For beverage distributors, finding a system to assemble and deliver orders more quickly and accurately is critical to improving operational efficiencies. Crescent Crown Distributing-Arizona found that the latest in paperless picking technology was key to improving productivity and picking accuracy in its new Mesa, Ariz. warehouse—making it one of the fastest pickers in the West.
Crescent Crown is a leading beer distributor serving the Arizona and Louisiana markets and its Mesa location, which carries Miller Coors brands as well as Heineken, Corona and New Belgium Brewing brands, opened a 335,000-square-foot warehouse in March. According to Rich Marchant, vice president of operations for Crescent Crown, the distributor worked with Precision Distribution Consulting, an engineering consulting firm, to design the layout of the warehouse with efficiency and productivity in mind.
“We were looking to get the maximum throughput, with the shortest movements for inbound product and outbound orders,” Marchant says. “We utilize rapid charging systems for all of the forklifts to minimize downtime while having better utilization and less movement to the charging areas for the shifts.”
The Mesa warehouse also was designed to be highly energy efficient, an achievement given that it’s 100 percent climate-controlled at 70 degrees year-round, with 40,000 square feet of refrigerated space kept at 38 degrees.
The warehouse features high-efficiency 50-ton HVAC units with variable frequency drive motors, motion sensing lighting, LED lighting and a 600-kilowatt roof-mounted solar array providing solar-generated electricity. “All told, this is saving us 80 percent in electricity usage compared to our previous facility,” Marchant notes.
Trucking out 60,000 cases of beer a day with more than 60 sales and delivery routes, the Mesa facility services about 60 percent of Crescent Crown’s market area in the Phoenix area. With that much beer to sell and deliver, productivity and order accuracy are critical.
With several different paperless picking technologies out there, Marchant and his team chose Vocollect’s voice-pick technology to decrease its picking error rates and improve picking speed and accuracy. “We were doing 266 cases per hour, per man, on average, and we had an error rate 2.47 cases per 1,000 picked, prior to the voice sets. And we were really concerned that we were going to lose some productivity, as that’s pretty good cases per hour. But we found that we actually increased productivity almost overnight. And, today in this warehouse, our average order selector is picking at 323 cases per hour, and our error rate is less than 0.84 per 1,000 cases picked, so that’s better than 99.9 percent,” Marchant says. And, he points out, those are hand-selected cases, with no layer picks or pre-built pallets.
Operators wearing head seats get voice direction for each order and the hands-free operation allows them to pick multiple orders on multiple pallets at a time. And, despite the high-tech sound of voice-pick technology, Marchant says the technology makes it easier to train new employees or to hire people with previous voice-pick system experience.
While the Crescent Crown team chose to go with voice pick, there are a number of picking solutions available to fit a beverage distributor’s particular workflow needs. Dematic offers its paperless PickDirector picking solution to manage order fulfillment activities using voice technologies or light displays, often configured to operate in conjunction with picking carts or smart conveyor networks. Efective paperless picking technologies eliminate paper lists, so operators’ eyes are free to identify pick locations and both hands are free for more picking and packing. PickDirector technology can increase productivity by 50 percent, reduce picking errors 70 to 90 percent as well as reduce total order turnaround time, the company says.
For the demanding DSD delivery environment, Rehrig Pacific Co. designed the EZ Pal Delivery System with the needs of beverage distributors in mind. The EZ Pal Delivery System, which consists of the EZ Pallet and EZ Lift, moves product picking to the source, the distribution center, as opposed to the retail storefront. Individual store orders are placed onto the EZ Pallet and then the pallets are loaded onto a versatile transport trailer using the EZ Lift. By using the EZ Lift instead of a hand truck, operators can reduce the number of movements required for each store. The EZ Pal Delivery System makes picking product at the warehouse level easier as a variety of SKUs can be placed on one high-strength plastic pallet and two orders can be picked simultaneously, saving time and cost. At the delivery location, the EZ Lift can lift two pallets at a time, essentially moving five to 10 times more product per trip compared with picking and loading individual orders from a side bay trailer.
As Marchant and his team have found, picking technologies are increasingly an integral part of highly efficient operations.