Benco Dental, USA

Benco Dental is a full service distributor of dental supplies, equipment, and furniture. The company offers a comprehensive suite of service, supply and equipment options including office design, equipment repair, and technology solutions.

The Pittston, Pennsylvania distribution center uses a Dematic convey and sort system to facilitate piece and case picking. Components of the system include order induct, zone route conveyor network, pack stations, case pick module, in-line weigh scale, shipping sorter and trailer loading.

The challenge

With more than 30,000 customers in 50 States, Benco Dental requires a distribution strategy that supports responsive and highly accurate order processing of dental supplies. Using a five distribution center network, Benco Dental provides superb service to dental offices and educational venues by featuring a fast response same day ship solution with one-day shipping time to over 80% of the population.

To accommodate their customer expectations and to use distribution logistics service as a competitive advantage, Benco Dental implemented a central distribution center in Pittston, PA. This central DC handles slowest, slow, medium and fast moving inventory and will ship to customer locations in the Northeast while shipping slowest moving inventory throughout the USA. The regional DCs ship to customers in a geographic region and focus on handling SKUs with slow, medium and high velocity. The combined five DC network ships over two million packages per year. All five DCs utilize an order fulfillment system engineered and implemented by Dematic.

The solution

Their largest DC in Pittston, PA can receive, store, pick, pack and ship approximately 41,000 unique SKUs and handles all load types: pieces, cases, as well as dental equipment and dental furniture. A smart convey and sort system provides the warehouse logistics platform to accommodate the order fulfillment of pieces and cases. The warehouse is temperature controlled to protect the inventory and provide worker comfort.

The system is designed such that the piece picking and case picking, as well as replenishment are accomplished simultaneously on one shift of operation. For the piece pick operation, typical order size ranges from four to six line items; picking accuracy is over 99.99%. In a typical day, this DC will pick, pack and ship approximately 2,500 to 3,000 customer orders.

A discrete order picking method is used whereby a standard size plastic tote (grey color totes in photos) is the container for gathering all the SKUs required to make up a customer order.

Throughout the shift, orders from the Warehouse Management System (WMS) download to the Warehouse Control System (WCS), which runs Dematic iQ performance optimizing software. The WCS manages the routing of each customer order tote throughout the warehouse starting with the order induct station.

At order start, a barcode on the tote is “married” to each customer order. Both the tote barcode and shipping manifest barcode are scanned, one after the other. The SortDirector software takes over and controls the tote on the zone route conveyor network such that each tote only travels to zones where there are items to pick, thus minimizing the travel distance, congestion, and time required to process each order. Furthermore, pickers only access inventory in a small area thus eliminating the need to travel through the entire warehouse. This configuration reduces picker travel time to each pick face. There are 12 pick zones where order totes can be routed. A typical order may only need to travel to 3 zones.

Slow moving inventory is staged furthest away from the pickers in the flow and shelf areas. Faster moving inventory is stocked in or near the pick face nearest the picker depending on item velocity. Once all the items for a customer order are selected and placed into a tote, it travels on the conveyor system to the pack stations. There, a warehouse staff member working at one of the twenty four pack stations will remove the items and provide a 100% QC check while packing the items into a cardboard shipping container. The shipping container exits the pack station module and travels to the void fill and case sealing zone. From here, all cartons are scanned and conveyed across the automatic in-line weigh scale to determine shipping fees and perform weight quality checks. Finally, a sorter diverts each carton to the shipping door where fluid loading into truck trailers occurs.

A four level case pick module accommodates all the full case SKUs. The warehouse staff uses the bar coded shipping labels as a pick list. The shipping label is attached to the case as it is selected and placed on a conveyor. The conveyor automatically routes each carton past a bar code scanner, in-line scale and shipping sorter.

The zone route conveyor network also provides the reverse logistics method to bring returned items back to the pick face. Returned items are scanned and placed into a special orange colored tote. The orange tote travels only to the zones where the SKU is located. The operator in the zone places the SKU into the front of the pick face.   

The results

With the use of the engineered order fulfillment system, “Perfect Order” performance has increased while achieving operational efficiency and overall process improvement. By routing each order only to zones with picks, the WCS cuts order processing time in half. The order picking staff remains in a small geographic zone; this minimizes travel time to each pick face, thereby increasing worker productivity. Integrated QC methods ensure 99.99% accuracy. Orders received by 5:30 pm ship same day. Automation such as the in-line weigh scale reduces labor requirements and increases order processing speed. The order fulfillment system is engineered for dual functionality: order picking and returns processing since the zone route conveyor network delivers returned items back to the pick face in the warehouse.

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