While working on a substantial installation project with one of the United States’ largest 3PL providers, a leading warehouse label and sign manufacturer encountered a challenge at one of its large locations outside of Chicago.
The facility (one of more than 50 distribution centers in operation) had double-deep, high-rise storage racking installed. This racking required the usage of double-deep reach lift trucks—which are typically taller than standard lift trucks and have forks that can extend into a storage bay—to properly store and pick inventory.
Unfortunately, the reach trucks were unable to fit onto semi-trucks to handle the unloading of its received goods. As a result, workers had to go through an extra step of unloading semis with standard lift trucks, prior to transferring the pallet loads to the double-deep reach trucks for rack storage.
“The process was time consuming and inefficient,” says the senior industrial engineer who was assigned to the project. “Our client’s goal was to move its product quickly from our distribution center to its retailers. We made the decision to redesign the layout, [as well as] the way we fulfilled their orders.”
For a portion of its distribution center, the 3PL opted to remove more than 10,000 storage rack bays and use the floor space for more efficient staging of product inventory.
“This would allow us to use our standard lift trucks to unload the semi-trailers and stage the pallets, with organized bulk storage floor locations, essentially skipping an interim step,” the engineer says. “This would also allow us to move some of the staged inventory directly into the fulfillment process, when required, bypassing rack bay storage.”
The outcome of the distribution center reconfiguration project was a significant improvement in product staging and order fulfillment.
A project of this complexity and scope required a great deal of planning and coordination. Since this was a live facility, the plans called for implementation over four phases to try to minimize downtime. The warehouse installation company came in immediately after a section of racking was taken down, prepared and striped the floors for bulk storage locations, and manufacture and install the required overhead signage.
Above all else, the distribution center redesign helped the 3PL improve its operational efficiencies and meet its client’s requirements, which is key for today’s smart warehouses, as well as the demand for rapid order fulfillment.
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