Overhead Conveyor Performs Double Duty
Overhead Conveyor Performs Double Duty
Mechanization of the distribution center has become commonplace, to the point that certain tasks within the distribution process are mechanized as the standard approach. Mangers don’t even consider doing these tasks manually.
Split case or “less than carton” distribution is considered to be the most difficult of applications to mechanize. The full case distribution center is easily automated with barcode labels, pick-to-belt conveyors, high-speed carton sorters, direct trailer loading and electronic data capture devices.
Not so in the split case distribution center. The challenging part of this operation is dealing with individually picked items, located in a high density storage area, without individual item labeling, generally non-conveyable and requiring a shipping medium like a carton or tote, requiring a quality control check, resulting in the generation of trash cartons…and the list goes on.
However difficult this type of picking is, it is a fact of life. Most distribution centers contain split-case product and the requirement to pick this type of order will not go away. Actually, the trend may be to a higher volume of split case items per order as retailers wrestle with shrinking store shelf space and pressure to reduce inventory levels.
To address these issues, split case distribution centers with the goal of high efficiency, have incorporated Overhead Chain Conveyors into their new distribution center model. Their typical installation includes a number of separate overhead conveyor systems with several thousand feet of overhead chain. Actually, the overhead chain conveyor is only part of a total material handling solution involving several different styles of equipment.
The model incorporates a high-density storage pick “module”. These modules are 4 levels high for best cubic efficiency. They incorporate flow racking within and are loaded with full carton goods from the perimeter, with the full cartons flowing to the middle for picking. The pick module has a gravity/power/gravity conveyor located down the middle. Order picking begins with the generation of a picking list and a shipping label. An order picker will choose a shipping container (carton or tote) and affix the label. The container or tote is made available to the picker via an Overhead Chain Conveyor located above the triple-wide conveyors running down the middle of the pick module.
Operators may add a new carton or tote box from the carrier of the Overhead Chain Conveyor as the need arises, applying the label and beginning of continuing the pick. An unfinished order is passed from picker to picker via the gravity conveyor and when the order is complete, the order is pushed to the center, powered conveyor. The completed order moves to a checking area and then to the shipping door.
As the breaking down of master cartons in the picking aisles occurs, trash corrugate is generated. As the original cartons are emptied of their contents, the operator needs to dispose of these without walking too far. Once again, the Enclosed Track Overhead Chain Conveyor comes to the rescue. The operator places the empty carton on a special trash carrier (tray) that is attached to the same Overhead Chain Conveyor. Trash carriers and empty carton carriers are mixed in a specific ratio of 1:4. The Overhead Chain Conveyor carries the trash out of the picking module and over to the hopper of a compactor. An automatic trash dump station is located there and as the carrier is conveyed over the hopper, it is tilted, allowing trash to slide off to the compactor infeed below.
Pacline Overhead Conveyor Corporation located in Mississauga has been a supplier of Overhead Chain Conveyors to distribution centers throughout Canada and the United States for the past twenty-five years.
By Karl Scholz, President, PACLINE OVERHEAD CONVEYORS
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