Due to significant growth, Merit Medical, a major medical and surgical supply manufacturer headquartered near Salt Lake City, Utah, moved into a new distribution center in Virginia, doubling the size of its previous East Coast location. Its former facility had been overwhelmed by the growth, while its ability to get orders out on time had become limited.
Once Merit decided to expand its facility, it hired PeakLogix, along with a designer and integrator of warehouse automation. The two companies would help replace its single order pick-to-paper process with advanced technology, which, in turn, would optimize staff and increase throughput. By integrating automated pick, pack and ship processes, Merit yielded substantial savings that quickly justified the investment.
Before hiring the two companies, Merit’s operation ran with an Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with discrete order picking. But the warehouse automation designer introduced better processes, which allowed them to pick four different order types (LTL, pick-to-tote, pick-to-carton and order consolidation) simultaneously, leading to a 200% gain in picking productivity.
In particular, the supplier implemented automation, as its automated processes are controlled by a warehouse execution and control system (WES-WCS). The system receives order data from Merit’s warehouse management system (WMS) and creates efficient batches of orders, based on priority and work demand throughout five different work zones.
In addition, the system includes a voice-directed order fulfillment automation module that manages the entire pick, pack and ship order fulfillment process throughout the distribution center. The system includes a highly automated distribution process with voice-directed picking, order consolidation pick- and put-to-light, and an automated pack process, which integrates in-line scan-weigh-dimension, print-and-apply labeling, and LTL order fulfillment pallet building processes.
The voice system validates every pick step by scanning items and lot serial numbers, and generating an order-specific bar code, which is then picked and placed onto each of the cases. It is 99.99% accurate, as it removes all errors associated with paper picking. Voice operators—equipped with a wireless mobile computer, a headset, a hands-free bar code scanner and a mobile label—will then look at an Order Release screen to determine which picking task and zone they’re needed in, prior to logging into the voice picking task, as they’ll then voice direct throughout the entire picking process.
Once a batch of orders is released, the orders are picked simultaneously by the order pickers across the entire warehouse in any combination of the following zones: fork truck cart picking, case pick-to-conveyor, pick-to-tote, pick-to-pallet, full pallet picking and VNA vehicle picking.
This simultaneous batch picking is significant, as it’s four times faster (and more efficient) than discrete order picking.
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