American Eagle Distributing is a distributor of package and draft products, and services to over 1,100 retail customers including bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, hotels and restaurants located throughout Northeastern Colorado.
You wouldn’t think that a business with fewer than 1,000 SKUs could be that complex. But beverage distribution is different.
Often there is no location scheme in the warehouse. Distributors routinely experience over 20% annual SKU growth. There are complicated sales and delivery laws, multiple market channels and rigid licensing and accounting rules. That’s why American Eagle Distributing implemented the Beverage Pick System, a solution from Dematic which controls all operations from picking to checking to loading.
The Beverage Pick System uses configurable software that was tailored to accommodate the operational variations of American Eagle Distributing. The operators are equipped with a wearable computer that gives verbal instructions including description and pick quantity. A scanner connected to the device ensures the accuracy of each pick.
This solution is paperless. And with no pick list, the operator’s hands are free to pick while their eyes are focused on the task of picking and operating a fork truck safely.
The American Eagle Distributing business model and their case volume determined the operating mode of the system. Their process includes direct picking, checking, labeling and loading by a single operator to ensure minimal touches while minimising staging. That frees up valuable floor space. Other beverage distributors also operate a layer pick line, and then pass partial pallets for ‘top off’ in other areas.
The operator starts the process by requesting an assignment. Information is provided about the route, SKU count, or customer name. When the operator says ‘ready’ the system provides the first product description in the pick sequence. The product description is used because items typically are stocked in free standing pallet positions.
At the first pick position, the UPC bar code on the item is scanned. A correct scan gives the pick quantity, while an incorrect scan prompts ‘try again" and repeats the description. The operator verbally confirms pick quantity. This process is repeated until all the picks for the active pallet are done. When the pallet is complete, the system prompts the operator for a total case count on the pallet, thus assuring correct item counts.
If the count is correct, the system prints a manifest label. At the printer, the operator scans the label to confirm it is the correct label. Each pallet is wrapped prior to loading to ensure load integrity while on the truck. As a final step, the label on the pallet is scanned to confirm it is loaded on the appropriate route truck. An incorrect count sends the pallet to audit.
Operating the System
The Dematic software manages, directs and monitors the entire system. It can be configured for tablet computers and mobile devices, so supervisors can manage more effectively from the warehouse floor. Operational statistics are available regarding overall system pick rate, pick rate by operators, percent of workload complete, route complete, etc. These reports can be shared via web app or exported to an Excel worksheet.
Complete Solution for the Warehouse
The Dematic Beverage Pick System supports multiple functions and tasks in addition to order selection. This voice directed solution is also utilised for replenishment to a pick face. This can be requested by any picker or directed by the system. Configurable order audit and cycle counting tasks are included as voice directed activities. Furthermore, voice directed label printing and directed loading tasks make this system a complete solution for the beverage warehouse.
The productivity and accuracy results obtained by using the new system are compelling. Order picking errors decreased by over 70% while labour productivity increased by 23%. Then there’s visibility and control. The Beverage Pick System allows supervisors to see what’s going on in the warehouse in real time so operational adjustments can be made swiftly and effectively, if required. For a given day or time slice, the warehouse summary report displays cumulative time spent in all activities.