Conveyor Moves Shoes to Finish Line

Jan. 1, 2001
To ensure stock is delivered on time to 425 stores, the Finish Line distribution center uses a sophisticated conveyor system. Cost-Cutting Ideas.

Conveyor Moves Shoes to Finish Line

Finish Line, one of the largest athletic specialty stores in the country, prides itself on offering a wide variety of the latest styles at good values. However, along with the company’s commitment to offering the most up-to-date athletic footwear and fashion accessories comes pressure to replenish supply quickly to keep 425 stores in 42 states fully stocked. To ensure that stock is adequate, 250 employees work in a 260,000-square-foot distribution center (DC) located in Indianapolis, and rely on more than 6,183 feet of conveyor from Mathews Conveyor to keep stock moving quickly and efficiently.

Don Courtney, executive vice president of information systems and distribution for Finish Line, explains, "Everyday we move approximately 120,000 units of footwear and fashion accessories from Indianapolis to all parts of the country, so our DC is truly the heart of our operation. We have a series of inbound and outbound docks, which have become more elaborate since our first installation in 1991. We have quadrupled in size over the past nine years and have relied on Advanced Handling Systems to assist us in the continued smooth operation of our facility for the majority of that time."

Recently, Advanced Handling Systems Inc. (AHS) of Cincinnati, with the help of Mathews Conveyor of Danville, Kentucky, was asked to completely renovate the Finish Line facility. Two of the main considerations Finish Line had when choosing a new conveyor system for the renovation were low noise levels and high reliability.

"With our previous distribution system the rollers vibrated, which generated a lot of noise and complaints from workers," stated Courtney. "One of the primary features of the Mathews’ zero-pressure conveyor is that the rollers lock down into a plastic device that holds the axle, which greatly reduces noise throughout the facility."

To accommodate the seasonal variations in the size, shape and weight of cartons, a zero-pressure conveyor was installed to handle the variations without conveyor backup or jamming. The zero-pressure live roller conveyor consists of a series of zones that permit accumulation of conveyed products, without line pressure build-up. The zones are created via a mechanical actuator that acts on the weight of the carton. These conveyors are offered with a variety of release modes. Sequential release discharges product in a progressive fashion with gapping between products. Slug release offers a higher throughput and releases product simultaneously. High output sequential release is also available.

The new conveyor system allows Finish Line to ship to stores every three days. Courtney said he is particularly pleased with the flexibility of the conveyor system because it is able to grow with the needs of the company.

As the company continues to flourish and expand its offerings, which ultimately leads to increased sales, so too will the needs of the DC continue to grow. According to Courtney, "We are considering purchasing more conveyor from Mathews. We would recommend Mathews’ products to other companies."

Zero-pressure conveyor by Mathews Conveyor.

Plastic Trays Are the Right Prescription for Pharmaceutical Company

Pharmacia & Upjohn, a pharmaceutical facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, used stainless steel or Teflon-coated aluminum trays for in-process storage of parenteral products.

"I am always on the lookout for ways to use our dollars more effectively. When I found that the cost of a plastic tray is only one-fifth the cost a coated aluminum tray, I had to take a closer look," said Paul Gold, production engineer at Pharmacia & Upjohn. "While cost is always an element in every decision, I was searching for a tray that would meet all our needs."

Pharmacia & Upjohn wanted an inexpensive tray that could be safely disposed of should contamination occur. The tray had to be dimensionally consistent so it could integrate seamlessly with the equipment in use on the existing production lines. The design had to be easy for operators to grip and lift, secure to stack and leakproof; the tray material had to have a slippery surface so vials could easily slide on and off the tray.

Pharmacia & Upjohn turned to Molded Fiber Glass Tray Company to develop a custom tray at a reasonable cost.

Production personnel at Pharmacia & Upjohn and the MFG engineering team began making significant improvements to the tray design, beyond what was needed to accommodate the new reinforced thermoset composite material. The result is a tray that offers a gate that minimizes product loss from inadvertent spills, and a finger grip that makes the job of lifting the trays more ergonomically correct. The new trays are easier to stack and improve load stability during warehousing and in-plant transportation.

"The design of the trays is not trivial by a long shot," Gold said. "The success of this project is the result of MFG’s creativity and cooperation, getting the right people involved at Pharmacia & Upjohn, and the partnership that developed between the two companies."

Custom plastic trays by Molded Fiber Glass Tray Company.

Traverse Belt Conveyor Provides Accessibility for Quick Die Changes

A stamping company in Detroit wanted to automate its scrap removal from a 400-ton Komatsu press. Requirements included the ability to easily remove the scrap-handling conveyor to allow for quicker access to the press for frequent die changing and to minimize downtime.

The solution was to install a low-profile, 2-1/2-inch pitch, Z-style, steel belt conveyor that elevates the press scrap and slugs approximately four feet, discharging into a self-dumping hopper. Four fixed V-casters mounted to the conveyor base are positioned on a floor-mounted track. The unit is equipped with a removable side chute to direct the scrap from the press onto the steel belt.

When it’s time to change dies, the conveyor is moved away from the press, providing easy die access. After the die change is complete, the conveyor is rolled back into position and secured in place with a locking floor pin. The press can then be restarted with minimal downtime.

The result provided higher productivity and significant cost savings in terms of uptime.

Steel belt conveyor by Prab.

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