Ensuring customers are up-to-date with the latest order fulfillment automation technology

A medium sized 3PL company was awarded the contract for a very large mobile phone provider and wanted to utilize the latest technology to keep operator headcount to a minimum.

THE SITUATION

One of the largest mobile service providers in the USA awarded a medium sized, technology- forward fulfillment 3PL, a large contract to ship, on average, 20,000 orders per day and, in peak,  50,000 orders per day. One of the most time-consuming transactions, this 3PL knew, was the contract document that needed to be 100% correctly printed and inserted into the carton order. To confirm that this document was in fact included in every order, it was barcoded and had to be scanned twice.

THE PROCESS

PSI worked with the 3PL and the conveyor integrator (who also provided the Warehouse Execution System / WES) to set up the distribution of order flow into each of the five conveyor lines. PSI installed an upstream barcode scanner on each of the “spurs”, and a second barcode scanner at the document induct. PSI also placed a barcode on each page of each document to not only guarantee each document matched each carton via compare verification, but to also guarantee that each document page count was correct. An extra barcode scanner was mounted downstream from the induct area to complete the verification requirements set by the mobile provider company. Carton flow through each line needed to be 15 cartons per minute / 900 cartons per hour processed at each conveyor line. PSI shared the point to point barcode scan information via LAN (TCP/IP) communication to track each carton order through each conveyor line.

THE SOLUTION

To meet this strict requirement, the 3PL contacted the experts at PSI Engineering. PSI described that their Print Feeder DF, print, fold and feed system controlled with FICS middleware already addressed 98% of their requirements for this application. To meet the customer’s requirements completely, PSI simply placed an extra (4th) barcode scanner into their current 3-point scan and verification document confirmation system. To achieve the throughput automation requirements, five conveyor lines were needed to process the average 20,000 daily orders in one shift, and up to 50,000 peak orders in two shifts.

The mobile phone cartons were a smaller 8″ long x 5″ wide x 4″ high with the top flaps closed RSC carton, so a letter paper size needed to be automatically folded into one-quarter (1/4), which is standard for the PSI Engineering Print Feeder DF.

THE RESULTS

Not only did PSI achieve the throughput requirements, they exceeded them by achieving an average of 22 cartons per minute, 1,320 documents/orders per hour, which could allow the 3PL to grow to over 100,000 orders per day with two shifts of operation. Their current operations pick at a velocity of 50,000 orders per shift, meaning that during peak, only one shift is required without overtime. ROI exceeded expectations as a second shift was not required and extra pack station lines were not needed even with the increased growth.

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