Innovation Winners

Innovation's Power is People

Dec. 10, 2012
The stories of the four winners presented here were all published in MH&L's pages over the course of 2012. They are categorized by the building blocks of material handling and logistics: Make, Store, Move and Compete.

The winners of MH&L's second annual Innovation Awards impressed our judges not only for taking risks, but for choosing partners who helped minimize those risks and maximize opportunities for future success.

The stories of the four winners presented here were all published in MH&L's pages over the course of 2012. They are categorized by the building blocks of material handling and logistics: Make, Store, Move and Compete. Allow us to reintroduce you to these people and demonstrate why their stories are worth a second look.

AGVs Help Jet Fighters Fly Off the Line

A  portion of Lockheed Martin's facility in Marietta, Ga., is dedicated to manufacturing the center wing section of the F-35 fighter jet at a pace that accommodates a production rate of one aircraft a day. But the layout of the Marietta facility would require the kind of efficiency found in a car plant producing 20 to 40 vehicles an hour.

"We needed a production line to satisfy the rate of one aircraft a day for whatever variant was coming down the line," says Peter Neumeier, of the aerospace engineer staff at Lockheed Martin. "The Marietta facility had floor space constraints. So we performed a lean event and determined we needed to find a different solution to the transport of the center wing section."

Lockheed selected Fori Automation to provide the AGV system. The suspended drive steer mechanism provides the steering and propulsion to articulate over rough concrete. A 12-inch-wide precision magnetic measuring device gauges the intensity of the magnetic field, enabling a vehicle to position itself at an assembly station to an accuracy within 4-5 mm.

Each AGV transports tooling to 14 different process stations and must maintain tolerance every time it's moved.

With a tool measuring 20 ft tall, Lockheed runs the risk of deflections resulting in different tolerances at the top of the tool than at the bottom. That meant the tool and the station designs were critical, as was their interaction with the AGVs.

Each time an AGV slides under the tooling, a cup and cone arrangement clamps the AGV, which ensures a secure engagement. Accomplishing this required synchronicity among the navigation, guidance and propulsion systems as well as with the servo motors in the lifting mechanism.

Judges' Comments:
"Building an aircraft over relatively 'rough' concrete using an AGV with magnetics, and at an accuracy of 4-5 mm is impressive!  It appears that magnet field measurement made the difference.  It's a highly impressive operation."—Roger Bostelman 

"Peter and his team were innovative in their development of multi-uses (maximum utilization) for the AGVs. Not only did the equipment move materials between stations, it was involved in the manufacturing processes. This process integration results in greater output in manufacturing." –Al Will

"The shorter the cycle time for the manufacturing process, the faster the fielding can occur. Use of AGVs is a great resource that was employed by the manufacturing engineering staff."—Ron Giuntini

"This shows a way to justify automation, which I believe is good because there would be more automation if organizations weren't (wrongly, in my view) focused on short-term gains."—Russ Meller

MAKE Finalists:
Calvin Chun, manager, Kelly-Moore's Hurst, Texas plant; vendor: Intelligrated's Alvey robotics,, as seen in July: "One Robot Brings Efficiency to Three Production Lines"

Jon Smick, finishing manager for American Packaging Corp.; vendor: Seegrid,, as seen in October: "Leaning the Way to the Line"

Matt Olson, an industrial engineer at Parts Now; vendor: SealedAir,, as seen in October: "Less Wasted Packaging, Fewer Wasted Products"

Wawa's Warehouse Keeps 580-Store Milk Run on Schedule

With 400 million customers annually, keeping Wawa's 580 dairy convenience stores stocked with milk and other beverages is a serious logistics challenge. The warehousing and distribution of Wawa's fresh liquid milk products is the business of the chain's high-volume distribution center in Wawa, Pa.

A high-bay chilled warehouse serviced by 16 automated mini-load stacker cranes and a warehouse management system keeps the stores stocked with liquid milk, teas and juices at a rate of 42,000 crates a day.

Achieving this speed of throughput became more difficult for Wawa as its business continued to expand. The distribution center's storage space had surpassed maximum capacity and it was running out of space on the floor to stage products.

David Mann, manager of Wawa's beverage warehouse, worked with Swisslog Warehouse and Distribution Solutions to engineer and install an automated storage and distribution solution that would provide adequate storage capability and better ensure timely and accurate handling for all of its liquid products.

Wawa's high-bay refrigerated warehouse is serviced by 16 high-speed, fully-automated storage and retrieval mini-load stacker cranes that move crates in and out of the 35-vertical-foot, high-bay racking. Major benefits for Wawa's warehouse switching from a manual to an automated high-bay chilled facility are maximized building volume and increased cost efficiency. Wawa's high-bay can handle a greater number of crates, but in a much smaller footprint. Of equal importance, the footprint reduction becomes an increasingly important factor in energy savings since much of the cold loss in a chilled warehouses occurs through the roof.

By eliminating the need for lift trucks, aisles can be just 5-feet-wide to accommodate more crate positions

The direct integration of the warehouse management system (WMS) ensures that Wawa's mini-load stacker cranes always select the correct inventory and item numbers, which rotates the product inventory properly.

The WMS is integrated with Wawa's ERP to monitor and streamline orders automatically straight through to shipping.

Wawa's distribution facility can automatically handle 42,000 crates of liquid products daily (2,400/hr), operating with a system uptime rate exceeding 99 percent, and an order accuracy rate topping 99.9 percent, while functioning in a chilled 35° F environment.

Although this automated solution was initially put into operation in late 2000, it has had ongoing upgrades to maintain its performance and efficiency.

Judges' Comments:
"Excellent application of ASRS & WMS"—John Hill

"There is no question that the combination of this storage system, its maintenance, and its upgrades deserve top honors."—Roger Bostelman 

"The number of crates handled daily with 99.9% accuracy in a cold storage environment is impressive." –Al Will 

"Excellent illustration of how the effective implementation of warehouse automation can simultaneously generate productivity increases and carbon footprint reductions."—Tan Miller

"I like the positive impact energy savings had on Total Ownership Cost of the refrigerated warehouse."—Ron Giuntini

"The repurposing and upgrade of a year 2000 automation project to achieve today's requirements impressed me."—Jim Tompkins

STORE Finalist:
Jeremy Miller, DC maintenance foreman for JBS USA LLC; vendor: Equipto,, as seen in September: "Modular Storage Evolves with Production"

Orange Grower Picks Traceability as Sellable Strategy

Many food producers are delaying investments in capital equipment improvements due to the pending fiscal cliff, but Tom Clark isn't one of them. As operations manager for LoBue Citrus, an independent, family-owned grower, packer and shipper of California citrus products, his narrow profit margins make any kind of investment in technology risky. What Clark realizes, though, is that if you don't invest in your supply chain's performance, the risk is even greater.

In the produce industry, the demand for product traceability is forcing companies to consider The Produce Traceability Initiative, an industry-sponsored effort to develop standardized trace-back procedures. The goal is to achieve supply chain-wide adoption of electronic traceability of every case of produce.

This hasn't yet become an FDA mandate, but even if it doesn't Clark sees it as an opportunity to improve his business.

He joined forces with CH Robinson, a 3PL service provider; FoodLogiQ, a traceability software provider; Intermec, provider of compliance labeling and tagging systems; and Associated Grocers, a food retailer association, to test available tracing technologies. His goal was to see if his company could do a better job on trace-back and trace-forward to improve their record keeping documentation. It required that LoBue develop G10 global identification number coding for the majority of its products. The company input those codes into an Intermec Smart printer system. The codes were downloaded to printers then laminated sheets of bar codes were developed so an operator can look at a product being produced, scan a code, and prepare and produce a case code with the G10 ID on it and apply that label to a container.

This simple plug and play system gives Lobue control at the container level, so when those containers are palletized a hybrid pallet tag with bar codes is created to tie them back to that pallet.

The pallet tag IDs are scanned and recorded as shipped out of inventory, and those cases tied to that hybrid pallet tag are then shipped to the receiver's warehouse. On that G10 code there's also a voice pick code the receiver uses in their warehousing that identifies the product. That case is then picked from their warehouse to be shipped to the retailer. That retailer has the code on that container, and if there's a recall that G10 code will tie the product back to its origins at the lot level.

LoBue did mock recalls before and after implementing this system. With the previous manual tagging system it took up to two hours to trace a shipment, whereas with this technology the information is available instantly.

Judges' Comments:
"This recall protection system reduces waste, heightens inventory accuracy and cuts labor costs. As a consumer I care about that!"—John Hill

"A demonstration of true industry leadership. Before being forced by the FDA, Lobue took action to develop and implement a supply chain technology solution to insure the safety of their customers and the integrity of the supply chain."—Jim Tompkins

MOVE Finalists:
Tom France, director of global transportation for Caterpillar,  James Bach vice president of inventory management for the Cardinal Health Medical Segment; vendor: SAP, and Jack Allen, senior director of logistics and manufacturing solutions for Cisco Systems Supply Chain Operations, vendor: Oracle's TMS,, as seen in May: "Transportation Strategy Session"

The CPG/Retailer Service Expectation: Cost is No Object

Retailer orders to Beiersdorf, a $7 billion maker of skin and beauty care products such as Nivea, Eucerin and Aquaphor, have become much smaller and more frequent. Beiersdorf's  Cincinnati-based distribution team worked with long-time consulting engineering partner, FORTE, to upgrade material handling processes to better accommodate this trend.

Retail organizations also expect suppliers to continually offer new, freshly-designed displays. Beiersdorf developed a plan to bring a co-packer's operations into its own distribution facility. This plan became a reality through the re-configuration of the reserve storage high-bay area, as well as other DC layout changes to free up space for the co-packer.

A wall was erected to allow the co-packer to operate without interference from routine Beiersdorf DC operations. A powered pallet conveyor system was engineered and installed to move bulk product to the co-packer's operation and bring palletized completed displays back into the Beiersdorf inventory. To eliminate the manual administration of inventory ownership, the conveyor system was equipped with automated scanners that track inventory transactions in real time with each pallet's movement between the two operations.

Randy Suer, director of logistics at Beiersdorf, says that through these improvements, Beiersdorf accommodated its retail customers' needs and refused to allow the reduction in case quantities to push it toward increased manual picking and consolidation.

Judges' Comments:
"Moving the co-packer operation in-house where display-build space is a premium seems counterproductive until costs are sized up for outsourcing.  This is thinking outside the box."—Roger Bostelman

"This is the type of innovative thinking that not only improves service but minimizes the expenditures for new equipment."—Al Will

"Having dealt with co packers while with Nabisco as the warehouse club channel grew, I have a sincere appreciation for the time, effort and cost incurred.  The management time committed to co packed items is significantly greater than a regular sku. The program developed by Beiersdorf contributes to off-setting the negatives of co packing."–Joe Andraski  (founder, Collaborative Energizer LLC .)

COMPETE Finalists
Michael Torch, vice president of manufacturing and operations for McGraw Hill Education, Inc.; vendor: Voxware, and Adam Boccelli, senior manager of worldwide warehousing and logistics for IDEXX Laboratories; vendors: FORTE, and SAP, as seen in July:
"Productive at Any Speed"

About the Author

Tom Andel | Editor-in-Chief

Tom Andel is an award-winning editorial content creator and manager with more than 35 years of industry experience. His writing spans several industrial disciplines, including power transmission, industrial controls, material handling & logistics, and supply chain management. 

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