Flow racks ensure fast, accurate picking at distribution center
Cardinal Health Inc. is a Fortune 500 health care services company based in Dublin, OH. The company specializes in distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical products, serving more than 100,000 locations. The company also manufactures medical and surgical products, including gloves, surgical apparel and fluid management products. All totaled, Cardinal Health provides medical products to more than 75 percent of the hospitals in the United States.
One of the company’s largest distribution centers is located in Waukegan, IL, just south of the Wisconsin border. Spanning 725,000 square feet, the center provides medical supplies to thousands of hospitals, surgery centers and doctors’ offices every day.
Speed and accuracy are watchwords at the facility. The center’s integrated order picking systems are some of the most efficient in the industry. Flow racks and other material handling equipment from UNEX Manufacturing Inc. are key components of those systems. Picking orders from flow racks can increase throughput by as much as 150 percent compared with order picking directly from pallets.
The Waukegan facility houses 37,000 stock keeping units (SKUs), some of which must be kept refrigerated or frozen. The SKUs are stored in the most efficient spots based on how often the product is used. Products used more frequently are close to the picker. SKUs that are used less often are stored higher up the storage racks. The goal is to move the products only once—from incoming shipping to storage, and then from storage to where it is picked for an order.
For the most commonly ordered items, the facility uses a “pick-to-belt” method. Products
are picked from the shelves and placed on a conveyor belt that travels to another location for consolidation into shipping cartons. Products that are ordered in less than case-full quantities are located in another area, where the picker is directed to retrieve items by a pick-to-voice system. Items are picked and placed on carts. Other workers pick for just-in-time customers that order the same products every day. Products are placed in reusable totes that are returned and reused after delivery.
The facility has more than 4 miles of conveyors and 180 lift trucks to move products around the warehouse. Full visibility is a key success factor for the facility. Workers know where products are at all times. This helps to ensure compliance with government regulations and improve customer service.
Span-Track and Shelf-Track flow tracks from UNEX make it easy for workers to store and retrieve products from cartons or totes. These modular tracks integrate easily with any new or existing pallet rack structure, enabling engineers to create flow racks tailored to their specific operations. No shelves or intermediate supports are required.
The tracks can be configured for full-case or split-case order picking. The track’s rollers provide a high amount of surface contact, so carton weight is distributed evenly. This optimizes product flow and eliminates hang-ups on the track.
The racks are available in light, standard and heavy duty capacity versions. They come in six widths, ranging from 6 to 24 inches. Racks of various widths can be combined to match a specific need. For example, a 96-inch-wide bay can be equipped with four 18-inch-wide beds and two 12-inch-wide beds. Product can overhang the lane by up to 3 inches on either side and maintain flow.
Various options and configurations are available. For example, a low-profile knuckled track has a short section at the front (12, 16, 20 or 14 inches long) that is angled at 20 degrees to give pickers easier access to a carton’s contents.
For more information, call UNEX at 800-695-SPAN or visit www.unex.com.