“Our system in the past was a linear conveyor system, which meant we could only ship out of one door at a time and were very limited to the amount of volume we could do per day,” said Barbara Feathers, manager of distribution operations. “So with our old system we could run between 960 and 1,000 cases an hour. We were moving into the next day with the volume we had. So, we had to look at something that would shorten our working hours… And we wanted something that would increase our shipping capacity to double at its peak,” she said.
Founded in 1933 at the end of the prohibition era, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) now serves as the sole distributor for distilled spirits in the state, serving more than 260 liquor stores. Their main facility is located in Portland, Oregon, with 42 full-time employees covering two shifts. The Portland operation has expanded three times. First in 1977, again in 2007, and the most recent expansion coming in 2016. This newest venture was their most ambitious yet, as they set their sights on previously unattainable shipping numbers.
Hytrol and the integration partner worked closely with the OLCC to design a system capable of expanding their capacity while maintaining current demands. Cases are loaded onto simple line conveyor, then orders are combined on a mezzanine level sawtooth merge. From there, product moves to Hytrol’s ProSort SC, which then diverts orders into one of four shipping lanes. In just six months, the new material handling system has dramatically increased the hourly throughput.
“We were looking for a system that would give us the ability to palletize orders, if needed,” Feathers said. “We were looking for a system that would create more efficiency, more accuracy and speed.”
To meet the customer’s unique requirements, Hytrol and the integration partner implemented Pivot, Hytrol’s warehouse control system. Pivot has helped OLCC go from a manual operation to a fully automated solution. This solution gives OLCC full visibility of their operations such as the daily order status and wave management, as well as performance metrics for specific parts of the system. With this information, the customer can respond to real world expectations and keep product flowing to their customer base.
“Where we were shipping 900 to 1,000 cases an hour, we’re now increased to 1,300 to 1,500 cases an hour, which has decreased our shipping time by 3 to 3.5 hours per day. This system thrives on volume. So the more we throw at it, the more it can do and the more it produces for us. So orders are getting to liquor stores quicker, there’s no delay in delivery and we’re able to meet the line haul needs of our carriers. And there’s a reduction of out-of-stock items on the shelves, being able to get everything to the stores in a timely manner.”
Working side by side with OLCC, Hytrol and the integration partner were able to create a material handling system that exceeded the expectations of the customer and allows for them to ship faster, be more precise, and continue to grow their business.
“Working with the integration partner and Hytrol was much easier than anticipated. With these projects of this size, there’s always bumps in the road and things that come up. We had a very open relationship with the folks from Hytrol, with the software people and our integration partner. We could pick up the phone and call if we had questions. They were right there available for any things that came up that we had concerns about or questions about. If we had to change something mid-stream, it was very easy to make those changes. So everybody was very accommodating and made things work.”