Walk down any convenience store candy aisle, and you’ll see a new product or service every other week. All that variety is great for consumers, but it can wreak havoc on the distribution center that has to store and pick the product and support the services – unless you have the perfect carton flow system in place.
In 2011, an inefficient and cumbersome pick line in an existing mezzanine area was undersized, falling apart and slowing workers down at George Falter in Baltimore, Maryland. “Our old system had lanes with plastic wheel tracks that would get busted up, and product would fall through or get hung up,” explains Frank Falter, CEO of George J. Falter Co. Inc. “Plus, the layout of the area made it tough for employees to reach products easily and safely.”
To address the problem, Falter turned to Werres Corporation, a materials handling solutions company based in Frederick, Maryland. “George J. Falter distributes a variety of products that go into small stores, from candy to food items,” says Bill Costa, Vice President of Sales for Werres. “This type of distributor has to store a significant number of SKUs, and most of those products are going to have broken-case picking. Carton flow racking is the product of choice in this setting. We recommended UNEX’s flow racking because it’s the best product for the job.”
UNEX was no stranger to the folks at George J. Falter. “We had worked with UNEX a couple of years before,” says Falter. “Mark Neuwirth came up with some great ideas for how to reconfigure the flow pattern for our cigarette pick operation.”
So, when it came time to rethink the pick lines in a mezzanine area, Falter says he was confident that UNEX could come up with the right solution.
In the first phase of the mezzanine project, the team focused on the upper level, the pick point for grocery products and dry goods. “We had a combination of fast and slow-moving products on top of the mezzanine,” explains Falter. “UNEX designed two sides of Roller Rack with Flow Bed flanking both sides of standalone wire shelving for slower movers.”
“The finished area was the perfect combination of carton flow, static shelving and conveyor,” says Costa. “It was very successful.”
The makeover was so effective that Falter decided to work with UNEX to create a pick line under the mezzanine deck. “It’s cooler there, which is great for chocolate, and we figured we could model the flow upstairs to optimize the space under the deck,” says Falter.
The UNEX design incorporated 32 bays of carton flow and approximately 45 wire deck shelving units, resulting in three pick lines: two upstairs and one u-shaped line downstairs, housing 3,000 SKUs.
Columns holding up the mezzanine initially presented a challenge to the design team. “We worked with UNEX to figure out a way to make sure pickers could work around the columns and maximize the use of the space,” says Costa.
UNEX customized its roller system so that shelving actually went through the columns. “That’s the thing about UNEX. The team is up for challenges,” says Falter. “They work with you until they design a good, cost-effective solution.”
Falter says that Roller Rack and Flow Bed from UNEX have generated multiple benefits for the distribution center. Between previous improvements to the cigarette picking area and the mezzanine improvements, Falter says he’s been able to reduce the number of pickers by a third.
Neuwirth is quick to note that the Falter team’s hands-on approach was a key factor in the successful transition. The Falter team phased-in the additional pick lines, which prevented interruptions to the day-to-day business. “Their commitment to the project played large for them and ensured the best return on their investment.”