Hardware distributor increases productivity 5x with heavy-duty horizontal carousels.

Jan. 1, 2008
This case history about Bostwick-Braun comes courtesy of Diamond Phoenix Corporation. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity,

This case history about Bostwick-Braun comes courtesy of Diamond Phoenix Corporation. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

CHALLENGE: Bostwick-Braun is a major wholesale hardware distributor for a 10-state region of the Midwest. Business was growing in this competitive market and since taking an order for a large new customer, DC throughput volumes had increased dramatically. They needed to do something radical to cut costs and increase productivity.

SOLUTION: Diamond Phoenix provided heavy duty automated horizontal carousels coupled with horizontal and vertical light displays. DiamondWareTM software was then integrated with Bostwick-Braun’s software and conveyor systems.

♦ Achieved near 100% order accuracy
♦ Productivity increased five-fold
♦ Improved efforts to achieve and maintain ISO 9001-200 status

Industry Pioneers
Bostwick-Braun’s distribution center operates out of a 280,000 sq. ft. facility in Ashley, Indiana. Eighty percent of its business comes from the chain of PRO Hardware stores, while the remaining twenty percent is industrial customers, such as Ford, General Motors, Huffy Mfg., and Guardian Industries. This project made Bostwick-Braun the first in the industry to use horizontal carousel technology for rapid, highly accurate order picking.

Prior to installing the conveyors and horizontal carousels, order pickers used handcarts. On a pick tour, they traveled the entire open stock area of 2 floors and 84 aisles – a total distance of 460 feet.

As Bostwick-Braun’s business grew, they decided to take their first steps toward automation. “Cost effectiveness was a big factor,” says Les Martz, project supervisor. “We wanted to install the latest technology. Because many of the hardware items we distribute are heavy, the handling system had to be heavy-duty or we would be in big trouble,” notes John Gilbert, operations manager.

The design provides for open stock orders to be picked into totes. Orders are “married” to tote barcode license plates, which are then tracked and diverted as required through each of eight pick zones downstairs and two zones on the mezzanine level. The final stop for the totes before pack out is at the workstation area, where the conveyor interfaces with the pod of horizontal carousels.

Back-to-Back Pick and Put to Light
At the final picking station, the system combines pick to light and put to light technologies in a back-to-back configuration. (A put to light subsystem is used to consolidate orders rather than pick them.)

A conveyor spur brings totes into the carousel pod. Directed by lights on a light tree, which shows carousel bin, shelf location, and the proper quantity to pick, the picker pulls items from one of the three carousels. Turning around to the totes on the spur, the picker places items into the proper tote, indicated by a light directed sort bar running above and parallel to the conveyor spur.

The horizontal carousels have increased Bostwick-Braun’s ability to pick customer requests for fast to medium SKUs among the 54,000 items offered. Travel time has been reduced by 80%. Previous to the carousels, it took 3 pickers a combined time of 27 hours to pick 1600 lines. With this new system, the same number of lines is picked with only a single picker and is completed in 5 ½ hours (averaging 300 picks/hour).

MHMonline.com welcomes relevant, exclusive case histories that explain in specific detail the business benefits that new software and material-handling equipment has provided to specific users. Send submissions to Clyde Witt([email protected]), MHM Editor-in-Cheif. All submissions will be edited for clarity, content and style.