Vitran Logistics was approached by a large Canadian grocery chain to provide distribution for the launch of a new line of products into their numerous retail outlets throughout Ontario. The plan was to slowly ramp up a facility and grow it as the demand increased. Vitran set up a large facility and performed a manual pick from pallet to fulfill each store order, but this was inefficient and labor-intensive. The company knew that to ensure long-term success, it needed a solution that could grow as business demanded.
Vitran needed to produce 8,000 orders per shift for up to 250 store locations in the first year, with a five-year increase in volume to 12,500 cases per shift to more than 300 store locations. There was also the possibility of adding grocery items to the system, which meant the numbers would quadruple.
The challenge was to provide a conveyance solution that could handle the current case handling needs and provide the ability to expand the system as the customer’s demands required. Vitran needed a case-handling system that would be easy to load product onto, scan the product barcode and sort the case to a store location for palletizing. It needed a middleware program that would allow the conveyor system and the WMS to speak to each other, and that could allow for multiple store locations and proper pallet build. It needed conveyor equipment that could be repurposed without modification to suit the customer’s future needs. And it needed a control package that would be user-friendly and safe for workers.
It was a tall order. But not for Wecon Systems.
Wecon designed an elevated 16-lane cross-dock sortation system featuring a long and low slapper induction line to an overhead accumulation and scanning line. The induction area provided full pallet parking along both sides of the line. Workers would manually pull cases off the pallets and place them on a reinforced slider bed conveyor. With access to both sides, pallet replenishment was quickly done without slowing down the induction process. Cases were inclined up to an overhead accumulation line and were metered and scanned. Once scanned, the case was sorted down one of 16 lanes for manual palletizing.
The middleware solution allowed the conveyor PLC to interface with the customer’s WMS. Once a barcode was scanned, the store number was located and the case was sorted to its respective pallet location. The middleware system also provided the customer with multiple templates designed to manage sort parameters. This provided them a quick changeover of store locations along the sort lanes as the product line or type changed.
The controls system was installed with a panel view that provided the management with sort information and details needed for performance reporting. Strategically placed emergency stops were installed for worker safety, and beacon lights were installed at each sort lane to provide a visual reference in the event of a full lane or a product jam.
Within the first few months of service, Vitran’s order output increased substantially, opening them up to receive another product line from the customer. Wecon installed another 16 lanes to the sorter without modifying the existing setup. This provided more than 330 new pallet locations for them to sort to.
Thanks to the new system, the company has the capacity and capability to grow as demands increase.