Fedway Associates is a New Jersey-based wine and spirits wholesaler with a rich history. The company got its start in 1933 after prohibition. Today, it services licensed package stores, restaurants, and bars throughout the state. The company currently operates in a state-of-the-art 539,000-square-foot distribution facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Prior to 2012, Fedway was operating in Kearny, New Jersey with a Hytrol system that was nearly 20 years old. As they began looking for updated solutions with a smoother transport of product, Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey on October 29, 2012.
“Had it not been for the issues that we had with Hurricane Sandy basically destroying virtually all of our inventory and a vast majority of our conveyor system in that building, we probably just would have looked to upgrade or modify the system up there to the newer technologies and newer equipment. But we realized we needed to make a move, get out of that building, get out of harm’s way, so that led us to moving into this new building and it gave us an opportunity to basically design a system here that would somewhat replicate what we had in the old building, but take us to newer levels of efficiencies and productivity.”
Fedway worked closely with Hytrol’s integration partner to design a new warehouse system that would increase accuracy and throughput, incorporate a WCS, and decrease product breakage, which had recently increased from changes in the packing industry. Because less supportive packaging was becoming the standard, it was imperative that the conveyor system design provided little to no movement of items within the cartons.
Above: Fedway’s system utilizes double-stack roller transfers to move cartons before they wait to be loaded for delivery.
“Hytrol and the IP worked very closely with Fedway and the team in understanding their current system and the challenges they had with their current system,” said Hytrol’s Chief Engineer Boyce Bonham. “In fact, we made a few site visits to their facility to watch their system operate. So, we understood, first hand, some of their challenges and the things they wanted to accomplish with the new system.”
The collaboration between Hytrol and the integration partner resulted in a brand-new warehouse that includes an additional 106,000 square feet of space on an elevated mezzanine for sorting and staging. Fedway’s conveyor system features cartons traveling on belt-over roller conveyors, from picking to a 60-foot sliding shoe sorter, to a double-stacked roller transfer, and finally to a 24-volt spur, where the packages wait in waves to be loaded for delivery.
Hytrol individualized the conveyors to help meet the specific needs of Fedway. Rubber tires were placed on the divert wheels of the roller transfer for better support and diversion. A herringbone roller design was utilized to stop cartons from hitting the conveyor guardrail and two-inch rollers on the roller beds offered a smoother ride for the cartons. These steps resulted in a reduction in breakage of more than 70 percent.
“When we looked at designing the system, we wanted to both develop a system that was going to increase our productivity and make us much more efficient in a way that we went about operating our business,” said Vice President of Warehouse and Administration John Longa. “But also, a big component of it was that we experienced a tremendous amount of breakage in our old facility, and that it was critical that we were able to reduce breakage with the design of our system in this building.”
Above: Fedway was able to reduce their breakage by more than 70 percent with their new Hytrol system.
“Another big piece is the zero-pressure accumulation system, which doesn’t allow the cases as they stop, to knock into each other,” Director of Warehouse Operations Nick Sheridan. “Another issue was how the cases release out of the stop sorter, and the cascade release system definitely attributed to the reduction in breakage.
“We’ve been able to recognize upwards in the range of about a 75 percent reduction in bottle breakage.”
Hytrol’s state-of-the-art warehouse control system helped with product traceability and inventory accuracy. Cartons are tracked throughout the warehouse and sorted to be loaded on the trucks in reverse delivery sequence. The system ensures that the correct cartons are shipped by utilizing an alarm that triggers belt stoppage to remove wrong picks.
“I think the biggest benefit is our throughput rate,” stated Sheridan “We’re able to operate and able to put more cases through system in the same number of hours. What would typically take us in our old location approximately 12, 13 hours. In our new system we are able to do that in a 10-hour shift, as well as get some replenishment efforts completed as well.
“And then finally a large factor is the reduction in maintenance costs and maintenance times associated with keeping the operation running. We’re also in the process of implementing a software package to allow us to track the performance of each mechanical part throughout the system and its lifespan, and be able to perform preventative maintenance versus of reactive maintenance.”
Fedway’s Elizabeth facility is a testament of the long-standing relationship of Hytrol and its integration partner. Their collaboration efforts resulted in a cutting-edge conveyor system that improved Fedway’s customer service, throughput, and accuracy.
“Going back to Fedway almost a year after the system went into production and looking around, there’s no sign of a lot of spillage that’s occurred,” boasted Bonham. “The belts look almost brand new, it’s being very well maintained by Fedway. It’s also a sign that we’re not having a lot of breakage occurring, we don’t have spillage all over the belts. Almost a year after being in production, it almost looks brand new.”
“We had Hytrol equipment in the old building and we were very satisfied with it and decided to use the same equipment here in this building,” Longa commented. “All of our experiences with Hytrol have always been that they’ve exemplified the best of the best of the industry, true professionalism and a quality product that is second to none. We’ve been very, very happy with both the integrator as well as the Hytrol product.”