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Tag: case studies

Webinar recap: Making the case for business intelligence in labor management

In Intelligrated's most recent On The Move webinar, "Using business intelligence to improve your labor force," I explored the potential of marrying business intelligence's (BI) visualization and self-directed investigation capabilities with the known benefits of labor management software (LMS). Combined, these tools are helping businesses better identify labor performance and efficiency problems, and exploit opportunities to improve performance. 

To start the discussion, I explained how BI has evolved from an IT-driven pursuit to a self-service model - one where the end user performs the data investigation process and generates visualizations that help companies quickly see trends in large sets of information, as well as identify anomalies. To demonstrate the value in this concept, I presented a visualization of the traffic patterns in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. By briefly looking at the visualization, one can quickly determine L.A.'s traffic pattern origins and its concentration of commuter destinations. 

Then, I transitioned the focus of the discussion to the use of BI in labor, specifically about how advancements in self-service tools and their integration with LMS are enabling companies to gain new labor insights and address labor market challenges. With the integration of BI into LMS, companies can take traditional performance analytics a step further, by digging deeper into root cause analysis that often belies original assumptions.

To demonstrate the impacts of self-directed investigation in labor management, I walked through three case studies using Intelligrated's BI tool.

1. Shipping error investigation. A repeat missed shipment problem on third shift warranted further investigation by the labor manager. The initial investigation suggested that those shipping errors likely stemmed from the temporary workers on that shift. But upon further investigation, the BI tool revealed that the temps on third shift were outperforming the full-time employees (FTEs). From that insight, the manager inferred that the company's third shift temp training was producing higher performance rates than those of its FTEs. The manager could then take steps to refresh FTE training and address the performance problem. 

2. Star performer identification. Most organizations typically have one employee who regularly outperforms others. Through self-directed investigation, BI visualizations help labor managers uncover the specific work patterns that allow these individuals to excel. In this example, I demonstrated how an investigation revealed one shipping staff member who far exceeded the performance levels of his co-workers. Further digging with the BI tool uncovered that this person was especially skilled at processing cases. From a management perspective, this allows leadership to follow up with this individual, understand their processes and then pass these learnings on to other staff members. 

3. Execution monitoring. One of the primary goals of resource planning is to make sure the current labor force can execute the daily volume of work. The BI tool enables management to evaluate volume levels throughout the day and adjust the labor force as needed. Visualization clearly shows where the resources and execution plan do not line up. Management can use this tool at different points of the day to see a snapshot of performance versus execution, and then plan accordingly. 

To learn more about the potential of BI in labor management, please view this webinar in its entirety

Automated palletizing eases the flow at Lost Coast Brewery

Ranked the 37th-largest craft brewery in the United States in 2014 according to the brewer’s association, Lost Coast Brewery capitalizes on the cool maritime climate and the exceptionally clean water of the Humboldt Bay region of northern California to craft award-winning ales.  The brewpub outgrew its original space and moved to a larger facility where its production eclipsed 50,000 barrels for the first time in 2009. Now, Lost Coast beer is available in 22 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and three Canadian provinces.

With production levels increasing to meet fast-growing demand, owner and master brewer Barbara Groom saw the potential for adopting automation to replace the brewery’s existing practice of manually building case-load pallets. With plans for a new, faster bottling line in progress, Lost Coast needed an automated palletizing system to keep up with increased production and improve worker safety.

“Hand palletizing is not a good thing and I was worried about injuries,” said Groom. “We knew automation was inevitable and this was the right time to make the investment.”

To avoid disrupting the brewery’s production systems, the new automated palletizer had to fit in the same space as the legacy manual palletizing operation, a feat Lost Coast had not even thought possible.  Through preliminary system design and layout work, Intelligrated confirmed the feasibility of an automated solution within the existing space. To familiarize Lost Coast with the equipment, John Fisher, senior sales engineer, Intelligrated, took Lost Coast stakeholders on a field trip to other installations to see automated solutions in action.

“That was really valuable,” says Groom. “He wasn’t just showing us something he thought we’d buy, he was showing us something that we should know about as we design our place and look to the future.”

After evaluating three vendors in 2012, Lost Coast selected Intelligrated as its preferred end-of-line automation partner, for its combination of exceptional service, design consulting services and robust equipment.


After testing multiple layouts to ensure minimal interference with existing systems, Intelligrated provided an Alvey® 780 series conventional palletizer integrated with Accuglide case conveyor and an automatic stretchwrapper to complete Lost Coast’s end-of-line solution. The Intelligrated team began installation on a Thursday and completed it over the weekend, with the new palletizing system receiving cases the following Monday.

The Alvey 780 keeps Lost Coast’s current production flowing smoothly at a rate of 10 cases of 24 bottles per minute, and can scale up to rates of 28 cases per minute to accommodate future production increases.  The machine gently handles glass bottles, with row and layer pushers programmed to minimize acceleration and deceleration impact. Furthermore, without the burden of manual palletizing, Groom reports happier employees working the bottle line.

“For a company with a similar project, I’d suggest they talk to Intelligrated,” says Groom. “You can easily get it set up and it’ll certainly make your life a lot easier.”

End-of-line automation increases throughput for Paramount Citrus

America’s largest citrus grower, Paramount CitrusTM is best known for its easy-peel California mandarins, marketed under the Wonderful Halos® brand.  With a well-established market on the west coast, Paramount Citrus launched its mandarins business nationwide in 2011. To support the expansion, the company planted an additional 6,500 acres of mandarins, bringing its total acreage in California’s San Joaquin Valley to 14,000.

With the additional acreage, the groves yield up to 15 million pounds of fruit per week during peak season. To handle the increased harvest, Paramount Citrus designed a new facility from the ground up, located adjacent to its mandarin groves in Delano, Calif.

“In order to process the volume of fruit coming into the facility at our target throughput rate, we needed a fully automated handling process throughout the facility with a scalable end-of-line automated palletizing system being a major requirement,” said Jason Blake, vice president, California packing operations, Paramount Citrus. After a lengthy bidding process that included more than a year of design and planning, Intelligrated emerged as the preferred supplier and integration partner.

The new facility presented a unique set of end-of-line challenges. The equipment had to gently and securely handle multiple packaging types at a throughput rate of 40-50 cases per minute.

Intelligrated provided a comprehensive end-of-line automated solution featuring case and pallet conveyor, and customized Alvey® 910 series palletizers for five production lines. In order to handle multiple packaging types, Intelligrated collaborated with third-party corrugate suppliers and Paramount Citrus purchasing and engineering teams to custom-engineer palletizers with package handling modifications to securely nest and position cases at speeds high enough to meet target throughput rates. Intelligrated completed the installation ahead of schedule and each end-of-line system met or exceeded all performance requirements.

The shift from manual to automated palletizing yielded the highest degree of secure and stable nesting the industry has seen. The new facility’s specially-developed automated process can be adapted to any fragile fruit packaging operation and yields a throughput rate that far exceeds the limits of manual processes.

“We did 30 days of testing on the first three palletizing lines, but by the time we got to the fourth and fifth, Intelligrated was doing such a good job that we felt confident that all lines would deliver without going through acceptance testing,” said Pete McKenzie, director of design and start up for the Paramount Citrus Halos facility.

In anticipation of future growth and expansion, Paramount Citrus plans to add three additional lines of Intelligrated palletizers and conveyors, and introduce automated equipment in other areas of the facility to further streamline operations.

For more information on Intelligrated’s work with Paramount Citrus, read the full case study and watch the video below:

Voice-directed fulfillment enables efficient beverage distribution in the "Cowboy State"

The Wyoming Liquor Division oversees all wholesale liquor distribution to 1,478 state-licensed retailers within state lines. With more tourists and permanent residents flocking to the Cowboy state, liquor sales have grown steadily in Wyoming during the last five years, with net sales of $93.8 million in the 2013 fiscal year. As statewide liquor demand grew, the existing distribution center encountered putaway and storage limitations, and the paper pick order fulfillment system struggled to adapt to shifted retailer preferences from full-case or pallet-load orders to more complex split-case orders. In 2012, to ensure high customer service levels for years to come, the liquor division upgraded to a larger, state-of-the-art distribution center in Cheyenne.

The liquor division needed a cost-effective solution to improve picking efficiency and manage expanded inventory. After extensive research and firsthand observation of operations in other states, Wyoming Liquor selected the Datria™ Voice solution from Knighted®, Intelligrated’s software subsidiary.

Knighted’s Datria voice solution facilitates voice-directed order fulfillment using hands-free, step-by-step picking instruction for both full- and split-case orders. Employees use wireless devices to connect to the warehouse management system (WMS) and begin a back and forth dialogue that guides each order to completion.

“With Knighted’s voice solution, all we need to do is listen and the system tells us where to go and how much to pick,” according to Scott Workman, Wyoming Liquor Division operations manager. “Our picking process has improved dramatically.”

The new voice system isn’t limited to picking instruction. Knighted engineers also worked with the Wyoming Liquor Division IT staff to integrate the Knighted solution with the legacy WMS. Supervisors have real-time views of individual orders and can assist workers by calling for extra assistance or texting specific instructions to headsets.

With the installation complete, the new system increased picking efficiency and handles split-case fulfillment with ease. Employees pick multiple orders at a time and the division ships more than 3,000 full cases and 12,000 bottles per day – a 15 percent productivity increase with an order accuracy rate of 99.9 percent.

“Our main goal was to implement a system that would allow us to get the product out the door fast and accurately,” said Workman. “We needed a technology that would help us, and Knighted Datria Voice was a perfect fit.”

For more information, read the full story here or watch the video below:

Material handling upgrades keep the Exchange on the front lines

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service, known simply as the “Exchange,” is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense that provides products and services to military personnel at low prices. Headquartered in Dallas, the Exchange runs more than 3,100 operations on military bases throughout the world, offering everything from gasoline and appliances to books and candy.

A review of the Exchange’s network of distribution centers determined that the Waco, Texas, DC had an advantageous location, but also room to improve its operations. The facility’s aging conveyor system was slow, difficult to maintain and lacked capacity to meet demand. To increase productivity and throughput, the Exchange enlisted Intelligrated’s material handling and project management expertise to redesign and replace its conveyor and sortation systems and update its pick modules—all without missing a single shipment.

Intelligrated changed the system layout to both increase efficiency and keep the facility online during system upgrades. Intelligrated replaced the system with a wider, Accuglide™ accumulation conveyor and upgraded the controls with electric sensors and servo drives to replace the dated mechanical sensors.




The DC overhaul didn't stop with conveyance. Intelligrated installed a new IntelliSort® HS sliding shoe sorter to serve the shipping area and upgraded the DC’s pick modules. The more efficient conveyor design also benefitted picking operations, freeing up space for more picking slots and resulting in a system that’s ergonomic and efficient.

According to Morgan Meeks, manager of the facility, “Even if the new conveyor wasn’t faster, we’d still be able to pick faster than we could before, thanks to the efficiency of the design.”

Since the installation went live in November 2012, the Exchange is already enjoying productivity gains and benefits of the upgrades to its material handling system. Approximately 17% of the stock that was previously handled manually and stored in California is now conveyable and stocked in Waco, reducing transportation costs and handling touch points. The DC improvements were made with zero downtime, and not a single shipment was left behind. Mission accomplished.

For more information on the Exchange’s system upgrade, read the full story from Modern Materials Handling.