Vitran Logistics Caledon / Commissioned August 2009
A major player in the 3PL industry, Vitran Logistics was engaged by Canada’s largest grocery chain to provide distribution for the launch of a new retail line of products into their numerous outlets throughout Ontario. The plan was to slowly ramp up a facility and grow it as the demand got greater. Vitran set up a large facility and performed a manual pick from pallet to fulfill each store order. This quickly became inefficient and laborious and they knew that to ensure long term success, they needed a long term solution that could grow as their business demanded.
Provide a conveyance solution to handle their current case handling needs and provide the ability to expand the system as their customer’s demands required. Design a case handling system that is easy to load product onto, can scan the product bar code and sort the case to a store location for palletizing. Design a middleware program that will allow the conveyor system and the customers WMS to speak to each other and that could allow for multiple store locations and proper pallet build, large and heavy items first and small and light items last. Supply conveyor equipment that can be repurposed without modification to suit their future needs. Supply a controls package that would be user friendly and safe for the workers.
The customer was challenged to produce 8000 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 over 300 store locations. There was some talk about adding grocery items to this system. If so, the numbers would quadruple.
For the conveyor system, we 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 are metered and scanned. Once scanned, we sorted the case down one of 16 lanes for manual palletizing. The sorter was elevated to allow for worker passage underneath. This design allowed for ease of movement for the worker allowing them to access other areas of the sorter without having to walk long distances around floor level conveyor.
The Middleware solution allowed the conveyor PLC to interface with the customers WMS. Once a bar code was scanned, we located to store number and sorted the case 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 change over of store locations along the sort lanes as their 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 visual reference in the event of a full lane or a product jam.
Within the first few months of service, Vitrans order output increased substantially opening them up to receive another product line from their extremely content customer. We installed another 16 lanes to the sorter without modifying the existing set up. This provided over 330 new pallet locations for them to sort to. Middleware upgrades allowed them to transition to a new WMS. Future volumes are expected to exceed 300,000 orders per week. We are planning to expand induction capabilities allowing for additional slapper lines as well as a straight to truck line.
Slapper Line Induction line Wecon Systems Heavy duty slider bed
Accumulation Line TGW Narrow Belt Conveyor
Meter Belt and Scan Belt Wecon Systems Slider Bed
Belt Curve Transnorm
Sorter TGW NBS 30
Run Out Lanes Wecon Systems Gravity Wheel spurs and sections