are complete, the robot indexes to the next location. On light days, the order selector may walk with the robot. On busy days, order selectors will remain in their area.
Free samples are central to NorthShore Care Supply’s marketing program. Once the picks from the pick modules are complete, the robot travels to an area where sample products are stored to complete the orders on the cart.
Pack and ship
The packing area (7) is located near the shipping dock (8), which is serviced by motor-driven roller conveyor and extendable conveyor, which reaches into outbound parcel trailers. The area also features an overhead trash conveyor. Once all of the picks for a group of orders is complete, the WCS looks at which pack stations only have one cart and directs the robot to that location. The idea is to balance the workload at the pack stations. The WMS uses cartonization to execute the packing process. Labels are printed and applied to the cartons, which are then pushed onto the takeaway conveyor (9). The cartons pass through a scan and weigh station. Cartons that are out of tolerance are diverted to an inspection station and then to an automatic print-and-apply station. Cartons that pass the weight and scan audit are conveyed to shipping and diverted to the right dock door based on the parcel carrier.
September 14, 2020
About the Author
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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