A complex decision ensued. A new facility was clearly needed to consolidate operations and create more efficient picking and packing methods. A new facility, however, would tax the budget set aside for the consolidation.
The firm contacted Hy-Tek Material Handling, Inc. (Columbus, Ohio) with a dual mission: integrate distribution with the warehouse management software they had selected, and keep the project within budget.
The engineers at Hy-Tek designed an integrated system-featuring wire guidance order pickers in a very narrow-aisle rack setting. A wrap-around powered Hytrol conveyor, accessible from each aisle, carries picked product through a 20-lane sortation system with bar code label scanners. The sortation system soft-drops items into the appropriate packing lane.
A live roller conveyor moves finished packages to the shipping area. The raised sortation lanes and mezzanine allow room for storage, returns, and shipping areas. Customized software was designed to interface with the warehouse management system to track inventory, product retrieval, and sortation lanes.
The system was even more successful than anticipated. In addition to the successful consolidation of four facilities into one, the resulting efficiencies cut Rocky's labor expense by two-thirds. It also increased inventory accuracy and flattened its peak-season expense curve. The company went from three shifts seven days per week, to one shift five days per week during non-peak season. Inventory accuracy went from 88 percent to 99.7 percent.